Disney Channel Original Movies (DCOMs) ran the gamut from silly to self-serious, but there were plenty that traumatized young viewers with nightmares. Take a trip down nostalgia lane and remind yourself of the moments that kept you up at night.
Stuck in the Suburbs
Look, Stuck in the Suburbs isn’t a horror movie, but I just wanted an excuse to show the clip of Taran Killam (as pop star Jordan Cahill) being flat-out terrible at pretending to play the guitar. Move your left hand, Taran! His fake playing is so bad, it’s a little scary.
Return to Halloweentown
The scariest thing about this tired retrod of the franchise was the recasting.
The twin witches (get it?) had a vibe that was less “scary” and more “fortune teller/astrology.”
The third film in the franchise featured the monsters from Halloweentown going to a human high school. Sure, fitting in can be hard, but the movie wasn’t actually anything to keep us up at night.
Now You See It
Aly Michalka played a teen trying to win a contest for teenage reality show tv producers (lol) when she discovers a magician whose powers are rEaL. Yes, that is Frank Langella. Yes, that is Disney hunk and young Dana’s crush, Johnny Pacar.
The first of the classic DCOMs featured a group of kids who discover a real mummy (named Harold). The mummy is gross and actually pretty scary.
Don't Look Under the Bed
The Boogeyman starts framing a young girl for various acts of vandalism, but what’s scarier here is the idea that your childhood imaginary friends are real and no one will believe you.
“Halloween is cool.” With Debbie Reynolds as the matriarchal head witch in charge, Halloweentown makes us wish that a town where everything was spooky was real. The town itself, not too scary. But Kalabar…. *shudders.*
A teen wins a contest that brings his family to the high-tech home of their dreams. Waking up to a personalized concerto? Instant gourmet meals? Pre-Alexa voice commands? It sounds too good to be true because it is. It’s not a Halloween movie, but it is truly terrifying when their house turns against them and traps them inside.
Phantom of the Megaplex
Is that Mickey Rooney? (Yes, it is.) The plot turned out to be pretty Scooby Doo, but there is something to the idea of a ghost haunting a movie theater.
The Luck of the Irish
Another non-Halloween movie that freaked me the hell out as a kid: Ryan Merriman played an Irish-American who can’t control his transformation into a tiny, foot-tall leprechaun. NIGHTMARE.
Mom's Got a Date with a Vampire
The hot dad from The Nanny is a vampire! It’s a mainstay in kids movies that the kids are smarter than the adults, but it’s uniquely horrifying when your own mother is vulnerable and you’re helpless.
Halloweentown II: Kalabar's Revenge
Truly, the scariest DCOM of all. Maybe it was a meh sequel, and there was probably no need for two more, but Kalabar’s revenge was transforming all humans into their Halloween costumes, and we get an even scarier version of parents in danger: parents helplessly transforming into grotesque monsters. That frog-monster mask haunts my dreams to this day.