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Throughout Disney’s eras, there have been many scary moments that slipped through the cracks of the studio’s usual wheelhouse. Sure, there have been elements of horror in classic titles like Pinocchio, where there’s a place filled with cursed donkey children called Pleasure Island, and the Pink Elephants sequence in Dumbo. Disney has a great history of taking chances on ideas that test the boundaries of genre. There are extraordinary exceptions like Nightmare Before Christmas and Hocus Pocus that manage to capture the magic of Disney and still be strangely dark. There are also major moments in big blockbuster films, like the ghost ship reveal in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl that stand out for great horror.
Included with a Disney+ subscription is incredible access to not only the films mentioned but also festive TV frights! There’s The Simpsons’ "Treehouse of Horror" Halloween collection all in one place. And don’t count the Mouse out either, as the most recent crop of Mickey shorts offers up offbeat humor with a handful of spooky episodes. But not all the oddities in the Disney+ catalog manage to stick the landing, like many Disney Channel Original Movies throughout the years (though even they remain endearing in their own way). Still, if you're looking for something that's just the right amount of spooky, Disney+ has you covered.
01. Fantasia (1940)
In Fantasia’s “Night on Bald Mountain” segment, the composition from Modeste Moussorgsky scores one of the most terrifying cinematic moments of the film. In it, Chernabog, aka ripped Satan, is awakened for a wild night with his naked harpies, wailing ghosts, nude witches, and wicked demons. Their night of dance under the moonlight is depicted as very overtly adult and in your face; there’s grim imagery of death, writhing bodies, and (very cool) occult depictions of rituals. Thanks to this film and Fantasmic at the Disney Parks, is anyone else’s earliest monster memory Chernabog?
02. Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959)
A town storyteller’s ongoing competition of wits with the king of the leprechauns is interrupted when he’s replaced as a caretaker for a patch of Irish land. To make matters worse, his former role is taken over by a strapping young man (dreamy Sean Connery pre-Bond), who also happens to have taken a shining to his daughter. Lots of small leprechaun hijinks ensue in a wild romp through Irish mythology. However, it’s the soul-snatching Irish banshee that tips this film right into a trippy fever dream of frights.
03. Return to Oz (1985)
In Disney’s attempt to capitalize on the Oz IP, the studio produced a film that follows what happened to Dorothy after her first trip over the rainbow. The Craft’s Fairuza Balk plays an insomniac Dorothy suffering from PTSD who is taken to a mental institution because of her "delusions" of having traveled to another land. Their solution? Electroshock therapy! Eventually, she breaks out and makes it back to a fallen Oz. Dorothy is once again tasked to save the land from the likes of a rock king who steals the ruby slippers and a headless princess who has a collection of well... other heads to wear.
04. Mr. Boogedy (1986)
It’s a poltergeist party! The titular Mr. Boogedy is an entity who sold his soul to the devil for the love of a widow. In anger, he kidnapped her son, and after a spell went wrong, blew up his house with himself and the child in it. And ever since, every house built on the site has been haunted by the ghost of Boogedy, the child, and his mother. But when an eccentric family that’s in the gag business moves in, they’re not moving out without a fight.
This Disney Channel Original Movie is a trip into the weirdly wonderful world of Disney. Keep an eye out for original TV Gomez Addams, John Astin.
BOOGEDY! BOOGEDY! BOO!
05. Fuzzbucket (1986)
Gremlins-inspired with an attempted Amblin vibe, this DCOM is sheer camp with a wacky plot. Fuzzbucket is a child’s bizarro invisible friend that no one believes exists, who comes to life in probably the most horrifying yet engrossing sequences ever committed to the screen. You cannot look away and you will never be able to unsee it. It’s so gross, you might even scream at the screen.
Part roadkill and humanoid cryptid, Fuzzbucket’s true form will haunt you. So naturally, we’re passing this recommendation on to you so you can pass it on to others. We’re in this nightmare together.
06. The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horrors (1989-Now)
For basic cable, The Simpsons really pushed the envelope with its "Treehouse of Horror" annual Halloween episodes. They never held back on the gore or the laughs. With the entire series now housed on Disney+, fans can revisit so many "Treehouse of Horrors" gems. There’s the time Willie became Freddy Krueger, Bart became Poe’s Raven, the lunch was people, and when Homer traveled through different dimensions to end up in the real world. So many to list!
Their parodies of great horror were gateway stories to seek out the original content. Even the opens were stuffed with more Easter eggs than you'd think were possible. It’s so fun to go back and identify. (A good starting point: Some of the most iconic entries of "Treehouse of Horrors" are I, IV, V, VI, X, and XI.)
07. Hocus Pocus (1993)
Annually, we gather over Kenny Ortega’s cult Disney classic, made iconic by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy as the Sanderson Sisters. The film is recognized for incredible comedic and musical moments. However, we’d be remiss not to include that the film opens with the witches sucking the soul out of a child and cursing a boy into an immortal cat form before being hung. Later, they rely on a virgin to set them free by reading from their spellbook that’s bound in human skin. And let’s not forget Doug Jones’ scene-stealing appearance as Billie Butcherson, a man the sisters hex into a submissive living corpse.
But you know, it’s just a bunch of Hocus Pocus.
08. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Speaking as someone who was scared by the trailer as a child, this is a movie that some took a while to see before becoming obsessed. My compliments to those who did see it at a young age. What makes Nightmare Before Christmas so transcendent is the heart in Caroline Thompson’s script, Danny Elfman’s music, and Henry Selick’s stop-motion artistry. Tim Burton’s imagery without those things would be iconic, yes, but just scary. It’s the moving parts that make Jack’s tale of Christmas appropriation such a spooky gift that keeps on giving.
09. Can of Worms (1999)
There’s nothing more heartwarming than befriending aliens in coming-of-age sci-fi flicks like E.T., Iron Giant, and Lilo and Stitch. Can of Worms zaps out the allure in exchange for the absurd.
When a lonely teen sends a message out into space, his call is answered by a gang of very weird aliens. This might be the movie for you if a sweaty, gelatinous, big-eyed blob with terrific teeth or a dog voiced by Malcolm McDowell is your idea of the perfect squad.
10. Mickey Shorts (2013)
There are some legitimately weird moments in the delightfully off-beat new Mickey Shorts. They’re so funny and endlessly rewatchable. In his most recent series, Mickey Mouse is that manic A-type personality friend and this comes into play hilariously when Goofy and Donald get to hone their most chaotic of energies as well.
Things get downright creepy in "Ghoul Friend" (Season 1, Episode 10), bonkers in "Outta Time" (Season 5, Episode 8), and meta in "Potatoland" (Season 1, Episode 13). Now don’t close your eyes or you’ll miss the perfect nod to a beloved haunted attraction from the parks.