Today, we wrap up our series on spooky videos to get you and your family in the Halloween spirit. We kicked off the series with 25 spooky videos you can stream online, then moved to ten films geared toward younger children, and yesterday added ten films you can watch with older children. Joining me one more time is GeekDad contributor Mariana Ruiz.
Today’s entry was, I believe, the toughest of the four to put together. We tried to find a good mix of films that younger teens will enjoy and older teens won’t roll their eyes at, while trying to avoid overly graphic horror. Thus, you won’t find Halloween on our list, nor any number of slasher flicks, torture films, nor the like. Again, our purpose was to try and find films that parents and teens can watch together to get into the holiday spirit. So, in addition to the titles, we added the MPAA rating the films were given upon release, to help you make a more informed decision regarding what to watch with your family this season. Once again, please understand that these are only our general guidelines. Each person’s sensitivity to certain images and themes is unique to that person. You know your child better than Mariana and I, so use your best judgement in deciding which of the following to view with your families.
1) Ghostbusters (1984) (PG)
Mariana: When three parapsychology professors leave the university in order to hunt ghosts, no one takes them very seriously. However, a huge surge of ectoplasmic energy is causing a ton of ghosts to appear, and their business becomes a booming one. That is, until a portal to another dimension is opened. Then they become the only ones who can save New York.
Also–I don’t know if this is a major spoiler to anyone (the movie is from 1984)–but there′s a giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man that they will have to take down. My husband and I just re-watched the three movies, (the original, the second part and the reboot) and enjoyed them immensely. Also, my kid is into the classic animated series The Real Ghostbusters that was first aired in 1986.
2) Monster Squad (PG-13)
Joey: This dark comedy, written by Shane Black and director Fred Dekker, mixes 80s kids and Universal horror creatures like Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, and the Mummy. The self-glossed “Monster Squad” must work to drive away these creatures that they have grown up fanboying over when a once-a-century prophecy threatens to return them to our world. There is a subplot involving a concentration camp survivor and the monsters that men can be, but it’ll likely get lost in the “Wolf Man got nards!” antics.
3) Beetlejuice (PG)
Mariana: This is a fun movie with great actors and a very complex story, one of the first Tim Burton successes. Actually, I don’t think that I understood most of it when I first watched it. A couple of recently deceased ghosts (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis), must scare away the new owners of their house. The newbies are eccentric and really hard to scare away, especially because they are not impressed by the mild spooks the amateur ghosts can pull off.
Discouraged, the deceased end up hiring the services of one Beetlejuice (not his real name) who calls himself a “bio-exorcist”: a ghost that can exorcise living people!
In the meantime, the daughter of the new couple decides to help the ghosts and scare her parents away (a very young Wynona Rider plays the part as the Goth girl, Lydia).
With great make up and some animation mixed in–besides a complex and hellish underworld swarmed by bureaucracy–the movie is fun to watch in several levels.
4) The Addams Family (PG-13)
Joey: The Addams Family is the 1991 film inspired by the 1960s-era television series of the same name, which was inspired by the comic series by Charles Addams that ran in The New Yorker from 1938 to 1988. Anjelica Huston won a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Morticia Addams, while Raul Julia was born to portray patriarch Gomez Addams. The dark comedy is all about the return of the prodigal sibling and how blood is both thicker and messier than water.
5) Addams Family Values (PG-13)
Mariana: The second installment for this very popular gothic family, it really managed to satisfy my expectations when it aired in 1992 (I was very young, it might not be so good from adult eyes). The family has a new member: Pubert Addams, and the older siblings are jealous and trying to kill him. Morticia decides to take on a nanny… of course; a serial killer appears to take the job: Black Widow Debbie. She immediately seduces uncle Fester and takes him away, while Wednesday and Pugsley are sent off to Summer Camp. All types of scary mayhem will then occur, including electric chairs, a camp set on fire and some very funny new relatives. Probably it is not that scary, but it does feature knives over baby Pubert’s crib and some nasty murder attempts, only Uncle Fester proves hard to kill.
6) Sleepy Hollow (R)
Joey: What does every spooky movie need? If you said a) Tim Burton, b) Christina Ricci, or c) all of the above, then you’re the target audience for this live-action version of the Washington Irving classic. This time, the legend of the Headless Horseman is less ambiguous, eschewing the interpretation that the Horseman was Brom attempting to scare Ichabod away and taking a decidedly different approach.
7) The Witches (PG)
Mariana: This adaptation of the great book by Roald Dahl features a fantastic Head Witch: Anjelica Huston, one VERY scary lady. After young Luke stumbles onto a witch convention, he and his grandmother will be determined to stop them; even when he ends up turned into a mouse. The witches are all bald and have no toes, so when they decide to unmask themselves and take of their wigs… well, things get a bit unsettling; especially when the Head Witch goes bald and awful. Also, there is a moment when some mouse transformations occur that might be right down scary, which is why it fist into this age recommendation.
8) Fright Night (1985) (R)
Joey: William Ragsdale is relatable as every-teen Charley Brewster. He loves watching late-night vampire flicks. He has a best friend Evil Ed. He has a girlfriend, Amy. He has a neighbor named Jerry, who happens to be a vampire, played with scenery chomping charm by Chris Sarandon. Charley and Jerry strike back and forth at one another, escalating to the point that Charley seeks professional help Roddy McDowall, who isn’t really a vampire hunter, but he plays one on TV.
9) Little Shop of Horrors (PG-13)
Mariana: A musical! A man-eating plant from outer space that can sing! This dark comedy is the rock and roll 1986 version of a 1960 film (Jack Nicholson is on that version!). Many of the original features are still there: the sadistic dentist; the abusive flower shop owner (who will end up being eaten) and the two unlikely heroes: the abused girlfriend Audrey and a very funny and likable Seymour, employed in the flower shop. When Seymour discovers a new orchid-like plant, he thinks he can revive business. However, the plant seems to be dying until Seymour accidentally pricks his finger, and the plant begins to do sucking noises. Seymour begins to feed her with his own blood, and that’s when the plant begins growing and the very famous “Feed me” line comes out of the plant lips.
I was showing my boy some real insect-eating carnivorous plants, and we came across some YouTube clips of Audrey Jr., singing (that’s the name Seymour gives it), and he seemed to enjoy them… but then I showed him the final clips (when the giant monster flower emerges and tries to eat everyone) and the little boy had nightmares for a week.
10) The Lost Boys (R)
Joey: Forget the season… this is one of my favorite films. Full-stop. Period. There is so much going on in this film on so many different levels. It’s a twist on the idea of young men never growing old, as the Peter Pan reference in the title suggests, by making the titular lost boys into vampires. It’s the tale of the old being replaced by the young, in this case brilliantly represented by two different counterculture movements: the hippies (old) and the rockers (young). But ultimately, it’s a story about divorce, about families divided, and about finding a place to belong–a new, “found family”, if you will. Plus, it stars the Coreys (Haim and Feldman), Jason Patric, Kiefer Sutherland, Dianne Wiest, Alex “Bill S. Preston, Esq.” Winter, and an oiled up saxophone player. What more could you possibly want?
This concludes our series on spooky films to watch with your family this Halloween season. Which of the 53(!) films and videos that we highlighted over the past four days are your favorites? What did we leave out? Add your comments and recommendations below!