9 Spooky Movies to Watch with Your Kids This Month

9 Spooky Movies to Watch with Your Kids This Month
Screenshot: Walt Disney Pictures

Admittedly, scary movies aren’t for everyone. Yes, I personally peeked from around the corner when I was, like, six and my dad watched Tales from the Crypt because I Want All Your Horror. And no, I won’t ever forget the tall basketball player who didn’t fit into his short casket, so the funeral home owner had to chainsaw off his legs, but (I think) I turned out ok.

But it’s officially October, which means the countdown to whatever Halloween looks like this year has begun. So for horror lovers who have been itching to introduce the genre to your kids — or for those whose kids are obsessed with watching every haunted, bloody, possessed thing in existence — we’ve got some scary movie suggestions for you.

Obviously, no one knows your kid like you do, so we’ve left our suggested “age ranges” intentionally vague. If you haven’t seen one of these before (or it’s been a couple of decades), give it a watch on your own first before you press “play” for the whole family.

Monsters, Inc. (Little kids)

Monster’s Inc. might not be considered a scary movie, per se, but it has monsters, which has to count for something. If your kid is especially afraid of the dark, this might be the perfect first glance into the world of things that go bump in the night.

John “Sully” Sullivan and Mike Wazowski work at Monstropolis’ power plant, which harvests children’s screams for power. During a mishap, a child gets into the plant, which is especially problematic because monsters believe children to be poison. This particular child, of course, is one of the cutest children in existence — inside Monstropolis and out — and she worms her way straight into Sully’s big, fluffy, blue heart. (Mine, too. I saw this something like five times when it was in theatres.)

How to watch: Stream on Disney+; rent on Amazon Prime and YouTube

Hotel Transylvania (Little kids)

Holy adorable, Batman. Hotel Transylvania is the story of Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler, in his most perfect role), who runs a hotel for monsters. The hotel is a sanctuary because, historically, monsters have been hunted by humans. However, when a young man accidentally gets through all the hotel’s protections and “zings” with Drac’s daughter, Drac’s left to wonder if things haven’t changed over the last 118 years. (To “zing” with another, in monster-speak, is to fall in love at first sight.)

The “monsters” here are cuddly and silly, like the wry Steve Bushemi-voiced werewolf who has, like, 300 pups that are more “cyclone” than “wolf” and the utterly silent Blobby, who just sort of blobbles about, bouncing with the flow (#teamblobby).

On the scary metre, this ranks at approximately a 0.5, and that’s only because, when vampires get angry or want to frighten, their eyes flash all red, and they glare atop menacing music. This is an especially great flick because, taken at face value, it’s entertaining and sweet. But there’s a wonderful message of acceptance and “We’re not so different after all,” too.

How to watch: Available for rent on Amazon Prime

ParaNorman (Little kids)

Norman doesn’t have a ton of alive friends, but he hangs out with his dead grandma quite a bit. That’s because Norman can see ghosts.

Unfortunately, no one in town believes him, except for his new pal, Neil. Which makes it all the worse when, during a school play, Norman has a vision of a witch’s trial and the subsequent curse she puts on the town. The 300-year-old trial has always been a part of town lore, but now Norman knows it’s not just a story, and the curse is about to come true.

It’s up to Norman has to be brave and save his town, even though no one but Neil — and the ghosts — is particularly nice to him. This is a movie you’ll want to watch with your kids: Aside from the cute story, the stop animation is seriously cool. (Check out the New York Times’ slideshow for some incredible behind-the-scenes images.)

How to watch: Rent on Amazon Prime, find on YouTube

Goosebumps (Big kids/Tweens)

In Goosebumps, based on the ridiculously popular eponymous book series, actual author R.L. Stine is a character, played by Jack Black. He’s our protag Zach’s grumpy neighbour, and all Stine’s books in his library can come to life. Zach accidentally lets Slappy the Dummy loose, who not-so-accidentally sets free the rest of Stine’s monsters.

Chaos, as it does, ensues.

Selfishly, seeing some of my favourite monsters from youth on the screen is awesome, as is the ridiculously cool way the ink from Stine’s words drip up off the page to swirl into the body of, say, the abominable snowman. But the story is fun for kids, too, a good mixture of scary and silly.

It’s also a great opportunity for a discussion about how cool our imaginations are — especially if any of the monsters prove too scary. (For example: He doesn’t have a big role in the movie, called simply Monster #4, but book fans know him as Murder the Clown. Oof.)

How to watch: Rent on Amazon Prime

Hocus Pocus (Big kids/Tweens)

When townspeople discover three witches living in the woods, they hang the trio — but not before head sister Winnie performs a spell: The three will live again if a virgin lights the black flame candle on All Hallow’s Eve. Obviously, a virgin’s gonna light that candle.

Hocus Pocus follows our hero, Max; his little sister, Dani (played to perfection by baby Thora Birch); and his new friend/maybe girlfriend, Allison, as they try to catch and kill the witches.

There’s a reason no list of Halloween movies is complete without Hocus Pocus, and that reason is, of course, the witches: Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker are determined and silly. By the end of the movie, your kid — and you — will have a favourite.

One heads up: If your child doesn’t already know the word, he’s probably going to be asking what the heck a virgin is. It’s said so much that people have made a drinking game out of it.

How to watch: Stream on Disney+; rent on Amazon Prime

Gremlins (Big kids/Tweens)

OK, technically, Gremlins is probably a Christmas movie, but the creep factor makes it appropriate for Halloween, too.

In Gremlins, Dad brings home this weird gerbil thing as a gift for his son, who doesn’t give proper weight to the accompanying care instructions: Don’t get them wet, or feed them after midnight, or expose them to bright light.

After the pet’s new owner accidentally does two of the three don’ts, the gremlins have multiplied and evil-ified. They’re a great mixture of scary and silly, dipping into activities like playing poker, boasting little punk rock hairdos … and murdering people who tick them off.

How to watch: Rent on Amazon Prime

Signs (Tweens/Teens)

If your preteen or teenager is interested in dipping into a seriously spooky flick, give Signs a watch. Widower Graham lives in a cool ol’ farmhouse with his brother and two kids. When he finds crop circles in his fields, the brothers are certain it’s only the local hooligans making trouble.

But then the news reports similar circles all around the country. The climax is full of “OMG, what’s gonna happen next?” tenseness, because you can’t help but root for this grieving little family.

Signs has some language and references to sex, both of which are mild; the movie’s rating mostly stems from the fact that this flick is dang scary.

How to watch: Rent on Amazon Prime

The Sixth Sense (Teens)

A relatively quiet scary movie, The Sixth Sense doesn’t really go for blood and gore; and, as a parent, experiencing that twist ending with someone who doesn’t know it’s coming is going to be a blast.

The plot is simple enough: Cole is a boy who can see dead people. Unlike the dead people Norman sees is ParaNorman, however, these dead people are spooky as hell. Cole works with his therapist, Malcolm, to figure out both what’s going on and how Cole might help the ghosts who reach out to him.

How to watch: Rent on Amazon Prime

The Lost Boys (Teens)

If you’re looking for your kid’s first proper horror flick, The Lost Boys might be a good place to start. Michael moves to town with his mother and younger brother. He meets a gang on the boardwalk, who turn out to be vampires. After partying with the crew one night, Michael begins to notice some changes in himself. His brother and some townies who work at the local comic store have diagnosed Michael, and they try to figure out how to help.

The Lost Boys’ higher rating is due primarily to some language, some gore (staking vampires through the heart is not clean business, but the gore is extra over-the-top — less frightening, more gross-out) and one of the mildest sex scenes in moviedom.

How to watch: Stream on Shudder, rent on Amazon Prime

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