10. Monsters, Inc. – This Pixar classic has more monsters than my last family reunion, and it’s a lot less scary. After seeing it, your kid might start sleeping with the closet door open in hope that big, fluffy Sully will come calling.
9. The Goonies – A pack of tween boys race against vicious, bumbling thieves in the hunt for One-Eyed Willie’s treasure. This flick has no monsters (if you don’t count the 80’s haircuts), but its scares and kid-centered plot make it pitch perfect for Halloween. Plus, there’s skeletons!
8. Them! – In this 1954 black and white classic, radiation from A-bomb tests creates giant, bloodthirsty ants in the California desert. Them! has it all: giant, fake-looking insects, an omniscient, elderly scientist with an implausible British accent, military officers who “DON’T WANT TO START A PANIC”, and a ridiculously dishy female doctor (you know her diploma’s real cause she’s wearing glasses). And yes – that little girl who wanders out of the desert is young Natalie Wood.
7. Ghostbusters – Bill Murray and his buddies fight off ghosts and other creepies in this ‘80’s classic. The ghost librarian will make your kids jump, and they’ll love the green glob with the eating disorder & the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Get ready to hear voices from the backseat shout-singing the famous theme song.
6. Frankenweenie – In this black & white, stop-animation feature by Tim Burton, a boy genius brings his beloved pooch back from the dead. Havoc ensues when the boy’s buddies mimic his experiment on their own departed pets. This gentle flick is great for newbies to the horror world with its slow build (no real monsters until 2/3 of the way through) and “aw-shucks” sweet pooch/boy bond.
5. Hotel Transylvania – This animated flick is a Halloween casting call: vampires, Frankenstein, werewolves, mummies. Overprotective Count Dracula builds a remote hotel to shield his beloved daughter from the real monsters: HUMANS!! Warm, witty & nonthreatening, little ones will love this one.
4. ParaNorman – In this animated take on The Sixth Sense, middle schooler Norman sees and talks to dead people. Although his gift has made him an outcast, only Norman can save his small, New England town from zombies and a dead witch’s curse.
3. Monsters’ University – This Monsters Inc. prequel shows monsters Sully and Wazowski in their college days as they strive to become top scarers. Jam-packed with monsters, this flick is about as Halloweenish as it gets without being actually scary (turns out deconstructing scares robs them of their juice – who’d a thunk?).
2. Wallace & Gromit’s Curse of the Were-rabbit – Set in merry old rural prewar England, this clay-mation flick centers on eccentric inventor, Wallace, and his beloved, long-suffering pooch, Gromit. When his experiment goes awry, Wallace creates a giant Were-rabbit that ravages his neighbors’ beloved vegetable gardens. Listen for Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes hamming it up as foppy, British aristocrats.
1. Monster House – Three middle-schoolers spy on their old, crotchety neighbor to figure out why he goes berserk every time anyone gets within spitting distance of his dilapidated house. This animated, haunted house flick – – courtesy of His Cinematic Holiness, Steven Spielberg – – offers scares, laughs, a compelling story, and terrific characters (12-year old Jenny Bennett gives Hermione Granger a run for her money). Genuine scares on offer here; use your kids as human shields.