Family Frights: 18 Kid-Friendly Scary Films for Halloween
9:39 PM PDT 10/30/2013 by Shawn Kotzen, Chris Godley
It's Halloween once again and you have the unenviable task of finding a vaguely scary flick that won't traumatize the children. Well, have no fear (OK, have a little fear) -- here's a list of creature-features that won't put you to sleep, and won't give your kids nightmares, either.
This 1990 horror-comedy starring Jeff Daniels and John Goodman and directed by Frank Marshall did the same thing for spiders that Jaws did for sharks. After watching this scary and squirmy creature feature, you'll be checking behind your shower curtain, in addition to being fairly apprehensive about venturing into a cold, damp cellar by yourself.
Say his name three times. Go ahead, do it. Well, at least you won't have Candyman breathing down your neck. This kooky farce about the afterlife and all its pitfalls has a stellar cast (Alec Baldwin, Michael Keaton, Winona Ryder and Geena Davis -- to name a few) and represents a time in director Tim Burton's career (1988 to be exact) when he was young, unfocused and having the time of his life.
Released in 2009, this dark, yet whimsical tale not only has artistic credibility (it's based on a novel by hipster fave Neil Gaiman and features songs by They Might be Giants), but it's also a technical achievement. This surreal story of a young girl (voiced by Dakota Fanning) that lives in a dark and detached fantasy world, was the first stop-motion animated film to be shown in 3D as well.
'The Corpse Bride'
The second of three films to come from the twisted mind of Tim Burton (let's face it, there could've been more than three on this list) was released in 2005 and features the voices of Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter as an unconventional couple that doesn't let a simple thing like death get in the way of a good relationship. Animated in a traditional stop-motion style, this macabre tale is based on a piece of 16th Century Russian-Jewish folklore called "The Finger."
How far would you go to bring a recently deceased pet back to life? Probably not as far as this kid went. Another stop-motion animated feature from the mind of Tim Burton, with this one putting a lighthearted spin on the classic story of Frankenstein and his monster. However, instead of a mad scientist rebuilding a man and playing God, this 2012 film is about a young boy named Victor who brings his beloved dog Sparky back from the grave. It's adapted from a 1984 short film, also by Burton, of the same name.
Who you gonna call? Apparently four, paunchy, middle-aged scientists, as Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson teamed up with director Ivan Reitman to fight ghosts and hold off the apocalypse in this 1984 comedy classic. It also spawned a sequel, a Saturday morning cartoon, and a series of video games, not to mention that infectiously catchy theme song by Ray Parker Jr. I ain't afraid of no ghosts! But I am afraid of this classic's terrible sequel, Ghostbusters 2, pictured here.
As long as you follow the three rules -- keep them away from bright lights, don't get them wet, and never, ever feed them after midnight -- your cute and cuddly Mogwai should be okay. However, if you don't … well, then don't say you weren't warned once a bunch of ferocious, mischievous green monsters wreak havoc on your town. Joe Dante directed this 1984 cult classic that teaches kids a valuable lesson about proper pet care.
Taking place on Oct. 31, this Halloween-themed fantasy-comedy stars Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy as the Sanderson sisters -- the malevolent spirits of three 17th century Salem witches (complete with pointy hats, brooms, warts and all) that were burned at the stake and accidentally resurrected by group of kids, who in turn attempt to kill the children as a show of gratitude. Eating children? Rather dark for a Disney-produced children's flick, wouldn't you say?
Cult animator Genndy Tartakovsky (Samurai Jack, Dexter's Laboratory) directed this cartoon romp that depicts Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) as the owner of an inn for weary, wayward, traveling monsters, whose 118-year-old daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) falls for a human (Andy Samberg) who accidentally wanders in as a guest. Also features a spooktacular supporting cast, with Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, Cee Lo Green and others voicing some monstrous characters.
Howie Mandel (when he was vaguely funny) and Fred Savage (when he was fairly young) star in this inventive and overlooked 1989 comedy romp that was clearly the inspiration behind the concept of Monsters, Inc. Savage plays Brian -- a misunderstood kid who happens to find the door to a world of monsters directly under his bed, which includes outcast Maurice (Mandel). The screenplay was written by Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott, who were later responsible for writing a slew of hit films such as the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Shrek and Disney's Aladdin, to name a few.
Surprisingly entertaining and inventive, this 2006 animated film, directed by Gil Kenan (who's now at the helm of the remake of the very adult-themed horror classic Poltergeist as we speak) features a trio of suburban kids who decide to investigate the one house on their block that everybody's afraid of. It features a well-crafted storyline, some impressive action sequences, and Steve Buscemi as the mysterious old man who lives in the house by himself … or does he?
Pixar Animation Studios is responsible for this 2001 comedy, as well as this past summer's prequel Monsters University. Billy Crystal and John Goodman respectively provide the voices for Mike Wazowski and John P. "Sully" Sullinger. Don't be fooled. They might have human-sounding names, but these two closet-dwelling creatures have one job and one job only -- to scare the pants off little kids. But they're not doing it to be mean, but rather out of necessity, as the monster world's source of electricity is children's screams.
'The Nightmare Before Christmas'
Suffering from an identity crisis of sorts (Is it a Halloween movie or is it a Christmas film?), this 1993 stop-motion animated musical classic is co-written by Tim Burton (Tim Burton film No. 3 on the list), directed by Henry Selick (James and the Giant Peach), and features the iconic character of Jack Skellington -- the Pumpkin King of Halloweentown, who accidentally stumbles across the concept of Christmas. He becomes so obsessed, he kidnaps Santa Claus and attempts to take over the holiday of Christmas entirely.
Yet another stop-motion style animated film, this clever 2012 film might be the creepiest one of the lot. Brought to life (pun intended) by a fantastic cast, including Kodi Smit-McPhee, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jeff Garlin, John Goodman, and Anna Kendrick, it tells the tale of a young boy from a small Massachusetts town that finds out he can commune with the dead. Of course, this wouldn't be such a bad thing, except he happens to live in a town where an evil witch was once executed in the 1700s. Mayhem, destruction and zombies ensue (as well as plenty of laughs) in this story of a teen who just wants to fit in … and talk to dead people.
'The Addams Family'
Based on the sitcom from the 1960s that was itself based on the New Yorker cartoons by Charles Addams, this quirky gem, from the mind of director Barry Sonnenfeld, stars the late Raul Julia and very-much-alive Anjelica Huston as Gomez and Morticia Addams, whose family finds life in the suburbs rather difficult. Especially when estranged Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd) finds his way home. Having had some mild success at the box office during the fall of 1991, it spawned two sequels -- Addams Family Values (a cult classic) and the straight-to-video Addams Family Reunion.
'The Haunted Mansion'
This 2003 comedy helped usher in the era of the new-and-improved, family-friendly Eddie Murphy and also started the trend of Disney theme park attractions being adapted into feature-length films. Based on a fun and somewhat spooky ride, it tells the tale of a unknowing family that moves into a house that 999 ghosts already inhabit.
This 1987 tongue-in-cheek comedy is crass, vulgar and politically incorrect. In other words, it encompasses the one-of-a-kind decade known as the '80s. The plot is simple: A clubhouse-dwelling group of misfits must band together and stop Dracula and his cronies (who look like they just exited a Universal Pictures time warp from the 1930s) from recovering an ancient amulet and conquering the world. Wolfman's got nards, indeed.
Adapted from a book by the one-and-only Roald Dahl, this 1990 film features a deviously wicked Anjelica Huston as Miss Eva Ernst, who masquerades as the chairman for the fictional Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children at a convention in Cornwall, England. However, she's really the Grand High Witch in an ancient society of wicked witches. The actual reason that Miss Ernst and her fellow cacklers gather together is so they can execute their plan to turn all of England's children into mice. Of course, they didn't plan on brave, young Luke, who's also a guest at the Excelsior Hotel, foiling their nefarious plot.