As Halloween grows closer, Las Vegas is finally starting to get a taste of fall weather. Though the city doesn’t experience much of a “real” fall with color-changing leaves and foggy mornings, I thought I would harvest (get it?) some of my favorite autumnal/Halloween-y movies so you can still experience the season to the fullest. And while I may not be a professional film critic, I do consider myself a professional movie lover/couch potato. Seriously, I’ve rewatched each of these films more times than I can count. So, gather your loved ones, drink some apple cider, and enjoy!
Fantastic Mr. Fox
20th Century Fox
Starting off strong is Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, a stop-motion film based on the beloved book by Rohl Dahl. In true Anderson fashion, each frame is absolutely stunning and practically dripping with the richness of autumn. Nostalgic and earth-toned corduroys dress the film’s animal cast, the fields are ripe for harvesting, and the leaves are crunchy. The color palette of vibrant oranges, yellows, and reds in this film alone is enough to get you in the fall mood, but the themes of family and community solidify it as a seasonal essential. The audience follows Mr. Fox (George Clooney) after he breaks a promise to his wife (Meryl Streep) to quit ransacking his obnoxious human neighbors for food, which threatens his family and community when the farmers start retaliating. As Mr. Fox gives in to his natural cunning to save his loved ones, he struggles to navigate life with his animal instincts and as a father of an emotional teenage son. While it sounds rather adult, kids will appreciate the heartwarming story, comedy, and action scenes.
Crimson Peak by Guillermo del Toro is a gothic romance/mystery film set in the Gilded Age/late Victorian Era. One of del Toro’s most overlooked works, the film revolves around Edith (Mia Wasikowska), an aspiring novelist who finds herself enraptured by the seductive Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). She is then whisked off to his gothic estate in remote England where she begins to uncover dark secrets. Oh, and she can also see ghosts. Thanks to Del Toro’s unique ability to create a compelling setting, this film is chock full of symbolism and secrets perfect for lovers of literature. Sharpe’s manor is grand yet dilapidated, with a massive hole in the roof through which autumn leaves and snow cascade. The mansion creaks and groans, and the walls constantly ooze with a thick, red clay that resembles blood. Spoooky. While Crimson Peak does contain some horror elements and minor jumpscares, it’s less of a ghost story and more of a story with ghosts in it.
Over the Garden Wall
Okay, while Over the Garden Wall is technically a mini-series, the total length of its 10 episodes is just over two hours and is best consumed like a film. This is one of my favorite watches of all time and is great for kids and adults alike. Put simply, Over the Garden Wall is about two brothers, the neurotic teen Wirt (Elijah Wood), and energetic, carefree Greg (Collin Dean), who are trying to get home after finding themselves lost in a mysterious forest called the Unknown. The pair soon discovers that others live in these woods, some more sinister than others. The writing is remarkably intelligent and mature, full of allegories and moral dilemmas, while still maintaining a playful, childlike tone. Over the Garden Wall presents a world you want to get sucked into, where animals talk and go to school, frogs travel by steamboat, and everything looks straight out of a vintage postcard. The score lends heavily to the antique American aesthetic, filling out the autumnal landscapes with warm horns, syrupy strings, and haunting piano. I can’t say enough positive things about this, especially without giving things away, but I guarantee it’ll be the coziest thing you see this year.
The Book of Life
20th Century Fox
If you loved Disney’s Coco, you’ll love Jorge R. Gutierrez’s criminally underrated The Book of Life, which also centers around Día de los Muertos (and actually came out three years earlier). In the town of San Angel live Manolo (Diego Luna) and Joaquin (Channing Tatum), who are both in love with their friend, the beautiful Maria (Zoe Saldana). When she is sent away by her father for her rebellious attitude, the gods in the spirit realm, La Muerte and Xibalba, make a bet over which friend she will marry. When Maria, now 18, returns to San Angel, tragedy strikes, leaving Manolo stuck in the Land of the Remembered as he tries to return home to Maria. While the love triangle plot may seem outdated, Gutierrez does a good job of making sure the audience knows that Maria is in charge of her love life. Gutierrez’s passion is clear when watching the film, which feels like a love letter to Mexican culture with its picturesque, colorful cityscapes, and Mexican-infused song covers.
Truly a Halloween classic that needs no introduction, Coraline’s gorgeous stop-motion visuals look just as good today as they did in 2009. Full of sparkling, vibrant tones, the world that Coraline (Dakota Fanning) enters feels like a better version of reality. Her parents are cheery, make time for her, and cook delicious, fanciful feasts for her to enjoy. Even her neighbors are friendly and entertaining! The only problem? Everybody in the other world has buttons for eyes … and doesn’t seem to want Coraline to leave. Fun fact: I saw Coraline in theaters when I was nine years old, expecting a cutesy, whimsical movie, and got totally traumatized by the Other Mother’s chase scene near the end! This is a fantastic choice for a Halloween or a fall family movie night, just be sure to let your little ones know that this is no sweet princess story!
Can you tell I love del Toro? Guillermo del Toro’s critically acclaimed Pan’s Labyrinth is a whimsical, heartbreaking fairytale drama that takes place in the 1944 Spanish countryside. It opens with our main character, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), and her mother moving into her sadistic new stepfather’s, Captain Vidal’s (Sergi López), home. As Ofelia witnesses his cruelty and abuse, she meets the faun Pan, who reveals to her that she is actually a legendary princess and must complete three quests to claim immortality. Ofelia races to complete these tasks while attempting to evade her stepfather’s abuse and protect her mother and unborn sibling. The Brothers Grimm-esque plot and unforgettable monsters (human and non-human) are sure to make for a truly unique movie night (just have tissues ready.)
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
20th Century Fox
Finally, if you’ve ever wanted to see Tim Curry in drag act in an uber-campy, comedy/science fiction musical from the 70s, you’re in luck! This raunchy cult classic follows straight-laced newlywed couple Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon) as they get stranded with a flat tire during a thunderstorm. They have no choice but to enter the delightfully creepy mansion of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry), a cross-dressing mad scientist eager to reveal his latest creation: the perfect man and lover. But what happens when Dr. Frank’s creature turns out to have desires of his own? At the time of its release, The Rocky Horror Picture Show was (and still is) controversial for its openness about sexuality, gender, and pleasure. However, it has always been lauded by the queer community for providing the freedom to express oneself, making the film as important as it is bizarre. Rocky Horror’s iconic song and dance routines, unique characters, and over-the-top plot make it the perfect Halloween watch with friends!
About the Author:
Natasha is a first-gen Mexican-American student at UNLV pursuing a BA in English Literature. A creative in many fields, her dream is to inspire others through writing and art and hopes to write and illustrate a children’s book series one day. Outside of school, she is passionate about fashion, A24 movies, Sailor Moon, animals, and banana crepes.