October Staff Picks: Spooky Movie Reviews

Featured: Hocus Pocus 2 Review by Tianna Bongiovanni

If you are anything like me, you hold your breath when a major film studio announces the making of a sequel because, from my personal experience, they tend to let me down. By no means is it an easy task – expectations run high and the pressure can be taxing – but that’s common knowledge, so why take on this burden? The simple answer is to profit from the movie since it is bound to receive the same, if more, attention as the first movie, whether it is satisfactory or lacks the same quality. Therefore, as a member of the audience, I’m left with the choice to preserve my adoration for the original film or tarnish it by watching the sequel. Spoiler! I have and will always choose to watch the sequel, despite often being let down by them. 

I won’t lie, when Disney released the news of Hocus Pocus 2 I didn’t necessarily “hold my breath.” The truth is that I watched the original Hocus Pocus for the first time last year, and I can hear the gasps through the screen. I just never got around to watching it between my Halloween Town and Harry Potter marathons, but I can understand why it’s a childhood favorite for many. Before watching the sequel, my knowledge was limited, since I had not seen any trailers. The only detail I knew was that Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler, and Kathy Najimy, were set to reprise their roles as the Sanderson sisters. This was promising, as no one else could replace these three iconic women.

Within the first ten minutes of the movie, it’s revealed how the Sanderson sisters came to be, and I think it was an excellent way for fans to learn more about their favorite characters. After this opening scene, the movie takes place in present-day Salem where two girls, Becca (Whitney Peak) and Izzy (Belissa Escobedo), relight the Black Flame candle, causing the return of the Sanderson sisters. The plot then reflects the original movie, except with some new characters. The lack of creativity regarding this undoubtedly contributes to the absence of magic that the first movie possessed, but it was enjoyable, nevertheless, watching the many easter eggs paying tribute to the 1993 film. Doug Jones even makes an appearance as Billy Butcherson, Winifred’s zombie ex-boyfriend. The new cast does, however, bring a fresh take that the younger audience is bound to relish and cherish, like those who grew up watching the original Hocus Pocus. A heartfelt, bittersweet moment concludes the movie, but there is a final scene that hints at new possibilities for Becca, Izzy, and Cassie (Lilia Buckingham). Overall, while Hocus Pocus 2 was sweet and did well considering the expectations from the original film, I would agree with Rotten Tomatoes’ 63% score. The sequel didn’t ruin my feelings for the first (which is a lot more than I could say for others) due to the numerous callbacks and memorabilia displayed throughout, but its unoriginal storyline and other small factors led to an underwhelming performance. Sometimes, it is just better to leave the classics in the past.

Bri Brown’s Halloween Movie Pick: Coraline

Coraline Button Box” by Scott Beale is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

My favorite movie to watch during October is Coraline (2009). The movie, based on the book Coraline, is about an 11-year-old blue-haired girl who discovers a small, hidden door in her new home. What she finds beyond the door is a world like her own, but one where her parents have time for her, and where everyone seems like the “ideal version” of themselves. However, Coraline starts to realize that things in this new world aren’t all that they’re cracked up to be when her “other mother” asks to sew buttons in her eyes.

This movie is quite similar to the whimsical Disney classic Alice in Wonderland. However, the seemingly innocent movie takes multiple dark turns, which is why this stop-motion animated film is perfect for the spooky season.

Samantha Triplett’s Halloween Movie Pick: The Shining

With fall upon us and Halloween drawing near, my Netflix and Hulu accounts are overflowing with searches for every good horror/mystery movie I can find. As much as I love discovering those new scary movies that leave me on the edge of my seat, I often find myself gravitating toward some horror movie classics. The Shining, a 1980 film directed by Stanley Kubrick, is at the top of my personal favorites list. Set in the 1970s at a hotel deep in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, The Shining is as much a horror movie as it is a mystery. The movie follows a husband afflicted with writer’s block, his wife, and their supernaturally gifted son who are all impacted by the twisted hotel.

Along with the typical elements of any good horror movie such as a haunted house plagued by past trauma, the creepy high-pitched wail of string instruments, and the ‘wow, I would never do that’ moments, The Shining also redefines the classical narrative of a horror movie. Even without the presence of elements such as jump scares, the movie has an uncanny way of making my skin crawl. After seeing the effects the hotel has on the family, you assume there can only be one plausible ending. The majority of the time you think you know what’s happening — you can hear it, you can feel it — and you can see their delusions pull further and further away from reality. This movie, a shining jewel of suspenseful irony and captivating graphics, is a must-see for not only horror movie fanatics like myself, but also for those who might need a break from the typical rotation of Halloween-themed movies.

Manasi Kinikar’s Halloween Movie Pick: Bones and All

I had the chance to watch Bones and All at a recent screening in Englert Theatre. Directed by Luca Guadimigno and starring Taylor Russell and Timothee Chalamet, the movie follows young lovers Maren and Lee as they embark on a road trip across the American midwest in order to find Maren’s mother and discover their own place in society. Of course, I should mention that Maren and Lee are “eaters,” more commonly known as cannibals.

The movie is bloody and gory, and as the writer of the movie mentioned at the beginning, it may be a good idea to cover not just your eyes but your ears during some particularly gruesome scenes. Maren is abandoned by her father as he can no longer be on the run and keep protecting Maren every time she tries to eat somebody. Alone, she hops on a greyhound and keeps traveling where she comes across many eccentric characters and eaters who help her discover who she truly is. At its heart, the movie is a love story about people who find a way to love each other despite the dark reality that consumes them. The story is as endearing as it is unsettling and makes for a great watch during the spooky season.

Featured photo credit: Disney+

Liz Birchfield’s Halloween Movie Pick: Hellraiser (2022)

My favorite spooky movie is the new Hellraiser movie. This movie was released exclusively on Hulu in early October. The director of the original movie, Cliver Barker, returned to direct the reboot. Essentially, a recovering drug addict steals a cube she believes is valuable in order to pay rent, but the cube actually ends up being a vessel for demons who feed off the suffering of others. After her brother gets stabbed by the cube and disappears, she goes on a mission to figure out the mysteries surrounding the cube and ends up in the thick of a billionaire’s plot to seek out the demon’s power for his own. 

As someone who’s seen the infamous cannibal movie Raw, I can say that this movie is not for the faint of heart. It unashamedly basks in horrific body horror through the designs of the demons while also using their philosophies as a satisfying catalyst to demonstrate how people cope with loss. While the demons prefer to inflict themselves with bodily pain, the main protagonist chooses to instead carry the psychological burden of those she sacrificed to the cube. All in all, if you want a ripping good time and have a Hulu subscription, then Hellraiser should be on your Halloween to-watch list. 

Leave a Comment