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Boo! 16 Halloween films for kids

Spooky movies that’ll thrill your kids — rather than scarring them for life. From Netflix’s flashy new release Nightbooks to some nostalgia-heavy hits, this is your family-friendly watchlist.

Nightbooks (2021, PG)

New out on Netflix, this dark fantasy film sees a heavily goth’d Krysten Ritter (Breaking Bad, Jessica Jones) as an evil witch who kidnaps our main character Alex, and forces him to tell her a scary story each night — or else. Alex bands together with another stolen child, and the two of them seek escape. A fun, flashy ride.

The Witches (2020, PG)

The Witches is the stuff of childhood nightmares. but a good scare never did them any harm, right? Anne Hathaway could be the best stranger danger campaign EVER. Glamorous lady turns out to be the child-hating grotesque Grand High Witch Lilith, overseer of her own global coven. Director Robert Zemeckis takes a few liberties with Roald Dahl’s classic, swapping England for Alabama in the late Sixties, so that it’s now vaguely rooted in Black Southern culture – its food (cornbread and fresh crab), its jukebox classics, and the Voodoo religion. Purists will not be happy, but it’s still a must watch – and one of only a handful of new Hollywood releases this year. Available to stream Amazon, iTunes and the Google Play.

Corpse Bride (2005, PG)

The Corpse Bride
Image: Warner Bros

This is Tim Burton’s third stop motion animated film – and it’s an absolute beaut. Less Halloween horror, more gothic romance. When Victor (Johnny Depp) is preparing for his big day, he attempts to recite his speech and ends up accidentally proposing to a dead bride (voiced by Burton’s ex Helena Bonham Carter)… despite the fact his actual bride is alive and kicking. What was once a difficult situation is even more complicated when Victor attempts to get things back to normal. Loved it.

Casper (1995, PG)

Casper the friendly ghost and Christina Riccie
Image: Universal

A young Christina Ricci and the first CGI created lead character, Casper is a faithful but slightly darker version of the hit TV series. It’s a film designed to be watched post trick or treating, but this year you can slide into the cosy part of proceedings to see Ricci play Kathleen ‘Kat’ Harvey, the daughter of a “ghost therapist,” who has a direct line to spirits. Things going bump in the night is an occupational hazard. But she’d never had a ghostly friend before… until now.

ParaNorman (2012, PG)

Image: Laika

ParaNorman‘s opening scene certainly sets the tone as we see a screaming woman (she’d just stepped on a brain) running away from a lumbering zombie. This, it turns out, is a film within the film, as Norman — a teen horror buff — watches a scary movies with wide-eyed attention. But this opening scene is also ParaNorman‘s statement of purpose. It features ghosts, witches, and zombies, which are generally far more likely these days to be found in splatterfests (a fact the film proudly acknowledges with winking references to both Halloween and Friday the 13th).

The Addams Family (1991, PG)

The Addams Family
Image: Paramount

“They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky, they’re all together ooky…” It can only be The Addams Family. Anjelica Houston based her Morticia on Jerry Hall, while Christina Ricci’s Wednesday Addams was based on Winona Ryder in Beetlejuice – both put in pitch perfect performances as this creepy family try and figure out if Uncle Fester real is one of the clan.

Scooby Doo: The Movie (2002, PG)

Shaggy and Scooby Doo in live action movie

Calling this live-action Scooby-Doo movie a Halloween flick might be a stretch, but I am reliably informed there has to be an element of supernatural – and we think evil monsters of any kind (even if it turns out to be a disgruntled employee) definitely qualifies. The movie brings Mystery Incorporated to life (though Scooby is still animated) as the gang reunites on Spooky Island. Following a series of, er, creepy incidents all over the party resort, the crew must solve the case.

Hotel Transylvannia (2012, PG)

Hotel Transylvannia
Image: Sony Pictures

Hotel Transylvania is animated twist on your typical horror flick. Count Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) is running a posh resort for fright night fiends, far from humankind. When Jonathan (Andy Samberg) stumbles upon it and falls for the Count’s daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), the overprotective if undead dad must make sure his guests don’t discover the human visitor. It’s a film made to cash in on the Halloween hype, but it’s a crowd pleaser with younger kids.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993, PG)

Nightmare before Christmas
Image: Disney

What happens when the Pumpkin King is over Halloween? If you’re Jack Skellington, you tumble into Christmas Town and kidnap Father Christmas. Tim Burton weaves his dark gothic magic in The Nightmare Before Christmas (would you expect anything less?), with a cast of loveable-morbid creations working a goofy, macabre storyline. It might be too dark for littlies, but it’s a visual delight for Halloween.

Coraline (2009, PG)

Coraline 2009 animated film
Image: Laika

Coraline (voiced by Dakota Fanning) moves into a new house and life is boooooorrriiing! All of that changes when she finds a secret door to an alternate universe that’s the 2:0 version of her own. In this new realm, everything seems perfect, but nothing truly is. Yes, it’s a bit creepy and dark, but his Neil Gaiman book-turned-movie is great for a jumpy film night.

Goosebumps (2015, PG)

Goosebumps Jack-Black-Dylan-Minnette-and-Odeya-Rush
Image: Sony Pictures

A Halloween flick that won’t give your kids nightmares – yes, naysayers, it can be done. Goosebumps, starring Jack Black, is based on the hugely popular fiction series by RL Stine. Yes, it’s fully loaded with ghouls, werewolf puppies, and living dummies, but it’s more of an action caper than anything remotely resembling haunting.

Frankenweenie (2012, PG)

Image: Disney

It’s ALIVE!… and it’s wagging its tail. Despite a striking resemblance to my last school sewing project, Frankenweenie is the invention of, you guessed it, Tim Burton. It’s a 3D stop motion black and white animation, about a boy named Victor Frankenstein who uses the power of electricity to resurrect his dead Bull Terrier, Sparky, but is then blackmailed by his peers into revealing how they can reanimate their own deceased pets and other creatures, resulting in mayhem.

Monster House (2006, PG)

monster-house animated halloween film
Image: Sony Pictures

Check the credits of Monster House and there’s a bit of Hollywood magic sprinkled all over it. Robert Zemeckis (Polar Express) and Steven Spielberg (too many to list), joined Gil Kenan on his directorial debut. What’s it about? A creepy haunted house that eats anything that comes too close. With Halloween approaching, the neighbourhood’s trick or treaters will be gobbled up unless a group of kids can reveal the chilling truth. It’s a thrill for kids and full of smart grown up jokes to stop you from nodding off.

Edward Scissorhands (1990, PG) 

Edward_Scissorhands hair cut
Image: 20th Century

Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have long been a match made in horror heaven but it all started with Edward Scissorhands – about a gothic robot with knives for fingers plonked into pastel suburbia where the bored housewives have the hots for their freakish new resident and there’s a bittersweet romance between Edward and Kim (Winona Ryder). It’s as fun as Burton’s other films but with the heart to match. Also good for hairdressing tips.

Ghostbusters (1984, 12A)

Ghostbusters; four men in boiler suits covered in the marshmallow man
Image: Columbia

Fire up the proton pack, and wipe that slime off your face, Ghostbusters is a cult classic. It may have Stay Puft Marshmallow Man-sized holes in the plot, but pah who cares? The special effects guys at the time were let loose in the sweet shop, Dan Ackroyd (he wrote the script) and Bill Murray have some witty one-liners, the soundtrack is infectious and we all love a boiler suit.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975, 15)

Image: 20th Century

Seeing Tim Curry’s fabulous pins strutting his stuff in stockings and suspenders treads the fine line between fantasy and horror, but it’s a cult classic with the opportunity to do The Time Warp. Does Frank N. Furter’s musical mayhem qualify as a Halloween film? The story is a spoof of old-time horror and sci-fi movies, so it’s a hell yes in our book.

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