While horror is generally seen as a very adult genre, and for the most part, it is, a horror story doesn’t need to be strictly adult-orientated in order for it to be horrifying, entertaining or true to the standards of the genre. A horror story’s concept and execution need not be impaired by the idea that it can’t portray gratuitous gore or nudity – in fact I would argue that a good film shouldn’t need these to begin with, but that’s another argument for another day.
Halloween is largely a celebration of the idea that to be scary does not equal to be adult. In fact, most of what is sold and generally pushed around Halloween is the family aspect. Cartoony skeletons, funky costumes of grim reapers and grimacing pumpkins adorn shop shelves as children pick out their favourite treats and costumes for their impending trick or treating, sugar comas and school parties. Part of this is, of course, the dusting off of the more family friendly supernatural/horror films for some Saturday afternoon viewing and bonding over the beauty in the dark and misunderstood. Some of the best horror films are totally family friendly, and perfect for both little kids and big kids alike.
As such, here are my 3 favourite family friendly horror/supernatural films:
If you didn’t watch this film growing up around Halloween – you were either completely adverse to witches, or you had a lacking childhood. Hocus Pocus is the quintessential supernatural family horror film. It’s cheesy, it’s corny, it’s 90’s, it’s Sarah Jessica Parker and Bette Midler in a movie together. It’s just sort of a perfect mix of what makes Halloween, and horror, so fun.
Released by Disney in 1993, Hocus Pocus is a story, you guessed it, about witches – set in, completely unexpectedly, in Salem. It tells the story of Max Dennison whose just moved there and is finding it hard to adjust. He soon develops a crush a girl named Allison, and the two, along with Max’s little sister, inadvertently resurrect three witches and things go all topsy turvy.
The film isn’t intended as something to be taken all that seriously, it’s a Disney film. But it is entertaining, and it’s a perfect film to watch with the young’ins to peak their interest in the genre, while still having enough to entertain all ages. It gets you excited about Halloween, and at least for me, reminds you about why you like horror/supernatural stories in the first place.
The day I talk about great things in horror and do not mention zombies somewhere is the day I can no longer talk. Paranorman is a stop motion film released last year and is somewhat surprising in that it has a lot more depth than you would immediately give it credit for. Family films in the last few years have become very predictable and convoluted. It’s all sequels and very average films, even the Pixar films are splitting audiences more than usual these days.
Paranorman is something different. It’s a completely new title for one, not a sequel, no source material. It’s also a very dark film, a good deal darker than it may seem from the outset – echoing Nail Gaiman (The studio, Laika, are also responsible for the Corlaine adaptation) and Tim Burton’s style in places. It’s a story about a boy who can speak with the dead, and is zombie obsessed, and no-one understands him or takes him seriously. Of course, him having this power means he must save the town from a zombie apocalypse, and it’s incredibly well done in it’s delivery.
This is one of those films that really does carry a positive message. It tells you that it’s okay to be misunderstood and it’s okay to be into darker stuff, like zombies and horror films, and I think that’s really important to reinforce every-so-often, specially around Halloween, with the younger audience. Not everyone gets horror, and not everyone needs to. As long as you, that’s alright. It’s especially good when this message is wrapped up as well as Paranorman is. The animation is really smooth and the soundtrack catchy. This is a film worth checking out and definitely worth talking about more, and with any luck it’s makers will continue this trend with Boxtrolls next year.
Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island
Y’know, I didn’t want to include two films with zombies in them in this list. There’s a lot of great films that are family friendly in the horror genre that deserve to be on this list, like Addams Family, Coraline, Corpse Bride, The Munsters films (look those up, seriously, CLASSIC), but I wanted to include a traditional animated film in the list, and one that, much like Hocus Pocus, I remember only spurring on my interest in horror no matter how many times I watched it. Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island is one of those films.
Scooby-Doo in itself is worthy of mention when it comes to horror and supernatural films and television, being one of the best children’s shows in the genre, and one of the most consistently entertaining. It’s still a great show that families still celebrate today. In 1998, they began a line of Scooby-Doo feature length animations, with this being the first, and what a choice for an opening number.
This is everything you like about Scooby-Doo and everything you like about animated films in one. The Mystery Inc. crew end up on a mysterious island and have to solve a mystery before they are consumed by the walking dead. It’s an episode of the tv show, with higher production values and as much fun and laughs as you remember. The characters are as you remember them, with a great spit shine on the animation, and the soundtrack is absolute guilt-free fun pop rock. If you haven’t seen this yet, watch it, it’s good, your younger siblings/children/relatives will thank you!
So, any childhood classics I’ve forgotten/may have overlooked, let us know in the comments!
See y’all next week, same Arcade time, same Arcade channel!