Shelf Help: Spooky Spookies

Whether you believe time has meaning or not, it is now October. The spookiest time of the year. But that beloved haunting feeling might need a little coaxing, even in ideal conditions. Fear not! We are here to help you get into the swing of the season.

Today our Shelfers share: What helps you get in the mood for Halloween?



As someone who isn’t that into being scared. I’ve only recently gotten into watching spooky content with any type of regularity. Having said all of that, Hereditary does stand out to me as a great exercise in creating a spooky atmosphere and maintaining tension throughout.The movie doesn’t rely heavily on jump scares and still creates a sense that something scary is around every corner. It really stuck with me after I left the theatre and it continues to scare me with each rewatch. -Daniel Grant 



Hocus Pocus

As someone who watches horror movies year-round, by the time October rolls around I’m ready to get into the Halloween spirit with movies set on the year’s best holiday. My first go-to: Hocus Pocus. I’ve long been a champion of this Disney flick before it became a cult favourite (it’s the first movie I saw in theatres without an adult present) because it does what 1990s kid-oriented movies did best – push the PG boundaries and bring some truly scary moments. The trio of witches? Nasty. Doug Jones as the undead corpse with his mouth sewn shut? Creepy. 1990s fashion? Definitely scary. A talking cat?! You bet.

The film’s practical effects have held up over the years, as has the performances from the young cast including a shriek-y Thora Birch, Eerie, Indiana star Omri Katz and Vinessa Shaw. Filled with innuendo, double entrendres and fun (Garry and Penny Marshall as husband and wife!), Hocus Pocus is a Halloween movie that only seems to get better with age and never fails to put me in a Halloween mood. It’s enough to make me want to light a black flame candle and carve a pumpkin. –Rachel West


Halloween (1978)


It’s not the most original answer, but my go-to for this time of year is John Carpenter’s seminal Halloween. The relatively mundane backdrop of a crisp fall day in Haddonfield, IL, lulls you into the proceedings. Haddonfield is not unlike the small town where you live, a place where you dress up and go out into the suburbs, safely tucked away on a cul de sac. Halloween resonates the most because the fear is primal; Michael Myers is the pervasive evil in a place that should feel safest—in their tidy suburban homes. Michael Myers could fit in anywhere, resembling the anonymity of murderers everywhere. That was the stark, yet simplistic beauty of Halloween in 1978. That evil does exist, and sometimes it needs no other motivation than the means to commit heinous acts. I grew up carving pumpkins with my parents in the living room, watching Halloween marathons on AMC, and waiting for trick r’ treaters at the door. It’s not until Myers escapes that my heart starts racing, as Haddonfield, once again, is torn asunder by an event that it doesn’t understand. Perpetrated by the same child, now a man, whose motives defy study. –Colin Biggs


The Haunting (1963)

Before there was Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House or Jan de Bont’s 1999 disaster of an adaptation (let us never speak of it again), there was The Haunting—the perfect film to kick of this spookiest month of the year. Filmed long after the advent of glorious Technicolor, veteran director Robert Wise decided that his adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House would be better served in black and white. In doing so, he elevated a serviceable haunted mansion tale into a great one. Is there someone watching them? Was that statue moving? Walking the line between the psychological and the supernatural, Wise ensures the viewer is just as unsettled by the shadows and maze-like corridors of Hill House as the test subjects of the story. Is it possible for a house to be truly malevolent or is it in the eye or mind of the beholder? This classic movie has its fair share of scares but provides very few answers, settling on the idea that the unknown is scarier than anything tangible could ever be.
P.S. Each October I follow up my initial Haunting viewing with Arsenic and Old Lace, then every Halloween episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Because variety is the pumpkin spice of life. –Emma Badame


The Nightmare Before Christmas


As a woman with bloodthirst on her lips and a haunted house where her heart should be, this may seem like a tame choice. However, hearing the “This is Halloween” song never fails to get me into the spirit of the season. You see, I spend most of my movie watching time indulging in tales of gore, death, dismemberment, monsters, cannibals, beheadings, vampires, werewolves, revenents, zombies, possessed circus clowns, deadly sea creatures, and just about anything else that goes bump in the night. For me, this is the time of year where I am joined in my love for the darker side, rather than set aside by it. This means Tim Burton and Henry Selick’s tale of Halloween town reaffirming what makes them so special is the perfect way to welcome more spooky friends to my world, for 31 gloriously creepy days. – Deirdre Crimmins


The Thing

Nothing puts me in the spooky mood more than my favourite horror movie of all time: John Carpenter’s The Thing. Now there’s nothing I can say about this iconic genre picture full of body horror and paranoid violence that hasn’t already been said by others (and better), but as a Canadian I feel a deep connection between the movie and our fall season. Due to its Antarctic setting, many hold the film up as a winter classic because of all that ice and snow, but to me The Thing is really about the descent into the deep freeze of winter – and that sense of cabin fever that goes along with the interminably long Canadian winter in particular. For Canucks, that season basically begins as soon as summer ends and ends when the next summer rolls around. It’s bleak. I wouldn’t be caught dead watching The Thing in Toronto in February because, well, I’m essentially living it at that point. It’s dark, it’s snowy, I’m sad and tired, and I don’t leave my house. And that’s a normal winter. Sure, I probably haven’t been taken over and replaced by an alien parasite (that I know of), but by the time March rolls around every year, I’ll be honest, I’m starting to look at my wife, daughter, and cat with a little suspicion. So it’s a Halloween tradition; The Thing is how I come to terms with what the next six months of my life will hold. –Will Perkins

That Shelf EIC Will Perkins at Halloween, in his true form.