So, it is that time of year again. People seem to love bringing out the scares in any way they can, and why not extend that to watching all sorts of really scary movies? The more blood, the better. The sillier and more over-the-top, well that is why people watch B-grade films if I am not mistaken. When there are people who like horror movies, they bloody love their horror movies.
Therefore, what happens when kids come along? After a while, you have to watch your behaviour, your language and – most of all – what media you consume. That is because eventually they will want to join you in movie watching. The Halloween specials are all good and whatnot – the yearly Treehouse of Horror from the Simpsons, Charlie Brown and whatnot – but those aren’t scary, not in the least. Luckily there are some great films, some with great scares in them still, that are able to be enjoyed by the whole family and be entertained.
Again, to those who already know – horror is not my biggest strength in movie watching. I do not have anything against the genre; often when I rent out movies they are sometimes horror but it is not as often as others (e.g. drama, action, arthouse etc). Some of these, horror might be stretching it as a genre. However, they are still for kids (mostly) and often are combined with some other genres. Let’s begin with the treats for the kids with some great entertainment.
10. Scooby Doo (2002)
Yes, I’m starting out somewhat controversial. I liked this film as a kid, shoot me! Say what you will, but the guy they got to play Shaggy (Matthew Liliard) now voices the same character on the current animated series.
For the most part, the film is not a bad one for kids actually. It is entertaining, it has got some great set design. As an adult, it probably would just look crude and as a cash-in; for the smaller fry, this is one for the kids and a gateway from comical to actually scary.
9. The Universal Horror Monsters
I don’t usually lump films into a single entry, but I make an exception here. Most kids probably are aware through osmosis about these iconic creatures, directly or through homages to them. So why not show them where they originated from on celluloid? While nowadays they would unfortunately be seen as cheesy, the storylines actually hold up. Most of them are actually fairly tragic; whenever the Monster smiled in the Bride of Frankenstein, there was always a glimmer of humanity to him. Age appropriate for kids – I think so, even then – and not a bad way to introduce them into cinema.
As any film watcher should do, going back to the origins helps to see the crafting and dedication that made many modern basics – basic – and this is one that should keep the kids’ attention for that long (most are only a little over an hour in run time).
8. Edward Scissorhands
Say what you will about Tim Burton becoming a parody of himself (some of his more recent effortsÂ have been less than stellar), the guy has a distinct aesthetic to him. At no frame in his films can it not be mistaken that it is an effort by him. That is something to commend him for. Another aspect of film making where I have deference from him is the influence of the silent era that permeates his design (German Expressionism in particular), and even the characterisations.
That is a discussion for another time though. Edward Scissorhands is a beautifully done film, one that is bittersweet, fairly dark and sad. It sort of takes on the tropes of a horror film in some ways, as Edward is akin to Frankenstein’s Monster. Instead, the perspective is more what the Monster was thinking – an outsider looking in, coming in and trying to observe only to be found misunderstood. This is Burton’s best film in my mind and will likely hold up nearly a quarter of a century later.
7. Night of the Hunter
Now, I have a different perspective about the horror genre than what seems to be the conventional case. Often I have gone on to describe that the film Johnny Got His Gun is more what I think about when describing films I find scary (that ending – I find it fecking terrifying). Now, this is another example of a film which I found scary – in a different way to the aforementioned movie just then – and is a masterpiece. I was blown away the first time I saw this film.
How appropriate it is for kids is perhaps dubious, hence why it is lower on the list. This film sort of feels like a nightmare, right from the beginning frames. The atmosphere is orchestrated just too well: the chanting kids at the beginning, the maudlin feel that it goes for, religious overtones and one of the most evil, well-acted villains ever in cinema – a priest played by Robert Mitchum who has “love” and “hate” tattooed onto his knuckles.
It did not find an audience back in the day (and was the director’s only directorial effort) but has deservedly grown in recognition throughout the years. Big directors like Terrence Mallick, Martin Scorcesse and David Lynch have found influence from it. Consider this – like a number on this list – as a stepping stone to broader horizons.
A modern-day twist on Alice in Wonderland, it surprised me that they chose to do it in animation; however, it works best in animation and could not be possible any other way. Brilliant feat of imagination based off a great children’s novel, a great debut from Laika studios which makes me optimistic to see what else the company does in the future.
This film is not so bad, it did not scare me as much as others and the real life stories about it are probably scarier than the actual film (Google them if you please). It is more iffy whether to show this one to kids or not, but it is a great ghost story where anything can happen. If your kids are to watch this, and they are younger than – say – 1o, it is best to be with them as it can get very creepy.
Now for some great humour, is this not one of the most quotable, imaginative and downright entertaining movies from the horror genre? It gets a dimension added to it from Bill Murray’s deadpan delivery coupled with the more wacky sort of humour from his co-stars. Great fun for all ages, there is a reason Ghostbusters is frequently in the lexicon – from video games to an animated series.
3. The Nightmare Before Christmas
Well, practically everyone on this site seems to talk about the film. So, guess I don’t have to……. right?
This was only a modest success when it came out, and now is considered one of the best animated films ever made. As with stop-motion animation, it has a special nature to it: attention to detail, so much character expression and a free form approach to what the creators want to make of their movie. It is ever present in this film, creating a whole new world from scratch – Halloweentown and many possible others.
The more that can be analysed from this film, the more it can transcend the great animations, the great children’s movies and maybe even the great movies themselves. It has many callbacks to the history of cinema as a whole with design, simple stories and great music. Barely creepy, only mild scares for the kids and plenty of imagination that runs wild throughout. If you have not seen this film, it should go on to the watch list right now. A twist on the classic Christmas story that is always welcome from a novelty point-of-view; it just needs to be delivered with a solid presentation and this film does it.
This might be the only film I actually watched on this list as a kid; I was a bit of a wuss when I was younger, and a sheltered child. This was one of the above-PG films that I got to watch, and it was a blast. Maybe more of a comedy than a horror, it is entertaining for every second it is on and how can it not be talked about without discussing the title character – Beetlejuice! He is that kind of scary where it gets into being funny because he is acting scary and could freak people out – perfect for a twisted sense of humour like I have. While crude in some parts with a bit of foul language (they had different standards in the 1980s I bet), it is probably alright family fare.
Just in case anyone here has not seen it, I will tell nothing of the plot to get the best out of it. Going in I had just the vaguest knowledge about the films (one thing I knew was about one of the surprises about one of the characters; all I will say is it shows great respect and maturity for a kids film) and I had a great time watching it. The attention to detail is fantastic and beautiful, it gets really funny in parts and as the story develops it is really well told and unlike most films aimed at the small fry that I have seen. Too much in recent years have animated films seemed to focus too much on their design while falling victim to mediocrity with typical stories and bland characters.
This time around, you have a motley crew of characters (grouped by circumstance) and a well-developed story. I liked this film a lot more than I expected, and it is recommended for most kids (maybe not the youngest, as it gets scary in parts).
So, there you have it. Some great films for the little ones (some probably not recommended for theÂ very little ones); relatively harmless fun with some great works of art in there. Are there any great ones that I have missed, or any that you disagree with. Comments below as I look forward to hearing feedback.
Now onto the Christmas films.
Only Bad Santa for me.Â