Whenever it gets to this time of year I’m often asked to suggest Hallowe’en-y films for people who might not be so much into the spookier side of the season. As a bit of a horror wuss, my favourite holiday films are far from hardcore. With this in mind; here are my family friendly picks for this Hallowe’en. They’re perfect for anyone who’d rather not go to bed with the lights on.
10. Little Shop of Horrors
RELEASED: December 19, 1986 | DIRECTOR: Frank Oz | CERTIFICATE: PG | RUN TIME: 94 minutes | CAST: Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, Vincent Gardenia, Steve Martin, Levi Stubbs
Nerdy florist Seymour (Rick Morranis) is intent on improving business by introducing more exotic species into his work. Buying a unique plant from a strange street seller, Seymour soon learns his recent purchase craves more than just Miracle-Gro.
With Frank Oz behind it, Little Shop of Horrors provides camp horror and catchy tunes that are perfect all year around. They just so happen to be a little more fitting come the Hallowe’en season. A star-studded cast with Oz’s trademark wonderful puppetry skills; it’s no ordinary musical. Fans of The Muppets and Labyrinth won’t be disappointed by his operation of the impressive Audrey II puppet. Oz’s lightweight direction technique makes this musical flow perfectly, with as much energy and humour to rival more modern releases.
9. Monster House
RELEASED: June 15, 2006 | DIRECTOR: Gil Kenan | CERTIFICATE: PG | RUN TIME: 91 minutes | CAST: Steve Buscemi, Nick Cannon, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Kevin James, Jason Lee, Catherine O’Hara, Kathleen Turner, Fred Willard, Jon Heder
Gil Kenan’s directorial debut Monster House is a surprisingly dark edition to this list. DJ (Mitchel Musso) lives directly across the street from an unusual, malevolent entity that longs to feed on the energy of the living: this horrific house is a living, breathing, scary monster.
Executively produced by Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeicks, the reunited for the first time since Back to the Future Part III; Monster House is a satisfyingly scary story for the holidays. Only managing to keep its PG rating by resurrecting certain characters, it’s not one for the younger members of the family. Spooky enough to keep younger teens amused, it’s also visually pleasing. The slick CGI will please even the most avid of animation fans. Perfect for those who normally snub this genre, a talented voice cast comprising of Maggie Gyllenhaal, Steve Buscemi and Jon Heder will appease even the most hardened of cynics.
8. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
RELEASED: October 14, 2005 | DIRECTOR: Nick Park, Steve Box | CERTIFICATE: U | RUN TIME: 85 minutes | CAST: Peter Sallis, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Peter Kay
We join Britain’s favourite animated duo as they embark on a new business venture in their first feature length adventure in Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Anti Pesto, a new and humane pest-relocation service, allows our beloved claymation chaps to relocate rodents; giving them new homes elsewhere. Using the Mind Manipulation-O-Matic machine, a contraption that brainwashes bunnies to keep them away from beans, beets and broccoli; Wallace soon discovers he has a were-rabbit on his hands.
As you would expect; the animation in Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is perfect. Fans of Nick Park will not be disappointed, as he continues tradition with countless jokes and nods to British culture. A touching story of eccentric escapades; audiences won’t tire from re-watching. Instead, the hidden gems refresh the film; keeping it from growing stale for children and adults alike year after year.
RELEASED: March 30, 1988 | DIRECTOR: Tim Burton | CERTIFICATE: 15 | RUN TIME: 92 minutes | CAST: Michael Keaton, Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O’Hara, Winona Ryder
Perhaps not quite one for all the family (there is a sneaky F bomb hidden in there somewhere); I saw Beetlejuice was my first Tim Burton experience. I saw it when I was around eight years old and adored it.
When newly weds Geena Davies and Alec Baldwin (eighties Alec is way cooler than todays’) die in a car accident, they discover that death isn’t quite as expected. Thanks to endless waiting lists, the couple are forced to spend the next 50 years as ghosts in their house before passing over to the afterlife. Faced with the prospect of living out half a century hidden out in their attic when yuppie couple and goth daughter (first appearance in a Burton film by Winona Ryder)move in; the recently deceased seek supernatural help through afterlife con-man Beetlejuice.
Beetlejuice features every little Tim Burton quirk that his fans adore: creepy monsters, complete oddballs and a continuous plethora of stripy things (the sandworms are my personal favourite). Moving, funny and, most importantly, spooky; this movie is a must every October.
RELEASED: July 31, 1992 | DIRECTOR: Robert Zemeckis | CERTIFICATE: PG | RUN TIME: 104 minutes | CAST: Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn, Bruce Willis
When narcissistic actress Madeline (Meryl Streep) steals her ex-best friend’s, Helen’s (Goldie Hawn), plastic surgeon fiancé Menville (Bruce Willis in one of his finest performances to date); Helen crumbles. Tripling her weight following a breakdown, she enlists the help of an exotic mystic (Isabella Rossellini) to win back the figure and looks from her youth. Jealous of her rival’s new appearance, and worried about losing her husband; Madeleine follows suit, acquiring some elixir for herself. It’s not long before the pair not only battle for Menville’s affections, but also his surgery skills as their youthful bodies fall victim to wear and tear.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and A Christmas Carol), Death Becomes Her is one of the most fun supernatural flicks around. A black comedy with some seriously impressive special effects (for 1992, at least); Zemeckis’ satire reminds us of society’s obsession with youth and physical appearance.
RELEASED: August 3, 2012 | DIRECTOR: Sam Fell, Chris Butler | CERTIFICATE: PG | RUN TIME: 92 minutes | CAST: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, John Goodman
ParaNorman, the first of this year’s family friendly films to feature here, is perfect not just for children. You can check out a more in-depth look at it here, but in short; it’s a Hallowe’en classic in the making.
4. Hocus Pocus
RELEASED: July 16, 1993 | DIRECTOR: Kenny Ortega | CERTIFICATE: PG | RUN TIME: 96 minutes | CAST: Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy, Omri Katz, Thora Birch, Vinessa Shaw
I completely wore out my copy of Hocus Pocus on VHS when I was a child. The biggest treat for any Hallowe’en, I knew all the words to at least the first half. I’m not even ashamed of how uncool this makes me.
When the people of Salem capture and execute three witches for practicing witchcraft, they vow to return 300 years later on Hallowe’en to seek their revenge. As promised, they do exactly that. Cynical Max (Omri Katz, also from Eerie Indiana) accidentally awakens the witches three witches by lighting the black flame candle in their old house. Staring Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker as the witches; it’s up to Max and his sister Dani (Thora Birch) to make sure they’re gone come morning.
Despite it’s depressingly low score on Rotten Tomatoes (30%!), Hocus Pocus is so much fun. Perfect for younger members of the family, I worry it won’t impress adults that don’t have the nostalgia draw like I do.
RELEASED: June 7, 1984 | DIRECTOR: Ivan Reitman | CERTIFICATE: PG | RUN TIME: 105 minutes | CAST: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis
No post about ghouls and ghosts is complete without Ivan Reitman’s Ghostbusters. New York is full of supernatural beasties and it’s The Ghostbusters’ job to keep the city folk, and the world, safe by removing unfriendly spirits. With a stellar cast including Bill Murray, Rick Moranis (his second appearance in this list), and Sigourney Weaver; this eighties comedy classic is iconic for a reason. It’s brilliant.
Combining genuine scares with superb scripting and comic timing from all involved, Ghostbusters has been a firm favourite of mine since childhood. Spawning a successful sequel (the imaginatively titled Ghostbusters 2) and the much loved The Real Ghostbusters TV show (I had Peter and Slimer action figures), it’s stood the test of time and won over a whole new generation of fans. I’m just hoping that the much anticipated Ghostbusters 3 retains the same charm that the branding has successfully held onto over the years.
RELEASED: Octobe 5, 2012 | DIRECTOR: Tim Burton | CERTIFICATE: PG | RUN TIME: 87 minutes | CAST: Charlie Tahan, Frank Welker, Winona Ryder, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau, Robert Capron, Atticus Shaffer
Like ParaNorman, Frankenweenie is a recent addition to my favourite spooky movies. You can read my full review of it here. Still out at cinemas, it’s easily one of my favourite Tim Burton films; striking an excellent balance between creepy and cute. The adorable Sparky is enough to warm even the coldest of hearts, amuse the little ones and borrows enough traits from horror classics to keep even hardcore horror fans quiet.
RELEASED: February 6, 2009 | DIRECTOR: Henry Selick | CERTIFICATE: PG | RUN TIME: 100 minutes | CAST: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, John Hodgman, Ian McShane
My favourite family friendly film for Hallowe’en is Coraline, no question about it. Beautifully animated with a clever story, it’s both stunning and gloriously entertaining at the same time. Deliciously dark enough to be a Tim Burton classic, Henry Selick’s (The Nightmare Before Christmas) trademark style is evident throughout. Drawing on Neil Gaiman’s original story, Coraline is loved by fans of animation and adventure the world over.
Following a recent move into a new city; Coraline is bored and a little miserable. Exploring her new home, she discovers another world that at first appears much more fun than home. This other world quickly takes a sinister turn as her other mother (Teri Hatcher) reveals her true colours.
You can hear more about my love for Coraline on a previous edition of Movie Talking here. The animation is breathtaking, the sets are gorgeous, and the overall story is seriously creepy. A perfect film for Hallowe’en, just be careful younger viewers aren’t too scared of spiders!