The Most Popular Halloween Movies Are All So Old, And That’s A Problem

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Summary

  • Hollywood used to produce Halloween movies that combined mystery, humor, and heart, but in recent years, there has been a decline in new films that capture the same magic and nostalgia.
  • Modern Halloween movies rely heavily on digital effects and CGI, which often come across as artificial and less immersive compared to the practical effects used in older classics.
  • The decline in quality isn’t exclusive to Halloween movies, as Christmas movies are facing a similar dilemma. Hollywood’s shift towards short-term gains has led to a decline in creating timeless holiday classics.


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There are so many classic Halloween movies households have on an annual rotation, but none of them are recent releases — and that’s a problem. Before the 2010s, Halloween on the silver screen was an exhilarating affair. Movies like Hocus Pocus, Beetlejuice, and The Addams Family offered thrills through a whimsically spooky lens. Not all these films garnered immediate success, as Hocus Pocus was an infamous bomb for Disney, but they went on to become cult classics and Hollywood mainstays. These movies carried an ineffable magic, ensuring they would be revisited annually by new and old audiences alike.

Theaters used to be full of campy horror comedies that embraced theatricality and were a joy to watch during the spooky season. Fast-forward to the present day, and the cinematic landscape is starkly different. The question looms large: where are the new Halloween classics? Streaming services have halfheartedly attempted to deliver the same thrills with the likes of Disney+’s disappointing Hocus Pocus 2 and Netflix’s Hubie Halloween, but neither measures up to the classics. Modern Halloween enthusiasts are often left scavenging through movies released decades ago, desperate for that familiar thrill and nostalgia-infused delight.


Hollywood Has Stopped Making Classic Halloween Movies

Travis and Gabbie hold each other in Haunted Mansion

During the ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s, Hollywood consistently churned out a series of Halloween movies that combined elements of mystery, humor, and heart. Beetlejuice offered a comedic take on the afterlife with iconic characters and ludicrous scenes. Casper brought audiences a more child-friendly ghost tale that still appealed to adults, interweaving themes of friendship and acceptance amid its antics. Hocus Pocus gave a unique take on the fish-out-of-water concept, as centuries-old witches bumbled their way through the modern world. Even the turn of the millennium continued to provide fun Halloween movies with animated films like Corpse Bride and Monster House.

However, in recent years, Hollywood has diverged from this tradition of producing family-centric Halloween movies. While the industry remains a powerhouse for many other genres, the inclination to craft spooky movies that resonate with all age groups has waned. Instead of introducing new, memorable characters and stories, there’s been a noticeable shift toward franchising or rehashing older narratives. This can even be seen with Halloween classics. Hocus Pocus 2 was released in 2022, and Beetlejuice 2 is in production. As a result, there has been a cinematic void during the Halloween period for years.

Why Modern Halloween Movies Don’t Compare To Older Classics

Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice sitting on a sofa between a witch doctor with a white painted face and an explorer with a shrunken head

A significant problem with modern Halloween movies is their over-reliance on digital effects and CGI. While technology has made leaps and bounds since Hocus Pocus and Beetlejuice debuted, there’s an authenticity to these films’ older practical effects that’s hard to replicate with digital counterparts. The grotesque and visceral transformation scene in An American Werewolf in London and the clay effects in Beetlejuice are fun, creative, and totally immersive. CGI for creatures and magic often come across as artificial and less convincing.

Smoky, eerie, and haunted atmospheres are important elements of Halloween movies, and it’s nigh impossible to create an atmosphere like this out of digital effects. Movies like the Goosebumps reboot and Haunted Mansion lean heavily into CGI use. While this is comparatively less expensive than practical effects, the digital effects look over-polished, and the uncanny valley nature can inadvertently reduce the thrill factor. This isn’t to say that CGI doesn’t have its place. However, a delicate balance between digital and practical effects is essential to recreating the immersive charm that older classics had.

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This isn’t the only problem with newer Halloween movies, as their shortcomings go beyond CGI. The nuances, deep character development, and rich setups that once permeated classics seem conspicuously absent in many contemporary offerings. Today’s Halloween movies, while occasionally entertaining, often miss the magical concoction of humor, heart, and just the right amount of fright. Recent releases such as 2023’s Haunted Mansion might have the technical polish, but they lack the charm of the older movies.

Halloween Isn’t Hollywood’s Only Holiday Movie Problem

Buddy and Walter visit a doctor in Elf

The decline in the quality of holiday movies isn’t exclusive to Halloween. Christmas, another holiday once marked by an array of beloved movies, faces a similar dilemma. Gone are the days of Home Alone and Elf, as recent years have brought a slew of forgettable films, such as Home Sweet Home Alone, where the magic of the season feels forced or contrived. This highlights a broader issue: Hollywood’s shift away from creating timeless holiday classics across the board. As studios prioritize short-term gains, the heart and soul that once defined Christmas and Halloween movies are getting lost in the shuffle.