There’s a snap in the air; a cold, refreshing bite that reminds us of impending change. Leaves are turning colors, scarves are coming out, and pumpkin spice is in everything.
Not only is it officially fall on this side of the Earth, but it’s also almost Halloween! We’ve got to take out a loan for costumes and candy. We’ve got to pumpkin up our porch. We’ve got to drag out our Halloween decorations. We’ve also got to start what’s become an annual family tradition: watching a family Halloween movie each week.
I love Halloween movies! Not all films are created equal, however, and most are not suitable for children. Many of the children’s varieties are not suitable for adults, on account of a terrible story and too many crotch-kicking jokes.
So; not only have I included a list of the best Halloween movies for families, I’ve included a bit about what to look out for if you’re hoping to keep things clean.
Hands-down, this is one of my favorites! Released in 1993, it features the one and only Bette Midler (and maybe some others).
Midler plays a witch from Salem times who, along with her sisters, comes back to ‘modern’ ages at the hands of some naïve teenagers. This brings up my one qualm with the show: the characters mention that the candle-lighter is a virgin three times, like it’s a bad thing. Seriously, people; why was/is it so unusual to be a virgin?
That and a few, “God” swearings are as dirty as it gets. Oh, and Sarah Jessica Parker is pretty hot as a witch so a few guys notice.
I’d rate this as a film for at least third-graders, but that depends on how sensitive to nightmares your child is.
Twenty years later, we’ve got studios making scary shows a preschooler can handle. Seriously. I was worried about this from both a lameness and a too-scary-for-my-kid perspective, but George’s writers came through.
The story is that George learns of an old, haunted tree near his house. They say a scarecrow comes out on Halloween night to kick off people’s hats. Yep; kick. off. hats. George and Ally set out to solve the mystery and save Halloween, plus win a costume contest in order to earn the prize of a leaf-sucking machine.
It’s not that bad, and does a decent job at not being too scary.
In only the way Don Knotts can, “The Private Eyes” takes us to a cheesy murder mystery in a house full of loonies. The butler is crazy. The housekeeper is oddly violent. The staff all have issues. And; one by one, they die off in cliché ways. If that weren’t enough, each time a murder happens there’s a bad poetry message left behind….
Knotts and Tim Conway arrive on the scene to bumble their way through solving the thing in their usual manner. If you like that sort of corny humor, great. It also works well for kids.
I have to fast-forward a part where the two spy on the sexy heiress dressing. She and the obviously-buxom maid are the only bad parts, plus the fact that the detectives find people with cleavers in their back -but that all resolves at the end.
Bud Abbot and Lou Costello were comedic geniuses of their time. They made a few films appropriate for Halloween; including ones about The Invisible Man and Frankenstein.
“The Time of Their Lives” is my favorite. In it, Costello plays a Colonial American tinker, accidentally cursed to forever haunt an estate with one of the ladies of the house. Abbot plays both malicious butler and the butler’s great-great-great (or so) grandson once the property is rebuilt in ‘modern’ times.
Can the new owners figure out why their harpsichord is being played or their dress is walking down the stairs on its own?
This is also a bit creepy for younger children, even though the story resolves. It’s squeaky clean: no swearing or sex. The only violence is in showing Costello and the woman get shot at, then buried at the bottom of a well -immediately followed by their appearing as ‘ghosts’ who are unaware of their death.
Many adults are already familiar with this film, since it came out in 1995. Christina Ricci and Bill Pullman play a daughter and father who move to a really, really cool-looking old house. Unfortunately for them and the incredibly selfish and mean woman (Cathy Moriarty as Carrigan Crittenden) who owns the place, the house is haunted by Casper and his three uncles.
Crittenden has language problems. Some of the things the uncle ghosts do (turn someone around, haunt the place in general, attempt to murder Pullman…) are things to talk to the kids about. For those looking out for it as well, Ricci’s character’s mother has passed away and so there are bereavement issues. Crittenden also tries to kill her friend(?) and ends up falling off a cliff herself…
Yeah; so, we’ll say you ought to be 12 years old or so, or have parents who pause the movie to talk about Life Issues a few times.
This is a great time to bring things back down to General Family levels. “It’s the Great Pumpkin” is wholesome, a cartoon, and doesn’t rely on cheap jokes and swearing to entertain kids.
It’s about Charlie Brown and his belief in The Great Pumpkin. I suppose someone somewhere might get offended by something with this, but you’ll have to dig into very conservative, tight-belted religious circles for that.
Although Disney did not make and release this film as a Halloween production, we slide it in there because of its immortal skeletons and spooky pirate curse.
Plus, who needs an excuse to watch Johnny Depp in one of his best roles?
There’s violence. There’s cleavage (of both kinds). There’s jump scenes. Heck, there’s a skeleton hand that tries to chase after a character. There is also drinking (dude; pirates), hints at womanizing, law-breaking (again, pirates), references to hanging; yet no cussing beyond one, “Hell” that I can recall.
Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis play marginally-productive members of society who go into business ridding people of paranormal creatures (e.g., ghosts, phantoms, poltergeists, and Slimer).
It’s an oddly humorous cult film that also stars Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis as unintentional participants in the possible End of Times.
Scary stuff: lots of otherwordly beings; including a librarian that turns into something worse and chases the Ghostbusters from the library, something that makes Weaver’s eggs pop on the counter and boil by themselves, a creature that attacks and possesses Weaver and Moranis, and a giant marshmallow that attacks the city at the end.
There is an exchange I always have to skip for language purposes, where Murray says the prick from The EPA is something that rhymes with “prick,” plus assorted cursing. Watch and censor accordingly.
No twisted family can complete their Halloween movie marathon without the strange, macabre humor of this 1991 classic. I’ve yet to see if the 2019 animated variety will come close.
In this film, we see that The Addamses are more than a little eccentric. The parents get off on each other’s morbid activities. The children are constantly subjecting each other to near-death games. The extended family makes questionable meals involving body parts. And, of course, the butler is a Frankenstein-like man named Lurch and the father’s right-hand man is only a right hand.
Besides the twisted nature and violence, this is fairly clean. I’d say to wait till kids are older (12+) to be safe, or go ahead and show them around 2nd or 3rd grade level if your kids are twisted already.
“Make time for yourself” is my second-favorite parenting advice. It comes right after “Enjoy the moment and don’t stress about the little things like housework, etc.”
The problem with making time is that I haven’t achieved that superpower yet. The problem is that, last time I checked, there are still 24 hours in each day. The problem is that I have to care for the physical and emotional needs of human beings and the house they live in during 56 of those 24 hours. I’m already over-booked.
This topic came up tonight in our couples conversation time -you know, another thing I need to make time for. My husband said I am accruing a deficit by working when the children are in bed. He suggested that time ought to be for winding down; working on things that make me happy.
I felt I had enough supporting argument in the unmade bed we sat upon, surrounded by the unsorted laundry, near the still-whispering children we’d sired. He did not.
Half an hour of discussion later and we were no closer to resolution.
So, what do you think? How expensive is a time-stopper on eBay anyway?