Just two sleeps left until the big one, the spooky one – HALLOWEEN! We’ll be watching all the scariest stuff we can find on Netflix, but how can we adequately prep the kids with all things dark and sinister without actually giving them horrific nightmares
that will disturb our precious sleep? Time to find some spooky but tween-appropriate Halloween films for kids.
When we were kids, there was no such thing as a 12 rating and we were watching all kinds of inappropriate films while our parents went down the pub. But in hindsight, maybe Pet Cemetery wasn’t the best idea for a 12-year-old’s sleepover. And there’s a reason you could only get A Clockwork Orange on a bootleg VHS. Hell, even Michael Jackson’s Thriller video gave us the heebie jeebies for weeks.
We have no excuses now and, luckily, there are plenty of options that are just scary enough to make it a fun Halloween without traumatising them forever.
First up, it’s the Tim Burton back catalogue. No one does spooky quite like him and there are plenty of options for tweens and teens to choose from (NOT Beetlejuice quite yet!).
Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children (12)
Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children is a beautifully dark tale of a bunch of misfits led by the eponymous headmistress who are trapped in wartime Wales. A modern day American kid stumbles into this world and finds a home with the peculiar children, but they all find themselves on the run from a (quite scary) baddie played by Samuel L Jackson. The opening scenes are probably the scariest, so if you can make it past the fifteen minute mark, you’re golden.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (PG)
The Nightmare Before Christmas is the classic spooky stop-frame story from Tim Burton that’s now celebrating 25 years since its release. Jack Skellington, the protagonist, is the pumpkin king of Halloween Town whose discovery of Christmas Town leads him to attempt to bring Christmas to his bats, ghouls and goblins. Unfortunately for Jack it’s not a straightforward sell, but luckily for us there are mishaps and fun a-plenty.
Victor can’t get over the death of his dog, Sparky in this black-and-white stop-motion movie. When a science teacher leads a lesson on electrical impulses, it gives Victor the idea to try to resurrect Sparky, Frankenstein-style, using the power of a lightning storm. Spoiler: He succeeds. But when one dead pet comes back to life, others follow in his paw prints… Uh oh.
Corpse Bride (PG)
Ever accidentally placed a wedding ring on what you thought was a stick but ended up being a skeleton’s finger, who then thinks you’re married? Us neither. But this is what happens to young groom Victor in Corpse Bride. What begins as the worst Tinder date ever ends up being a sweet tale of romance, set to some brilliant tunes in this Tim Burton musical. Yes, MUSICAL!
Film ed: There *is* a theory going around the internet that three of Tim Burton’s films are interlinked – Frankenweenie, then Corpse Bride, then The Nightmare Before Christmas. Who’s up for a triple bill?
Edward Scissorhands (12)
Once upon a time in a castle high on a hill lived an inventor whose greatest creation was named Edward. Although Edward had an irresistible charm, he wasn’t quite perfect. The inventor’s sudden death left him unfinished, with sharp shears of metal for hands. Edward lived alone in the darkness until one day a kind Avon lady took him home to live with her and her family. And so began Edward’s fantastical adventures in a pastel paradise known as Suburbia. It’s a beautiful, beautiful film.
Now we’ve pretty much exhausted the Tim Burton back catalogue, let’s give some other film makers a chance.
Oh yes. Angelina Jolie stars in one of cinema’s most extraordinary feats of hair, make-up and costume as Maleficent, a vengeful fairy who places that famous curse on Sleeping Beauty. But what’s brilliant about this film is that we get to know Maleficent from childhood and her back story beautifully explains the events leading up to her adulthood and why her heart has turned so black.
<orders Maleficent costume for Halloween, never takes it off>
Hotel Transylvania (U)
The loveliest trilogy of Transylvanian fun and fear from an engaging family who live in the eponymous human-proof hotel. Adam Sandler is Dracula who is overprotective of daughter Mavis, who is just about to turn 118 in the first movie. Unfortunately for him, human traveller Johnny ends up at Hotel Transylvania, and he and Mavis fall for each other. One for all the family – scare rating is low.
Altogether now: ‘I don’t say BLEH BLEH BLEH!’
The Book of Life (U)
The Book of Life is for hipster kids who can’t be doing with Halloween and want to celebrate Mexican Day of the Dead instead. And it’s a visual feast as you’d imagine. There’s mariachi music, decorated skulls, a bull fight, plenty of humour. And Ice Cube. Yes, you read that right. From producer Guillermo del Toro who is also the brains behind Pan’s Labyrinth, The Shape of Water and Hellboy. Again, more intriguing than outright scary.
Based on the Neil Gaiman book, Coraline is a spectacular film – beautiful and scary in equal measure. Coraline Jones is bored in her new home until she finds a secret door and discovers an alternate version of her life on the other side. On the surface, this parallel reality is eerily similar to her real life and the people in it only much better. But when this seemingly perfect world turns dangerous, and her other parents (including her Other Mother, with buttons for eyes) try to trap her forever, Coraline must count on her resourcefulness, determination and bravery to escape this increasingly perilous world and save her family. (Coraline is actually a lot darker than you’d imagine – the PG rating is perhaps generous.)
And that’s the best of the animated films. Onto live action.
If it’s classics you’re after, then quite a few old favourites come in under the 15 rating.
Ghostbusters (12) and Ghostbusters 2 (PG) stay just the right side of terrifying in their story of ghosts roaming the streets of New York, inhabiting the bodies of Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis. Only dysfunctional scientists Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd and Harold Ramis can save the city.
The new Ghostbusters reboot (12A) recasts the team of misfits as women, and although it’s not quite as good as its predecessor it’s still a fun film worth watching.
WHO YOU GONNA CALL?
The Goonies (12)
One of the best films of the eighties, there’s something totally irresistible about The Goonies. A group of kids discover a treasure map and go off on an adventure to find One-Eyed Willie, chased by a gang of relentlessly frightening villains. Think Enid Blyton on BMXes.
The 1958 Hammer Horror classic starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee is sinister and haunting as well as being a wee bit hammy. The 1958 version (60 years old!) is likely the oldest film our kids have seen but that’s a good thing – a way into more classic movies perhaps?
Teen Wolf (PG)
Not the 2014 TV series (what even is that??) but the Michael J Fox film, Teen Wolf is a classic werewolf film in that it’s all about puberty but with an eighties backdrop – basketball, high school, beer and girls. Less scary, more funny.
The Witches (PG)
Not to be confused with The VVitch (which is a truly terrifying and definitely not kid-friendly film!), the 1990 adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic also has its frightening moments very much in keeping with the original book. The wig removal scene will stay with you for a while! From now on, expect your kids to spot witches wherever they go. You’re welcome.