For many horror fans with kids, deciding which scary films are appropriate for children can be a challenge. It’s natural to want to pass on a love of the macabre to our offspring and bond over a shared interest in horror, but we also want to protect our children from nightmares or from being scarred by exposure to gratuitous onscreen violence. There are some more obvious kid-friendly choices like The Watcher in the Woods or Something Wicked this way Comes but it can be tricky to determine what is and isn't age-appropriate when it comes to films that were not necessarily made with children in mind. To remedy this, we've begun a recurring segment that spotlights classic titles we deem suitable for most young viewers... at least those old enough to understand the difference between fantasy and reality. Do keep in mind that these are our opinions, and only you know best what your little monsters are ready to see. See part one of this feature here.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (1973)
This 1973 horror classic is easily one of the best made-for-television horror films ever made. It deftly blends suspense and horror with a premise that builds up to an unexpected and unsettling conclusion. Since Don’t be Afraid of the Dark was made for television, it is mostly free of any excessive violence or language that might be deemed inappropriate for younger viewers. This classic flick is likely a safe for pre teens and up and a great option to ease your youngsters in to the world of genre film.
Though it carries an R-rating, Psycho isn’t nearly as violent or risqué as films that are granted an R-rating today. Also, since the film is presented in black and white, it minimizes the impact of the one scene that may be a bit harrowing for viewers not accustomed to genre film. Also, Norman Bates is so disarming that he is less prone to cause nightmares than the likes of more menacing horror film killers than Frederick Krueger or Michael Myers.
Tibor Takacs struck gold with this 1987 horror feature. While it may be too intense for very young viewers, it’s definitely safe for children that are old enough to discern the difference between fantasy and reality. The subject matter gets a little dicey in a few scenes but there isn’t an excessive amount of bloodshed, the language is also mostly kept in check, and it has a happy ending.
This horror/comedy hybrid is lighthearted enough to keep most younger viewers from getting too frightened by the more jarring scenes. The comedic chemistry between the film’s leads (including the late great Harold Ramis) serves to balance out the scenes that might be startling to impressionable viewers. All in all, Ghostbusters is a safe bet for family movie night if your little monsters are able to discern between real and make believe.
Like many of Joe Dante’s films, Gremlins was intended to be family friendly. That isn’t to say that the film isn’t without some legitimate scares but it steers clear of anything too gratuitous or shocking for mature children to handle. Dante is also responsible for several other family-friendly genre pictures like Innerspace, Explorers, and many more.
Trilogy of Terror
Trilogy of Terror, like Don’t be Afraid of the Dark, is a made-for-television film that relies more heavily on atmosphere than it does ultra violence or other tactics that may be inappropriate for highly impressionable viewers. The late Karen Black was great as she took on four different roles in this film that debuted as an ABC Movie of the Week.