Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer
My four-year-old nephew loves my Chucky plushy, thinks zombies are cool (because his favourite game is Plants vs Zombies and not because he’s watching The Walking Dead or something) and loves Halloween (the season, not the movie). In other words he’s my favourite person under four feet tall and a chip off the old block.
Kids who love scary movies are not a new thing and like all non-psychotic family members, we want to indulge them without traumatising them for life. Herein lies the beauty of horror movies made for the younger ones amongst us. I was lucky enough to grow up with some truly iconic kids horror movies like The Gate, The Monster Squad, The Witches and Something Wicked this Way Comes (just to name a few) and even though I personally think films such as these were the best of the best, there are a whole new crop of horror movies made with the G and PG crowd in mind. Here are my TOP 5 HORROR MOVIES MADE FOR KIDS:
#5 The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad (G rating)
Okay okay I know I said “new” horror movies but I just couldn’t leave this classic out in the cold, especially when I know kids today will love it just as much as they did back then.
Although Disney packaged this animated feature as two films, the only one I remember is “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. Bet you didn’t know the live action film featuring Johnny Depp as Ichabod was actually a remake of this classic but I digress. The animation is stunning and has held up very nicely. The story is fun and frightful and the Headless Horseman is just the right amount of nightmare fuel for kids who love to be scared.
Unlike most…check that, ALL Disney movies, this one has a somewhat dark ending that leaves you to guess as to the fate of our fearful hero. Still, it’s wonderfully crafted, one of the darkest offerings the House of Mouse has ever released, and the perfect movie for kids to watch while they snack on all that Halloween candy.
#4 The House with a Clock in Its Walls (PG rating)
Jumping ahead to the 21st Century, The House with the Clock in its Walls, while more fantasy than horror, still delivers the kinds of scares kids tend to remember long after they’ve left childhood behind.
A young boy goes to live with his Uncle Jonathan (comic actor Jack Black) after his parents died and discovers his uncle is a warlock and the house he lives in is full of fantastical and frightening things. This is the type of movie I would’ve loved as a kid, full of magic but also frightening visuals and lots of moments that will make you jump out of your skin. Lots of parents actually took issue with how scary this movie was, complaining it wasn’t made for kids to which I say, “Have you forgotten the kinds of movies WE watched as kids?!” So if you and your little ones loved Harry Potter but you wished all the movies were more Prisoner of Azkaban and less Sorcerer’s Stone, THWACIIW (even the acronym is super long) is the perfect movie for you.
#3 Goosebumps (PG)
Yes the television series was much scarier than the movie, but we’re talking big screen here. And as adults Goosebumps may seem silly but when I think back to the kinds of scary movies I enjoyed as a kid, this would’ve definitely been among them.
A simple premise of a teenage boy accidentally releasing monsters upon the world, the movie based on the books of R.L. Stine (played by Jack Black here too) is chock-full of monsters and mayhem. With a steady pace and themes that tap into the nostalgia of children’s horror classics like The Monster Squad and The Goonies, Goosebumps is an easy choice for parents who want to introduce their kids to horror, but also don’t want to be arrested. Also, ventriloquist dummies will never not be terrifying to me.
#2 Monster House (PG)
Another animated film, this one utilising both motion capture and CGI, Monster House came as a delightful surprise to me when I first saw it. I don’t know what I expected but this tale that perfectly explores that fear we all had as kids—the dilapidated/old timey house in your neighbourhood which usually had an elderly person living in it and said person may or may not have been a bit grouchy with the neighbourhood kids—was utterly creepy and perfectly tailored for tikes who love horror.
You could even argue Monster House paved the way for similarly scary kid’s films like Coraline and ParaNorman, both of which are excellent in their own right. But if I’m putting on a scary movie for my preteen nieces and nephews I’m going with Monster House, all the way.
Honourable Mention: Nightbooks (PG)
The latest kids horror movie to pop up, Netflix’s Nightbooks is a dark fairytale that includes a witch (or two), a magical house that can move on its own, and a villainous cat named Lenore. I need to see it again to really get a feel for the story but I think this one is going to be a Halloween staple and a fun watch for kids as time goes by.
#1 Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (PG-13 rating)
As much as I wanted to keep this list PG, I just couldn’t leave this one off, especially since I KNOW the kid in me would’ve been watching this one on repeat!
Count on Guillermo Del Toro to come up with a story based around kids that is as dark as a kids movie could get. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was adapted from the book series of the same name. I’ve never read them but from what I gathered from those who have, it was all about the illustrations. The images stuck with young readers and probably played lead roles in a nightmare or two, so when the movie was being made Del Toro made sure monsters like Jangly Man and the scarecrow Harold look like exact replicas of their two dimensional counterparts.
Del Toro, whose own love for horror also began at a tender age, shows exactly why he’s the king of dark fairytales here and while I wouldn’t recommend showing this to kids under ten (unless they’re a bunch of brats, and in that case, have at it) Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is kids horror at its best. It’s the kind of movie that can scare the younger members of your family and probably manage to get a gasp out of a few adults too.
So if you’re a parent with a youngling that likes scary stories but you don’t think they have any value, don’t fret. Lots of these movies also teach a lesson or two about being brave, having your friends’ back, and facing your fears. It’s all good old PG-rated fun, so feel free to pick any of the above and enjoy some scary fun times, family-style!
And you can check out more horror/dark fantasy content for kids below:
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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