Everyone likes a good scary story. Even kids. Granted some of the R rated fare isn't exactly the kind of thing parents want their kids to see (though don't we always find a way?). Granted walking in when your 8 year old is watching 'Cannibal Holocaust' isn't the best way to introduce the kid to scary tales.
Now I saw some pretty crazy stuff as a kid. I think it's safe to say you know what your kid can handle and what they can't. I understand that you want to shelter the kid a little from the darker aspects of life until they're old enough to be able to comprehend it. Although introducing them to scary tales is a way of learning. They exist for a reason. I know that 'Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter' may not be first on your list of what to show your kid. Maybe you want to ease into it a little. I decided to come up with a list of a few suggestions for this Halloween when the kids want to watch something while eating their candy. Some very family friendly but have a few scary things in it. And then a few suggestions for the older kids.
HALLOWEEN TALES FOR KIDS
IT'S THE GREAT PUMPKIN CHARLIE BROWN - Something I am sure most of us have grown up on is 'It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown'. There is nothing scary about this but it's a nice introduction to the idea of Halloween and costumes and trick or treating. And there is one moment when a shadowy figure rises out of the pumpkin patch making Linus think it's the Great Pumpkin (something akin to the Santa Clause of Halloween) which for a brief moment could be creepy to a young child but we quickly see it's just Snoopy. Again, a good way to ease into it and a joy for the whole family.
GARFIELD'S HALLOWEEN ADVENTURE - One of my favorites is 'Garfield's Halloween Adventure'. I love the Great Pumpkin but this one holds a special place in my heart. I think it is absolutely hysterical and it has some catchy tunes.
Garfield discovers Halloween and about getting candy so he convinces Odie to go trick or treating with him. They dress up like pirates and set out on the town to get as much candy as they can. They come across a secluded house on a small island where an old man tells them about some ghost pirates returning. There is some ghost pirate action which is a little creepy for the young ones but again the site of Garfield and Odie makes it enjoyable and safe. Plus a good message about sharing. With Odie. Not the ghost pirates. Definitely seek this one out. It's on DVD in a compilation set with the Thanksgiving and Christmas specials.
THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW - Disney has produced some creepy stuff for kids. All of it within safe limits which is why this is a good way to introduce the kids to a story with some real creepiness with 'The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow'.
We all know the story of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman. If not then here's a good way for both adults and kids to find out. Ichabod arrives in the town of Sleepy Hollow which is cursed by the Headless Horseman who doesn't have a head but wears a jack-o-lantern atop his shoulders and beheads others who dare cross his path. A scary tale. A more adult version was done by Tim Burton a few years ago starring Johnny Depp. However, Disney made one featuring the voice of Bing Crosby with some catchy songs and some pretty creepy moments. This one can be a little intense for the very young but might be the perfect vehicle for the slightly older kids looking for a little more reason to hide under the covers. Nothing traumatic but the chase scene at the end is sure one that will make both kids and parents sit a little closer to the edge of their chair. I adored this one as a kid and can't wait for the day I introduce it to my kids. Once I have kids. First things first I guess.
Be mindful that it is on a double feature DVD so it won't be under the title.
THE MONSTER SQUAD - I know what your thinking. My kids are a little older. They like the cartoons but is there a movie they can watch that has horror in it but not traumatizing? You betcha. Warning that there is a little swearing and some suggestions of sexual behavior in this PG-13 rated film but a great fun film is Fred Dekker's 'The Monster Squad'.
A group of kids come into the posession of Van Helsing's diary and discover that the creatures of the night are returning in search of an amulet that if they possess will lead the world into darkness. The monsters are the Wolf Man, Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Mummy, Frankenstein's monster, all led by Dracula. There are a few gory parts and again a few swear words but overall this is a fun film with the kids being the ones to discover this evil plot and have to stop the monsters. A really great film for the older kids. And for the adults. And who knew that Wolf Man has knards?
THE GATE - Maybe now you want to get something with a little more bite too it. Here's a PG-13 rated film that has some good creepy moments. Tibor Takacs 'The Gate' starring a very young Stephen Dorff.
Two friends in the suburbs accidently open a gate to hell in their backyard. Very soon strange things start happening and little demons start popping up. It may sound a little silly but this film has a lot of very creepy moments in it with some intense moments. Definitely not something for the wee ones. There is some language and some scary stuff with the demons, a corpse, and things like that which is something to take into account. But the idea of young kids stopping the oncoming demons is something I think kids like to see. Both this and The Monster Squad feature kids fighting something that at first seems like it's above them but they rise to the challenge. A good positive message buried under the horror. You can't go wrong there.
I hope these titles help and are enjoyable. It's hard to know what is out there for kids but as the great Charles Cyphers says to Jamie Lee Curtis' Laurie Strode in the original 'Halloween' - "You know it's Halloween. I guess everyone's entitled to one good scare." Even the kids.
The rest of the Halloween lists will be posted this week.