Courting Creepy: 13 not-too-spooky movies – for girls’ night in (or a solo spa night) – at Halloween (or anytime.)

Let me be clear, some of the most hard-core fans of gruesome horror movies that I know are women. Some of those women can, and do, happily watch movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre while enjoying their morning corn flakes. There is nothing intrinsic to being female that bars one from enjoying a gory decapitation or a high-intensity chase through a zombie filled graveyard.

My own taste runs to minimally graphic films, with lots of slow-builiding tension – preferably those with plots centered on witches and/or ghosts. Consequently, most of the themed recommendations at Courting Creepy lean toward “the Gothic, the darkly beautiful, the subtle and the not-too-gory.” When I’m on my own, or cuddling with my husband, those are the films I seek out.

Still, there are certain, traditionally female-only occasions that call for something even lighter, something a little closer to a chick-flick. The following list features some films that pair well with mani-pedi parties, stitch and bitch sessions, and cookie baking marathons. Others are geared toward an evening alone with a pot of tea, a box of fancy chocolates, and a few hours to devote to a hobby, like knitting, or some self-indulgence, like a hot oil treatment.

‘josie giving morgan a little spa treatment’ by Jeff Sandquist


The standard fare on such occasions is usually pulled from the rom-com genre, which really doesn’t lend itself to the season of Halloween. (Or to any season, for certain women, who can’t stand the romantic comedies made after 1949 … at least not the mainstream ones.)

In self-defense, and to bring a little creepiness to girls’ night, I’ve curated a collection of movies that are unlikely to freak anyone out, but which will still provide a bit of a thrill, set a slightly eerie tone, or at least bring a touch of the paranormal to the evening.

NOTE: When I finished reading synopses and composed the list, I realized there’s another theme running through the collection – for the most part, these movies showcase strong female characters, many of whom are not teenagers.

As always, please let me know if I’m hitting my target squarely, and feel free (even compelled) to share your suggestions for substitutions. (Remember – a list can run no longer than 13 movies. If a new one appears, another must be banished,)

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13 not-too-spooky movies – for girls’ night in (or a solo spa night) – at Halloween (or anytime.)

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)
– Romantic, old-fashioned, and surprisingly creepy.
Harold & Maude (USA, 1971)
– Not even remotely a horror movie, but its themes are tailor-made for horror fans. This is also the movie I’d recommend to anyone who can’t tolerate chick-flicks. Great dialog:
Psychiatrist: Tell me, Harold, how many of these, eh, *suicides* have you performed?
Harold: An accurate number would be difficult to gauge.
Psychiatrist: Well, just give me a rough estimate.
Harold: A rough estimate? I’d say
[savoring the thought]
Harold: fifteen.
Psychiatrist: Fifteen?
Harold: That’s a rough estimate.
Psychiatrist: Were they all done for your mother’s benefit?
Harold: No. No, I would not say “benefit.”
Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
– What’s girls’ night without a musical?
The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
– The first half of this film is an unapologetic celebration of women and the friendships they have with each other.
Sleeping With the Enemy (1991)
– Special acknowledgement for most perfectly beautiful town: Cedar Falls, Iowa.
Single White Female (1992)
– Special acknowlewdgement for best shoes: black stilettos with silver heels.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (USA, 1992)
– I dismissed this movie when it came out, because I thought it would be a disrespectful parody of my favorite genre. Years later, when I caught part of it on cable, I was surprised by how funny and sharp it was. I sought out an uncut copy. Now I understand why Buffy was developed into the popular TV series … which I haven’t seen, because I fear it will devolve into a disrespectful parody of one of my favorite movies. Hmmm.
Hocus Pocus (1993)
– Special acknowledgement for the most memorable mini-scene: every person I’ve talked to about this movie immediately chants, “Amok, amok, amok, amok!”
Delores Claiborne (1995)
– There’s some beautifully subtle work done in this film to clearly differentiate between scenes set in the present and flashbacks.
The Craft (1996)
– Probably best if you are under 20 … or if you happened to have seen it, at an appropriate age, when it came out. Otherwise, it’s a little angsty. Some lovely depictions of magick early on though.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997)
– This movie is about immersing yourself (for 2 1/2 hours) in a southern gothic. Kevin Spacey, by all accounts, does a devestatingly effective portrayal of Jim Williams – the man upon whom this story centers. If you’ve read the book, be prepared for deviations from the story. FYI: I want to be Lady Chablis, as she is in the film.
Practical Magic (1998)
– When I am an old woman, I want to live in that house, and indulge in midnight margaritas every Wednesday.
– Special acknowledgement for most beautiful woman in any of these films: TIE Sandra Bullock, Stockard Channing, Nicole Kidman and Diane Wiest.
Chocolat (2000)
– It is absolutely essential that you equip yourself with the finest chocolates you can afford before you settle in to watch this film.

Best bet for Halloween night: Hocus Pocus