Today is day three of our look at spooky videos to get you and your family in the Halloween spirit this month. On Sunday, we looked at 25 spooky videos you can stream online. Yesterday, we offered ten films for younger kids. Today, we’ll focus on ten films especially geared toward older children that the whole family can enjoy together. Joining me again is GeekDad contributor Mariana Ruiz.
While there is no clear definition of who is or isn’t an “older child,” we agree that the following films are most likely intended for and most appropriate for children ages eight to twelve years old. They can certainly be enjoyed by those much older than this, but might contain elements not intended for those much younger than eight years old. Again, these are only our general guidelines. Each child’s sensitivity to certain images and themes is unique to that child. You know your child better than Mariana and I do, so use your best judgement in deciding which of the following to view with your families.
1) Over the Garden Wall
Joey: Back in 2014, I still watched The Walking Dead. When DISH Network had one of their periodic hissy fits–I mean price disputes–with the network owners, a few of the channels went dark in late October and early November. I missed that season’s premiere of TWD, but was even more upset that I missed the debut of Over the Garden Wall on Cartoon Network. When the critically-acclaimed miniseries (the first to air on Cartoon Network) was released on DVD the following year, we picked up a copy. The dream-like story, the atmospheric music, the twists and turns and surprises along the way make Over the Garden Wall an autumn must-watch.
2) Count Duckula
Mariana: Count Duckula was an animation series created by British studio Cosgrove Hall Films as a spin-off from Danger Mouse. He turns out–by accident–to be the only vegetarian vampire of the world, more interested in carrots than in anything else. For his butler Igor, his master is a disgrace. Especially since the preceding generations included knights, sorcerers, scientists, artists, Egyptologists, and even professional gamblers, all of whom were “vicious vampire ducks.”
The stories often center on Duckula’s adventures in search of riches and fame, assisted by the castle’s ability to teleport around the world. Igor is always trying to turn Duckula into a proper vampire. There are a number of bizarre enemies, from zombies to mechanical werewolves. There is a cuckoo clock that makes corny jokes with a Russian accent and, of course, it can also make the castle to turn back in time.
Count Duckula aired from 6 September 1988 to 16 February 1993 across four series; in all, 65 episodes were made, each about 22 minutes long.
3) The Nightmare Before Christmas
Joey: Is it a Halloween story? A Christmas story? Yes! My family pulls out The Nightmare Before Christmas and watches it a couple of times between October 1 and December 25. This is the ultimate story of cultural appropriation gone wrong and an excellent cautionary tale for kids and adults alike. The Nightmare Before Christmas is classic Tim Burton. This is the film that began the stop-motion renaissance that produced other films on this list. The Nightmare Before Christmas is why my kids groan and roll their eyes whenever someone puts up a Christmas tree before Thanksgiving (I’m looking at you, grandma).
4) Hocus Pocus
Mariana: Real witches on Halloween! This fun and scary feature presents three great actresses as witches: Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker, representing the trope of one old and experienced, one in her mid-forties, and a very impulsive Parker as the young one. After three centuries, these witch sisters come alive again in Salem, Massachusetts, on Halloween night.
Everybody is busy having fun and it is up to a couple of teenagers, a little girl, and an immortal cat to save the day. My five year old was spooked, especially with the spell book (it has a human eye socket embedded into it). Also, they cut open the threads that tie the lips of a zombie, so he can talk again.
5) The Corpse Bride
Joey: After producing both the stop-motion films The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach, Tim Burton took to the director’s chair for this spiritual (but not story-related) sequel to The Nightmare Before Christmas. The film stars frequent Burton collaborators Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.
Trivia Question: The Corpse Bride was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 78th Academy Awards, but lost to one of the films we featured in yesterday’s list of ten spooky films for younger kids. Can you guess which one (no Googling!)? Post your answers in the comments!
Mariana: I love this movie. My kids haven’t watched it yet because the oldest is 6, and this kind of story is a bit complex. Based on the book by Neil Gaiman of the same name, this lovely animated film features a young girl with blue hair, Coraline, as she explores her new home. The people that share the big house are all eccentric: there are a couple of ballerinas in the basement, a Russian former circus actor who dreams of training mice, and a boy who lives next door that tells her that the house is haunted. If by “haunting” you mean “stalked by an unnatural creature,” you are spot on.
The evil thing that haunts the house will first give Coraline an exact replica of her: a little doll with blue hair with sewn buttons instead of eyes. Once she gets through to her realm, she will appear as her mother, loving and nice, but with button eyes as well. Her Other Mother and Other Father will try to lure her into living with them, but, you guessed it: she must exchange her real eyes for button ones and all things become scary when she refuses.
Animated by some of the same minds behind The Nightmare Before Christmas, the detailed world that surrounds Coraline is fantastic to watch.
Joey: Yeah, maybe there is a theme to the bulk of my picks today. What can I say… Tim Burton and stop-motion are Halloween to me. This 2012 full-length feature is based on–or, depending on who you ask, a remake of–Burton’s 1984 short film of the same name. Kids generally love this film, but I advise caution watching it with children who have recently lost a beloved pet, friend, or family member. That said, there is plenty for both children and adults–particularly those already familiar with the 1931 Frankenstein and its family of sequels–to enjoy.
Mariana: Another great film featured by Laika. They do a great job creating beautiful surroundings for their animated characters, and try really hard to match their scenery with good plots. Norman is a special kid, who believes in a century old course: some town’s folk will wake up as zombies and stalk the villagers… or is it the other way around?
As he runs around amidst ghosts and sadly moving corpses, he learns some lessons about humanity, cruelty, punishment, and redemption… all in stop motion quality.
9) Monster House
Joey: This 2006 computer animated film (I know, “What’s wrong, couldn’t you find another stop-motion Tim Burton film?”) was the first time that executive producers Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg had worked together on a film since Back to the Future III and the first time that the pair had executive produced a film together. That pedigree alone should put this film on your radar. Monster House marries Zemeckis’ love of motion capture with Spielberg’s affinity for preteen neighborhood kids exploring and finding the unusual on their street.
10) The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, from Ichabod and Mr. Toad
Mariana: A classic tale adapted to the big screen by Disney in 1949, this is a hilarious take on the short story written by Washington Irving.
Set in 1790, the story follows funny looking and food loving Ichabod Crane, the newly-arrived teacher in Sleepy Hollow, New York. Brom Bones, the town hero, really tries to bully Ichabod, especially when Ichabod falls in love with the beautiful daughter of the richest man in town, but Ichabod is clever and thwarts every bullying attempt.
When both love rivals are invited to the van Tassel Halloween party, Brom finds his opportunity to get rid of Ichabod: the teacher is afraid of ghosts. So, Brom puts great effort into the telling the local legend of the Headless Horseman who carries a pumpkin in his hand in lieu of a head.
Of course, when Ichabod returns to his home later that evening, he will confront the Headless Horseman himself, in a funny but ghostly apparition that plays with narration, weird sounds, and intense music. Ichabod will be chased out of the town, and Brom Bones will get his heart’s desire and marry the girl.
That’s it for today’s entry. Be sure to come back tomorrow for our look at ten movies you can watch with teens as we wrap up this series. Until then, tell us your favorite spooky films for older children and your guess at the trivia question (from entry number five) in the comments below.