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The best retro Halloween films to watch this spooky season

Spooky Upperclassmen Housing (Zehao Wu) (2).jpg
Halloween decor hangs from upperclass dorm housing
Zehao Wu / The Daily Princetonian

Every October I find myself swept up by the mystic, spooky spirit of Halloween. I have wonderful memories of the holiday, from dressing up in costumes with my family to traversing the neighborhood with my elementary school friends. It is a holiday steeped in a particularly potent nostalgia that I am always excited to reconnect with. 

My love for Halloween movies — not limited to just horror films, but also the generally spooky, campy, and macabre — helps me lock into the season’s spirit. This past month, I stumbled upon a TikTok trend that took me way back to my trick-or-treating days: edits of retro Halloween movies. These compilations of movie clips perfectly capture the warm, spooky fun that colors my memory of the holiday.  If you’d like to immerse yourself in this cinematic aesthetic, I recommend you check out a few of my movie picks below. Happy Haunting!

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1. “Trick or Treat” (1956)

It’s Donald Duck versus a witch — a guaranteed good time. This animated short from the 1950’s is a great example of the lush colors and bouncy movement of the classic 2D Disney animation we grew up with. Not to mention that Huey, Dewey, and Louie would be a great costume idea for any trio.

2. “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984)

Wes Craven’s classic slasher combines surreal dreamscape imagery with some of the most creative kills on screen. It is a frighteningly good time that works so well within its genre. I would also be remiss not to mention the stylish ’80s clothing donned by some of the characters. If any film on this list is going to keep you up at night, it’s this one. 

3. “Death Becomes Her” (1992)

Much to society’s detriment, they do not make movies like this anymore. Goldie Hawn, Meryl Streep, and Bruce Willis star in this Robert Zemeckis flick about the allure and danger of infinite youth. It’s hilarious and endlessly entertaining, marked by Old Hollywood glamor and notable special effects. 

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4. “Frankenweenie” (2012)

“Frankenweenie” is certainly not retro — I remember seeing trailers for it on Disney Channel. However, the Tim Burton film mimics the classic Universal Studios horror style with gorgeously lit and rendered stop motion animation. The black and white imagery is timeless, and the macabre yet wholesome narrative in which a little boy revives his recently deceased dog makes for a wonderful Halloween package.

5. “Carrie” (1976)

Every Halloween watchlist must feature some variation of high school horror. “Carrie,” the ’70s Stephen King adaptation directed by Brian De Palma, is a classically terrifying time. Sissy Spacek plays the title character — a high school reject with unique abilities. The film is a blood-soaked whirlwind that you will never forget.

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6. “The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad” (1949)

This is a truly bizarre double bill from Disney. The first story, “The Wind in the Willows,” is a fun British comedy about a frog committing grand theft auto. However, the second story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” is an exciting Halloween tale from colonial America. The final chase sequence in particular is superbly animated and just the right amount of spooky.

7. “The Haunted House” (1929)

We’re ending this list how we started it: a Disney animated short film. This one, featuring Mickey Mouse, is from 1929 and was directed by Walt Disney himself. It’s about as retro as it gets. If anything, it is proof that Halloween’s simple frights are absolutely timeless.

Tyler Wilson is a senior contributor for The Prospect and Humor at the ‘Prince.’ He can be reached at tyler.wilson@princeton.edu, or on Instagram at @tylertwilson.

Please send any corrections to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.

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