Pop Culture Pumpkin Spice: 10 Spooky Movies and Shows to Get You in the Fall Mood

There’s a chill in the air. The wind is picking up. You’re ready to get your favorite sweater out at last. That’s right, it’s finally fall! After a long and very (VERY) hot summer, the days are getting shorter and it’s time to get in the mood for the season. And what better way than some movies and television that ate the pop culture equivalent of curling up something spicy and warm on a rainy day.

(image: Warner Bros.)

Practical Magic

This will always be my first and foremost fall favorite. Every year, when it’s finally cold enough, I take an afternoon to bake pumpkin bread (I add just a bit of brandy and ginger) and watch this 1998 classic. It’s not a great movie by any stretch, but it has a rare mix of elements that I just love. It’s a story about a family of witches, cursed for generations to see the men they love die, relegated to outcast status on in a quaint town the likes of which only really exist in our imaginations.

Starring Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock at the peak of their romcom prowess, it’s a movie that’s magical in so many ways. From a perfect Stevie Nicks gilded soundtrack to a pair of aunts that I still believe to this day to be happily married lesbian witches, it wraps you up like a hug from an old friend. Most unique is that, while there is a romance, the real love story at the core of the film is about the connection between two sisters who proved that true love can break a curse years before Frozen. Recently added to Netflix, it’s a great first step into the season.

TV Land Bonus: In the mood for a quaint town and seasonal wonders for the whole year? Stay on Netflix Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Sweet as a pumpkin spice latte and just as realistic (not at all), Autumn is great and the whole revival is a season dream.

(image: Paramount Pictures)

Sleepy Hollow

Let’s ignore for now how problematic and repetitive Johnny Depp and Tim Burton have become and look back to when they were at the peak of their goth perfection. There are a lot of spooky Burton classics that we could include here but Beetlejuice can be enjoyed all year round and Edward Scissorhands is really a Christmas movie. Sleepy Hollow though is filled with pumpkins, gnarled branches and barren fields that jump off the screen, screaming autumn.

This very loose adaptation of the Washington Irving short story sees Ichabod Crane as a too-smart but squeamish detective, rather than a school teacher, sent to solve the mystery of the headless horseman. There are nods to the original and the classic Disney Cartoon, but it’s really its own thing. I love Sleepy Hollow because, in most ways, it’s completely unironic and handles magic, murder and gothic mayhem with equal grandeur and aplomb. It’s a spiritual descendant of Hammer Horror, right down to the gallons of blood that spurt like hot wax over the screen and it’s brilliant in that way.

Spooky, funny, featuring a relatively restrained Depp performance, as well as great turns by Miranda Richardson and a supremely creepy Christopher Walken, it’s well-plotted Halloween classic that’s still gets me in the mood to carve … some pumpkins.

TV Land Bonus: Can’t get enough striking visuals, gory murder and socially awkward detectives? There’s three delicious seasons of Hannibal just waiting for you and it would be rude not to give them a look.

(image: Disney)

Hocus Pocus

Speaking of Halloween and witches, no fall watch list would be complete without this classic. Maybe it’s the nineties child in me talking, but Hocus Pocus is perfect. From the gorgeous visuals of autumn leaves and trick or treaters, the great music and comedy, to a performance from Bette Midler that should be entered into the Smithsonian. This is one of those movie that when you flip by it channel surfing, you must watch. You may be in your uggs and have your PSL in hand, but it’s not fall until you’ve watched this one five times on cable.

If you’ve never seen the tale of the Sanderson Sisters, who return for one Halloween night to wreak havoc on an idyllic Salem, you’re missing something in your life. Not only does it include a pre-Sex in the City Sarah Jessica Parker, but there’s also talking cats, friendly zombies and did I mention Bette Middler chewing the scenery with buck-teeth and so much energy that you’ll be a bit sad when (spoiler) the evil witch finally gets her due?

TV Land Bonus: Can’t get enough of magic and talking cats: Throw on an episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch and contemplate the possibilities if she ever finds her way to Riverdale. Need a different three sisters? Charmed is always there for you.

Back to Magic School …

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Yes, it’s the worst Harry Potter movie, but there’s an innocence to this first installment in the series that takes you back to childhood and the wonders of a new season of magic and color. Even though it spans a year, it’s supremely autumnal like so many of the others on this list … and if you’ve seen it a thousand times, how about a deeper cut?

The Worst Witch. Starring Fariuza Balk in her first witchy role, long before she learned The Craft, this proto-Potter film has a scenario so close to Hogwarts, it had to be an influence. Join Mildred Hubble, the least talented Witch at her magical academy as she faces down mean girls and other threats and earn the respect of The Grand High Wizard in one of Tim Curry’s most, well, Tim Curry roles. If you don’t have time for the whole movie, make sure to add this to your Halloween play list.

TV Land Bonus: Over the Garden Wall. This surreal and beautiful animated series is another tale of young people thrust into a magical world. Eerie and surprising, the limited series tells a complete story and is the essence of fall distilled into two-dimensional form.

(top image: Disney, featured image: Paramount Pictures)

Jessica Mason is a writer and lawyer living in Portland, Oregon passionate about corgis, fandom, and awesome girls. Follow her on Twitter at @FangirlingJess.

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EMMYS 2017: Heaven Is a Place on Earth As “San Junipero” Takes Home the Best Everything

We were thinking it might be a long-shot, but once Charlie Brooker took home the Outstanding Writing for a TV Movie or Limited Series Emmy tonight, it started to seem a little more possible. And then it happened! “San Junipero” won the Emmy for Outstanding TV Movie!

“San Junipero” is a unique episode of Netflix’s Black Mirror in that, rather than taking a depressing look at our relationship to technology in the digital age, it provides a story of love, along with a happy ending! Granted, that “happy ending” is still a bit sci-fi weird, but it’s happy nonetheless. That happy ending is all the more important when you consider that the love story in question is one between two women.

These two wins prove that the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences is totally ready to not only give women’s stories more attention, but also the stories of the LGBTQIA community. Here’s hoping that we get to see many, many more!

Congratulations, Mr. Brooker, and the whole Black Mirror crew!

(image: Netflix)

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Emmys 2017: Lena Waithe Becomes First Black Woman to Win Comedy Writing Emmy

We’ve been huge fans of Netflix’s Master of None for a while now, and Season 2 of the show topped the first! One big reason why is the episode “Thanksgiving,” a personal episode written by show co-star and writer, Lena Waithe. Well, tonight she made history, winning the Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series along with Aziz Ansari, and becoming the first black woman to win a comedy writing Emmy!

“Thanksgiving” was one of the more heartfelt episodes of the season, digging into Waithe’s real life coming-out story as a black woman in Chicago, which featured an amazing guest starring performance from Angela Bassett playing Denise’s mother.

One of the amazing things about Waithe’s acceptance speech, in addition to her amazing tuxedo jacket, was the fact that though Ansari was on stage with her, he didn’t say a word, allowing his friend and colleague to have her amazing moment entirely to herself. And what a moment it was! People in the audience were crying, and I loved when Waithe shouted out the LGBTQIA+ community, saying that the world is better because we are in it.

And television is better, because women like Waithe are in it.

(image: Netflix)

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Sean Spicer Stars In the First Shocking Moment of Emmys 2017

Stephen Colbert did a passable, if sometimes slightly uncomfortable musical number to open Emmys 2017, followed by an increasingly political opening monologue. It got so political, in fact, that a very “popular” participant in recent political goings-on actually made an appearance. No, not Melissa McCarthy playing him, but the man himself. That’s right! Spicey took to the Emmys stage! And it was weird and kinda awesome.

Colbert was talking about Trump valuing ratings (and how maybe if he’d won an Emmy for The Apprentice, he wouldn’t have tried to run for President), and he said, “I wish there were a way for me to know what the ratings were tonight. Is there anyone who can tell me what the ratings are tonight?”

Suddenly, Sean Spicer himself rolled out on stage with a podium, Melissa McCarthy-style, to announce that the Emmys have THE BIGGEST RATINGS EVER. The audience was shocked, and as the camera panned to Melissa McCarthy, the look on her face was less than amused. Her eyebrows were raised like “Really dude? Okay…”

A little later, Colbert mentioned The Wizard of Lies, saying it could be called The Sean Spicer Story, then thanking Spicer again for agreeing to appear.

I’ve gotta say, while he was completely incompetent at his job, I also understand that Spicer had a lot of crap to deal with in working with this particular Administration and President. I was kind of impressed that he basically did the opposite of hiding in the bushes tonight. At the Emmys, he was willing to have people make jokes at his expense, which takes a certain amount of guts for anyone to do.

I’ve gotta say, I prefer seeing him in this capacity than in his previous line of work.

(image: screencap/ABC)

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Sebastian Stan Was Just As In-the-Dark as Bucky During the Shooting of Infinity War

At the end of a wide-ranging interview with Collider, Sebastian Stan discussed his experience filming Avengers: Infinity War and its sequel. He revealed that, like his character the Winter Soldier, he’s often “in the dark” about the bigger picture.

“It’s like Groundhog Day over there right now,” he said of the current filming situation. “I come in, and I was just there, and then I’m going back…I [also] didn’t read a [full] script for the last movie. So I was kind of in the dark – which is always okay for the Winter Soldier. Dark’s okay.”

Very much unlike Bucky, though, Stan is enjoying himself. Even with a larger cast and a more piecemeal sense of the script, he’s found the on-set experience fun and casual: “You’re always kind of like, ‘Oh! So-and-so just walked by me.’ It’s always a little bit kind of like a double-take, but generally I think everyone’s just having a good time.”

Stan also emphasized the trust involved in the project now. “It’s a family system,” he said, “and at this point, I feel like between the writers and Kevin [Feige] and the Russos, everybody kind of guesses their next move, so to speak, and I feel like they know very well what I’ll be bringing…I’m gonna be handed a piece of paper, and then I’m gonna go and do the scene, but again, I’ve spent so much time with the character, and I’ve spent so much time with them, that it’s very easy to jump right in and get right into the chemistry.”

Even the IMAX footage didn’t seem to phase his approach. He described the footage from D23, the Disney Expo, as “really nuts,” but emphasized that he knows how his character will react. “Again,” he said, “I can just resort back to the same look of bewilderment.”

I sort of love how this description is basically just Bucky’s life: moving from assignment to assignment with no sense of the bigger picture, doing double-takes, and occasionally staring pointedly at Chris Evans and his beard. Altogether, this is a much better way of method acting than Jared Leto’s.

(Via Collider and io9; image via Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios)

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“How It Should Have Ended” Makes Wonder Woman Even Better By Adding Batgirl and Supergirl

The How It Should Have Ended (HISHE) team recently took on Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman, imagining various endings where Diana slices off General Ludendorff’s head at the party, Steve finds a parachute, or Moana‘s Gramma Tala shows up. But my favorite of the bunch had to be the skit where Wonder Woman, Batgirl, and Supergirl are all sitting together at the HISHE superhero cafe. Enjoying an ice cream, Diana tells the other women her story, and she mentions that things were getting “a little too Captain America” near the end of her film.

“What do you mean you’re like Captain America?” Kara asks. “You just carry a shield with a star on it, fought in a World War, and had a boyfriend named Steve that was gonna sacrifice himself in a plane…Oh, I see it now.”

“I don’t care if you are like Captain America,” says Babs. “I think you’re inspiring.”

“Unlike some other superheroes,” Kara agrees.

“I know, right?” Babs says. “The boys make everything so dark and depressing.”

The skit also includes a great shot at the animated Batman: The Killing Joke adaptation. Batman pulls up in the Batmobile and shouts, “Hey hey, ladies. You wanna know my secret identity?”

“Ew, gross!” Babs says. “You’re friends with my dad!”


Alas, the skit ends with an unfortunate dose of reality. Batman comes to pick up Wonder Woman – and not Batgirl or Supergirl – for some Justice League heroics, reminding us that the Justice League movie, despite its definite strides in POC representation, is still too heavily male. Can we get some more women – especially women of color – in the Justice League of the DC cinematic universe soon?

(Via Nerdist; image via screengrab)

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The Shape of Water Is Really Going All-In On the Fish Monster Sex Scene

“Guillermo [del Toro] is the one director who can make a monster the leading man,” actor Doug Jones told The Hollywood Reporter in a recent interview. “In The Shape of Water he has created this fishman mutant, last of his kind, who becomes a sexy love interest. I don’t know anyone else who could’ve pulled that off but him.”

Jones, who plays the “sexy love interest” fishman mutant, known as The Asset, discussed the character’s development and very intimate, full-frontal sex scene in his interview.

“[del Toro] kept pushing the sexy,” Jones explained. “This character has to be sexy. When watching the film you have to believe that someone could actually fall in love with him and find him sexy and want to take their clothes off in his presence. So how do you create a monster who does that?”

Jones was first approached about the role back in 2014, and even then del Toro had “concern[s] about the intimacy that was going to be portrayed on film.” He wasn’t sure if Jones would be comfortable with the scene between his monster and Sally Hawkins’ character. “He was hesitating when he talked to me,” Jones said, “so I asked what were his misgivings. He said, ‘I know you’re a good Catholic boy, I just want to make sure it’s OK with you to play this.’ I asked what could possibly be the problem and he goes, ‘Well, there’s a fuck scene.’ (Laughs.) As only he could say.”

“When I asked him why this time does it need to involved full-frontal nudity — I mean, we’re going for it! — and he harkened back to the Creature from the Black Lagoon and Frankenstein and any of the classic monster movies that helped develop his love of monsters. There was always a romantic side to these characters and relationships on film that never got actualized all the way. Guillermo said this time, the monster’s going to actually fuck the girl. (Laughs.) A gentler way to say it is that this is the creature from the wet, black lagoon who actually gets the girl this time.”

Now, I find Jones’ woman-as-prize phrasing pretty problematic and reductive, but based on the early reviews, I think the film itself is more romantic. And I really like that del Toro and the cast are going for it with this scene. One of the many cool things that science fiction and fantasy can do is to craft alternate visions of intimacy and sexuality, and to make us think about sex as the weird, squicky, intimate, animal, and fascinating thing it is. I’m glad that they’re taking advantage of that – even if I still have no idea how they’re going to pull it off.

What do you all think, though?

(Via The Hollywood Reporter; image via Fox Searchlight Pictures)

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With #SWisAGirlThingToo, Twitter Talks Back to Fanboy Sexism Around Star Wars

After a Twitter rando tried to tell Charlotte Errity, a co-host for the Skytalkers: This Galactic Life podcast, that Star Wars “has always been a guy thing,” Twitter took up the hashtag #SWIsAGirlThingToo to celebrate the fact that women have always been an integral part of the fandom.

The tweets covered pretty much every aspect of female Star Wars fandom. Some users celebrated female characters in the Star Wars universe, some women charted their lifelong fangirl journeys, and others paid tribute to the joy and community that fandom makes possible. Even the inimitable Mark Hamill got in on the hashtag.

While it’s true that the original tweet was just from some rando indie author, comments like this are representative of a wider sexism and entitlement – and sometimes, we’re just not in the mood to let it go. I’m delighted that the internet turned an everyday bit of sexist trash into a celebration of women’s geekery and badassery. The Force has always been with us.

(Via SYFY Wire; image via Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox)

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From Costume Designer to Feature Director: Courtney Hoffman Is Amblin’s Pick to Direct Action Flick Ruthless

Talk of increasing the number of women who direct in Hollywood tends to focus on getting “new” women into the industry, and while that’s a worthwhile goal, studios and producers shouldn’t forget that there are mid-career women already working in the industry who would be capable directors. Which is why the story of how Courtney Hoffman got her feature film directing debut is so awesome.

Hoffman has been the costume designer on films like Baby Driver, The Hateful Eight, and Captain Fantastic. However, she was also enrolled in the American Film Institute’s Directing Workshop for Women, where she was able to create an amazing short film called The Good Time Girls, a feminist Western. According to Deadline Hollywood:

“It takes place in the Old West, and stars Laura Dern as the leader of a brothel populated by damaged women who, it turns out, hold grudges. She shot it on 35mm, and made it as part of the AFI Directing Workshop for Women and Refinery 29’s Shatterbox Anthology. Alia Shawkat and Garret Dillahunt also star. Hoffman has additional collaborations planned with Dern, and is developing The Good Time Girls into a feature.”

You can check out the film here:

I cannot wait until this is developed into a feature!

Then again, we’ll have to wait a bit, because on the strength of this short, as well as a confident, fully-realized pitch, Hoffman has just landed her first feature directing gig, helming Ruthless for Amblin Entertainment.

Written by John Swetnam, Ruthless tells the story of a legendary, retired assassin who is diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and returns to her old line of work to complete one final job in order to secure her daughter’s future. When it was purchased as a spec for big money back in February, it was considered a spiritual cousin to the John Wick movies.

After a couple of other directors dropped out for various reasons, producer Matti Leshem of Weimaraner Republic Pictures says that Hoffman made a persuasive case for the gig.

Leshem goes on to say, “I saw the short and immediately felt like I’d seen something I hadn’t before, with a clear perspective, and beautifully and confidently shot. When the studio asked if we should consider her, we all said, absolutely. We met with her and heard her pitch for how to make the film. In 25 years of listening to pitches from filmmakers, I cannot remember being that excited by a complete view of the film she intends to make. She has worked on all those big films, and it was clear she understands the collaborative nature, and that she has all the necessary confidence to direct a big movie.”

This kind of talent, ambition, and drive is hugely inspiring, and I can’t wait to see the results of Hoffman’s work on Ruthless, and the (hopefully) inevitable work to come!

(image: screencap)

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Cowboy Bebop‘s Shinichiro Watanabe to Direct Blade Runner 2049 Anime Prequel Short

We certainly have some mixed feelings around here about the upcoming Blade Runner sequel, Blade Runner 2049. Well now, Japanese Blade Runner fans have one more thing to add to the “pro” column for this film. They’ll be getting an anime prequel short film ahead of its Japanese release, directed by one of anime’s best!

Shinichiro Watanabe, whom you probably know from his work on Cowboy Bebop, will be directing the short, which is titled “Blade Runner: Black Out 2022.” As of right now, there’s no word as to whether the short will be available in the United States. However, it will be released in Japan ahead of their October 27th release of Blade Runner 2049.

Here’s a translation, courtesy of ComicBookMovie.com, of the Japanese release about the project:

“Director Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo) is directing an animated short tie-in to the Blade Runner 2049 film, which opens in Japan on October 27. The short is titled “Blade Runner Black Out 2022.”

The anime will take place in the year 2022, between the original Blade Runner film, which takes place in 2019, and its sequel Blade Runner 2049. The story will involve a large power outage on the west coast of the United States.

Watanabe is writing the script in addition to directing. Cygames Pictures, the anime studio subsidiary smartphone game publisher Cygames established last year, is producing the animation. Shukou Murase (Halo Legends, Mobile Suit Gundam Wing) is serving as character designer and animation director, and Flying Lotus is composing the music.

The cast includes Kenichirou Matsuda as Iggy, Ichigo Aoba as Trixie, and Makoto Furukawa as Ren.”

Cygames Pictures also released a really cool video showing samples of some of the artwork and previews of the animation for the film. Unfortunately, it’s in Japanese, and I don’t speak Japanese, so I can’t tell you what the video says. What I can tell you is that the film looks really cool, and I can ask that if there are any Japanese speakers out there who would like to help other fans by translating the video in the comments below, I’d love you forever:

*sigh* Japan gets everything that’s cool. Here’s hoping we somehow get to see this anime prequel Stateside. In any case, we get Blade Runner 2049 first here in the States, so that’s something! It arrives in theaters October 6th.

(via ComicBookMovie.com, image: screencap)

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