13 Halloween movies for people who don’t like horror

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Lance Reddick and Maika Monroe in The Guest (2014), screenshot courtesy of Picturehouse

Halloween is traditionally horror movie season. But what if you aren’t a fan of the genre? Here are some non-horror movies to get you in the holiday spirit.

It’s October. The days are getting longer and the weather chillier, and Halloween looms at the end of the calendar page like a ghost at the end of a dimly lit corridor. You want to settle on your sofa and watch something to get in the mood of the season. But there is a problem: you don’t like horror movies. Maybe lying awake late at night in abject terror isn’t your idea of entertainment, or maybe demons and invincible serial killers just don’t interest you.

First of all, you’re not alone. Here’s an abbreviated list of movies that have traumatized me over the years: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (hey, I was in second grade), Psycho, The Shining (in my opinion, the scariest film ever), The Ring (I couldn’t sleep for three straight days), Mulholland Drive, The Babadook. Intellectually, I can differentiate between a good horror movie and a bad one, but emotionally, they have more or less the same effect.

Luckily, you don’t have to enjoy horror to appreciate Halloween. The holiday originated from the Celtic festival of Samhain, which signaled the transition from summer to winter. At this time, people believed spirits infiltrate the world of mortals, and they commemorated the event by sacrificing animals, wearing costumes, and reading fortunes. In other words, it’s ultimately less about fear than magic, death, and the unknown.

Plenty of movies, including some that could be categorized as “horror”, explore those concepts in ways that don’t involve traditional scare tactics. Instead, they rely on suspense, action, or even humor, stirring emotions that range from melancholy to joy. Vampires and witches aren’t always evil.

(One caveat: like all emotions, fear is subjective, so you might be terrified by something that I have no problem with, and vice versa. Hopefully, you find at least something on this list worth checking out.)