Watching a scary movie together is a popular Halloween treat, but the trick is finding a movie that won’t overly frighten young kids or leave older kids and grown-ups bored.
Matthew Loaiza, Librarian at the San Antonio Public Library System’s Encino Branch, likes the retro appeal of “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” The 1966 made-for-television cartoon movie based on the “Peanuts” comic strips is now available on DVD and Internet downloads.
“Growing up, it was really fun to watch that one,” says Loaiza. “I still really love all the Charlie Brown holiday movies.”
Rosalind Casey, Assistant Manager at San Antonio’s Twig Book Shop, says when bestselling author Neil Gaiman couldn’t find a scary storybook to satisfy his then five-year-old daughter, he began writing “Coraline,” a 2008 book that became an award-winning 2009 movie. The name Coraline, he later wrote, stemmed from a mistake he made typing Caroline.
“It’s not gory, but it is really creepy, because it really does get under your skin,” Casey says. “It’s about the fears you have as a kid about abandonment and deception, but it also has a triumphant ending where the young girl saves the day through her bravery.”
For teens and grown-ups, the movie has the high tech appeal of being one of the first stop-motion animated movies to be shot in 3D.
For those who like old-fashioned live action movies, Santikos Theaters will show the 1931 horror classic “Dracula,” starring Bela Lugosi, at four San Antonio theaters Oct. 25 and Oct. 28.
“Dracula” is among older movies that didn’t come with age-based ratings like G and PG. If you pick an early classic for family viewing and aren’t sure whether it’s appropriate for younger children, first rent or download a version to watch before sharing with the kids.
The public library’s Encino Branch will show a family-friendly movie with a Halloween theme at 2:00 p.m. on Oct. 25, Loaiza says, although a title had not yet been selected by press time. Admission is free, and so is the popcorn.
For those who want to gather around a TV set with a DVD or downloaded movie, here are some of our kid-friendly favorites for Halloween.
For Younger Kids
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. This 1966 animated film has the gang from the Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schulz trick-or-treating while Linus waits in a pumpkin patch. He thinks a giant pumpkin will arrive with toys for little girls and boys, although the other characters don’t believe it. There’s not a frightening scene in it, but fans of jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi consider it a classic for the music.
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. This Academy Award-winning 2005 stop-motion Claymation animated film is a kid-friendly play on werewolf stories. Wallace, the daffy inventor and his dog Gromit go in search of an oddly hairy rabbit that is creating havoc in the vegetable fields when the moon is full. It’s more of what Time magazine called “a rollicking adventure” than a scary story. Older viewers will appreciate the eccentric humor in this British/American production.
Monsters, Inc. The only “boo” in this G-rated 2001 animated movie is a two-year-old girl named Boo, who must be rescued after sneaking into Monstropolis – a city of colorful monsters. Older kids and grown-ups will recognize the voices of comedic actors Billy Crystal and John Goodman for two of the not-so-scary monsters. The movie won an Academy Award for the Randy Newman song “If I Didn’t Have You.”
Other G-rated favorites for young kids:
Halloweentown. Debbie Reynolds stars in this G-rated Disney Channel live-action 1998 film that’s about a family of witches at odds over whether to celebrate Halloween. Older kids will enjoy the teen romance in the plot.
The Wizard of Oz. This 1939 classic live-action film has a good witch and singing heroine to counter scares from a bad witch, a tornado and flying monkeys. It’s been a family-friendly favorite of generations of film buffs.
For Older Kids
Coraline: Although the story’s author wrote the book for his young daughter, some recommend eight and up for watching the movie of the same name that earned a PG rating for a few scary images. Dakota Fanning voices the little girl who discovers a door in her family’s new home that leads to an eerie alternate world. Coralline must escape and rescue other trapped kids.
Ghostbusters. With a 2016 remake in the works, families this year are revisiting the 1984 original, which offers more gooey ghost slime than scares. Dan Akryod and Bill Murray of early-era Saturday Night Live fame play college professors who start a company designed to rid homes of ghosts. One nemesis is a giant white Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. Parents might not remember a few scenes with adult humor, so watch it first if you’re concerned about showing this PG film to pre-teens.
The Nightmare Before Christmas. A few of the characters were just scary enough to earn this 1993 stop-motion animated musical a PG rating. The plot revolves around Jack Skellington, the scarecrow king of Halloweenland, and his attempt to steal Santa Claus and Christmas. The songs are by Hollywood composing favorite Danny Elfman. “Part amusing but morbid fairy tale, it is a delightfully ghoulish holiday musical,” wrote the Los Angeles Times upon its initial release in theaters.
Other PG favorites for older kids:
Tim Burton, who also directed “Beetlejuice,” created a Goth look for this not-too-ghoulish animated film. Johnny Depp provides the voice for the unlucky bridegroom.
Monster House. What kids find in a seemingly haunted house is the plot of this computer-animated movie with just enough scares for a PG rating. The New York Times labeled it “marvelously creepy.”
by Renee Haines