A problem many families struggle with every year is maintaining a family-friendly Halloween.
For most of us, Halloween is our favourite time of the month. We just can’t wait to get into the spooky mood with a quality horror movie marathon. But unless you have the ability to watch horror films for hours on end, the amount of movies you can watch is probably very limited. Especially when you have kids who want to get festive, but can’t watch the jumpscares or gore that we associate modern horror films with.
In light of that, I thought I could list a couple of great family-friendly Halloween films that will get you and your family into the Halloween spirit.
1. Ghostbusters (1984)
Before all the drama that erupted from last year’s reboot, Ghostbusters was a classic and beloved 1980s comedy about catching ghosts. Starring Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson, as well as Alien’s own Sigourney Weaver, Ghostbusters was a very well-received cult-classic with iconic costumes, characters and jokes.
I watched this when I was a couple of years younger and I absolutely adored it.
The concept of taking ghosts and mixing it with something so different like pest-control was very funny to me, and it was just such an original idea to have a group of ‘wacky’ scientists hunt ghosts for a living. The special effects edited into the film also mostly holds up by today’s standards (or at least, my standards). Even the soundtrack has become one of the more iconic pieces of film music in history.
Ghosts are generally associated as scary or terrifying. And that’ll surely be a given when it comes to Halloween. So why not introduce your children (or you) to some all-round wholesome fun with a great ensemble hunting down some of New York’s finest spooks?
Warning: There are one or two scenes which may mildly freak out kids, but they’re all played for laughs and the film has still retained its PG-rating, so I’m sure it’ll be fine.
2. Gremlins (1984)
Now Gremlins is just such a great film.
It’s a great classic filled with wonder, imagination and cute animals… or whatever gremlins are. I regret watching it for the first time on the plane because it’s not the most optimal choice for viewing a good movie, but it was still a good movie regardless.
If you have never seen (or at least are not familiar) with Gremlins, you may as well have been living under a rock. Gremlins is a tale about a father who buys his son a pet for Christmas, but is given a warning not to feed or hydrate it after midnight, or expose it to bright light. When all hell breaks loose, a gang of malevolent Gremlins run around town and cause havoc.
Directed by Joe Dante and brilliantly written by Chris Columbus, this film retains the same appeal that is comparable to that of The Goonies or Home Alone (all of which were either written or directed by Chris Columbus). The visual effects also hold up really well with the brilliant use of practical effects and puppetry.
I thoroughly enjoy a lot of classic children’s flicks that dabble with imagination and wonder, whether it’s an alien from outer space, a treasure hunt, a house being robbed by the Wet Bandits or a town ravaged by adorable-turned-deadly Gremlins. And I reckon that if you love these kinds of 80s-90s films, you’ll have a blast watching Gremlins.
3. Goosebumps (2015)
R. L. Stine created an entire universe with his Goosebumps novels. My primary school life was filled with monsters, a living wooden doll named Slappy, and a weird obsession with HorrorLand. And while I may not have been the most frequent visitor to the school library (or the strongest reader), it didn’t take a lot for people to figure out that I had actually read nearly every single book that I could get my hands on.
Hell, I even watched a few of those TV episodes as a kid.
That being said, the recent adaptation of Goosebumps follows the story of a kid who releases all of the monsters in Stine’s books into the real world, followed by a large monster hunt that ensues between him, R.L. Stine and her daughter.
Starring Jack Black, Dylan Minnette and Odeya Rush, this film has a good mix of likeable characters, a simple yet strong plot, as well as a whole range of monsters that fans of the books can recognise. My biggest issue with this family-friendly Halloween movie is mostly attributed to the subpar animation, but it doesn’t take away from the fun that children can have with the film.
Anyone who has ever picked up one of Stine’s best-selling novels will understand the mystery, the horror, and the fun that can be had with a Goosebumps story. This movie acknowledges why fans loved the book series so much, and adapts it into a phenomenal modern interpretation of the novels.
If I’m being honest, I didn’t expect much when I first watched it, but I was taken back by the quality this movie possesses. If you or your kids want to watch a more recent blockbuster halloween flick, Goosebumps is the way to go.
4. Coraline (2009)
Now I’m going to be honest here, I’m terrified of Coraline.
You know how everyone has that one film that scared the crap out of them when they watched it as a kid? Well, Coraline was easily mine. I remember renting that DVD one night and watching it with my brother, thinking that it would be fine. It’s a kid’s film after all – hell, it even had the PG-rating.
I was so wrong, and it just adds to my own personal opinion that kids’ films are far more disturbing than modern horror films today. That being said, let’s talk about Coraline!
Coraline is a stop-motion film about a girl who discovers a portal to a parallel universe near her new house, a parallel universe that first appears to be too good to be true. Eventually, things go wrong (and considerably hostile) and Coraline must conjure up enough courage to fight her way back to her own family. Oh yeah, the parallel universe family also have buttons for eyes.
Now don’t let my personal trauma scare you away from this film, as it is still a great movie, boasting a fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes with a solid score of 90%.
Voiced by Dakota Fanning and Teri Tatcher, you can be sure to expect a great performance out of the entire cast. The animation style is also both unique and beautiful, which is quite an understatement for the work that Laika produces, with the likes of ParaNorman, The BoxTrolls and Kubo and the Two Strings.
Look, I would be a little hesitant to let kids watch something like this. But if you reckon your family are up for it, or perhaps you want to give them an introduction to horror, Coraline would be a strong suggestion from me.
5. ParaNorman (2012)
ParaNorman is another film produced by stop-motion giant Laika. Except this film is considerably more light-hearted and comedic than Coraline.
ParaNorman is a story about a boy who has the power to see and communicate with the dead, similar to Cole Sear in The Sixth Sense or that American TV show Ghost Whisperer. When a centuries-old witch’s curse comes true, bringing forth zombies that rise from their graves, Norman must use his abilities to save his townspeople from the imminent zombie apocalypse.
Now this movie also has a lot of positive merits as well.
Voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick and Casey Affleck, combined with the gorgeous animation style of Laika, it all adds up to be yet another fun-filled adventure film. I also have to give props to the script as well, because the comedy and the dialogue also work really well too.
Family-friendly Halloween movies are achievable.
Halloween doesn’t always have to be about heart-wrenching scares or blood and gore, it’s a fun festive event for the whole family!
There’s a myriad of films out there that are not strictly horror films about ghouls and zombies that are entertaining for children and parents. Hopefully I’ve given you a few decent suggestions for your October, a Halloween movie marathon free of nightmares and trauma.