As 'secular' holidays go, Halloween is easily my favorite. You can keep your Valentine's Day hearts and your St. Patrick Day benders, and give me a jack o' lantern any day of the week. It's a holiday that I never fail to celebrate with too much candy and as many horror movies as I can get my hands on, and even though I may not trick or treat anymore, I am highly observant when it comes to All Hallows' Eve. Maybe my love for the season is that it really is the perfect holiday for the movie lover, and I always remember gearing up for the big day as a kid by watching scary movies. I still keep that tradition alive as an adult, but like they say; it's all about the kids -- unfortunately for parents, most horror movies aren't.
There is plenty of horror for the grown-ups of the world, and we've got our choice from everything to high concept ghost stories to so-called torture porn, but it's a lot trickier when you start to look for something for something that is a little more family-friendly. So there has to be some middle-ground between G-rated fare like The Great Pumpkin and a Dario Argento splatter fest, right? Well, of course there is, so I thought I'd share five movies that you could show kids without worrying about dooming them to a lifetime on a therapist's couch:
After the jump; my recommendations for kid-friendly scares... I decided to rank these flicks in order of their 'spook-factor' so let's start off with something for the littlest Trick r' Treater in your life, and then we'll work our way up to something for the 'tweens:
1. The Monster Squad
There is nothing that kids love more than knowing more than the grown-ups, and this 80's classic will thrill your little ones with the story of a group of creature-feature loving youngsters tasked with saving the world when the classic cabal of Universal monsters (Dracula, The Mummy, The Wolfman, and The Creature from The Black Lagoon) look to tip the scales between good and evil. Not to mention, director Fred Dekker (and screenwriter Shane Black) answers the eternal question: Does The Wolfman have 'nards?
2. Silver Bullet
Now, stepping up the scare-factor we come to Stephen King's story of a young handicapped boy and his sister who track down a werewolf that's knocking off the local townspeople. Bullet starred Corey Haim and Megan Follows as the brother and sister team, and what sets the movie apart from your average werewolf flick is that mixed in with all monster action is a fairly touching story about a trouble relationship between siblings.
3. Fright Night
Ask any child of the 80's what their favorite horror movies are, and I can guarantee Fright Night is going to come up. The story of a vampire who lives next door is pretty tame by today's standards of horror, and Roddy McDowall as a late night movie host keeps things pretty light -- but even if this movie doesn't scare the rugrats, at least you can remind your kids that not all vamps are of the sparkly variety.
This movie still has the ability to scare the crap out of me (laugh all you like...it's not just me), but if your kids are ready to graduate into a ghost story that's a little more intense than Beetlejuice, Poltergeist is a great place to start. Most importantly, it teaches a valuable lesson for any child: the suburbs are a very scary place.
5. Trick r' Treat
OK, this one is definitely for the pre-teens and up, because this 2008 horror does get fairly scary. But just like some the other suggestions on this list, Treat has a pretty good sense of humor mixed in with the horror. The gore is fairly contained (compared to the average slasher film) and is much more concerned with scaring you than making you nauseous -- but it really does depend on the 'tween, so watch with care.
Leave your suggestions for kid-friendly horror movies in the comments below...