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Nostalgic Halloween Movies

Stills from "Practical Magic," "Coraline," and "Monster House."  Photo courtesy of IMDb.

OPINION: Childhood movies that haunt me all fall

Everyone has movies from their childhood that have stuck with them – they are often mildly traumatizing or outright terrible. Three of my favorite fall scary movies fit that description: “Coraline,” “Monster House” and “Practical Magic.”


“Coraline” is a fan favorite, and with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 90% and a fan score of 74%, that is no surprise. 

The claymated movie follows young Coraline (Dakota Fanning) as she moves to a new home and discovers another world – one containing her “other” mother. As Coraline gets pulled deeper into this world, more dangers appear and she is soon left fighting for her and her parents' lives.

“Coraline” is a movie that, to this day, scares me when I watch it, even though I have every twist and jumpscare memorized. The storyline stands out even as an avid watcher in my twenties. 

No matter how often I watch, I am drawn into the fantastical “other” world Coraline enters and I’m on the edge of my seat as it falls apart around her.

The storyline is not the only part of this movie that makes it one of my go-to scary movies, but also the sheer beauty of the animation.

“Coraline” is a claymation film that is impressive enough on its own, but when taking in the film and how utterly amazing the scenes are, it makes my jaw drop at the idea of how much work went into the film.

The animation fits the creepy vibes of the movie and elevates it. There will always be something unsettling about claymation – at least for me – and I could not imagine the film any other way. 

Years down the road, I think I will always find myself tuning in to watch “Coraline” when the season turns just right.

Monster House

“Monster House” was a movie that I was obsessed with when I was little. It was my go-to Halloween movie and I would sit and watch it repeatedly. “Monster House” follows a young boy, DJ (Mitchel Musso), and his two friends, Chowder (Sam Lerner) and Jenny (Spencer Locke), as they spy on DJ’s neighbor, Nebbercracker (Steve Buscemi), and conclude that his house is a monstrous sentient being. They’re also right.

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The opening scene of the girl biking through all the falling leaves is peak fall vibes, and the story starting a day before Halloween makes it even better. 

The storyline turns devastating towards the end as the audience learns that the house is possessed by Nebbercracker’s wife, and that for years, Nebbercracker has been a grumpy old man to protect both his home and the lives of the neighborhood.

The animation of this movie is off-putting and potentially puts it in the realm of a terrible movie, however, it adds to the storyline. The people in the movie are portrayed in a claymation-style, which is impressive given the  movie is actually computer-animated.

Aside from the movie being creepy, it is also fairly humorous. There are many times throughout when I find myself genuinely laughing.

As more and more is learned about the house and its monster qualities, the movie gets scarier and scarier. One of these moments shows Bones (Jason Lee) being drawn into the house and the home is shown having a uvula, which still sticks with me to this day.

Recently having rewatched it, the movie does not scare me the same as it did when I was little, however, it still stands up as a favorite.

Practical Magic

Halloween movies from my childhood would not be complete without a movie that was definitely not for children, “Practical Magic.”

The film “Practical Magic” follows sisters Sally Owens (Sandra Bullock) and Gillian Owens (Nicole Kidman) who are witches under a family curse that plagues them;  any man who falls in love with them will die. The conflict of the film is when the sisters kill Gillian’s abusive boyfriend and he begins to haunt them.

“Practical Magic” always gets me in the fall witchy mood, just in time for the spooky season. This movie features scenes that are genuinely terrifying, like Gillian’s ex coming back and possessing her, which leads to an exorcism – a moment that is both scary and devastating.

While scary, it also has happy fall vibes following the incident; they “clean” the house of Gillian’s ex by sweeping him out, which makes for a joyful scene. It also does have a significant romantic subplot between Sally and the police investigator, Gary (Aidan Quinn).

The movie ends with one of my favorite “witchy” quotes and something that cements “Practical Magic” as a memorable childhood film: “Always throw spilled salt over your left shoulder. Keep rosemary by your garden gate. Add pepper to your mashed potatoes. Plant roses and lavender, for luck. Fall in love whenever you can.”

So now, when the leaves change colors and a chill is in the air, I love to snuggle up in bed, watch scary movies from childhood and have fun reminiscing. These three movies are always sure to get me in the mood for spooky season.

Elizabeth Secor is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at or on Twitter @esecor2003.

Elizabeth Secor

Elizabeth Secor is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted on Twitter @esecor2003 

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