A Scaredy-Cat’s Guide to Watching Horror Movies This Halloween


Each year, as the weather gets colder and Home Depot 12ft Halloween Skeleton resumes its reign of terror, just as I confront my first shower spider of the season, I have the weird urge to watch a horror movie. The only problem: I’m a scary cat.

My personal Venn diagram of scary but not too scary movies is just a small piece. Hocus Pocus 2 isn’t scary enough, but Halloween ends is a cortisol spike that I don’t need in my life. ghost hunters: an insult to my aesthetic needs. Smile? More like the Face Screaming in Fear emoji. What about Nope? The title says it all.

It’s hard to scratch the itch of spooky season when your skin is as thin as the gossamer spun by that shower spider I mentioned, which was real, by the way. It seems counterintuitive – watch horror movies or don’t, right? But when all the Twitter experiments Midsommar-induced insomniaor when a scientific studies identify the scariest movie of all time, how not to want to know more?

Whatever horror that simultaneously attracts and repels normal humans, I have that too. I don’t know why I “need” to find out who the killer was in Scream. I guess it’s just a natural human impulse, a tussle between can’t look away and can’t look. We all enjoy the delicious thrill of the macabre, to some degree. I just need it in small doses.

File this under “nothing I do is actually that quirky” (see also: finding Adam Driver attractive). Turns out I’m not the only one experiencing horror movies in safer ways. My go-to medium has long been Wikipedia’s plot synopses, but that’s just the gateway to a world of horror watched through splayed fingers. Spooky friends, read on to find out all the other ways to replace (or prepare for) horror movie consumption this Halloween.

Spoiler-filled plot synopsis

I’ve been reading horror movie Wikipedia pages for years. Unlike movie reviews, Wikipedia walks you through every story beat, twist, and spoiler, with a welcome clinical detachment that eliminates all creepy vibes. I don’t need to know if the movie is good – I just need to know what was so sinister Claim.

those who have seen Midsommar, for example, will understand the vast gap between watching That One Part and reading “He discovers Josh’s leg planted in a flower bed and Simon’s body exposed in a barn, after being subjected to a blood eagle”, which is the Wiki version. . You can then click through to find out what a blood eagle is, and the mere thought of seeing that on a screen will be scary enough to last into next year.

Another great option is The Movie Spoiler, which includes crowdsourced, spoiler-filled recaps of “everything from American Beauty to Zoolander.”

An image from Hereditary.  A woman stands before a burning man.

A scene from Hereditary that I really need some context for.


YouTube podcasts and summaries

There’s a thriving cottage industry of spoiler-filled movie recaps on YouTube and wherever you get your podcasts, from the genre-independent All Spoiler Recap to the horror-loving Dead Meat and Found Flix. There are even recaps designed specifically for scary cats – I recommend the podcasts Too Scary, Didn’t Watch and Ruined, both of which are more cinematically like a conversation with a friend, but with better production value. .

Custom trigger warnings

The problem with thin skin is that horror movies are only part of the problem. I also have trouble with extreme melodrama or peril (there’s a difference between crying over a sad movie and sobbing because your sanity is further eroded by the gloom of a fictional character’s life). Manchester by the sea got me good. And you can bet I’ve already browsed The Son’s Wiki page.

This is where the dog dies? comes in. An ingenious premise, the free app allows for an organized set of triggers and warnings for each potential movie. You can search the database for everything from “there’s cannibalism” to “is anyone farting or spitting” and, of course, if any furry friends are injured.

Along the same lines, Where’s the Jump is a comprehensive catalog of jump alerts with exact timestamps so you can plan accordingly, should you decide to watch. Scary Meter provides a complementary utility, ranking movies on separate scales of Creepy, Gory, and Jumpy, and labeling them with common triggers like “torture chamber” and “demonic possession.”

Screenshots of the application Does the dog die?  application displaying personal triggers and filtering movies

In Does the Dog Die? app, you can choose your personal triggers to avoid movies that include them. Or you can find movies that specifically include, say, a person falling down the stairs.

screenshot/Karisa Langlo

Parent guides

Sometimes it’s enough to admit that you have the emotional makeup of a child. And if, like me, you’re not actually a kid, you may need to start parenting. IMDb, for example, has a built-in parental guide that goes beyond MPA ratings to differentiate between tolerable items like “profanity” and the more repulsive “violence and gore.” That’s where I learned this chilling warning about the 2004 horror movie Saw: “Man shoots man (he survives).”

Alternative sources for the comforting paternalism of a caring parent include Kids in Mind, which warns against splitting and a large spider in Hocus Pocus 2, and Common Sense Media, an extensive taxonomy of kid-friendly (and not kid-friendly) media, including books and podcasts, with age recommendations and ratings not just for things like “violence and fear”, but even excessive consumerism. (Unrelated: Common Sense Media is also a great place to check out good things, like thoughtful books about LGBTQ+ youth and the best movies with Puerto Rican characters and protagonists.)

Just watch that damn movie…

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but horror movies are a lot less terrifying when watched on a Sunday morning with the blinds open and all the lights on. There’s also the “fast forward so you know what’s to come” trick, if you can only handle the spooky vibes when they’ve been spoiled.

Ready? Check best horror movies on netflix, First video and HBO Max. For those braver than me, check out our list of best horror movie streaming services, too. And, of course, you can always just watch a Halloween movie that’s not so scary, and call it a day. It will be Mark the Christmas movie season before you know it.


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