Halloween is generally a time for monsters, witches, goblins, and all kinds of nightmarish things. Horror movies are usually released on or around Halloween and you can almost always bet that Walmart and Target are going to have just about anything Stephen King or "Tales from the Crypt" freshly in stock.
Halloween is definitely a time for nightmares.
Halloween is also a time for trick-or-treating, playing dress-up, and eating entirely too much candy. For these reasons, Halloween has always had a special attraction to children, too young to really enjoy the scarier aspects of the season. Fortunately, many filmmakers and authors have taken to creating toned down horror films and books, designed to give your little ones a little jump but not to keep them up all night paranoid of the boogie man.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Created by gothic filmmaker Tim Burton, "The Nightmare Before Christmas" works as both a Halloween and a Christmas movie. Since it was initially released in 1993, "The Nightmare Before Christmas" has become a holiday mainstay on television and with its original audience now grown up and parents themselves, it is starting to become loved by an entire new generation of fans.
Another Tim Burton film, "Beetlejuice" was the filmmaker's sophomore effort and has become something of a cult classic. While much of the humor may be seen as crude, especially for smaller children, "Beetlejuice" is brilliant in that it is structured in such a way that it appeals differently to different age groups. The more crude humor seems lost on younger audiences, who are instead enamoured with the many sight gags and slapstick humor throughout.
Starring Fred Savage and Howie Mandel, "Little Monsters" sheds some light on the monsters that live under our beds. Instead of being frightening, these monsters are actually mischief makers, making messes and causing trouble while your children are behaving themselves asleep in their beds.
The Monster Squad
Made in 1987, "The Monster Squad" was an attempt to feature every one of the Universal Studios monsters from the the 1930s and 40s. While Universal passed on the screenplay, the literary monsters existing in the public domain made it possible for another studio to produce the film, and young boys everywhere have a wonderful cult classic to introduce them to these classic monsters which have defined a genre.
"Halloweentown" was a Disney Channel original movie from 1998. A little more than moderately successful, it went on to spawn three sequels. While most parents might not enjoy watching the general Disney Channel fare with their kids, the message of "Halloweentown" definitely makes it something for mothers and daughters to watch together. If you're currently feuding with a teenage daughter, "Halloweentown" is the film to sit down with your daughter for this season.
Who doesn't love witches at Halloween time? They are a seasonal mainstay, and pretty much a Halloween trademark. "Hocus Pocus" is a screwball comedy about three 17th century witches trying to acclimate to the 20th Century. When their broomsticks are stolen by some young pranksters on Halloween, the witches must find them before daybreak or risk being turned to dust. (There are even discussions of a sequel).
Featuring an all-star cast of mostly "Saturday Night Live" alumns, "Hotel Transylvania" tells a coming-of-age story about monsters. When Dracula's wife is killed by an angry mob, he builds a hotel to act as both a home for his daughter as well as a safe refuge for monsters. On her 118th birthday, Dracula decides to allow his daughter to venture out into the human world to experience real life, but he sets up an elaborate plan to scare her back home. "Hotel Transylvania," while animated, has all of the charm of a Pixar film - though it was produced by Sony Pictures Animation - that is sure to appeal to parents and children alike.
The Addams Family
Based on the comic strip by Charles Addams, "The Addams Family" and its sequel are required Halloween viewing for all families. With a dark sense of humor that is frightfully fun, "The Addams Family" films, like the television series before it, show that fitting into society's definition of "normal" is highly overrated. The movie's greatest accomplishent, however, is that it gave us the marvelously talented and beautiful Christina Ricci, who was rocketed to stardom playing Wednesday Addams.
Another Christina Ricci film, "Casper" brought the friendly ghost to life in a way that was both true to the original cartoons and suited for a live action film. While it is chocked full of Halloween fun, "Casper" tells the heart-warming story of love that transcends death, and of the bond between a single parent and his only child.
Released in 1990 to a moderate box office reception, "Spaced Invaders" is a hilariously campy film about incompetent martian invaders. On Halloween, and amid an interstellar war that the people of Earth know nothing about, a squad of martians accidentally intercept a radio transmission of Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds." Mistaking the radio drama for being an actual news broadcast, the martians change their course for Earth to join in the invasion of the blue planet. "Spaced Invaders" is deliciously funny film that is fun for the whole family.
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