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Halloween Movies For Scaredy-Cats


Let's be honest. Who really needs to be scared this Halloween? Between the pandemic, politics, natural disasters, there is enough frightfulness without adding any extra. Am I right? That's why we asked NPR's Neda Ulaby, our resident horror movie junkie, to suggest some scary movies for fraidy cats like me.

Hi, Neda.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: I do not like scary movies at the best of times. But I want to first clarify what we mean by scary-but-not-too-scary movies.

ULABY: Sure. So there's a really long tradition of films that tickle your scaredy (ph) bone without making you want to jump out of your skin. So you might think of the old "Dracula" or "Frankenstein"...


ULABY: ...Movies from the 1930s or anything starring Vincent Price or anything directed by Tim Burton, like "Beetlejuice."


WINONA RYDER: (As Lydia Deetz) Beetlejuice. Beetlejuice. Beetlejuice.

MICHAEL KEATON: (As Beetlejuice) It's showtime.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: "Beetlejuice," I have to say, is one of my all-time favorite films. And my daughter loves it, and she's 7. It's the kind of film that, yeah, gives you some chills. It's spooky as opposed to scary.

ULABY: Right. And, you know, with all of these movies, these are filmmakers who are drawing on traditions of horror movies. So they're - they can please both horror fans and non-horror fans. Have you seen "Tremors," Lulu?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I have. It's great.


ULABY: "Tremors" is kind of an old-school creature feature at its very heart. And the plot, in case you haven't seen it, is almost too dumb to get into. But it's really, really fun. It stars Kevin Bacon, among other people, as small-town residents in rural Nevada who get terrorized by a monster they call the Graboid.


FRED WARD: (As Earl Bass) Go to get him off. It'll suck that truck down.

KEVIN BACON: (As Val McKee) Go back for Christ's sake.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: He'll suck that truck down. It is fair to call "Tremors" something of a cult classic, right?

ULABY: You know, I would actually put a lot of not-so-scary scary movies in the cult classic category. Like, "Rocky Horror Picture Show" might be another one or "Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes."

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Singing) "Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes."

ULABY: Such a good one. So "Tremors" has amassed such a huge following over the years. It's actually - there's a new documentary about it that's come out on YouTube. And its seventh sequel has also just come out called "Tremors: Shrieker Island."

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Amazing - not coming out in theaters - right? - straight to video.

ULABY: No, it's coming straight to video. And it stars - by the way, every single one of the "Tremors" sequels has starred Michael Gross, who was in the first one and who also you might know for playing a liberal dad in the 1980s show "Family Ties."

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What else do you have for us, Neda?

ULABY: OK. This is kind of a weird one. I wanted to suggest at least one not-so-scary movie people might not have heard of. So I'm going with a Japanese movie from 1977.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) House.

ULABY: "House" was made by a leading director in world cinema named Nobuhiko Obayashi. So this movie was released by The Criterion Collection, which gives you some idea of how important this director is. But, Lulu, this movie is so bonkers. It's about a group of schoolgirls who find themselves in a haunted house where they get attacked by futons and a grand piano. And they're chased by a flying severed head that bites people's bottoms. It's so flagrantly silly. And the special effects are so special, it would take a lot of effort to really be frightened by it. It really reminded me of early John Waters. And it's safe to say you will never see anything else like it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Flying futons - I like it. All right. Give us one more not-so-scary scary movie for scaredy cats. And remember the rules - no excess blood, no gore, no jump scares.

ULABY: Right. OK. My last pick is a movie that pays homage both to Shakespeare and to zombies. "Warm Bodies" came out in 2013. It stars Nicholas Hoult as an undead teenage Romeo. Juliet is human. She survived the zombie apocalypse. And she's holed up with a bunch of heavily armed vigilantes, including her dad, played by John Malkovich, who tries to convince her that any relationship with a zombie boy is doomed.


JOHN MALKOVICH: (As Grigio) We're their food source. They are not becoming vegan, OK? They don't eat broccoli. They eat brains, your mother's and your boyfriend's included, OK? So I want you to wake up.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter) John Malkovich there - very funny. Hopefully, these movies can give us a little Halloween catharsis without pushing things too far. Thank you so much for your suggestions, Neda.

ULABY: Thank you so much for having me, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: If you want to share your favorite not-so-scary movie for Halloween watching, tweet it to us, maybe with your favorite scene. We're @NPRWeekend. Use the hashtag #ScaryNotScary. That was NPR's Neda Ulaby. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Neda Ulaby reports on arts, entertainment, and cultural trends for NPR's Arts Desk.