Making an even reasonably effective horror movie is the closest thing to printing money other than actually printing money.
The “Conjurings.” The “Sinisters.” The “Insidiouses.” (“Insidii”?) These days, you can throw a couple of bucks and a somewhat recognizable actor into a situation where things go bump in the night and just sit back and watch the millions roll in.
It’s the most successful and inescapable genre outside of superhero movies.
But if you’re among those who think the world’s a scary enough place as it is, Halloween can be a very lonely time.
So, if you’d like to participate without actually having the bejeezus scared out of you, here are 13 movies to watch on Halloween for people who hate horror.
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012)
Back before Joss Whedon assembled The Avengers and Drew Goddard was nominated for an Oscar for his script for “The Martian,” they collaborated on this hilarious and endlessly clever deconstruction of horror movies and their tropes by sending five archetypes — the jock, the brain, the fool, the slut and the virgin — on a vacation to, well, a cabin in the woods. It’s also the movie where Whedon discovered Chris Hemsworth and recommended him for the role of Thor.
WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (2015)
Speaking of Thor, this mockumentary, written and directed by Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, who directed “Thor: Ragnarok,” follows a group of hopelessly inept vampires as they argue about such mundanities as household chores in the flat they share outside Wellington, New Zealand. Clement and Waititi recently returned to produce a new version for FX.
ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (2014)
And, in a final Thor tie-in, indie darling Jim Jarmusch (“Coffee and Cigarettes”) wrote and directed this look at vampires Adam (Tom “Loki” Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton), lovers who’ve inspired artists throughout the centuries and remain friends with Elizabethan playwright-turned-vampire Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt). In other words, it’s exactly what you’d expect from a Jim Jarmusch film about vampires.
ANYTHING FROM TED V. MIKELS
With titles such as “The Corpse Grinders” (1971), “The Astro-Zombies” (1968) and “Blood Orgy of the She-Devils” (1973), they sound like straight-up horror movies. But the works of Mikels, the late, longtime Las Vegan, were so schlocky, so endearingly goofy, so held-together-by-duct-tape-and-baling-wire, you can’t help but admire the DIY spirit of the man who wrote, produced, directed, edited and even worked the lights on his sets.
In 1780, Prince Mamuwalde (William Marshall) was sent to Europe by his African tribe’s elders to protest the slave trade. While there, he was turned into a vampire and became “Dracula’s soul brother,” who would awaken two centuries later to terrorize L.A. It isn’t great. But it beats the heck out of 1973’s “Blackenstein.”
WARM BODIES (2013)
The first zombie romantic comedy — aka zom-rom-com — finds a self-loathing zombie (Nicholas Hoult) falling in love with the daughter (Teresa Palmer) of the general charged with exterminating the undead. From his ironic inner monologue to its pop soundtrack, “Warm Bodies” owes a greater debt to John Hughes than John Carpenter.
YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974)
You’ll find a lot of horror-comedies on this list, but this Mel Brooks classic, about a descendant of Victor Frankenstein, really is the granddaddy of them all. It’s tough to assemble a better cast than this one that boasted Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Madeline Kahn, Teri Garr, Cloris Leachman and, as “Eye-gor,” Marty Feldman.
SATURDAY THE 14TH (1981)
Even though it was on HBO seemingly every other day when I was growing up, I barely remember anything about this horror spoof, other than that Richard Benjamin was in it and Jeffrey Tambor played a vampire.
BAD MILO (2013)
An overstressed accountant named Duncan (Ken Marino) develops what appears to be an intestinal polyp. That polyp, however, is actually a small monster that forces its way out of Duncan’s rectum, murders whoever is currently causing Duncan stress, then burrows its way back inside. With a cast including Gillian Jacobs, Stephen Root and Patrick Warburton, the whole thing is played for laughs — or at least as many laughs as can be expected considering all that bowel trauma. Some viewers may find the trailer offensive.
AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981)
Americans David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) are backpacking through England when a werewolf kills Jack and turns David. A rapidly decaying Jack begins visiting David, urging him to kill himself before he slaughters anyone else. In keeping with the movie’s cheeky tone, the soundtrack includes Van Morrison’s “Moondance,” Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising” and three different versions of “Blue Moon,” yet, curiously, not Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London.”
A sentient tire develops psychokinesis and, with it, the ability to explode people’s heads in this dark comedy. The gore factor is relatively high considering all the brains and blood, but it’s darn near impossible to be scared by a tire. And, snicker all you want, but “Rubber” made its debut at the Cannes Film Festival.
SPOOKY BUDDIES (2011)
If you can’t handle anything more frightening than the evening news, there’s this entry into the Disney series about the misadventures of a group of talking golden retriever puppies who, this time around, wear tiny pirate, princess and bunny costumes.
ERNEST SCARED STUPID (1991)
If you have small children or have experienced a recent head trauma, consider this, the fourth entry in the saga of Ernest P. Worrell (Jim Varney), aka “the great redneck hope.” Two hundred years after his ancestor rid the world of a demonic troll, Ernest accidentally unleashes it — because that’s the sort of thing Ernest does. While the troll is busy turning the town’s children into wooden dolls, local parents are more worried about them spending time with the village idiot. “You have no business being with Ernest,” a concerned parent tells her young son. The same could be said for most of you.
This story was published originally on Oct. 27, 2016. It has been updated.