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Films That Go Bump in the Night: Mischief Night

All mentioned films in article

So many film lists around this time of year toss all manner of horrors into one frightful bundle. But the emphasis in Cinema Paradiso's Movies That Go Bump in the Night is on those features set on 31 October itself. So, if you need something to take your mind off any other dread-inducing events happening on the Day of the Dead, why not check out the selection in our survey of cinematic tricks and treats?

Although the term 'trick or treat' has only become common in recent times, the tradition of wearing costumes on Halloween and going from door to door in the hope of receiving tasty titbits dates back to the 16th century. Celtic festivals marking the beginning of winter are even older, but it was the Christian season of Allhallowtide that sparked the superstition that the wandering spirits of the dead can be appeased by charity.

The odd reference has been made to the Irish feast of Samhain, but films have rarely delved into these rich and deeply disconcerting folk customs. This must have something to do with the fact that the Halloween habit of costume-wearing (or 'guising') was almost unknown in the United States until the 1920s when the phrase 'trick or treat' was first used. But it took postwar sugar rationing to make American children appreciate candy and it was around this time that cartoon strips and comic-books started to encourage them to go collecting around the neighbourhood on 31 October. Charles M. Schultz made reference to trick or treating in a 1951 Peanuts strip and it's fitting that one of the first Halloween animations aimed at younger viewers was Bill Melendez's It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966).

Family Fright Night

A still from Bugs Bunny's Howl-Oween Special (1978)
A still from Bugs Bunny's Howl-Oween Special (1978)

As one might expect, Walt Disney was among the first to showcase the new gimmick in Donald's Trick or Treat (1952), which is available to rent from Cinema Paradiso on Mickey's House of Villains (2002). Ironically, the Disneyland Record of this Donald Duck story was read by Ginny Tyler, who would voice the character of Witch Hazel in the Looney Tunes cartoons. Animation titans Friz Freleng and Chuck Jones are among those whose classic Warner titles have been gathered for Bugs Bunny's Howl-oween Special (1978), a holiday goody bag that includes everyone's favourite cartoon rabbit confounding Witch Hazel in Bewitched Bunny, Claws For Alarm (both 1954), Broom-Stick Bunny (1955) and A Witch's Tangled Hare (1959).

Despite such promising beginnings, Hollywood didn't go overboard on Halloween, even though it became a staple of autumnal television. But things started to change in the 1980s, with the trick or treating sequence being one of the many delights in Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982). The alien is dressed as a ghost with a sheet over his head to sneak him out of the house so that he can phone home from the woods. Having fallen backwards in shock at the flashbulb when Mary (Dee Wallace) takes a photo. E.T. is then intrigued by a child in the street dressed as Yoda from George Lucas's Star Wars (1977).

Halloween also proves a turning point for new kid in town Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Maccio) in John G. Avildsen's The Karate Kid (1984), as Mr Miyagi (Pat Morita) intervenes when classmate Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) and his gang turn on him after he douses them with a hosepipe. Impressed that his apartment building's handyman knows karate, Daniel asks his for lessons. But Mr Miyagi suggests instead that he and Johnny resolve their differences at the Cobra Kai dojo.

Things got a bit more creepy and kooky a decade later when the ooky characters created by cartoonist Charles Addams in 1937 made the transition from the small (1964-65) to the big screen. A rousing Halloween game of 'Wake the Dead' helps Gomez (Raul Julia) and Morticia (Anjelica Huston) celebrate the return of Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd) in Barry Sonnenfeld's The Addams Family (1991), which was followed by the gleefully ghoulish sequel, Addams Family Values (1993), which sees Wednesday (Christina Ricci) and Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) try to murder their new-born brother, Pubert. There's also lots of hubble, bubble and toil and trouble in Kenny Ortega's Hocus Pocus (1993), as, 300 years after they were condemned as witches in Salem, Massachusetts, Sanderson sisters Winnie (Bette Midler), Mary (Kathy Najimi) and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) are reanimated after Max Dennison (Omri Katz) unwittingly lights a black candle and puts sister Dani (Thora Birch) and dream girl Aliison Watts (Vinessa Shaw) in mortal peril.

The thrills and chills of the season have lost their magic for Pumpkin King Jack Skellington in Henry Selick's The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993). So, he leaves Halloween Town to see what they get up to in Christmas Town and is so impressed that he ignores the warnings of Sally the rag doll and sends trick or treaters Lock, Shock and Barrel to kidnap Sandy Claws. A friendly ghost literally becomes the life and soul when Kat Harvey (Christina Ricci) agrees to host a Halloween party at Whipstaff Manor in Brad Silberling's Casper (1995), as he is transformed into a real boy by an angel. Fortunately, the Ghostly Trio of Stretch, Stinkie and Fatso are on hand to prevent Kat's classmates, Amber (Jessica Wesson) and Vic (Garette Ratliff Henson) from ruining the night with a cruel prank. Casper the Friendly Ghost was first created by Seymour Reit and Joe Oriolo in the 1930s and his further adventures can be enjoyed in the Sean McNamara-directed sequels, Casper: A Spirited Beginning (1997) and Casper Meets Wendy (1998).

A still from Alvin and the Chipmunks: Meet the Wolfman (2000)
A still from Alvin and the Chipmunks: Meet the Wolfman (2000)

Originally assembled for a 1958 novelty record before going on to become TV favourites in the 1960s, chipmunks Alvin, Simon, Theodore and Dave get up to some Halloween hijinks while performing at the Majestic Studios theme park after getting locked inside the Frankenstein's Castle attraction in Kathi Castillo's Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein (1999). More of the same follows in Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet the Wolfman (2000), in which the arrival of a sinister new neighbour coincides with the school mounting a production of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

If you enjoyed Basil Rathbone narrating the 1949 Disney animation, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad, and feel ready to move on from Stephan Frank's The Smurfs: The Legend of Smurfy Hollow (2013), you will also want to catch Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow (1999), which brings to teeth-chattering life Washington Irving's account of the efforts of 1799 New York police constable Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) to confound the hulking Brom Van Brunt (Casper Van Dien) and win the heart of Katrina Van Tassel (Christina Ricci), whose father Balthus is a bigwig in the sleepy hamlet being plagued by a headless horseman. In Kyle Newman's updating of the myth, The Hollow (2004), teen Kevin Zegers discovers he's a descendant of Ichabod Crane and has to ally with cemetery custodian Stacy Keach to protect Kaley Cuoco from the Headless Horseman.

The third and final episode of Howy Parkins's Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade (2003) centres on Halloween, as pals TJ and Gus worry about Spinelli because she refuses to come trick or treating after an incident at the local pumpkin patch. Halloween is a busy time for pumpkins, but people have become so used to round ones that it takes a while to get used to a different shape, as spiders Edgar, Allan and Poe discover after making a new friend at Holiday Hill Farm in Bernie Denk's animation, Spookley the Square Pumpkin (2004). Younger viewers might also enjoy Pooh's Heffalump Halloween (2005), Horrid Henry: Tricks or Treats, Trick or Treat Tales (both 2007), which includes stories about Thomas the Tank Engine, Barney the dinosaur, Angelina Ballerina, Pingu, Bob the Builder and Fireman Sam, and Tom and Jerry: Tricks and Treats (2012), which contains 20 cartoons featuring everyone's favourite cat-and-mouse double act.

A Halloween-themed homecoming ball provides the backdrop for a key sequence in Mark Rosman's A Cinderella Story (2004). Sneaking away from her waitressing job and wearing a mask to hide her identity, Sam Montgomery (Hilary Duff) gets to meet her mysterious cyber pen pal, Nomad, at the dance. She is surprised to discover that he is star quarterback Austen Ames (Chad Michael Murray) and they share a moment on the dance floor before Sam's phone alarm alerts her that she has to get back to the diner where she works as a waitress before her boss notices her absence. In Gil Kenan's eerie animation, Monster House (2006), friends DJ, Chowder and Jenny learn from the child-hating Horace Nebbercracker how a Halloween accident involving a member of a circus freak show named Constance the Giantess had shocking ramifications.

Goth girl Emily Osment discovers that reading can be bad for your health in Alex Zamm's adaptation of RL Stine's YA novel, The Haunting Hour: Don't Think About It (2007), Having put cockroaches in the piñata that Halloween Queen Brittany Curren breaks at the school party, Osment ignores the warning about reading aloud from a volume entitled The Evil Thing and has to spend 31 October searching for her younger brother after the eponymous two-headed monster comes to blood-sucking, flesh-eating life. As Halloween approaches, teen pals Jeremy Ray Taylor and Caleel Harris also learn that you should never judge a book by its cover in Ari Sandel's Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (2018), as by reading from the tome they find in an old house that used to belong to somebody called Stine while collecting for their junk business, they unleash Slappy the Dummy and a cast of malevolent ghouls.

Teens Dove Cameron, Braeden Lemasters, Casey Dubois and Tiffany Espensen can't wait to visit Dr Hysteria's Hall of Horrors when it comes to their small town of Danville in Peter DeLuise's RL Stine's Monsterville: Cabinet of Souls (2015). But the discovery of a backstage cabinet makes the friends realise that the showman has designs on their souls. And Stine fans will also need to see the trilogy featuring a terrifying entity named Phears.

A still from R.L. Stine: Mostly Ghostly (2008)
A still from R.L. Stine: Mostly Ghostly (2008)

No one believes 11 year-old magician Max Doyle (Sterling Beaumon) when he hears noises in the basement in Rich Correll's Mostly Ghostly (2008). But the spirits of Nicky (Luke Benward) and Tara Roland (Madison Pettis) warn him that Phears (Brian Stepanek) and his spooky acolytes plan to launch themselves into the human world on Halloween. Ryan Ochoa took over the role of Max for Peter Hewitt's Mostly Ghostly: Have You Met My Ghoulfriend? (2014) as Phears (Charlie Hewson) threatens to escape from the realm of the dead while Max is on a Halloween date with classmate Cammie Cahill (Bella Thorne). If you can keep up with all the cast changes, Phears (Adam Tsekhman) makes another break for freedom in Ron Oliver's Mostly Ghostly: One Night in Doom House (2016). But Max (Ryan Fogelmanis) and Cammie (Sophie Reynolds) know they can stop him, providing they can find an enchanted gem.

A trip to the Halloween carnival has chilling repercussions for the Mystery Inc. gang in Joe Sichta's Scooby-Doo and the Goblin King (2008), as a magician named The Amazing Krudsky steals the sceptre belonging to Fairy Princess Willow and Scooby and Shaggy have to board the Grim Reaper Railroad, while Fred, Daphne and Velma confront the Goblin King to prevent everyone from being turned into monsters at the stroke of midnight. Several other creepy cases for the gang to solve are available from Cinema Paradiso (just type Scooby-Doo into the search line), although this is the only feature-length adventure exclusively set on Halloween.

Those who survived the invasion in Ron Letterman and Conrad Vernon's Monsters vs Aliens are not going to want to miss the second showdown in Peter Ramsey's Monsters vs Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins From Outer Space (both 2009). Although Dr Cockroach (Hugh Laurie) hates Halloween because of the trauma he suffered when he was a schoolboy, Susan (Reese Witherspoon) and the other monsters take it very seriously. As Missing Link (Will Arnett) and B.O.B. (Seth Rogen) are making plans for a night of serious scaring, however, General Monger (Kiefer Sutherland) orders them to investigate the mutant pumpkins that are growing in Farmer Jeb's field.

The triptych was completed by Robert Porter's 'Night of the Living Carrots' (2011), which can be found alongside 'The Pig Who Cried Werewolf' and 'The Ghost of Lord Farquad' in Shrek's Thrilling Tales (2012), which was a follow-up to Scared Shrekless (2010), which contains 'The Bride of Gingy', 'Boots Motel' and 'The Shreksorcist', which respectively parody James Whale's Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) and William Friedkin's The Exorcist (1973), which has its own brush with Halloween during the course of Linda Blair's possession ordeal.

This trio is for adult eyes only, but there are still plenty more family-friendly Halloween titles available from Cinema Paradiso. For example, Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) and best friend Rowley Jefferson (Robert Capron) discover the perils of trick or treating in Thor Freudenthal's adaptation of Jeff Kinney's bestseller, Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2010), when they are sprayed with a fire extinguisher by some teenagers in a pick-up truck.

Seventy-five years after the town of Fernfield was stunned by the efforts of a warlock to feed five puppies to a horrifying monster, the canine quintet of Rosebud, B-Dawg, Buddha, Budderball and Mudbud are helped by the ghost of Pip the puppy to send the Halloween Hound back to Hell in Robert Vince's Spooky Buddies. Notwithstanding the title of Peter Sullivan's The Dog Who Saved Halloween (both 2011), it's actually a pair of pooches who come to the rescue after Gary Valentine and Elisa Donovan notice something odd going on at new neighbour Lance Henrickson's house. Dean Cain and Joey Diaz offer to help when Donovan gets locked in the spooky old house. But it's canines Zeus (Joey Lawrence) and Medusa (Mayim Bialik) who have all the answers.

A still from Coco (2017)
A still from Coco (2017)

Determined to enjoy the first Halloween since her father died, Cleveland teenager Victoria Justice manages to lose eight year-old brother Jackson Nicoll while attending class heartthrob Thomas McDonnell's haunted house party in Josh Schwartz's Fun Size (2012). The Mexican Day of the Dead is crucial to Jorge R. Gutierrez's The Book of Life (2014), as La Muerte and Xibalba, the respective rulers of the Lands of the Remembered and the Forgotten contract a fiendish wager over whether María Posada accepts the marriage proposal of Manolo Sánchez or Joaquín Mondragon. The Día de Muertos is even more centre stage in Lee Unkrich's 2017 Disney offering, Coco, as 12 year-old aspiring musician Miguel learns the pitfalls of stealing an old guitar when he defies his shoemaking family to enter a Day of the Dead talent contest in the Mexican town of Santa Cecilia.

It's Halloween in Gotham City in Butch Lukic's animated adventure, Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem (2015), and the Caped Crusader has to join forces with Red Robin, Green Arrow, Nightwing and Cyborg to prevent The Joker from unleashing a digital laughter virus on the computer network, with the dastardly help of Scarecrow, Silver Banshee, Clayface and Solomon Grundy. Class outcasts Will Spencer, Cade Sutton and Phillip Wampler come to regret forming the Elite Monster Squad and accepting a bet that they can spend Halloween in a haunted house in Joel Souza's Ghost Squad (2015), especially when they come face to snout with a creepy canine named Salty, who seems intent on giving them a night they will never be able to forget.

If you're looking for a Halloween treat for older children, why not head to the cinema for André Øvredal's Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019), which takes us to Mill Valley, Pennsylvania in 1968 for some unsettling tales from the imagination of author Alvin Schwartz.

Grin and Bear It

While playing Anna Leonowens in Walter Lang's The King and I (1956), Deborah Kerr reveals that, whenever she feels afraid, she whistles a happy tune. Since the silent era, however, countless Hollywood characters have laughed in the face of fear, such as Stan Laurel in Dr Pyckle and Mr Pryde (1925). Yet, while there were plenty of slapstick chillers, comedies set specifically on Halloween were comparatively rare. By far the best was Frank Capra's Arsenic and Old Lace (1944). Cary Grant might have become engaged to minister's daughter Priscilla Lane on All Hallows' Eve, but things around the house he shares with dotty aunts Josephine Hull and Jean Adair begin to go haywire after he discovers a body in the window seat. His suspicions fall on brother John Alexander, who thinks he's President Theodore Roosevelt. But, just as Grant uncovers the secret of his aunts' elderberry wine, wicked sibling Raymond Massey arrives with his lugubrious plastic surgeon sidekick, Peter Lorre.

Things similarly run far from smoothly in the Smith household on Halloween in Vincente Minnelli's Meet Me In St. Louis (1944), as Esther (Judy Garland) scolds John Truett (Tom Drake) for bullying her younger sister, Tootie (Margaret O'Brien), only to learn that he had been trying to protect her from the cops after a prank misfires. But worse follows when father (Leon Ames) announces that the family will be moving to New York before Christmas.

A still from Wacko (1982)
A still from Wacko (1982)

We have to leap forward several decades to reach Floyd Mutrux's The Hollywood Knights (1980), although its action takes us back to 1965, as a group of friends pull a series of Halloween stunts to exact their revenge on the grown-ups who have demolished their favourite hangout. Thirteen years after a maniac wearing a pumpkin head drove a lawnmower into a group of kids at the school dance, cop Joe Don Baker is charged with preventing Halloween history from repeating itself in Greydon Clark's Wacko (1982), which is stuffed with parodies of movies as different as Stanley Kubrick's Dr Strangelove (1964), Randal Kleiser's Grease (1978) and Ridley Scott's Alien (1979).

Finding young male virgins in Los Angeles in the hedonistic 80s is beginning to prove a problem for Lauren Hutton's 400 year-old countess in Howard Storm's Once Bitten (1985). She needs to drink the blood of such an innocent three times by Halloween in order to retain her immortality. But, just as she is about to despair, she encounters high school dork, Jim Carrey. A decade after the same actor's bank clerk had wrought havoc in Edge City in Charles Russell's The Mask (1994), the mask belonging to the Norse god Loki (Alan Cumming) is recovered from the river by Otis, a dog belonging to cartoonist Tim Avery (Jamie Kennedy) who puts it on during the office Halloween party in Lawrence Guterman's Son of the Mask (2005) and becomes the life and soul after breaking into a rendition of 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You'.

Coming off the back of Wes Craven's Scream (1996) and such lampoons as John Blanchard's Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th (2000), Keenan Ivory Wayans launched a franchise with Scary Movie (2000). There are Halloweenie snippets to be detected in the subsequent outings, including Wayans's Scary Movie 2 (2001), David Zucker's Scary Movie 3 (2003) and Scary Movie 4 (2006), and Malcolm D. Lee's Scary Movie 5 (2013).

The Hallows' Eve yuks are somewhat schlockier in Rodman Flender's Idle Hands (1999), which follows slacker Devon Sawa's bid to enlist the help of walking dead buddies Seth Green and Eldon Henson to confound the murderous right hand he has cut off with a cleaver in order to romance neighbour Jessica Alba. But this feels like the model of comic restraint beside Bo Zenga's Stan Helsing (2009), which pitches video store drone Steve Howey (who just happens to be descended from legendary vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing) into a parodic Halloween nightmare haunted by such classic slasher monsters as Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, Leatherface, Jason Voorhees, Pinhead and Chucky.

A still from Mean Girls (2004)
A still from Mean Girls (2004)

Lindsay Lohan's hopes of romancing Jonathan Bennett take a hit during a Halloween party in Mark Waters's Tina Fey-scripted teenpic classic, Mean Girls (2004), as Plastics leader Rachel McAdams seeks to turn her ex-boyfriend's head by kissing him in front of Lohan. Big mistake. Tyler Perry wrote, produced and directed Boo! A Madea Halloween (2016), as well as taking several roles as Brian Simmons (Perry) invites Madea (Perry), Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis) and Hattie Mae Love (Patrice Lovely) to his house to prevent daughter Tiffany (Diamond White) from going to the Halloween party being thrown by Jonathan (Yousef Erakat) and his frat pals.

Mildly Chilly For the Time of Year

Given its symbolism, it's hardly surprising that Halloween has been used as a setting for key scenes in pictures that are not necessarily centred on things that go bump in the night. Take, for example, Robert Mulligan's Oscar-nominated adaptation of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), in which Scout (Mary Badham) wears a hard-shelled Maycomb ham costume to the Halloween pageant at her school and, consequently, is unable to run away when she is attacked in the woods while walking home with Jem (Philip Alford).

A decade later and at the opposite end of the age scale, Walter Matthau's grumpy old man blunders into the Halloween party being thrown by son Charles Aidman in Jack Lemmon's directorial debut, Kotch (1971), while Rob Lowe plays sax in a yellow waistcoat decorated with black bats during a Halloween bash at the bar where he hangs out with chums Demi Moore, Emilio Estevez, Andrew McCarthy, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy and Mare Winningham in Joel Schumacher's Brat Pack classic, St Elmo's Fire (1985).

On Halloween night in 1938, Jack Nicholson seeks out the old flame and drinking partner Meryl Streep in the mission run by pastor James Gammon in Hector Babenco's Ironweed (1987). The setting is Texas in 1963 for Clint Eastwood's A Perfect World (1993), which sees eight year-old TJ Lowther - who has never experienced Halloween having being raised as a Jehovah's Witness - hug himself with excitement because Kevin Costner, the escaped prisoner who has taken him hostage, shoplifts a Caspar the Friendly Ghost costume for him to wear.

A still from Liberty Heights (1999)
A still from Liberty Heights (1999)

Danny De Vito plays the host of the Midnight Shriek programmes at an Oakland cinema in Marshall Herskovitz's Jack the Bear (1993). However, son, Robert J. Steinmiller Jr. is embarrassed by his antics, particularly when he gives neighbour kid Justin Mosley Spink a Nazi costume to wear at a screening of Don Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). Ben Foster's decision to dress as Adolf Hitler similarly offends Jewish parents Joe Mantegna and Bebe Neuwirth in 1950s Maryland in Barry Levinson's Liberty Heights (1999). The same night sees their other son, Adrien Brody, attend a party in a swanky part of town that ends in chaos when his friend, Justin Chambers, drives his car into the house where it's being held.

Halloween night in 1953 plays a key role in the action in Tim Burton's Ed Wood (1994), as Edward D. Wood, Jr. (Johnny Depp) and Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau) are watching Victor Halperin's White Zombie (1932) on television when Vampira (Lisa Marie) depresses the veteran Romanian actor by claiming she has never heard of him. Having self-medicated, however, Lugosi dons his famous Dracula costume and goes out scaring the children who are trick or treating in the neighbourhood.

On Mischief Night, the day before their planned Halloween wedding, Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) and fiancée Shelly Webster (Sofia Shinas) are brutally attacked and left for dead in Alex Proyas's The Crow (1994). And the same day provides the backdrop for two more recent outings. The tensions between the Crabtree and Khan families living on opposite sides of the park that divides the community in a rundown part of Leeds erupt over one wild night in Penny Woolcock's Mischief Night (2006). But there's markedly less subtlety about the use of 30 October in Richard Schenkman's Mischief Night (2013), although the suspense is ratcheted up when Noell Coel, who has suffered from psychosomatic blindness since being involved in a car crash, becomes convinced that she is not home alone.

Before they are so rudely interrupted by Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones) and The Riddler (Jim Carrey), Alfred the butler (Micael Gough) hands out trick or treat candies while Bruce Wayne (Val Kilmer) and Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman) enjoy an intimate dinner at Wayne Manor in Joel Schumacher's Batman Forever (1995). Only 10 weeks after conception, Diane Lane goes into labour on Halloween in Francis Ford Coppola's Jack (1996), only to give birth to a baby with an exceptional form of the Werner premature ageing syndrome.

New Hampshire cop Nick Nolte's Halloween custody visit with daughter Brigid Tierney goes so badly in Paul Schrader's Affliction (1997) that she calls her mother to collect her early and then looks on askance, as her father gets involved in a shoving match with his ex-wife's new boyfriend. What would she have made of the spectacle as Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman sport red-and-white socks and witch costumes in order to join the other female members of their family to jump off the house roof and float down to earth carrying black umbrellas, as a gesture of Halloween good faith in Griffin Dunne's Practical Magic (1998) ?

Prostitute Penny (Michelle Hicks) persuades conjoined siblings Mark and Michael Polish to wear a Siamese twin costume to the Halloween party in Michael Polish's directorial debut, Twin Falls Idaho, while Adam Sandler breaks into the house of a man who is too busy to answer the door to the five year-old son who is trick or treating for the first time in Dennis Dugan's Big Daddy (both 1999).

A still from Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2001)
A still from Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2001)

Siblings Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal host a Halloween costume party at which he sleeps with Jena Malone and comes to believe that the end of the world is only hours away in Richard Kelly's Donnie Darko, while the giant jack-o-lantern balloons at a Halloween parade get popped in Shinichiro Watanabe's Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (both 2001) and sisters Sarah and Emma Bolger meet the HIV+ Djimon Hounsou while out trick or treating in Jim Sheridan's In America (2002).

A young Harvey Pekar (Daniel Tay) makes it known that he has little time for Halloween in Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini's American Splendor (2003), as he tells a woman who opens the door when he goes trick or treating, 'I ain't no superhero, lady. I'm just a kid from the neighbourhood. Why does everyone have to be so stupid?' Westlake Preparatory student Julian Morris is subjected to a prank attack on Halloween in Jeff Wadlow's Cry Wolf (2005), while Buddy Holly's charming 'Everyday' provides the unlikely soundtrack for Tilda Swinton's unnerving drive home through a neighbourhood revelling in the Halloween spirit in Lynne Ramsey's adaptation of Lionel Shriver's bestseller, We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011).

Trick or treating and the school Halloween bop figure in the early stages of Billy O'Brien's I Am Not a Serial Killer (2016), as teenage sociopath John Wayne Cleaver (Max Records) becomes convinced a repeat offender is stalking his Midwestern town after oil is found at a couple of crime scenes. Finally, Texas Ranger Boyd Holbrook rushes to the rescue when he hears that autistic son Jacob Tremblay has gone trick or treating in a piece of potentially dangerous extraterrestrial armour in Shane Black's The Predator (2018).

Looking for something a bit scarrier? Check out more recommendations from our horror films section!

A still from The Predator (2018)
A still from The Predator (2018)
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