By Billy Russell
Halloween Season is upon us. Now is the perfect time to turn the lights off in the living room, warm up some popcorn and watch something that chills us to our very core, or something that indulges our inner-macabre. Everyone loves to be scared. Below are some movies I think the entire family can enjoy together:
Lady in White
This is a chilling, old fashioned ghost story. It is also touching, emotional and sad. There’s a melancholy to this film, but a decided hopefulness to it, too. It’s nostalgic for the happiness of the past, the innocence of being a child, while accurately portraying the unfairness of the past’s prejudices. I wouldn’t dare spoil any of the surprises contained within this film, only urge you to see it if you haven’t already. It is rated PG-13 and contains no real gore to speak of and doesn’t exploit violence or sexualize it.
“Have you ever seen a dream walking?… well I did.”
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Really, honestly, you can’t go wrong with any Golden Age Tim Burton movies, from his shorts like Frankenweenie and Vincent to his feature lengths, Edward Scissorhands, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (make sure to tell ‘em Large Marge sent ya!) and Beetlejuice. The guy was a pro.
The Nightmare Before Christmas was directed by Henry Selick and was created and produced by Tim Burton. The songs are all fabulously catchy, the creatures are icky but lovable, the whole production is just a marvel to behold. At the end, it all wraps up with a message of acceptance.
Another movie combining the dark thrills of Halloween with the magic of Christmas. What is it with me? I guess I just like my Halloweens a little sentimental and my Christmases a little morbid.
Gizmo is one of the most adorable creations of special effects on films and the titular gremlins are some of the most over-the-top vicious little buggers to do the same. Just remember to never, ever get them wet or to feed them past midnight (I’m assuming based on GMT). Parts of the movie do get a little dark, maybe a little too intensely for real, real little kids, but the violence is always played for laughs with severed tongue planted firmly in cheek.
Steven Spielberg’s productions pretty much ruled the 1980s and Halloween. You had this movie, Gremlins, the trick-or-treating scenes in E.T. and the endless costumes from Indiana Jones.
The strength of Poltergeist comes from the likability of the family at the center of the action. The parents aren’t squares. They aren’t the kinds of folks to rush their kids off when company is over. When the lights are off, they share a joint and embrace each other lovingly. The most significant scares are the ones exploited from things we can all relate to: That big, ugly, dead tree outside the window that projects ghoulish shadows through the window; that maniacal clown doll you wonder why anyone would ever buy it and not even think once about why it may give you nightmare fuel for years.
Okay, this movie might be pushing it a bit. Technically, it’s a family film, based on a story by Roald Dahl and it’s only rated PG. Even still, I remember seeing it when I was five years old or so and not wanting to sleep ever, ever again. But, I was kind of a cowardly kid. I was terrified beyond all reasoning by Ernest Scared Stupid of all movies.
What I like most about The Witches is its boundless imagination. It never pulls any punches, either. It has a story to tell and it tells it with technical prowess and majesty.
There’s a reason why every couple of years, they keep chucking around the idea of making a third Ghostbusters movie: Because the first one was so good, it will never die. Not completely. The idea of another sequel is a terrible one, but nothing can ever stand in the way of what made the first entry so great. Bill Murray is at his best here and nothing lags in the entire production. The writing is witty and blunt. The cinematography courtesy of László Kovács is beautiful. The music by Elmer Bernstein and the theme by Ray Parker, Jr. are expertly crafted earworms. The editing is superb…consider the brilliance of the pacing. By the time Stay Puft shows up, instead of rolling our eyes collectively at the screen, we embrace it as only the next logical step in such a seamlessly plotted movie.
Can you think of any more marvelous family-friendly halloween movies…?