Kids enjoy Halloween movies. Yet too many times, a horror film may leave the kids and the grownups unnecessarily horrified by violence and gore. The result may be kids too afraid to go to sleep and grownups lacking sleep as they try to calm the frightened children.
Dr. Steven Schlozman of Harvard Medical School notes that kids should watch films without gore, but with friendship, supernatural beings, a moral choice, and redemption. He advises against slasher films.
For the Halloween harvest time, set the horror films aside. Instead, enjoy the autumn by watching some Halloween movies designed for all age levels. Share the enjoyment of a well-made Halloween film and create memories of a good time spent with family and friends, Halloween snacks and movies.
It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown (1966)
Originally designed for television, this Charles M. Schulz cartoon has developed into a Halloween classic for kids in preschool and early elementary school years. Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang are getting ready for Halloween trick-or-treating, while Linus waits in a pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin.
The mellow background piano score follows the action. Shultz’s characters remain true to themselves. Charlie is the contemplative child, Lucy is the aggressor, and Linus seeks adventure. Young children will still be able to go to sleep after watching this film. Grownups can share the children’s enjoyment of a classic Halloween cartoon.
Scooby Doo and the Witch’s Ghost (1999)
This cartoon brings Scooby, Shaggy, Fred, Daphne, and Velma to Oakhaven, a little new England town with an autumn festival. There the gang meets Velma’s idol, horror writer Ben Ravencroft. They learn the town is haunted by Ben’s ancestor Sarah Ravencroft. The town considers her a bad witch, while Ben says she was a good witch.
As the Scooby Doo gang investigate, they encounter a local girl goth band, the Hex Sisters, who may also be involved in the haunting. The cartoon has a few images of a witch ghost that may scare very young children, but Scooby and Shaggy’s comic antics always lighten the mood. Many fans of this cartoon story include Tim Curry’s portrayal of Ben Ravencroft as one of the highlights.
Hocus Pocus (1993)
This film works for elementary school kids, tweens, teens, and grownups. The story begins in the past, in Salem, Massachusetts, where the three Sanderson sisters are being hanged for witchcraft. Before they die, they cast a spell to release them sometime in the future. Taking up the story in modern times, a group of tweens and teens are getting ready for Halloween, but unwittingly complete the spell and suddenly have to deal with the revived witches and a zombie-like accomplice.
The film tells an engaging story with spooky settings and everyday kids just trying to manage the witches as the town parents are clueless at a Halloween party. While there are a few scary images, such as the zombie, whose mouth was sewn shut by the Sanderson sisters, comic relief always follows. Some of the amusing grownup dialogue is designed to go over the heads of young viewers, giving a layered aspect to the film. Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker add their singing talents to the catchy musical score.
The Lost Boys (1987)
Targeted for tweens, teens, and grownups, this modern vampire tale begins with a recently-divorced mom moving to sunny Santa Carla, California, to live at her dad’s secluded ranch with her two teenage sons, Sam and his older brother Michael. As the mom looks for jobs and becomes involved with a friendly video store owner, Sam and Michael learn about the vampires plaguing the town.
With allusions to Peter Pan, the Lost Boys, and Wendy, the story’s fast-paced action speeds forward in a swirl of dramatic music, supernatural beings, and everyday life. Some of the vampire transformations and feeding frenzies contain scary images, but are always tempered with comic relief, such as “You’re a vampire! Just wait until Mom finds out! It’s not like getting a D on a report card!” The film also manages to interject the poignancy of homeless kids in a bad economy.
Director Joel Schumacher assembled a cast that includes Dianne Wieist as the unsuspecting mom, Jason Patric as the older brother Michael, and Corey Haim as the younger brother Sam. Heading the punk biker vampire gang is Kiefer Sutherland as David, and Jamie Gertz as the siren vampire Star whom Michael can’t resist. Corey Feldman and Jamieson Newlander add extra humor as vampire slayers. Bernard Hughes plays the hippie grandpa, countered by Ed Herrman’s character Max, the mom’s new love interest.
So pop the popcorn, warm up some apple cider, dim the lights and enjoy Halloween films for all ages