It’s Halloween season and, as such, the ghosties and ghoulies and long-legged beasties are turning up on our television screens and in our Netflix queues to bring thrills and chills.
For families who would like to have some more family-friendly options for Halloween viewing, I’d like to present eight great choices for your Halloween viewing pleasure.
So, pop up a batch of homemade popcorn, gather the kiddees up on the couch and turn the lights down low...
Age range: 10 to 15
“Monster House” stands out from the usual CGI-animated children’s fare by being squarely aimed at young adolescents. On Halloween night, two boys caught in the conflict between childish and teenage pursuits discover that the house of the mean old man across the street has come alive and is eating people and creatures that approach unaware. The tiny tykes will love it, but its themes of adolescent awkwardness will resound most strongly with preteens.
“Something Wicked This Way Comes”
Age range: 6 and up
While Ray Bradbury’s script may pale in comparison to the novel he adapted it from, this dark, nostalgic fantasy about two boys facing down a supernatural carnival that can make your dreams come true — for a price — is a perfect horror film for the younger set. Small children will likely find this film a little too much, but it’ll be perfect viewing for the grade-school through preteen set.
The Scary Godmother series
Age range: Toddler to 10
Based on the graphic novels of Jill Thompson, “Scary Godmother: Halloween Spectactular” and “Scary Godmother: The Revenge of Jimmy” are perfect fun for the tiny tyke set with a fun cast of monstrous characters that might be a little scary but also a lot of Halloween fun.
“The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad”
Age range: 5 and up
Just skip the “Mr. Toad” segment this Disney animated film starts out with and go straight to “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” While the film may start out as well-crafted Disney humor, proceedings take a darker turn late in when, after a frightening Halloween party, Crane encounters the Headless Horseman himself. Fantastic animation and wonderful voice work by Bing Crosby make this one of the most memorable and spooky Disney outings ever made.
“The Haunting” (1963)
Age range: 13 and up
Robert Wise’s now classic adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s 1959 supernatural novel “The Haunting of Hill House” has been called “the scariest G-rated film ever made.” Teenagers will find much food for thought in the main character of Eleanor Lance, a woman whose desperate search for identity leads her to a malevolent, mysterious house seeking to psychologically corrupt her with a feeling of belonging.
Page 2 of 3 - “Casper”
Age range: Toddler and up
While not particularly scary, “Casper” is a solid rumination on the nature of life through the perspective of the decades-old Harvey Comics character. Kids will love the hijinks the uncles get up to, but the real emotional meat here is the story of Casper finally coming to terms with his own nature.
“Addams Family Values”
Age range: 10 and up
A sequel far better than the film that spawned it, “Addams Family Values” was peculiarly ignored by theatergoers in its initial run. The film sets the titular family against the backdrop of a world that doesn’t appreciate or accept them, with children Wednesday and Puggsly particularly under assault as they’re forced to attend a summer camp full of happy, shining people. The film has a bit of sexual suggestiveness, and parents wary of that should watch the film beforehand to make sure they’re all right with it. Outside of that, it’s an adequate, often darkly hilarious rumination on how being different can be perfectly fine.
Age range: 6 and up
Author Neil Gaiman has spent years crafting dark fantasies. In the stop-motion animated “Coraline,” a little girl discovers an alternate reality more to her liking despite sinister hints all is not what it seems. This was a prime choice for adaptation.
Likely too scary for the very littlest children, but a fantastic rumination on appreciating the things we do have and the people who love us.
Age range: 12 and up
Tim Burton’s stop-animated film about a man who accidentally finds himself betrothed to a desperate undead woman murdered before her wedding day is a somewhat darker, less jovial affair than the Burton-produced “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” but has a far stronger emotional resonance as children will develop empathy for the bride’s loneliness and search for belonging. The film’s visual style was strongly inspired by the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday, which, in its underworld scenes, gives it a striking tone paired with a New Orleans-feeling sense of jazz and fun. Too dark and macabre for the smaller children, but the ‘tweens and teens should find a lot to love here.
“The Nightmare Before Christmas”
Age range: 6 and up
Likely the Mount Everest of seasonal children’s films, the Tim Burton-produced, Henry Selick-directed stop motion musical about a town full of Halloween miscreants deciding to take over Santa’s job — whether Santa likes it or not — remains the standard most children’s Halloween films are judged. Sure, it might have some Christmas iconography in there, but, by far, the film is far more gleefully ghoulish than yuletide merry. Toddlers may find some of the imagery disturbing, but the film’s sense of light macabre whimsy combined with Danny Elfman’s instantly memorable songs will keep this film a Halloween favorite for the children of generations to come.
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