Ever notice that paranormal activity and kids have a way of finding each other in a lot of movies? Take this week's release 'Super 8,' for instance. The sci-fi thriller directed by J.J. Abrams features spooky things happening around a small town in Ohio following a mysterious train accident caught on film by a group of kids.
The kids suspect something weird about the train crash and begin investigating. Meanwhile, people in their town start disappearing and all of the dogs inexplicably run away. As the kids (played by Elle Fanning and newcomer Joel Courtney, among others) are trying to figure out what may or may not have escaped from the train, the local deputy (Kyle Chandler, 'Friday Night Lights') begins his own quest for the truth.
The kids are the primary characters while adults take on secondary roles, a la popular '80s Amblin Entertainment flicks like 'The Goonies' and 'E.T.' The Amblin vibe is no accident: 'Super 8' is an Amblin co-production, along with Abrams' Bad Robot Productions.
It's been awhile since we've had a solid, kid-centric adventure film that's not a kids' movie. Sure, it could certainly be argued that 'Harry Potter' fits the "kids having wacky adventures" bill, but we would argue that the 'Harry Potter' movies are kids movies at heart that just happen to also be popular with adults. 'Super 8,' on the other hand, is a movie for adults that just happens to star kids.
While we're on the subject of children and the paranormal, here's a list of five great movies featuring that timeless combo of kids and supernatural phenomena.
Warning: Some spoilers ahead!
1. 'E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial'
Who says paranormal stuff has to be creepy? When he finds E.T., Elliott (Henry Thomas) gains the coolest friend/pet ever. Not only is E.T. an awesome alien that loves Reese's Pieces, but he and Elliott also share a psychic connection. Super rad!
2. 'The Exorcist'
Whatever force is compelling sweet Regan (Linda Blair) to pee on the floor during classy cocktail parties and swivel her head like there's no tomorrow certainly isn't of this world. Perhaps the explanation lies somewhere between science ... and superstition!
3. 'The Others'
When her weird photosensitive kids start to claim they're seeing ghosts, Grace (Nicole Kidman) doesn't believe them at first. Of course not -- they're silly little children with outrageous imaginations, right? OK, maybe not. Grace eventually begins to realize that her kids aren't just spewing nonsense. Like her servant lady says, sometimes the world of the dead gets mixed up in the world of the living.
4. 'The Sixth Sense'
Yeah, kid, we get it. You see dead people. If only his psychiatrist (Bruce Willis) was a little quicker on the uptake, he may have realized a whole lot sooner that young Cole (Haley Joel Osment) wasn't delusional, and figured out that hey, maybe he's actually dead himself. Because really, how could he have survived being shot at reasonably close range by Marky Mark's big brother? This brings us to an important moral of many of these paranormal flicks starring kids: don't be so quick to dismiss children as overly imaginative. Sometimes they really are interacting with ghosts, aliens and evil spirits.
When the Freeling household is overtaken by a poltergeist intrusion, it's little Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke) who notices it first. The unknown entity sucks her into a portal the following night, much to the dismay of her mother (JoBeth Williams, who later in the movie apparently doesn't have time to put on pants) and father (Craig 'Coach' T. Nelson). Downright creepy and genuinely frightening, Carol Anne became the prototype for filmdom's scariest kids.