Posted on Tuesday, October 13th, 2015 by Jacob Hall
This weekend sees the release of Goosebumps, the big-screen adaptation of the book series that introduced countless kids to the horror genre. I should know – I’m one of them. The movie may be good and it may be bad (we shall seen soon enough), but the books will always be nestled away in the warm folds of my nostalgia. They allowed me, a young coward, to dip my toe into the horror genre and realize that I liked it. I won’t defend them as great (or even decent) literature, but they did what they set out to do: entertain and scare children.
And now, several decades after the fact, I’d like to contribute to the scaring of future children. After all, every kid needs a jolt or two in their life. Every kid needs that one scary story or movie that sticks with them, shapes their dreams and nightmares, and helps make them who they are. So how about we talk about what horror films you can show your kids if they like Goosebumps movie?
Peruse our list of great horror movies for kids after the jump.
This list was constructed by combining the horror movies that defined my childhood with suggestions from horror-loving parents who threw out their best recommendations. I received a ton of good feedback from parents all over my social circle and beyond, but I had to trim the list down to a 15. Not an easy task, but here we are.
There were only two solid rules that went into constructing this thing:
1. In order to qualify, the movie had to be a proper horror movie. This list isn’t about “kids’ horror movies,” it is a list of horror movies that will also appeal to the younger set. This list is intended for people looking for serious suggestions about how to broaden the genre horizons of their kids.
2. Yes, we know you saw Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street when you were six. Good for you. This list focuses on kindler and gentler movies for more cautious watching.
Oh, and the unofficial third rule is that this list isn’t gospel. You know your spawn better than the good folks at /Film. Proceed with all necessary caution.
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
The early Universal monster movies are masterpieces. Evocative, creepy, and full of creatures who are all too human, they are the cornerstone of all modern horror movies and should be seen by everyone with an interest in film. But if you want to introduce a young ‘un to these characters, you may consider starting with Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, the surprisingly good (and surprisingly scary!) comedy spinoff that teams the iconic comedy duo of the title with the entire Universal monsters line-up. The film achieves a tricky balance, with Bud Abbott and Lou Costello’s silly, inspired bits coexisting right alongside the vampires, werewolves, and walking corpses that mean them harm. Although the film does mine comedy from the likes of Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster, it is rarely at the expense of these great characters, who are treated with unexpected level of respect. They are portrayed as an actual threat to our bumbling heroes, who create laughs out of being legitimately terrified.
The Thing From Another World
John Carpenter’s The Thing is a great film. The film that inspired it, 1951’s The Thing From Another World, isn’t quite as good, but it’s a gentler alternative to Carpenter’s visceral masterpiece of gore and paranoia. In other words, this is the first baby step toward a whole new world of horror filmmaking. Still, underestimate the original at your own risk. This is a surprisingly tough and creepy movie, powered by a confidence that is often lacking in ’50s horror. The set-up is the same: a remote arctic research outpost discovers an alien creature frozen in ice, which reanimates and proceeds to make life very difficult for the fleshy human meat bags that stand in its way. The alien is ultimately pretty silly (it’s literally a walking vegetable), but the film makes use of its isolated location and increasingly desperate cast of characters to ratchet up the tension. The monster itself isn’t too scary, but the idea of that monster, in this place, is undeniably effective.
The Creature From the Black Lagoon
If you want to ease a kid into the world of the Universal monsters, you can’t do much better than The Creature From the Black Lagoon. Although it arrived 20 years after the Universal horror heyday, it captures the flavor of those original classics thanks to its truly unique (and just plain cool) main monster. Although the Creature/the Gill Man ultimately becomes a figure as tragic and empathetic as Frankenstein’s monster and the Wolf Man by his third movie, the wildly underrated The Creature Walks Among Us, he’s just a great big pile of awesome in his debut appearance. That super-cool lead monster is supported by a direct, simple adventure plot. Fast-paced and easy to follow, this is one of the more accessible classic horror movies. Kids will immediately latch onto the excitement of a remote expedition… and then the scary fish-man can show up and change everything.
The years after the detonation of the first atomic bombs saw the creation of a new sub-genre. These movies explored the fear that accompanied the thought of nuclear war and the unknown threats that radiation presented to the world. Thus, the giant monster movie was born. Some are classy, elegant and unsettling (the original Japanese Godzilla), others are just an excuse to place a terrified animal on a model town and watch it scramble around, creating a vague sense of destruction. This genre has a lot of entertaining schlock that kids will eat right up, but you might as well start them off with one of the absolute best, a movie that has all of the usual tropes but is actually good. Them! (the exclamation point is required) finds the American Southwest besieged by ants who have grown to the size of trucks thanks to, you guessed it, radiation. After a chilling, no-punches-pulled prologue that establishes these insects as credible villains that totally deserve to be flamethrower-ed to death, the film launches into a breathless plot filled with non-stop action, surprisingly great ant puppets, and an actual sense of scope. Unlike most B-movies of this ilk, Them! feels larger than the desert it was shot in. This is the high water mark of American “giant animals stomp cities” movie.
Kids (or at least the kids of people who spend way too much time reading movie websites) like monsters. Imaginative children can’t help but have a little sympathy for the devils of cinema. It’s easy to fall in love with a giant lizard or a vampire who makes that cape look real good. Eventually, all little monster fans need to confront The Fly. Just as good – but not as widely respected – as David Cronenberg’s 1986 remake, the 1958 original is a deeply personal, powerfully emotional film disguised as B-movie junk. The monster of the title may look like a threat, but he’s just a pathetic thing, the result of an experiment gone wrong. What goes down between this former scientist and his traumatized wife is gruesome, icky stuff. It’s just gnarly enough to get youngsters on board with more unpleasant horror movies. Even if the subtext goes over their heads, it’s still a movie featuring a wild-looking fly-man and the shocking ending (“Help meeee!“) will leave a lasting impression on any young mind. Plus, this will be the first Vincent Price movie for many kids, which means that it is one of the most important moments in the life of any burgeoning horror fan.