Do you remember the first time you watched your favorite Halloween movie? Maybe your first paranormal cinema experience was 1984’s “Ghostbusters.” Perhaps you feel better connected to the campy goodness of 1993’s “Hocus Pocus.”
Films like these, seen through our youthful eyes, seem like they should be placed on pedestals and cherished forever, but do they hold up as adults? We asked the “Gate Keeper” Matthew McGee and “Key Master” Nick Smith to review classic films from last century to find out.
Instead of giving the films a thumbs up or down, our gay Siskel & Ebert will rate each Halloween flick on how many times it makes them clack their fans. The more clacks, the more the film holds up. Let’s get started.
McGee: This supernatural comedy is one of my favorite movies of all time. I especially find Bill Murray and Sigourney Weaver perfectly matched as comedic and romantic foils. This movie about three parapsychologists that start a ghost extermination business in New York City is still equal parts scary and hilarious. When demonic demigod Gozer, the Gozerian shows up in the final act looking like a demonic Sheena Easton, you know you’re in for a good time.
Smith: This film was actually released a year before I came into this world, but that didn’t stop me from watching it on repeat growing up. Featuring iconic actors such as Bill Murray and Dan Akroyd, it was released when laughs could be clean and you didn’t need top notch special effects to entertain. It introduced me to my always-eating, never-caring spirit animal Slimer—and featured the demonic possession of Sigourney Weaver. She gave us 80s fierceness and lucky for me, “Yas, Queen!” wasn’t a saying back then—because my mother would have had a lot more questions for me if it were.
“The Addams Family” (1991)
McGee: Many people don’t realize this, but “The Addams Family” only ran for two seasons when it debuted on the small screen in 1964. The cast boasts the late Raul Julia, Christopher Lloyd, Anjelica Huston and Christina Ricci, all perfectly inhabiting their iconic roles. To me the sequel, “Addams Family Values,” which was written by gay writer Paul Rudnick, is far superior. It features an amazing performance by Joan Cusack as the evil black widow Debbie Jellinsky and Nathan Lane as a police officer. There’s always been something so queer about the Addams Family. Are we surprised? I mean, the theme song starts with snapping fingers.
Smith: They’re creepy. They’re kooky. Mysterious. And definitely spooky. Frankly, they’re just trying to live their best life. If you like oddball scenarios, easy laughs, drunk uncle antics or most importantly Christina Ricci, then this film is still worth a watch. While not one of my favorites, it still offers a few shocks of nostalgia. Seeing Gomez and Morticia kick across the dance floor or hearing Wednesday Addams shut down every person she meets with a quick, morbid one-liner still gives you a bit of life. But once the movie’s over I doubt you’ll be popping it back on the tube for another 10 years or so.
“Hocus Pocus” (1993)
McGee: Halloween isn’t complete without a viewing of this delightfully campy cult classic about three wacky witches hellbent on ending a 300-year-old curse. On its original release, it was a failure for Disney and its star, the legendary Bette Midler. Film critic Roger Ebert even gave it only one star! Oh, the shade of it all, but “Hocus Pocus” is so charming that it can’t help but put a spell on you. You can catch a myriad of drag salutes to the Sanderson Sisters all over Florida this October! Those witches have got staying power, darling!!
Smith: “Hocus Pocus” is one of the most relatable movies of our gay lifetimes. It’s centered on an overdramatic trio of ladies with big hair, loud outfits and lots of sass! Hoping to stay beautiful forever, these three devise a plan to suck the souls of youth—but it doesn’t take long for a boy to cause chaos for them. It leads them to pull an all-nighter of challenges with the simple hope to stay indefinitely fresh. If that doesn’t remind you of a happy hour conversation you’ve had, how about when Winifred Sanderson hits on the devil? It doesn’t end well for her. But it’s okay, sis. We’ve all been there. These divas put a spell on me then, now and forever.
“The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993)
McGee: I know I’m gonna get a lot of flack for this, but I’ve never been a huge fan of this beloved Tim Burton animated film. I much prefer his “Corpse Bride.” The film was seen as a modest sleeper hit when first released. Over the years, it has become a huge marketing and merchandising property for Disney. I think a lot if this is based on the incredible art direction, Broadway-style score and beloved main characters. I can’t go anywhere now without seeing the film’s apparel, costumes or tattoos on someone. Its legacy is embraced by those who are different, and it continues to be a beloved holiday film for all ages. It just never spoke to me. What do I know?
Smith: I’ve always loved this movie, which follows leading character Jack Skellington as he enters a mid-life (death?) crisis and tries to find his purpose. Instead of picking up a hobby like a normal person, he decides to quit his job, leave his friends behind and steal Christmas. It’s a classic loner film of depression and self-discovery. Side note: This movie is impressive when you consider the amount of work that went into making a full on Claymation movie before the world of CGI we have today. It really inspired my love of Halloween even though it’s a total Christmas movie (fight me). Heck, I even named my dog after the one in the movie. The name also happens to be the same as the number of griefs I want to hear from the haters out there— Zero. This Pumpkin King would break his fan based on the number of clacks I’d give it.
A seriously annoying number of clacks
McGee: Where to begin! This ill-fated reboot of the beloved cartoon finds a prepubescent Christina Ricci befriending everyone’s favorite spirit since Patrick Swayze in “Ghost.” While commercially successful, I always felt the movie version replaced the comedic, whimsical nature of the cartoon with a maudlin, tear-jerking plot line that was more schmaltzy than sentimental. I do love the title song “Remember This Way.” It’s perfect for graduations or wedding receptions. It’s as cheesy as the movie but works really well out of context. Did you know “Casper” was turned into a musical in 2001 starring the legendary Chita Rivera? It’s also not so great. Still, the character is lovable and ingrained in our pop culture psyche. Boo!
Smith: This is one of those films you watch when you’re younger that you fall absolutely in love with. Then you’re asked to watch it as an adult to see if it still stands and you make an awkward face when you finish. Refresher, our friendly ghost has made a new friend in a very different version of Christina Ricci than the one we met in “The Addams Family.” Of course Casper falls in love and attempts to win her heart, which has enough issues in itself. If she did fall in love, would that count as necrophilia? Just a thought. If you’re going to give this one another go I suggest hitting up the booze—and go heavy on the boo.
Matthew McGee is an acclaimed actor, drag artist, writer and horror aficionado. He lives in Tampa Bay with his partner George and their two dogs, Brian and Averi. Learn more about him at TheMatthewMcGee.com.
Nick Smith is a Central Florida artist who creates mixed medium pieces, often nerdy, giving each one a unique touch for originality. He is also obsessed with Halloween and all things spooky. Learn more about his art at Facebook.com/Art.NickSmith.