Get into the Halloween spirit – throw these movies on to set the mood tonight.
Because I’m resident horror guy with most of my friends, I get asked for lists of “scary movies” that have an attachment to them all the time. Like, “some scary movies I can watch with my kid” or “scary movies to show my partner who’s super jumpy” or “scary movies that won’t end with me getting committed”. Wimps. Anyway, so a friend of mine asked me to put together this list – five all ages movies he could put on for his kid’s Halloween party. So, no showing them Human Centipede this time around.
So the idea I had was two parts – tame enough that kids in their early teens can see them and won’t be scarred for life, and as it’s a party – movies with enough good parts that you could walk in and out of the room and still catch a good scene here and there. There’s plenty that you could sub in for a good “adults only” party, but, and I’m going to try to be gentle here – if you’re sitting around watching movies, is it really a “party”?
This movie has got everything you need for a party. It’s essentially the Goonies getting dropped into the Universal Monsters house. In an effort to be as 80s as the 80s could possibly be, Fred Dekker (also the creator of the awesome “Night of the Creeps”) lets the kids do exactly what any kid in an 80s movie would do. Since they’re all obsessed with horror movies they start a club about them – and when they discover monsters have moved into town, they do the one thing they know they have to – they start a plan to kill them all off.
And yes, I totally have that shirt in my dresser.
Add in a soundtrack that sounds like the B-Sides to a Tommy Shaw album, a montage of kids getting ready to kick butt and the immortal line “Wolfman’s got nards!” and you’ve got a solid party starter.
This one’s light enough for kids to handle (oh no! Spiders!), but funny enough for the parents to get a laugh or two out of it. John Goodman’s role as Delbert is not to be missed. The basic premise is that notorious horror villain Julian Sands (foreshadowing, anyone?) accidentally lets what has got to be the most poisonous spider ever make its way from Venezuela to the US, feasting on the corpse of a photographer the whole way. Whoops.
Well, the spider decides the funeral home isn’t for him and moves into the barn of newly transplanted Jeff Daniels. People start getting bit and die left, right and center and nobody can seem to figure out what’s causing it until – you guessed it – Julian Sands shows up and explains the whole thing as super murderous soldier spiders, or something like that. The three set out to save the town, but instead Jeff Daniels decides it’s a better idea to just set his house on fire, save a bottle of wine, kill the queen spider and move back to San Francisco. Not that anyone can blame him. Spiders. Yikes!
This is one of those blockbuster horror movies that doesn’t get nearly enough credit. Nicole Kidman plays loving mother to two kids who have a weird illness making them extremely sensitive to light. As a result, the country manor they live in out in the middle of nowhere is constantly boarded up – shades drawn, no one going in or out. As remote as it starts in location, the atmosphere makes it feel more and more isolated, escalating to an ending that is simple but effective. Interesting piece of trivia – the movie was the first ever English speaking only film to win “Best Film” at Spain’s Goya Awards (their version of the Oscars).
I’m throwing this one in the middle because that’s going to be the time, roughly, where the least people would be paying attention – the kids will be finishing Trick R Treating, the drinking will have gotten started at this point, and some of the parents will be making hasty exits to get home before the kid wakes back up. Perfect to fill dead air, and fine to watch, but not something you’re exactly going to kick yourself over if you miss half of it.
Come on, you know you love Beetlejuice. Michael Keaton acting like a completely out of his mind meth-head ghost, Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis as the newly dead Maitlands, and the oh-woe-is-me Winona Ryder in her real breakout role. Plus, it’s quite possibly the best movie Tim Burton ever made (big statement, I know) – it’s all the weird that he could fit into one film, but doesn’t go over the top to get to that level of pretentious excessively weird that became his trademark by the time he was making movies like Mars Attacks! or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Seriously, that’s just too goddamn weird.
Instead, we get this weird idea of what life might be like in a sort of absence of life. There’s the obvious part of that – a lot of the characters are ghosts. But, even the Deetz family have a lack of life, in terms of losing everything they knew in a social life by moving to the country. The best part, though? It’s hilarious. At this point in the party, most of the guests are probably going to be three sheets to the wind, so expect a chorus when the Harry Belefonte “Banana Boat Song” comes on.
By this point, most of the kids have headed home, leaving the adults in the mood for something a little more creepy. If there’s one thing The Ring can promise – it’s creepy. Sure, the Japanese original, Ringu, is pretty much superior. But try telling that to a bunch of half-drunk soccer moms who are going “Oh come on, just put on something SCARY! I don’t want to have to read a bunch of sub titles!” Play it safe, go American on this one. Besides, Gore Verbinski really shows why he’s now considered one of the best directors in Hollywood here. He gives you a film that’s designed to have an effect on multiple levels – the visuals are consistently unsettling, even disturbing at times, but only occasionally does he cross the threshold into pure horror.
Most of the time he gives you something weird to look at and your own imagination to work out what the cause of it is. The plot itself is slow, giving it time to reveal the whole story. The only complaints coming away from it are subtitles. Naomi Watts plays a character that at times can be pretty one dimensional. The plot never really fully explains itself in a way that makes sense, so it’s just kind of brought to an abrupt end. But, by this point in the night, the party will probably be in the same shape – coming to that abrupt but inevitable end. Someone’s passed out on the couch. There’s empties in the bushes. The dog won’t stop hiding under the bed upstairs. It’s time to call it a night, kids.
So there you have it – just a quick list, nothing too fancy.
Have a fun and safe Halloween, and if you watch any good horror – comment below and let us know what you saw!