For some, Halloween means blood-curdling screams, chainsaws, evil killer clowns and murdering psychopaths. For others, it means pumpkin carving, mulled cider and more treats than tricks. This is for the latter group. Here are our favourite only-slightly-haunting picks for a family friendly Halloween movie night.
Nothing quite says Halloween like the Ghostbusters theme song. An ’80s classic, Ghostbusters is obligatory family fare, with the perfect spooky-to-silly ratio. Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson lead an ectoplasmic-fuelled romp, gallivanting around New York to free civilians of ghosts (and a giant Marshmallow Man). Throw in Rick Moranis and Sigourney Weaver both possessed by evil spirits, and the coolest car after the DeLorean, and you’ve got yourself a family favourite to start any Halloween party. Just don’t cross the streams.
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Wallace & Gromit’s quirky sense of humour has brought families together for years. In Curse of the Were-Rabbit — the first feature length outing for the beloved duo — their adventure takes a spooky turn. In a gloriously British, pun-riddled 90 minutes, Wallace and Gromit must save a Harvest festival giant vegetable competition from the most terrifying beast to ever haunt an English village — a very hungry ‘Were-Rabbit.’ Which, of course, Wallace accidentally created with his ‘Mind Manipulation O-Matic’. Full of horror nods, cameos and innuendos for adults — and copious amounts of silliness for kids — Curse of the Were-Rabbit is 24-carrot gold.
The Addams Family (1991)
The Addams Family first hit screens in the 1960s, but the ’90s movie revival has to be their most iconic outing. The perfect mixture of comedy and gothic, The Addams Family is both a family horror gem and perfect inspiration for any Halloween costume party. In one of her very earliest roles, Cristina Ricci became an idol to ‘alternative’ little girls everywhere as the dark-minded Wednesday Addams, whilst the rest of the cast — including Christopher Lloyd as the mono-syllabic Uncle Fester — are a dark delight from start to finish. It’s mysterious, spooky and altogether ooky.
Believe it or not, Hocus Pocus was a flop when it was first released back in 1993. However, owing to die-hard Disney and Halloween fans, it’s become a cult classic. Bette Midler — and her teeth — steal the show in her larger-than-life performance as Winifred, an evil hag and leader of the now infamous Sanderson sisters. Sarah Jessica-Parker and Kathy Najimy complete the formidable trio who prey on children to feed their youth. Those reliable ’90s family tropes are there (curtain-haired protagonist who’s always trying to impress his crush, a talking cat, etc.) but the three leading ladies are what make this film an instant classic. Especially Bette Midler’s rendition of ‘I Put a Spell on You,’ complete with alternative witchy lyrics. “It’s just a bunch of hocus pocus,” but it’s bewitching.
From Laika studios, the makers of Coraline and Boxtrolls, Paranorman is a ghost story for — and about — kids. After a curse plagues the town of Blithe Hollow and brings the dead back to life, it’s up to 11-year-old Norman to save the day. That’s because Norman is the only one that can see and talk with the dead — apparent from his casual and sweet conversations with his diseased grandmother. What follows is a kid-lead adventure story, with the horror sensibility of Tim Burton’s animations (think Vincent, Frankenweenie) and the heart of ’80s Amblin movie like The Goonies. Spooky spirits lace a genuinely wholesome story about acceptance and forgiveness, making Paranorman perfect for all the family.
Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
If there’s one thing better than a horror comedy, it’s a musical horror comedy. The Frank Oz-directed Little Shop of Horrors has been performed on thousands of stages (including many, many school plays), and for good reason — it’s 90 minutes of demented, outrageous fun. The score, written by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman (the team behind The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin), is some of their best work, mixing catchy pop tunes with hilarious lyrics. Rick Moranis is endearingly hapless as usual, and the star — man-eating plant puppet Audrey II — has more charisma than most humans. However, Steve Martin might just steal the show as the sadistic leather-clad dentist Orin, whose drill you don’t want to be anywhere near. Treat yourself to a trip down Skid Row this Halloween.
Straight from the mind of the macabre master, Frankenweenie feels like Tim Burton’s ultimate passion project. A stop-motion remake of his 1984 live-action short, this feature-length version is packed with charm and genuine creepiness at every turn. Frankenweenie is a horror-comedy retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, except this time Victor Frankenstein is a kid, and the monster? His re-animated dead dog. You get the picture. Shot in black and white, the film recalls classic monster movies, complemented by Tim Burton’s striking character designs that crank into life in true Ray Harryhausen style. Dealing with tragedy, comedy, friendship and grief with real tenderness, Frankenweenie will bring chills — and maybe some tears — to the whole family. Particularly if you have a beloved pet.