My favorite time of year is back again - Halloween!! I love the atmosphere around this time of year - ghouls and ghosts and skeletons and pumpkins and things that go bump in the night are all my jam. And with the world growing steadily colder and darker, now is the perfect time to take a breather, relax, and curl up with some cozy, spooky entertainment.
So, to help us all get into the mood of the season, I've compiled a list of some of my favorite books, movies, and games to enjoy around Halloween.
Of course, the first things I have to recommend are three of my favorite Halloween season books.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Frankenstein is my favorite classic of all time. It's short, poetic, terrifying, and very fun to read, especially when you know that it was inspired by very real scientific experiments happening in the early 1800s.
Oh, and of course, I do have a bit of a personal connection to this one...
Gallant by VE Schwab
If you took Coraline and The Secret Garden and smashed them together with a gothic romance, you'd end up with Gallant - a gorgeously dark fantasy story from VE Schwab that came out last year and remains a brilliant, spooky, beautiful book that would be best enjoyed during a storm, wrapped in a blanket and sipping tea.
You can find my full review of it here.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Speaking of Coraline, Neil Gaiman has hit it out of the park in terms of creepy cozy books more than once. I recently read The Graveyard Book for the first time and it's such a fun, spooky read that I thoroughly enjoyed in its audiobook format (with Neil himself reading!). It's all about little Bod Owens who lives in a graveyard with the not-so-living residents, and it's perfect for kids who want something spooky to enjoy with you.
There's no better way to hang out with friends in October than a Halloween movie night. I'm not a fan of scary movies - jump scares make me uncomfortable - but I do love spooky vibes, so children's Halloween movies tend to catch my eye. Here are a few of my favorites.
The Little Vampire
If you grew up in a home with Disney Channel, you know that during Halloween, there's a different DCOM (Disney Channel Original Movie) on every night in October. Usually, it's reruns of classics like the Halloweentown series or Hocus Pocus, but occasionally, you get a little gem like this.
The Little Vampire is a 2000 DCOM starring Jonathan Lipnicki (whom you might know as the boy from Stuart Little) and a couple of other big names (including Downton Abby's Jim Carter). In this adorable story, the Thompson family moves from the USA to Scotland for Mr. Thompson's career. Tony, the young son, isn't too pleased with the move until he meets Rudolph, a young vampire. Tony and Rudolph become fast friends and end up working together to break the curse that turned Rudolph and his family into vampires in the first place, all while on the run from a mad vampire hunter.
It's a cute, silly, fun little story that includes some stellar costumes and sets, vampire cows, and lots of classic DCOM cheesiness to go with the holiday. Genuinely this is my favorite Halloween movie of all time and I wish it got more love than it does.
Yet another Disney Channel classic! The Scary Godmother series is a product of early 2000s experimental computer animation; its unique style - while slightly off-putting in some ways - gives it a quirky kind of charm.
In the first movie of the series (though I recommend them all), little Hannah Marie is tormented by her older cousin, who's annoyed at having to babysit her on Halloween. He and his friends trick poor Hannah into an abandoned "haunted house," laughing at her fear. Just when she's about to freak out, she meets Scary Godmother, who whisks her away to the Fright Side for a fun Halloween party with a flamboyant skeleton butler, a hungry werewolf with a knack for theater, a sickeningly cute vampire couple and their vampire son, and a monster-under-the-bed who's really too sweet. Hannah has an amazing time before getting her hilarious revenge on her cousin and his mean friends.
This movie is all about feel-good goofs and not taking spooky season too seriously. It's impossible not to grin while watching this one.
The Corpse Bride
You could pick any Tim Burton film and suggest it as a Halloween classic and you'd be absolutely right. How can you compete with bangers like Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice, and Nightmare Before Christmas? My favorite of his movies has to be The Corpse Bride.
Released in 2005, this claymation movie tells the story of Victor, who is set to marry Victoria in a move that both sets of parents (unbeknownst to each other) hope will save their families from ruin. He's nervous, though, and goes to practice his vows in the woods, where he accidentally slips his wedding ring onto the long-dead finger of Emily, who rises from her grave to bring Victor to the afterlife as her husband. Sadly, there's only one thing keeping Victor from being truly hers - his beating heart. Victor is faced with the challenge of returning to the living world to rescue Victoria from a marriage to a dangerous count and save himself from joining the ranks of the dead to be with his corpse bride.
What else can I say? The songs are catchy, Helena Bonham Carter knocks it out of the park as Emily, and the visual gags are hilariously morbid (I adore the Napoleon-spoof soldier with the sword constantly run through his chest and the recurring gag of Emily's eye worm). I try to rewatch this one at least once a year.
Of course, I also have to recommend some Halloween games! As I said before with movies, I don't like jumpscares, so the majority of horror games don't appeal to me. That being said, there are a few gems that I'd love to share with you.
Don't Starve is a beautifully styled survival game that looks like a Tim Burton movie - and we've established that those are classics for Halloween. It's such a fun take on the survival genre, with an interesting top-down 2d/3d perspective, great mechanics, and a fun soundtrack.
In this game, you can play as one of a series of unfortunate characters who have something creepy going for them - ghostly sisters, obsessions with fire, mad science, being a literal spider, etc. - and who have been transported into a dangerous world full of clockwork creatures, beefalo (large fluffy creatures that are cute until they gore you), and shadows that threaten your sanity. Your job is to navigate this world, build a base, and survive for as long as you can, through harsh winters, burning summers, hound attacks, and so much more.
My favorite version of the game is Don't Starve Together, the multiplayer adaptation. My friends and I have spent hours squealing at each other as we ran from monsters and built fortifications to try and survive. I also have to say that there's an option for getting Chester the sentient pumpkin storage chest, which is enough reason to get the game on its own.
Tales Untold is a largely text-based game that relies on ambiance to terrify you. With stories about haunted houses, aliens, and more, it's a perfect balance between visual appeal and crawling dread.
I love the aesthetic of the game. Each of the four stories has its own unique mechanics and styles, but all are based largely on analog horror aspects of the 80s and 90s. Early computer systems and period-appropriate scifi tech make lots of appearances, which makes you feel like you're sitting in the middle of an episode of Stranger Things.
Maybe don't play this one alone with the lights off, though...who knows what might join you?
Dreams from the Witch House
Eldritch horror is often fun to dive into, and Dreams from the Witch House is a wonderful exploration of a classic Lovecraft story. The style of the game is gorgeous - it looks and plays like a DOS point-and-click game similar to the original Monkey Island or the Hero's Quest series, which immediately made me excited and nostalgic. You step into the shoes of the main character, Walter, as he attends university in New England and stays in a run-down attic room with a rat problem...
This game is the perfect mix of spooky and interesting, with lots of little puzzles to resolve and a few different endings to explore. You can read my full review of it here.
There are plenty of ways to enjoy the spooky season without having to be jumpscared or deal with gore. Atmospheric books, movies, and games are the perfect companions for dark and stormy nights. I hope you were able to find something you enjoy in this list, and that it made your October just a little more fun. Here's wishing you knit blankets, warm spiced tea, and a nice little snack for your relaxation time.