5 Halloween Horror DVDs You Can Show Your Kids With Minimal Psychological Damage
Assuming you've been able to shield your children from the Hostel and Saw movies on DVD (not to mention the scarier selections in Movieline's Halloween 25), there are plenty of great films out there that provide fun scares while remaining safely kid-appropriate. Before you know it, your little moppets will be adolescents who will be completely jaded by the splatteriest of gorefests, so enjoy this magical moment before their innocence is forever shattered with these flicks that will entertain the whole family.
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
Horror comedies often tread a fine line -- you want to keep things light and amusing while also maintaining a sense of spookiness and suspense, and those are two plates that are particularly tough to keep spinning simultaneously. So kudos to this comedy classic for featuring some immortal Bud-and-Lou repartee while managing to work in Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney, Jr. (reprising their respective roles as Dracula and the Wolf Man) in addition to the titular creature. It's an all-star crossover that still works, and it was obviously a major influence on the equally kid-friendly The Monster Squad.
Speaking of all-star casts, this Japanese monster epic does for zipper-backed Tokyo-stompers what Irwin Allen disaster movies did for underemployed Oscar winners: Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah, Rodan, and all the other Toho heavy-hitters get their moment in the spotlight. I once screened DAM! at a children's film festival, and the climactic battle so excited one 5-year-old girl that she began literally jumping up and down in her theater seat. And really, any vintage kaiju movie will entrance kids -- fans of Gamera have the good fortune of having lots of newly-released DVDs to choose from. Shout! Factory has put together great collections of the original 1960s movies while Mill Creek Entertainment just gave us a Blu-Ray featuring the two 1990s reboots. (Not only are these latest Gamera flicks just as fun as the old ones, they stomp the awful Americanized Godzilla into the dust.)
Any of American International Pictures' Poe adaptations (with the exception of the bleakly horrifying The Conqueror Worm, which isn't really based on Poe anyway) makes for a great evening of family viewing, but perhaps the most fun of the lot is this terribly tongue-in-cheek adaptation of the popular poem, featuring its own cast of horror all-stars, including Vincent Price, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre. (The presence of a young Jack Nicholson is just icing on the cake.)
Another Vincent Price gem is this William Castle favorite, about a creature whose attacks on humans can only be nullified if they, as Pee-Wee's Playhouse would put it, "Scream real loud!" Parents with a devilish sense of humor could try to restage Castle's "Percepto" gimmick, in which theater seats were wired to buzzers during a scene when the onscreen monster crawls into a movie palace. When Price intones, "The Tingler is loose in THIS theater!" sneak up on your kids and give them a little pinch on the leg. They'll thank you for it later.
Something Wicked This Way Comes
If you haven't already freaked out your children by taking them to an actual circus, this movie will just as effectively make them avoid the big top for the rest of their lives. In this darkly atmospheric Disney adaptation of the chilling Ray Bradbury tale, the denizens of a small town learn the hard way to be careful what you wish for when a traveling carnival offers to fulfill their deepest desires. This is one of those movies that scared the bejeesus out of kids in theaters and on cable, and now those kids are old enough to share it with their own progeny.