My parents were probably the worst at keeping me in check when I was young. They certainly didn’t care about what sort of mind-ruining things I’d see on television. Like when I was barely seven and I watched the opening of Scream 2 while on a trip up north. I still feel a bit terrified in movie theatre bathrooms. And until about a year ago I couldn’t sleep in any position that left my back exposed in case the Ghostface killer came into my bedroom and decided to stab me in the back.
When I was even younger I was subjected to Leprechaun 3 and watched a man get sawed in half by a wicked-looking mythical creature. I still can’t sleep on my back. And don’t even get me started on Mars Attacks! I was constantly terrorised by my two older sisters and my father with their masks and plastic creatures. But in a way, I’m a bit thankful for all those nightmares. For one, I was always queen of Halloween.
I suppose that’s where my little affection for everything spooky came from. Though I really don’t recommend showing your children I Know What You Did Last Summer (whether they be 6 or, well, ever because that movie is crap). But there is thankfully plenty of age-appropriate things for children to watch for Halloween. Or, you know, for those with a weaker constitution who want a scare but only like the volume at 4.
Horror really isn’t for everyone. But I do think it’s good to scare children and give them some gentle nightmares. If even just a little. So I’ve compiled my favourite picks for some gentle Halloween scares:
1. Halloween is Grinch Night (1977)
I still get the creeps watching this. Perhaps it’s that peculiar Seuss rhyme, or the surrealist animation, but really it’s that song. I revisited Halloween is Grinch Night last year, and the words to that haunting song came back to me instantly, “Euchariah! Euchariah! Grinch is gonna get ‘cha! Grinch is gonna get ‘cha!” It’s perfectly spooky. There isn’t much to the plot: Euchariah goes to face the Grinch on Grinch Night, the night where the Grinch likes to terrorise the Whos in Whoville. It’s simple, but certainly effective.
2. Coraline (2009)
Besides being one of the most beautifully animated films of the last decade, Coraline is a tale of warning and love. Young Coraline and her family move to a new town where she isn’t allowed to do anything while her parents are busy trying to get their work done. She wishes for a better place to live where her parents pay her more attention and the local neighbours a little more tolerable. But when she thinks she gets what she asks for, things certainly aren’t what they seem.
Coraline packs plenty of magic into the story while still making it terrifying. I think this is a better alternative to watching The Nightmare Before Christmas (both of which were directed by Henry Selick).
3. It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
I’m so biased with this one, but I absolutely adore this TV special to the point where I watch it nearly every other month or so. It’s a classic. Charlie Brown gets rocks for trick or treats. Linus spends all night in the pumpkin patch. Vince Guaraldi’s score here is on par with the classic Christmas special. Perhaps I’ll stop writing and watch it now…
4. Scooby-Doo! and the Witch’s Ghost (1999)
It’s like the Blair Witch Project but for kids! Okay, not really, but the late 90’s were some excellent times for witch stories. Scooby-Doo! and the Witch’s Ghost is one of the more mature and thus more tolerable of the Scooby Doo movies. It’s not as scary as the previous year’s Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, but I personally prefer the style of this one. And it’s a great place to start kids off on a classic cartoon character.
Scooby Doo and the Mystery Gang travel to New England after being invited by a popular horror writers. The town has a local ghost, who is rumoured to be a witch from the 16oo’s. The movie is just filled with great imagery that is perfect for October.
“Baaaaad dreams, sisters.”
5. The Groovie Ghoolies (1970-1971)
This is hardly scary, but it has monsters AND Sabrina. This spin-off of Sabrina (also known as Sabrina and the Groovie Goolies) is rather looked-over as far as Archie franchises. But a few episodes of this show are worth a little laugh. Many of the episodes are available to watch for free on YouTube. The show follows a group of stylised Universal monster characters that live in a house together and sing pop songs. That’s about it. But it’s pretty cute and gentle.
But there’s plenty of monster-themed goodness from the 60’s and 70’s that are family friendly, including The Munsters which is possibly one of the more better-aged shows from the era.
6. Garfield’s Halloween Adventure (1985)
This show is terrifying based on Binky the Clown’s appearance alone. But Garfield is so lovely (and so is Lorenzo Music’s voice). Garfield and Odie go trick-or-treating together on Halloween night. They hop into a boat, which leads them to an old house. An old man is sitting in a chair by the fire, who tells the two pets to stay while he tells them a story about a group of pirates who vow to return for their treasure on Halloween night, 100 years after they buried it.
Garfield’s Halloween Adventure is a bit darker than Garfield usually is, but that’s all you can hope for in a Halloween special. The old man builds up the story just great, and it balances well with the typical silliness of Garfield and friends.