As we’re getting closer to one of my favourite days of the year, as well as the new publication of my new short story collection “Cellar Stories” an anthology of horror tales for Young Adults and above, I thought I’d write about a few Halloween movies suitable for younger viewers.
These are listed in order from youngest suitability to oldest…
Chris Butler’s 2012 animation follows Norman Babcock, a young boy who can speak to the dead. But this is no Sixth Sense: Norman’s pretty relaxed about the whole thing. When his eccentric uncle tells him of a ritual he must complete in order to protect the town from a centuries’ old curse, Norman reluctantly takes up the challenge. When things go wrong, the dead rise and now, everyone can see them…
I watched this for the first time with my nephews aged 9 and 11 last Halloween and all three of us loved it. It’s funny, it’s smart, it’s beautifully animated and it has a good message at its heart.
There’s a link to ParaNorman in Coraline, in that Chris Butler worked in the art department on Henry Selick’s movie version of Neil Gaiman’s book of the same name.
When a young girl discovers an alternate version of her life it initially seems better…initially.
Scarier than ParaNorman (‘Other Mother’ may cause a few restless nights for the very young), Coraline is one of the better 3D films out there (actually shot in 3D rather than just retrofitted), but works perfectly well in standard 2D.
Following on from Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride, Coraline has the same sensibilities and style – stop motion painstakingly created which adds, rather than detracts from the slightly spooky feel to the whole thing.
Selick wrote the screenplay and adds to Gaiman’s original story, but devotees of the original will not find anything out of kilter with the source material.
Some good, spooky imagery and strong voice work, Coraline doesn’t have the out-and-out humour of ParaNorman, but is still manageable for pretty much all ages.
I’d be quite intrigued to watch Poltergeist with a younger viewer these days: back when it was released in 1982 I was a thirteen-year-old and it was the horror film to see. Looking back it’s quite surprising to see it’s a PG rating. There’s certainly enough scary stuff in there: making clowns scary some eight years before the IT mini-series came out. There’s some gore – the face scene sticks in the memory and the overall feel is pretty tense, but for slightly older viewers it’s a good spooky story without too much blood and guts.
If its blood and guts your little monsters want, you can do a lot worse than Ron Underwood’s Tremors. True, most of the blood and guts are from the creatures in the film but for a fun, dumb creature feature, Tremors is great fun. Originally a PG-13 there’s a little bit of cursing but nothing your average ten-year-old is going to have heard plenty of times before. There are jumps and scares but it’s against a background of fun rather than a constant ‘horror’ piece, helped in part by Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward’s double act as the hapless Valentine and Earl.
You don’t need to bother with any of the sequels, but the original Tremors is worth checking out with the young ‘uns.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
I’m putting this in here wondering how it would play with 12+-year-olds these days. One of the numerous remakes, this one’s the 1978 Philip Kaufman version which, unbelievably was released as a PG back in the day. I don’t know how old I was when I originally saw it – probably around 12 or 13, and I don’t remember all of it, but if you’re of a certain age and you talk to someone else of a similar era about the film you just need to say human dog or point at them with your mouth open and a weird sound coming out your mouth ala Donald Sutherland to know if they’ve seen it or not…
Trick R Treat
I’ve written a few times about Trick R Treat, Michael Dougherty’s 2007 anthology movie, but I honestly think it is the best Halloween film out there: and yes, that is including John Carpenter’s classic. Why do I say that? Because it’s just so inventive and fun. It’s not the harrowing ‘horror’ of a film like Michael Myer’s debut: it’s got a wicked sense of humour while at the same time showing deft storytelling, with the narrative criss-crossing like a horror version of Pulp Fiction. It’s a great cast, and if one story doesn’t grab you, another one comes along pretty quickly. There’s a bit of nudity, a bit of bad language, and a whole lot of violence, but there’s also humour – pitch black at times, but definitely there. One for twelve plus depending on their, and your, sensibilities.
So there you go.
Five films for varying ages but all of them great fun for Halloween.
If you’ve got children who like a good scare the chances are, they’ll enjoy at least one of them.
And if they like reading tales of horror and dark humour then I would of course recommend my new short story collection ‘Cellar Stories’ available now. As a special introductory offer the Paperback version is available for £6.99 and that’ll enable you to download the Kindle version for free. It’s available as Kindle Only for just £1.99 and on Kindle Unlimited as part of your monthly fee.
It’s not just for kids either – if you’re a fan of horror there are some fun stories in there and little Easter eggs (wrong time of the year, surely?) for the adult horror aficionados.
I’ll be writing about my own favourite Halloween reads for Younger (and older) readers in a day or two…
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