I can remember clearly watching Sean of the Dead one night with my nephew, he loved it. I enjoyed watching his beaming, pudgy little face as Sean guided his friends through hordes of zombies to The Winchester. He would ask me cute questions along the way like “why do they all talk funny?” and “What does Got Wood mean Uncle Matt”. It wasn't until David gets ripped apart in vivid bloody fashion that it hit me…maybe a 6 year old should not be watching this. You see I don’t have that voice in my head that tells me when a movie is inappropriate for children. My nephews are grown up now so it’s not much of an issue, but most of my friends do have children which means I don’t have as many folks showing up for spooky movie night in October anymore. The other day one of my friends asked about what horror films are okay for their 10 year old to watch. He was looking forward to having spooky movie night but wasn't sure what movie would be suitable. Well my friend you came to the right guy. Here is Matt’s list of kid suitable horror for the coming Halloween season. First up let’s look at some PG films.
Something Wicked This Way Comes: 1983 PG.
This film comes from the mind Bradbury (one of my all-time favorite writers) and is tame enough for the kiddies, but won’t put the adults to sleep. The Plot revolves around two young boys that are trying to unravel a mystery surrounding a traveling circus that comes to town. The story is very similar to Stephen King’s Needful Things and has a veteran cast including Jason Robards and Jonathan Pryce. It’s a Disney film so the scares are not too intense but still tense enough to get the blood pumping.
Spaced Invaders: 1990, PG
Let me get this out now…I LOVE THIS MOVIE!!! It’s a yearly tradition for me. It is set on Halloween night and a local radio station is playing War of Worlds; it just happens that on this very same night an alien invasion force over hears the broadcast and thinks they’ve missed the attack. They land in a little, middle of nowhere town and try to wreak havoc. Problem is everyone thinks they are kids in really good costumes (snort) and from here you have comic mayhem. Okay, it’s silly but its fun and kids dig it. It has elements from the classic B-movie Sci-Fi of the 50 and 60’s as well as some Three Stooges slapstick. There really are not a lot of scares in this one, but it does have plenty of Halloween atmosphere.
Hocus Pocus: 1993, PG
This one should be a tradition for all family horror movie nights. It follows 3 witches (Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy) that come back from the dead to wreak havoc on modern day Salem. It is a Disney film and it has all the charm and harmless humor you would expect. The reason this one work is that the scares are not too intense and are typically followed with some humor. Bette, Kathy and Sarah J. are great as the bumbling witches, yet they are threatening enough to give kids the willies. I think the zombie may be a bit much for some younger kids, but even those scenes are softened with some Disney humor.
Next up are a couple PG-13 films that amp up the scares a bit more
Arachnophobia: 1990, PG-13
Okay so when you get right down too it you can’t really go wrong with a movie about killer spiders. I like to describe this as a B-movie with A-movie production values, it plays on our fears of creepy crawlers and gets under your skin fast. It does a good job of blending real scares with humor so there is some time to breathe. If your young ones are afraid of bugs I would not let them watch this, the bugs in here kill…and they will see them kill…you are warned.
Monster Squad: 1987, PG-13
This is one of my top 5 favorite films form my youth, I finally got to see a bunch of kids on the screen that liked monsters as much as I did. The main reason it’s so good is because it never waters down the content to be a “kid’s film”; the scares are genuine and yet they do not last too long so that kids are not overly scared. Plus the Universal Monster representations from Stan Winston are AWESOME; each of the big four are here, Frankie, Drac, Wolfman (he’s got nards by the way) and The Creature are all lovingly created. I watch this one every year on Halloween.
Critters: 1986 PG-13
So after E.T. there was a rash of friendly alien movies, at least until the Krites landed. These furry little balls of teeth weren’t eating Reese’s. Critters was able to find its own fan base and spawned 3 sequels but the original is still the best of the bunch. It has some tense scares and very effective special effects. A bit violent for the younger kiddies, but teens should be okay.
The Gate: 1987, PG-13
The Gate is strange film. At times it is obviously directed at young viewers, and yet it contains some extreme themes like sacrificial rites and doorways into hell. When an old tree is removed form Glen’s (Stephen Dorf) back yard a gateway to Hell is opened and he and his friends must fight off mini demons. Most of the scares are predictable and the effects are questionable; but it still managed to give me nightmares when I saw it at 12.
So there are my suggestions for family spooky movie viewing this Halloween. You should be able pick these up via Netflix or Amazon. One thing I would like to mention, this is my list and I am not a parent You know your kids (at least you should) so you have to decide if any of these are suitable for them before they watch one. Do not message me complaining that your kid was up all night after watching once of these films…not my fault.