Saturday, 2 July 2011

Family Friendly Horror

As fatherhood looms ever closer, I find myself in a perpetual battle with my fine lady over just which horrors will be suitable for out baby girl and at what age. I argue that I saw HALLOWEEN and THE OMEN when I was barely seven years old, and yes, they scared the unearthly shit outta me, but they helped forge my lifelong love affair with the macabre. She argues that such films are too strong in content for a 7/8 year old, and that I've, 'lost my damn mind'. I'm pretty sure shes right about that, and that just pisses me off, folks.

I'm determined to be one of those cool parents who's kid grows up and boasts about them. The open minded, relaxed, 'rock 'n' roller', type. As the years roll on, though, my grasp on coolness fades relentlessly; the least I can do is pass on my passion for horror to my girl.
Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't ever show her anything she didn't want to see, and I do believe that many, many films are totally unsuitable for children, but I believe there are perhaps hundreds out there that can be viewed by the whole family, in a harmless and fun way. As time rolls on, what used to be terrifying has become increasingly tame. Think of the universal horrors from the 1930/40's. Those films are very tame by today's standards, yet some would be too intense for a child. I'd happily allow my daughter to watch FRANKENSTEIN and its sequels, but would steer well clear of THE BLACK CAT, for instance. You see where I'm coming from? Good.

So, for all you poor souls out there who are suffering a similar dilemma as my own, here's a small list of some films I think the whole family can enjoy. This lot are pretty safe. Occasionally scary, and always a great spooky time. Age wise, lets say I believe these could all be viewed by any kid over 7 years old. With luck, they will instill the wonder and magic in your child that you once felt, with minimal scares. I hope you have as much fun reading this as I had compiling it. And the beauty here is that all of these films are enjoyable for all the family. Kids will get the frights and the adventure, and you get to relive some magic horror moments, and for a short while, see through the eyes of a child again. Enjoy!


HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL is good creepy fun, and with the legendary Vincent Price starring in one of his most well-loved roles, you just gotta adore it. Nothing too scary in this one, just a decapitated head that looks like it was nicked from a ghost train, and an old woman who pops up occasionally to freak the cast out for no discernible reason. Its very much like a fun-house in film form, and the kids will eat it up.

 BASKERVILLES is one of Hammers finest horrors, though by today's standards, very tame. Teach your young ones the beauty of watching Peter Cushing in his prime, playing Sherlock Holmes! These older films are great for the kids, and while some may get a little scared, that's all part of the fun. There's an innocence with these films that will help alleviate your guilt. Not to mention action and mystery aplenty. Also of note, the fabled 'hound of hell' is clearly a Labrador with a Halloween mask on, or something...

 MONSTER HOUSE is something of a modern children's classic. Its a throwback to the 80's films mummy and daddy grew up loving, before the moral crowd stopped kids being kids. Think THE GOONIES set around the season of the witch, and your pretty much there. Its a great film for sharing on Halloween night. There's adult humor, great animation and a whole bunch of very lovable characters to steal your little horror fans heart. And that joke about the Vulva? I didn't get it, so I'm sure your rug rats wont either...

Who doesn't love the Gill-man, the ever-horny CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON who just wants some damn peace and quiet and maybe to get himself laid? Don't worry, the kids wont grasp any of that, although this is still a pretty risky one, as despite his inherent awesomeness, our fish faced pal remains quite a frightening figure to this day. The film is a stone cold classic, and if your kid can handle it, they'll thank you later. If they can't, they'll curse your name from their jail-cell...

MONSTER SQUAD is pure 80's gold. Its THE GOONIES meets the Universal monsters, and is on a par with the very best kids movies from that era. Its jokes are close to the bone, with some swearing, (I know, I know, your kids don't swear. They're perfect), and provides a fine introduction to the boogeymen of old. Dracula, The Frankenstein Monster, The Wolfman, Gill-man and The Mummy are all here. We all loved this as kids, your kids will love it too!

 I remember standing in line to see GREMLINS on release and being turned away. Set the wrongs of the past right, by letting your little ones fall in love with Gizmo, and get the shivers from Stripe and his motley crew of demons. This one does get a little scary at times, but its all offset with cute comedy and the zany antics of the little green bastards themselves. When they're not slaughtering people, that is. 

THEM! is the grandaddy of all giant bug movies. One of the first and certainly one of the best. The ants look as fake as all shit these days, so it shouldn't cause any sleepless nights, and there's a fun cast of characters. For the boys you've got the cool-breeze military guy, and the gals get a sassy scientist. And you get to relive a classic from a time you wished you'd lived in. 

THE RAVEN barely qualifies as a horror movie at all. Its a magical comedy that just happens to inhabit the world Roger Corman created, when he took it upon himself to adapt Poe's work. The other films in the series are, for the most part, serious psychological affairs, but this one is plain fun. Lots of cool retro sorcery effects too, that the kids will dig.

Ive never been too keen on Disney's foray into children's horror. But I'm assured by all and sundry that I'm wrong, and that THE WATCHER IN THE WOODS is a family classic. Its beloved by many for its tight scary atmosphere and sense of wonder. Whatever, your kids will love it. So will you, probably. I'll be in the pub not giving a rats ass... 

MAD MONSTER PARTY is a long forgotten gem of animation. A celebration of the classic horror we all know and love. The characters are cute, its got plenty of singalong songs for the kids, despite one or two of the songs having the effect on an adult that's akin to ramming a pen into your earlobe. It works hard to maintain the Gothic feel of the films it remembers. There is some weird shit in here that will keep you amused too, like the singing granny character. Amused, or terrified. Its a toss up.


  1. I really enjoyed this review :) There are some titles here that I have yet to see... I am going to have to look into them :) Thank you for sharing these films I look forward to diving into them :)

  2. You'll love em, Im sure. which ones have you yet to see?

  3. Creature from the black lagoon, The Monster Squad, and Them :)

  4. I'm completely intrigued about 'Mad Monster Party'. I have never heard of it.
    'Monster House' is a great halloween film - I love the "dirty pirates" (there was a vulva joke?).

    I think every child is different when it comes to horror sensitivity. My son has always been very relaxed about horror. The one thing that freaked him out when he was younger was a movie about Anne Bolelyn. Her execution wasn't especially graphic - blood spattered across the crowd - but he was really shaken. Why? Because he loves history and he knew it really happened. He's always far more disturbed by the 6 o'clock news than the fantasy of horror flicks.

  5. MMP is a really rare one.I used to watch it as a kid all the time and had forgotten all about it till a few years back.If you can find it, its a great one for yourself and the kids. It works hard to maintain that gothic feel of the classics. I think we'll gauge our daughters reactions early on with some Frankenstien etc and take it from there.I agree about the news, the worlds a far sicker place than any of us horror fans. And yeah, there was a vulva joke, and I managed to miss the boat like 10 times watching it! thank for reading!