13 Halloween movies for people who don’t like horror

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Joan Fontaine and Judith Anderson in Rebecca (1940), screenshot courtesy of United Artists

13. Rebecca (1940)

From the beginning, death casts a shadow on the second de Winter marriage. The nameless Mrs. De Winter meets her future husband when he’s standing at the edge of a cliff, seemingly about to jump off. Later, she learns that Maximilian is not only an aristocrat but also a widower, having survived the death of his first wife, the titular Rebecca, in a boating accident a year ago. They get married anyway, and he brings her to Manderly, his famed Cornwall estate, but she can’t escape from the specter of Rebecca.

Adapted from the 1938 novel by Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca has all the hallmarks of Gothic romance: a naïve, chaste young heroine; a fiery, brooding hero; a forbidding, isolated house with dark secrets; a hint of the supernatural. It’s Jane Eyre meets Crimson Peak, with a sprinkling of Gone Girl and Vertigo (that other Alfred Hitchcock film about a woman obsessed with the past) thrown in. Admittedly, the final half-hour veers into more conventional mystery territory, but while it lasts, the atmosphere of shadows and mist and decay is entrancing. And as Mrs. Danvers, Manderly’s stern housekeeper, Judith Anderson turns cruelty and madness into seduction. Her character’s relationship with the unseen Rebecca is a typical example of the queer subtext woven throughout classic cinema.

Similar movies: Laura (1944), Crimson Peak (2015)