a collage of protagonists from different children-friendly Halloween films (Nightmare before Christmas, Hocus Pocus, Monster House, and so an animated skeleton, three witches and a sacred looking little boy)
Credit: Rotten Tomatoes

Our top kid-friendly Halloween films

By Katherine Prentice

Katherine recommends suitably scary, not scarring, flicks for children for the Halloween season.

It’s October, which means binge watching horror movies at my flat, and watching Tim Burton and Hocus Pocus with my sibling. My sister, like many, isn’t a big horror fan, and prefers to watch films that feel spooky, but without the jump scares or gore, which I fully respect. But every time someone says they don’t like horror, I think of how myself and many of my friends were practically raised on it. 

Now, at the risk of sounding like the nagging eldest sibling that I am, kids films and TV shows when I was younger were different, or at least what I watched. Don’t get me wrong, I, like most 90s and early 2000s kids, enjoyed my fair share of Hannah Montana or The Suite Life on Deck, but some of the shows and films I loved were training wheels into The Exorcist. Or at least it was for someone like me, who definitely sought this stuff out. 

“…some of the shows and films I loved were training wheels into The Exorcist.”

I remember sitting with my younger brother to watch Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids on the TV, and I still remember the introductory animation with a slight shiver. Or our delight at finding reruns of Goosebumps on TV. The idea of having kids sit and watch these stories of kids in haunted schools, cannibalistic neighborhoods, or murderous summer camps seems a little sketchy to some, but they usually had a happy enough ending, and with the crazy designs of every monster it was hard to be scared in any lasting way. I found Trapped! more disturbing, because I was a little scared to ask if any of the kids were really trapped in that tower for losing the game, but the TV show is iconic amongst my friends now so they were doing something right. 

For kids raised on Grimms Fairy Tales, Roald Dahl, and Jacqueline Wilson, I suppose the state of cartoons and kids films makes sense. You can’t tell me all these authors didn’t produce some twisted tales for children – I still struggle to watch Matilda! These more outlandish stories on the TV rarely delved into child abuse, death or abductions, and so, while good for a wee fright, were harmless compared to the child eating giants or abusive step-mothers we were reading about. The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, Courage the Cowardly Dog and Scooby Doo are just far more fun. 

A film I do remember scaring my parents though was Coraline, and the concept of the other mother combined with fantastical animation seemed to bridge the gap in children’s media between real threat and fantasy, although arguably Hocus Pocus does similar. A favourite of mine to this day is Monster House, which came out when I was around six and got rewatched at every sleepover I could bring it too, along with Scooby Doo and the Witch’s Ghost. That, at the time, scared me, but less so than so many other stories.

Haunted house movies are some of the best, and if you aren’t a big horror nut, I would totally recommend enjoying some of these this Halloween, such as Beetlejuice, The Haunted Mansion or Casper. There was something so thrilling about these films when I was younger, living down the road from a seemingly abandoned old house, just imagining the pesky ghosts that could be inside. The most recent film of this sort, which I happily took my sister to see, was The House with the Clock in its Walls starring Jack Black, so you know it’s going to be a good one. And The Addams Family is a forever favourite, hilarious and spooky without any genuine scares. 

But it seems like children’s cartoons and films are steering clear of any horror tropes. I suppose parents are less inclined to take their kids to see something scary, with even The Addams Family being sanitised for audiences in their (admittedly very funny) cartoon version, very similar to Hotel Transylvania. But we haven’t stopped kids from watching Snow White, Matilda, or Cinderella, which all contain more tragedies than The Addams Family ever did. But for a dose of nostalgia or to get into the Halloween spirit, these films and shows all provide some great entertainment to this day, so whether you love or hate horror, give some of them a go.


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