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Top 13 Halloween Films For Kids

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Halloween is here again. The costumes are made and the pumpkin lanterns are ready to light. But how do you fill the time before trick or treating? Let Cinema Paradiso suggest a few scary movies to suit children of all ages, as well as those big kids who have never grown up!

Picking the right film for Halloween can be a nightmare. You want to spook the older kids without traumatising them and send a shiver through the younger ones while stopping short of scaring them. Watching Halloween films with the whole family in familiar surroundings can help children overcome their fears, as they feel secure and know reassurance is at hand should things get too creepy. Some will be peering through their fingers from the opening credits, while others will get a thrill out of white-knuckling their way to the end without diving behind the sofa.

Grown-ups will always be the best judge of what the children in their care can tolerate when it comes to chillers. But, while they may remember some classics from their own childhoods, they might not always know what other films are available to view. Whether it's gentle jolts or heart-skipping shocks you're after, Cinema Paradiso has something to suit everyone, from the tiniest toddler or intrepid tween to the toughest teen.

We have divided this article into categories we hope will help you to make informed choices. When renting films to watch with your children, however, remember to check out the certificate on the DVD, Blu-ray, or 4K cover. It's usually visible on a film's Cinema Paradiso listing. But you can also double check rating on the website of the British Board of Film Classifation (BBFC).

Animation For All

A still from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
A still from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

It shows how much tastes have changed down the years that Walt Disney's first animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), was given an 'A' for adults only certificate by the British Board of Film Censors when it reached the UK. Eighty-five years later, it's available to rent from Cinema Paradiso with a 'U' for universal tag and a BBFC warning that it contains 'very mild scary scenes'. The Wicked Queen must be losing her touch, while a headless horseman is no longer considered as terrifying as it once was, as Disney's double bill of The Adventures of Ichabod & Mr Toad (1949) has also made the A/U transition. We suggest you stick to this version of Washington Irving's grisly tale rather than subjecting anyone under 15 to Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow (1999).

Despite it being a staple of American schedules at this time of the year, Bill Melendez's It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966) isn't available on disc in the UK. Fans of Charles M. Schultz's sublime Peanuts cartoons will have to make do with Snoopy Come Home (1972) and A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969) on The Peanuts 2 Movie Collection. We can, however, bring you Don Bluth's The Secret of NIMH (1982), which has its darker moments with cats and rats as field mouse Mrs Bixby goes in search of medicine for her sick son.

Welsh mythology provides the background to Disney's overlooked fantasy, The Black Cauldron (1985), which was the studio's first PG movie. It's now U rated, but the battle between Taran the pig keeper and the Horned King for control of the medieval kingdom of Prydain might still unsettle the youngest viewers. Under-tweens might also struggle with the Studio Ghibli quartet of My Neighbour Totoro (1988), Kiki's Delivery Service (1989), Spirited Away (2001), and Howl's Moving Castle (2004). These anime were all directed by the great Hayao Miyazaki, with the first centring on an encounter between two sisters and a wood sprite and the second on a good witch on her broomstick. Nominated for an Oscar, the third confronts a young girl with ghosts and witches as she tries to help the parents who have been turned into pigs, while the last boasts a witch, a sorceress, a fire demon, and a talking scarecrow.

Now 82, Miyazaki has just come out of retirement to make The Boy and the Heron (2023), which will soon be in cinemas and on disc. Possessing an equally vivid imagination, Tim Burton is showing no signs of slowing down at the age of 65. Cinema Paradiso users reading about his career in one of our popular Instant Expert Guides will realise that he is a godsend around Halloween, as so many of his films have a dark side that makes for perfect viewing as the nights draw in.

We'll come on to his live-action classics later, but Burton also has two animated gems on his CV. In Corpse Bride (2005), Victorian groom Victor Van Dort (Johnny Depp) accidentally proposes to a cadaver named Emily (Helena Bonham Carter), while Frankenweenie (2012) sees Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) try to resurrect his deceased dog, Sparky, in a monochrome expansion of a short that Burton had made at Disney in 1984. As a producer, Burton has also teamed with director Henry Selick on The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), in which Pumpkin King Jack Skellington tries to seize control of the festive period.

Selick has since gone on to make James and the Giant Peach (1996) and Coraline (2009), which were respectively adapted from stories by Roald Dahl and Neil Gaiman. The former follows a 1940s orphan on an adventure after escaping from his horrible aunts, Sponge (Miriam Margolyes) and Spiker (Joanna Lumley), while the latter ventures into a parallel universe in which a young girl (Dakota Fanning) ignores the warnings of neighbours April Spink (Jennifer Saunders) and Miriam Forcible (Dawn French) and goes through a door into the Other World, where she finds a different version of her mother (Teri Hatcher).

A still from ParaNorman (2012)
A still from ParaNorman (2012)

The Laika company behind Coraline was also responsible for Sam Fell and Chris Butler's ParaNorman (2012), another stop-motion masterclass that shows how 11 year-old Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee) uses his ability to converse with the dead in order to save the Massachusetts town of Blithe Hollow from the zombies that have been re-animated by a 17th-century girl who was accused of witchcraft. Meanwhile, Selick has directed Wendell & Wild (2022), which was scripted by Jordan Peele, who had won an Oscar with the screenplay for his own directorial debut, Get Out (2017). Peele and comedy partner Keegan-Michael Key voice the eponymous duo of evil spirits, whose bid to con a 13 year-old girl into letting them enter the human world is resisted by nun teacher, Sister Helley (Angela Bassett).

Rated 12A, this isn't one for younger children, who would be much better off with Alvin, Simon, Theodore, and Dave in the Kathi Costillo duo of Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein (1999) and Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet the Wolfman (2000). Pixar serve up another child-friendly double in Pete Docter's Monsters, Inc. (2001), in which bedroom critters Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and John P. 'Sully' Sullinger (John Goodman) grow increasingly fond of an unfazed toddler named Boo (Mary Gibbs), and Dan Scanlon's prequel, Monsters University (2013), which sees Mike and Sully first meet Randall Boggs (Steve Buscemi), Roz (Bob Pederson), and the Abominable Snowman (John Ratzenberger) while taking the Scarer Programme under Dean Abigail Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren).

Bikini Bottom is the scene for the 10 stories on offer in SpongeBob SquarePants: Halloween! (2002), but access is currently denied to Spookley: The Square Pumpkin (2004), an adaptation of a Joe Trolano book that has a cult following Stateside. Also missing are Disney offerings like Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie (2005) and The Scariest Story Ever: A Mickey Mouse Halloween Spooktacular! (2017). But Cinema Paradiso kids can enjoy the sight of Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy trying to recover their home from Jafar, Captain Hook, Cruella de Vil, Ursula, Hades, Kaa, and the Queen of Hearts in Mickey's House of Villains (2002).

There's homegrown genius on display in Nick Park and Steve Box's Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005), which sees the Wensleydale-gobbling inventor and his long-suffering canine companion turning the might of Anti-Pesto on the greedy bunny threatening Tottington Hall's annual giant vegetable competition. Fiendish ingenuity has turned the Kingdom of Malaria into a haven for mad scientists. But the eponymous hunchbacked minion (John Cusack) in Igor (2008) makes all the wrong waves at the Evil Science Fair when he forgets to activate the evil bone in the giantess he has built and winds up with the sweet-natured Eva (Molly Shannon).

Shannon and co-star Steve Buscemi (who voices an immortal rabbit named Scamper) can also be heard in the first entry in a franchise that similarly seeks to give familiar horror tropes a makeover. In Genndy Tartakovsky's Hotel Transylvania (2012), Dracula (Adam Sandler) disapproves of his 118 year-old daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) falling for a human guest (Andy Samberg). Mavis and Johnny marry and Dracula frets in Hotel Transylvania 2 (2015) that his grandson isn't a vampire and summons his own father, Vlad (Mel Brooks), to scare some sense into him. Drac is the one causing concern in Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation (2018), as he falls for ship's captain Ericka (Kathryn Hahn) while on a cruise, only for Mavis to discover that she's a member of the vampire-hunting Van Helsing family.

Tartakovsky handed the reins to feature debutants Derek Drymon and Jennifer Kluska for Hotel Transylvania: Transformania (2022), which follows Drac (Brian Hull) and Johnny to South America, where they have to find a way of switching back after the Count becomes human and his son-in-law turns vampire. An unwelcome change in circumstances also theatens to ruin Halloween for Susan 'Ginormica' Murphy (Reese Witherspoon) and her friends in Monsters vs Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins From Outer Space (2009). Perhaps you'd like to twin this with another TV special, Scared Shrekless (2010), in which the amiable ogre (Mike Myers) proposes a spooky story contest, or with the Pixar short, Toy Story of Terror! 2013), which tasks Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz (Tim Allen) with finding Mr Potato Head after he goes missing at a mysterious motel.

A still from Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest (2013)
A still from Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest (2013)

Equally short and sweet is Dear Dracula (2012), which has horror nut Sam (Nathan Gamble) getting a surprise visitor after he sends a fan letter to Dracula (Ray Liotta) in Hollywood. There are six stories about everybody's favourite inquisitive monkey in Curious George: Spooky Fun (2012), while he learns about the legends and traditions related to All Hallows' Eve in Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest (2013). Seven episodes are on offer in the Henson Studios compilation, Dinosaur Train: Spooky Adventures (2010), as Dad, Buddy, and Tiny discover some fascinating facts about nocturnal animals.

Guillermo Del Toro is among the producers of Jorge R. Gutiérrez's The Book of Life (2014), which follows bullfighter Manolo (Diego Luna) on his excursions to the Land of the Remembered and the Land of the Forgotten, as he discovers whether he'll fulfil his ambition to become a musician. Music is also key to Lee Unkrich's Pixar fantasy, Coco (2017), another story set on Dia de los Muertos that accompanies 12 year-old Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) as he seeks his great-great-grandfather, Héctor (Gael García Bernal), after he is accidentally swept out of the Land of the Living.

Myth merges with human emotion in Tomm Moore's Song of the Sea (2014), the middle part of a hand-drawn Irish trilogy that began with The Secret of Kells (2009). The legend of the selkie is explored, as a lighthouse keeper's son blames his younger sister for the loss of their mother. Moore teamed with Ross Stewart on Wolfwalkers (2020), which is set in Cromwellian times and charts the friendship between motherless Robyn and Mebh, a wild child with mystical powers.

Less artistically accomplished, but entertaining in its own way is Jakers: Spooky Storytellers (2004), which presents four creepy tales based on Raloo Farm in Tara, which is home to one Piggley Winks. The Wishbone clan find themselves in a pickle in Monster Family (2017), as Count Dracula (Jason Isaacs) sends Baba Yaga (Catherine Tate) to turn mum Emma (Emily Watson) into a vampire, dad Frank (Nick Frost) into Frankenstein's monster, daughter Fay (Jessica Findlay-Brown) into a mummy, and son Max (Ethan Rouse) into a werewolf. Their efforts to get back to normal continue into Monster Family 2 (2021), while the townsfolk of Bad Blintz crave a little normalcy in The Amazing Maurice (2022), an adaptation of Terry Pratchett's The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents that stars Hugh Laurie as Maurice the talking ginger cat who has trained a band of rats to pose as pests so that he and pied piper Keith (Himesh Patel) can make a fortune by charming them into making an orderly departure. However, all is not as it seems in a burgh suffering a food shortage.

Haven't Got a Scooby

A still from Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!: Series (1970)
A still from Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!: Series (1970)

Hands up if you've heard of Joe Ruby and Ken Spears. How about Iwao Takamoto? Well, the first two developed the series Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! (1969-70), while the third created the characters. Tasked with finding a cross between the sitcoms, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis and I Love a Mystery, and the cartoon pop group, The Archies, the trio came up with four musicians who solved mysteries between gigs with their Great Dane. He was originally called, Too Much, but a TV executive who liked Frank Sinatra's 'Strangers in the Night', insisted on calling him Scooby-Doo after the scat improvisation 'doo-be-doo-be-doo' at the end of the song.

The five members of Mystery Inc. were Fred Jones (Frank Welker), Daphne Blake (Indira Stefanianna), Velma Dinkley (Nicole Jaffe), Norville 'Shaggy' Rogers (Casey Kasem), and Scooby-Doo (Don Messick). They travelled round in a van called 'The Mystery Machine' and debunked supernatural activity by exposing a crook who invariably scowled that they would have gotten away with their crime 'if it weren't for those meddling kids'. Heather North and Pat Stevens took over the roles of Daphne and Velma, who had her own catchphrase, 'Jinkies!' But the focus fell on the cowardly Scooby and Shaggy, who would much rather be scarfing Scooby Snacks than confronting ghouls.

The show's name and format has changed over the years, as it fetched up on different networks. But Cinema Paradiso has a remarkable collection of Scooby discs so that users can follows the adventures over five decades. After the first series ended, the gang teamed up with famous personalities to crack their cases. Consequently, a spectral Paul Revere was unmasked in Scooby Doo Meets the Harlem Globetrotters (1972). These are affectionately remembered by aficionados and can be found on Scooby Doo Movies: Best Of: Vol.1 (1972) and The New Scooby-Doo Movies: The (Almost) Complete Collection (1973), which contains all 24 episodes with the exception of 'Wednesday Is Missing', as the makers of The Addams Family wouldn't clear rights permissions.

Cousin Scooby-Dum and nephew Scrappy-Doo joined the fun at various points, while Marla Frumkin took over voicing Velma. She and Fred were absent from The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo! (1985), while Shaggy, Scooby, and Scrappy headed for a plantation in the Deep South alone in Scooby-Doo Meets the Boo Brothers (1987) and to darkest Transylvannia for Scooby-Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf. This turned out to be Scrappy's swan song and the original quintet reunited for the origins story, A Pup Named Scooby-Doo (both 1988).

Shaggy and Scoob become gym teachers under Miss Grimwood in Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School (1988) and royal food tasters in Scooby-Doo in Arabian Nights (1994). But there was a lull following the death of Don Messick in 1997 and Scott Innes stepped into the breach in Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island (1998), which recast Billy West, Mary Kay Bergman, and B.J. Ward as Shaggy, Daphne, and Velma alongside Fred Welker's Fred. The same crew came together for Scooby-Doo and the Witch's Ghost (1999) and Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders (2000), which were made by Mook Animation in Japan. But an era ended with Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase (2001), as it was the last project on which animation legends William Hanna and Joseph Barbera worked before the former's death. The voice cast would also bid farewell, although Welker remained as the series underwent another reboot.

Casey Kasem returned as Shaggy, while Grey DeLisle and Mindy Cohn signed up to play Daphne and Velma. Welker also took on the title role in What's New, Scooby-Doo? (2002-06). The whole series is available from Cinema Paradiso, as are such spin-offs as Scooby-Doo!: The Winter Wonderdog, What's New Scooby-Doo?: E-scream!, What's New Scooby-Doo?: Ready to Scare, Scooby-Doo!: Scooby-Doo and the Snow Creatures, What's New Scooby-Doo?: Lights! Camera! Mayhem! (all 2002), What's New Scooby-Doo?: Mummy Scares Best (2003), What's New Scooby-Doo?: Homeward Hound, What's New, Scooby-Doo: Merry Scary Holiday (both 2004), and What's New Scooby-Doo?: Recipe for Disaster (2005).

Around this point, somebody thought the franchise needed a live-action movie. Australian Neil Fanning voiced the CGI Scooby, while Scott Innes returned as Scrappy, as a solid cast was assembled to essay Fred (Freddie Prinze, Jr.), Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Shaggy (Matthew Lillard), and Velma (Linda Cardellini). But, despite the presence of Rowan Atkinson, the critics didn't take to the antics on Spooky Island in Raja Gosnell's Scooby-Doo: The Movie (2002) and the gambit was abandoned after Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004).

A still from Scooby-Doo!: Pirates Ahoy! (2006)
A still from Scooby-Doo!: Pirates Ahoy! (2006)

It was a case of friends reunited for the animation duo of Scooby-Doo and the Legend of the Vampire and Scooby-Doo and the Monster of Mexico (both 2003), as Heather North and Nicole Jaffe returned alongside Welker and Kasem as Daphne and Velma. However, Grey DeLisle and Mindy Cohn assumed the roles for a series of feature-length mysteries that is available in its entirety from Cinema Paradiso. It's comprised of Scooby-Doo and the Loch Ness Monster (2004), Aloha, Scooby-Doo!, Scooby-Doo!: Where's My Mummy? (both 2005), Scooby-Doo!: Pirates Ahoy! (2006), Chill Out, Scooby-Doo! (2007), Scooby-Doo and the Goblin King, and Scooby-Doo and the Samurai Sword (both 2009).

As these pictures kept fans happy, the networks tried to repackage the series for a new generation. Hence, Shaggy and Scooby Get a Clue: Vols 1 & 2 (2007) and Scooby-Doo!: Mystery Incorporated (2010-11). Scott Menville and Welker headlined the former, with Kasem guesting as Shaggy's Uncle Albert, while the first cable incarnation cast Welker, DeLisle, and Cohn alongside Matthew Lillard as Shaggy, as an ailing Kasem was only able to guest occasionally as his father, Colton.

There was also a live-action origins story, Scooby-Doo: The Mystery Begins (2009), which teamed the voice of Frank Welker with Nick Palatas as Shaggy, Robbie Amell as Fred, Hayley Kiyoko as Velma, and Kate Melton as Daphne. This spawned a sequel, Scooby-Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster (2010). But the quartet of Welker, Cohn, DeLisle (now credited as Griffin), and Lillard remained busy for the next few years in voicing another batch of animated features that included Scooby-Doo! Abracadabra-Doo (2010), Scooby-Doo! Camp Scare (2010), Scooby-Doo! Legend of the Phantosaur (2011), Scooby-Doo! Music of the Vampire, Big Top Scooby-Doo!, Scooby-Doo! Mask of the Blue Falcon (both 2012).

This ensemble also worked on the short, Scooby-Doo! Spooky Games (2012), before tackling the features Scooby-Doo! Stage Fright (2013), Scooby-Doo! WrestleMania Mystery, Scooby-Doo! Frankencreepy, Scooby-Doo! Moon Monster Madness (2014), and Scooby-Doo and Kiss: Rock 'N' Roll Mystery (2015). The latter would be Cohn's last assignment for Mystery Inc. prior to Kate Micucci stepping into Velma's shoes in Be Cool, Scooby-Doo! (2015).

Just when fans thought they had seen everything, the Mystery Inc. gang were reimagined in puppet form for Scooby-Doo! Adventures: The Mystery Map (2013). The voices sounded familiar, however, although Stephenie D'Abruzzio took on the mantle of Velma. In the meantime, the archives were being plundered for the 'Scooby-Doo! 13 Spooky Tales' selections that included Run for Your 'Rife!, For the Love of Snack, Surf's Up Scooby-Doo! (all 2013), Field of Screams (2014), Ruh-Roh Robot!, and Holiday Chills and Thrills (both 2016). All are waiting for you to click and order.

Forty-six years after Scooby-Doo Meets Batman (1972), the Caped Crusader (voiced by Diedrich Bader) put in another appearance in Scooby-Doo and Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2018). The franchises also share a Lego connection, with the old gang providing the voices for Lego Scooby-Doo!: Haunted Hollywood (2016) and Lego Scooby-Doo!: Blowout Beach Bash (2017). Another famous brand featured in Scooby-Doo! and WWE: Curse of the Speed Demon (2016) before everyone made for the Crazy Q Dude Ranch in Scooby-Doo!: Shaggy's Showdown (2017) and the Rocky Harbor Culinary Resort for Scooby-Doo!: Scooby-Doo and the Gourmet Ghost (2018). Old friend Vincent Van Ghoul turns up in Scooby-Doo! and the Curse of the 13th Ghost (2019), with Maurice LaMarche voicing the warlock persuading the gang to come out of retirement.

As it had been a while since anyone had ventured back into the Great Dane's puppyhood, debuting director Tony Cervone took us to Venice Beach in Scoob! (2020), where a stray (Frank Welker, of course) meets Shaggy (Will Forte), who introduces him to his young friends, Fred (Zac Efron), Daphne (Amanda Seyfried), and Velma (Gina Rodriguez). They are recruited by Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg) to help him stop Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs) and Muttley (Billy West and Don Messick) from unleashing Cerbereus (Fred Tatasciore), the three-headed ghost dog who guards the underworld in Greek mythology. If you think the names of the villains sound familiar, check out Wacky Races (1968-69) and Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines (1969).

A still from Scooby-Doo!: The Sword and the Scoob (2021)
A still from Scooby-Doo!: The Sword and the Scoob (2021)

While this received a theatrical release, Happy Halloween, Scooby-Doo! (2020) became the 34th direct-to-video outing and reunited the regular quartet behind the microphone. They found themselves in Camelot in Scooby-Doo!: The Sword and the Scoob (2021), which saw Jason Isaacs and Nick Frost guest as King Arthur and Merlin. The same year introduced the friends to a terrified pink beagle (Marty Grabstein) in Straight Outta Nowhere: Scooby-Doo! Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog.

Way back in the original live-action movie, Daphne and Velma had shared a kiss that wound up on the cuttting-room floor. But in Trick or Treat Scooby-Doo! (2022), Velma finally came out as a lesbian when she gets a crush on costume designer Coco Diablo (Myrna Velsacso). There's no time for romance in Scooby-Doo! and Krypto, Too! (2023), though, as Mystery Incorporated is called in when the Justice League goes AWOL and Metropolis comes under threat from Lex Luthor (Charles Halford).

This is the latest feature on offer from Cinema Paradiso. But, if you still need a few more Halloween scares, why not seek out Best of Warner Bros.: 50 Cartoon Collection: Scooby-Doo! (2019) or Scooby-Doo and Guess Who?: Series 1 (2019) and Scooby-Doo and Guess Who?: Series 2 (2021), which is the 13th TV series in the franchise and is packed with famous name voiceovers and cameos by the likes of Sherlock Holmes, Wonder Woman, The Hex Girls, Dynomutt, and the Ghost of Abraham Lincoln. And Fred Welker was still voicing Fred Jones, as he has done since the outset. What's not to love?

Witch Way to the Wizards?

As a magician himself, it is only right that Georges Méliès should have produced one of the first films about spells and spooks. Made in 1906, The Witch was handcoloured and still looks ravishing 117 years later, as do the titles on the BFI collection, Fairy Tales: Early Colour Stencil Films From Pathé (2012). They can't quite match the Techicolor majesty of Victor Fleming's The Wizard of Oz (1939), however, which would have come as a surprise to the first audiences after the opening sepia-tinted Kansas sequence. The death of the Wicked Witch of the East earns Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) the enmity of her sister, the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton). But help is at hand in the form of Glinda, the Good Witch of the North (Billie Burke).

Disney asked Walter Murch to put a darker spin on L. Frank Baum's stories in the unofficial sequel, Return to Oz (1985), in which Dorothy (Fairuza Balk) takes on the Nome King (Nicol Williamson). Variations on the theme include Sidney Lumet's The Wiz (1978), Tom and Jerry: Wizard of Oz (2011) and Tom and Jerry: Back to Oz (2016), Leigh Scott's The Witches of Oz (2011), and Brian Michael Stoller's The Wizard of Paws (2015). Stephen Schwartz's 2003 stage musical, Wicked, has yet to be filmed, but Cinema Paradiso users can enjoy Meryl Streep in Rob Marshall's take on the lauded Stephen Sondheim show, Into the Woods (2014).

Witches feature prominently in the classic fairytales of yore, as we saw in the two-part 'Brief History of Pantomime Stories on Film', Part 1 and Part 2. Another article explored the Best Film Quests and Adventures, with the stop-motion animation of Ray Harryhausen adding a frisson of fear to such mythological epics as Nathan Juran's The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), Don Chaffey's Jason and the Argonauts (1963), and Desmond Davis's Clash of the Titans (1981), which would all make for gripping Halloween treats for tweens and overs.

A still from Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)
A still from Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)

Younger viewers can discover Jimmy (Jack Wild) taking on Witchiepoo (Billie Hayes) in Hollingsworth Morse's Pufnstuf (1970) or trainee witch Eglantine Price (Angela Lansbury) confound the Nazis threatening the Dorset village of Peppering Eye in Robert Stevenson's Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971), his hybrid Disney follow-up to Mary Poppins (1964). The village of Little Hemlock provides the setting for the encounters between Penelope Arbuckle (Tina Heath) and a witch only she can see (Sonia Dresdel) in the BBC's Helen Cresswell adaptations, Lizzie Dripping (1973) and Lizzie Dripping Rides Again (1975).

A pair of orphans discover they have psychic and telekinetic powers in John Hough's Disney adaptation of Alexander H. Key's bestseller, Escape to Witch Mountain (1975), which not only produced a sequel, Return From Witch Mountain (1978), which starred Bette Davis and Christopher Lee, but which also merited a remake, with Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson headlining Andy Fickman's Race to Witch Mountain (2009). While these adventures are set in the real world, Halloween is also a good time to watch fantasy films. Two of the best are Jim Henson and Frank Oz's The Dark Crystal (1982), which sees a pair of young Gelflings attempt to remove the evil Skeksis from Planet Thra, and Henson's Labyrinth (1986), which tasks teenager Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) with rescuing her baby brother from Jareth, the Goblin King (David Bowie).

Sarah proves a formidable opponent at 13, but Mildred Hubble (Fairuza Balk) finds it much harder to control her powers at Miss Cackle's Academy For Witches in Robert. W. Young's take on Jilly Murphy's The Worst Witch (1986). Diana Rigg and Tim Curry co-star as Miss Joy Hecate Hardbroom and Grand Wizard Egbert Hellibore, although the roles passed to Kate Duchêne and Terrence Hardiman in The Worst Witch (1998-2001) and to Raquel Cassidy and Nicholas Jones in The Worst Witch (2017-20), which respectively starred Georgina Sherrington and Bella Ramsey.

The books of Margaret Stuart Barry inspired the BBC series, Simon and the Witch (1988), which paired Hugh Pollard and Elizabeth Spriggs as the young boy who makes friends with a mischievous stranger. She's endless fun, but the same can't be sad for Miss Eva Ernst (Anjelica Huston), the Grand High Witch who misuses the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in Nicolas Roeg's gleefully wicked adaptation of Roald Dahl's The Witches (1990). Anne Hathaway similarly seeks to use the RSPCC for nefarious ends in Robert Zemeckis's 2020 remake, The Witches, which relocates the action from Cornwall to Alabama.

Another witchy gem from this period has also recently been given the makeover treatment. In Kenny Ortega's Hocus Pocus (1993), 17th-century Salem witches Winnie (Bette Midler), Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker), and Mary Sanderson (Kathy Najimy) are accidentally revived on Halloween by the smarmy Max Dennison (Omri Katz). The sisters return (again against their will) in Anne Fletcher's Hocus Pocus 2 (2022), after Becca (Whitney Peak) and Izzy (Belissa Escobedo) light a Black Flame Candle at a 16th birthday party. If this duo isn't enough for Wiccaphiles, they are also going to need to rent Andrew Fleming's The Craft (1996) to see what teens Sarah Bailey (Robin Tunney), Nancy Downs (Fairuza Balk), Bonnie Harper (Neve Campbell), and Rochelle Zimmerman (Rachel True) get up to when they dabble witchcraft. What's more, they'll also need to know how things turn out for Lilith Schechner (Cailee Spaeny), Frankie (Gideon Adlon), Tabby (Lovie Simone), and Lourdes (Zoey Luna) when they form a coven in Zoe Lister-Jones's The Craft: Legacy (2020).

There's a mischievous side to the hexes cast by Sabrina Spellman (Melissa Joan Hart), who lives with her 600 year-old aunts and discovers she has special powers on her 16th birthday in Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1996), which launched both a series of the same name (1996-2002) and an animated spin-off, Sabrina the Teenage Witch: Friends Forever (2001). Older teens, however, will probably prefer the dark arts on show in Griffin Dunne's version of Anne Hoffman's novel, Practical Magic (1998), which teams Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman as cursed Massachussets sisters Sally and Gillian Owens, who have to destroy an evil spirit before it kills them.

A still from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) With Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint And Emma Watson
A still from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) With Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint And Emma Watson

Those au fait with the novels of J.K. Rowling will know who poses the threats at Hogwarts in the boy wizard chronicle that is made-up on screen of Chris Columbus's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), Alfonso Cuarón's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), Mike Newell's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), and David Yates's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009), and 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' Parts 1 and 2 (2010-11). Even muggles know that the closing dualogy is a bit dark for younger viewers, but they can rejoin the Wizarding World fun in Yates's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016), Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018), and Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (2022).

Another wizard franchise with a successful spin-off was Peter Jackson's pioneering adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's 'The Lord of the Rings', The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002), and The Return of the King (2003). With Ian McKellen as Gandalf, the latter equalled the record for the most Oscars awarded to a single film (11), but perhaps set a bar that was too high for Jackson's ensuing trilogy inspired by The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), The Desolation of Smaug (2013), and The Battle of the Five Armies (2014).

Long before Jackson came on the scene, Ralph Bakshi had directed an animated version of The Lord of the Rings (1978). The BBC had also produced The Chronicles of Narnia (1988-89), which retold the first three books in a series by Tolkien's Oxford friend, C.S. Lewis. These have since been adapted for the big screen as Andrew Adamson's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) and Prince Caspian (2008), and Michael Apted's The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010). Budgetary issues led to the series stalling, but Disney now owns the rights, so we might finally get to see film versions of those unfashionable series entries, The Silver Chair, The Horse and His Boy, The Magician's Nephew, and The Last Battle.

Another literary fantasy series with Oxford links and Halloween potential was penned by Philip Pullman. But any hopes of seeing the His Dark Materials trilogy on the big screen faded, after The Golden Compass (2007), Chris Weitz's Oscar-winning take on Northern Lights, failed to convince the studio to proceed with The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. Fantasy fans shouldn't despair, however, as there are less vaunted items like Colin Downey's Guardians of the Crown (2014), which follows Matthew (Lorcan Melia) from the bottom of his grandfather's garden to the magical kingdom where the White Witch (Natalia Kostrzewa) is seeking an ancient crown.

A wicked witch (Julie Walters) turns Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) into a bear in Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman's Pixar adventure, Brave (2012), which sends Scottish princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) on a perilous quest to break the curse. The same crowd will also warm to Max Lang and Jan Lachbaur's Room on the Broom (2012), an Oscar-nominated short adaptation of Julia Donaldson's story about a witch (Gillian Anderson) who is helped by a cat (Rob Brydon), dog (Martin Clunes), bird (Sally Hawkins), and frog (David Walliams) after a dragon (Timothy Spall) destroys her broomstick and threatens to eat her.

Aimed at a teen audience, David Gordon Green's Your Highness (2011) accompanies slacker sibling princes Thadeous (Danny McBride) and Fabious (James Franco) in their effort to save the Kingdom of Mourne from the malevolent sorcerer, Leezar (Justin Theroux). Over-15s will also appreciate the knowing humour in Tommy Wirkola's Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013), which sees siblings Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton find a violently vengeful way to overcome a childhood trauma.

A still from The Boxtrolls (2014)
A still from The Boxtrolls (2014)

Alan Snow's book, Here Be Monsters!, provides the inspiration for Anthony Stacchi and Graham Annable's debut feature, The Boxtrolls (2014), in which the orphaned Eggs (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) tries to save a Norvenian cavern-dwelling family from pest exterminator Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley). A missing mother causes Ruby Strangelove (Seanna Pereira) to try out her powers in Evgeny Ruman's Ruby the Young Witch, while the world's first half-witch, half-vampire siblings, Blaz (Mojean Aria) and Velana (Leanne Agmon), join forces to confound some school bullies in Tony Randel's Spooky Kids (both 2015).

Another hybrid child is threatened in Raman Hui's Monster Hunt (2015), which became the highest-grossing film in Chinese cinema history, as people flocked to see a young mayor and a hunter forge an alliance to protect a baby from the dangers of a mythical ancient world. The son of a hero has to emulate his father's past deeds and survive the threat of a witch possessed by a ghost in Manuk Depoyan's Ukrainian fantasy, The Dragon Spell (2016).

It's off to Japan for Hiromasa Yonebayashi's Mary and the Witch's Flower (2017), an anime take on Mary Stewart's 1971 book, The Little Broomstick, which centres on a young girl who discovers she can use the Fly-by-Night flower that only blossoms once every seven years to become a witch for a night. A book by Diana Wynne Jones is behind Goro Miyazaki's Earwig and the Witch (2020), which follows a 10 year-old with no idea about her powers from St Morwald's Home For Children to the abode of the sinister Bella Yaga (Vanessa Marshall) and Mandrake (Richard E. Grant).

Moving back from England in the 1990s to the mid-80s, Richard John Taylor's The Winter Witch (2022) explores the nature of appearances and the danger of mob mentality, as journalist Ingrid Hoffman (Rose Hakki) returns to the village where she had grown up to discover that the residents believe that a curse placed by Frau Perchta is responsible for the woodland deaths of some local children. With its 15 certificate, this isn't for the whole family, but it teaches some valuable lessons and is decidedly unsettling.

Things That Go Bump

While the majority of the animated titles will suit younger children, this section suggests pictures that might appeal to tweenagers who can stand a mild scare or two. These don't necessarily have to involve ghouls and gore. They could be cautionary tales that warn of foul fates, such as those that befall the greedy golden ticket holders in Mel Stuart's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) and Tim Burton's remake of Roald Dahl's classic children's novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005). Golden Globe nominees Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp are about to be joined in the chocolatier stakes by Timothée Chalomet in Paul King's origins story, Wonka, which should hit UK cinemas in December.

Melissa Joan Hart directed a 2017 version of Florence Engel Randall's 1971 novel about two American sisters who bear an uncanny resemblance to a girl who had gone missing three decades earlier. But John Hough's Disney telling of The Watcher in the Woods (1980) is far superior, with a spooky English manor as the setting and Bette Davis on fine form as the mother still grieving for her lost child. Another Disney chiller from this period that really should be on disc is Jack Clayton's take on Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983), which centres on the encounter between neighbour boys who were born a minute apart on Halloween and the sinister Mr Dark (Jonathan Pryce) and his assistant, Dust Witch (Pam Grier).

The behaviour of the government agents and some menacing scientists casts a shadow over the often joyous happenings in Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra Terrestrial (1982), which includes a very special Halloween scene. The tone is slightly darker in Joe Dante's Gremlins (1984), but tweens should enjoy the antics after the strict instructions about caring for a mogwai named Gizmo are not followed to the letter. This currently has a 12A certificate, while Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990) is a 12 because of the mayhem caused in downtown New York by the Brain Gremlin and Mohawk, who were respectively voiced by Tony Randall and Fred Welker of Scooby-Doo fame.

A still from Little Shop of Horrors (1986) With Rick Moranis
A still from Little Shop of Horrors (1986) With Rick Moranis

Even though it contains a plant named Audrey II that has a taste for human flesh, Frank Oz's Little Shop of Horrors (1986) only has a PG tag. We'd make it 18 for the scenes involving Steve Martin's sadistic dentist, but Alan Menken and Howard Ashman's songs take the curse off the story that was originally told by Roger Corman in The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), which is also PG, if you fancy a double bill.

Tweens would also love Fred Dekker's The Monster Squad (1987), as it shows how a bunch of kids their age prevent the classic movie monsters from the 1930s (more of whom anon) from taking over the world. But, despite being co-scripted by Shane Black, this cult curio is currently off limits. Thankfully, the same is not true of Richard Alan Greenberg's Little Monsters (1989), in which 11 year-old Brian Stevenson (Fred Savage) befriends Maurice (Howie Mandell), the monster living beneath his bed, who takes him on a tour of the realm under the floorboards.

Even though it concerns some kindergarten kids on a visit to a petting farm, Abe Forsythe's horror comedy, Little Monsters (2019), is for teens over 15 only, as things get a little messy when some zombies show up. But we're firmly back in tween territory in Stuart Margolin's Double, Double, Toil and Trouble (1993), which sees seven year-old twins Kelly and Lynn Farmer (Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen) lift the curse placed by wicked Aunt Agatha on her sister Sophia, who are both played by Cloris Leachman.

Uncles prove the problem in Brad Silberling's Casper (1995), as Stretch, Fatso, and Stinkie give the eponymous poltergeist a rotten time at Whipstaff Manor until Kat Harvey (Christina Ricci) comes to stay with her father, James (Bill Pullman), who has been hired to de-spook the rundown house that has recently been inherited by Carrigan Crittenden (Cathy Moriarty). This was the first film in Hollywood history with an entirely CGI protagonist, but it's animation all the way in the Sean McNamara duo of Casper: A Spirited Beginning (1997) and Casper Meets Wendy (1998), which is only fair, as the Harvey Comics character started out in cartoon form in the 1950s and three of his adventures are available from Cinema Paradiso on Casper and Friends: Hooky Spooky (1990).

One of the frustrating things about Halloween movies is that so many of them are trapped on exclusive viewing platforms and have not been released on disc in the UK. Take the Disney Channel quartet of Halloweentown (1998), Don't Look Under the Bed (1999), Mom's Got a Date With a Vampire (2000), and Twitches (2005), which would all do brisk rental business. Ho hum!

Let's move on to see how spook-fixated nine year-old Tony Thompson (Jonathan Lipnicki) gets on protecting Rudolph Sackville-Bogg (Rollo Weeks) from dogged hunter Rookery (Jim Carter) in Uli Edel's The Little Vampire (2000). This was remade in CGI form by Richard Claus and Karsten Kiilerich in The Little Vampire (2017), which saw Carter reprise his role as the villain who seeks the Stone of Attamon to consign all nosferatus to the Underworld. Another fine British actor enters into the spirit of things in William Sachs's Spooky House (2001), which draws five kids on Halloween into the dwelling where the illusionist, The Great Zamboni (Ben Kingsley), has been living in seclusion with his pet jaguar, Shadow, since the mysterious disappearance of his wife.

Eddie Murphy also puts on a show as estate agent Jim Evers discovering that Gracey Manor is riddled with ghosts both upstairs and downstairs in Rob Minkoff's The Haunted Mansion (2003), which was inspired by a Disney theme park ride. Justin Simien's Haunted Mansio (2023) rebooted the scenario, with Owen Wilson playing a con artist posing as a priest and Jamie Lee Curtis cameoing as the psychic who releases the ghouls and wounds up as a disembodied head in a crystal ball.

Jim Carrey is at his scene-stealing best as Count Olaf, the stage actor and master of disguise who seeks custody of orphans Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire (Emily Browning, Liam Aiken, and Kara Hoffman) so that he can get hold of their inheritance in Brad Silberling's Lemony Snickert's A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004). With Meryl Streep, Billy Connolly, Timothy Spall, Jennifer Coolidge, Catherine O'Hara, and Jude Law in the supporting cast, there's plenty to amuse the grown-ups here, too. The writing credit for Neil Gaiman should also spark interest in Dave McKean's MirrorMask (2005), which follows circus performer Stephanie Leonidis into a netherworld that looks a lot like the drawings on her bedroom wall.

Also carrying a PG certificate is Mark Waters's The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008), which challenges Jared Grace (Freddie Highmore) with stopping Mulgrath the shape-shifting ogre (Nick Nolte) from stealing a rare 1928 field guide to fairy folk. Another creaky old house guards a secret in Julian Fellowes's From Time to Time (2009), an adaptation of Lucy M. Boston's novel, The Chimneys of Green Knowe, which stars Maggie Smith as Mrs Oldknow and Alex Edel as her grandson, Tolly. The roles were taken by Daphne Oxenford and Alec Christie in the BBC's wonderfully atmospheric serial, The Children of Green Knowe (1986), which is well worth an afternoon of anyone's time.

A still from The Dog Who Saved Halloween (2011)
A still from The Dog Who Saved Halloween (2011)

Strange new surroundings also play tricks on the mind in Joe Dante's The Hole (2009), which reveals what happens when three children move into a house in Benzonville, Oregon and accidentally unleash forces that play on people's fears when they open a trapdoor in the basement. The scares are much gentler in Peter Sullivan's The Dog Who Saved Halloween (2011), a kind of canine variation of Chris Columbus's Home Alone (1990) that pits Zeus (Joey Lawrence) and next-door pooch Medusa (Mayim Bialik) against a pair of hapless housebreakers. And there's more four-pawed fun in Robert Vince's Spooky Buddies: The Curse of the Halloween Hound (2011), which comes forward 71 years from the night that a young boy was turned to stone by a warlock for freeing five imperilled puppies.

The works of R.L. Stine have become popular with film-makers, with Jack Black essaying the author trying to recapture some escaped critters in Rob Letterman's Goosebumps (2015). This spawned Ari Sandel's sequel, Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (2018), in which some kids let the spooks out by opening an unpublished manuscript. Also on offer from Cinema Paradiso are Richard Correll's R.L. Stine: Mostly Ghostly (2008) and Peter DeLuise's R.L. Stine's Monsterville: Cabinet of Souls (2015). And if your tweens can't decide what to watch, why not trick or treat them to a trip to the cinema to see three children get trapped inside a shop selling holiday merchandise in David Poag's Spooky Night: The Spirit of Halloween (2022) ?

Teen Screams

It's surprising how many horrors from yesteryear have had their BBFC certificates lowered. Tod Browning's Dracula was released with an A for adults rating, while James Whale's Frankenstein (both 1931) saw its original A raised to an X when it was re-released in 1957. That year saw Hammer add colour to Mary Shelley's story in Terence Fisher's The Curse of Frankenstein, whose X rating has dipped to a 12, while the same director's Dracula (1958) is now a 12A.

Given these shifts, Cinema Paradiso would reckon that most teenagers would be able to stomach the titles listed in the 'Universal Monsters' section of our article on Top Horror Franchise Movies and the Peter Cushing and Chrisopher Lee classics in the Brief History of Hammer Horror. We would urge caution with the remaining franchises in the first survey, however, as ratings for series like 'Halloween', 'A Nightmare on Elm Street', 'Friday the 13th', and 'Scream' have not changed significantly. The so-called 'video nasties' from the 1980s and many slasher and Italian giallo pictures also still tend to be 18s, but a lot of remakes and reboots also clock in at 15 to ensure a wider audience. Check out the aforementioned articles with your teenagers and use our listings and the BBFC website to make an informed judgement about what's suitable for them to view.

A good place to begin is Herbert R. Strock's How to Make a Monster (1958), which stars Robert M. Harris as a Hollywood make-up artist who exacts his revenge on the studio suits who had fired him to focus on making musicals. Indeed, this would make a fine double bill with George Huang's How to Make a Monster (2001), which brings SFX into the digital age and features four-time Oscar-winning make-up artist, Stan Winston.

Henry James's disturbing short story. 'The Turn of the Screw', was adapted for the screen by Jack Clayton as The Innocents (1961). Showing how the spirit of Peter Quint (Peter Wyngarde) impacts upon the two children in the care of naive governess Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr), this was an X on its release, but is now a 12A. Another child on the receiving end of supernatural forces was played exquisitely by Heather O'Rourke in Tobe Hooper's Poltergeist (1982). Indeed, her delivery of the line, 'They're he-ere!', has gone down in screen history. Gil Keenan's retool, Poltergeist (2015), is less memorable, despite the best efforts of young Kennedi Clements.

One of the great things about having 100,000 titles at your disposal is that you can make new discoveries across the Cinema Paradiso catalogue. Why not try the seven scary segments contained in the anthology movie, The Dungeonmaster (1984), or sample an early entry on Roland Emmerich's CV, Ghost Chase (1987), which follows the efforts of cousins Jason Lively and Tim McDaniel to make a Hollywood horror and find the fortune hidden by their grandfather. We guarantee that you won't find another picture featuring a possessed animatronic butler.

If you fancy a few chuckles with your candy, there's always Rod McDaniel's Teen Wolf (1985), which spawned both Christopher Leitch's sequel, Teen Wolf Too (1987), and the TV series, Teen Wolf (2011-16). It's just a shame we can't bring you Gene Fowler, Jr.'s I Was a Teenage Werewolf or Herbert Strock's I Was a Teenage Frankenstein (both 1957). But we can suggest Martin Wood's Teenage Space Vampires (1999), which charts high-schooler Robin Dunne's bid to confound some darkness-craving aliens.

A still from Ghostbusters 3 (2016) With Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones And Kate McKinnon
A still from Ghostbusters 3 (2016) With Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones And Kate McKinnon

Michael J. Fox played the 17 year-old with lycanthropic tendencies in Teen Wolf and he returned to the comedy horror sub-genre as a door-to-door exorcist in Peter Jackson's The Frighteners (1996). But if you want a spook removing from your property, who you gonna call? Why Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis), and Winston Zeddermore (Ernie Hudson), of course. Following Ivan Reitman's Ghostbusters (1984), the quartet reunited for the same director's Ghostbusters II (1989), which also saw Sigourney Weaver reprise the role of haunted cellist Dana Barrett. She joined Murray, Akyroyd, and Hudson in Jason Reitman's Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021), which attempted to refloat the franchise after the critics had been cruel to Paul Feig's Ghostbusters (2016), which had centred on the all-female crew of Abigail Yates (Melissa McCarthy), Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), Jillian Holtzman (Kate McKinnon), and Patricia Tolan (Leslie Jones).

Desirous of removing the ghosts of Adam and Barbara Maitland (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) from their new home, Charles and Delia Deetz (Jeffrey Jones and Catherine O'Hara) unwisely place their faith in scheming bio-exorcist Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton) in Tim Burton's Beetlejuice (1988). Work is reportedly underway on a sequel, with Keaton and O'Hara set for a reunion with Winona Ryder, who had played Lydia Deetz. She also hooked up with Burton as Kim Boggs in Edward Scissorhands (1990), which is also rumoured to be heading for the sequel treatment, although it's not known whether Johnny Depp will be given a chance to return.

If your thoughts are turning towards a creature feature for Halloween, might we suggest Frank Marshall's spiderfest, Arachnophobia (1990) ? Possibly in a double bill with David R. Ellis's Snakes on a Plane (2006) ? It's not known quite what form of critter Cousin Itt is, but feel free to conduct a little research of your own while watching the original TV series of The Addams Family (1964-65) or the Barry Sonnenfeld duo of The Addams Family (1991) and Addams Family Values (1993), with Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston as Gomez and Morticia, and Christina Ricci as their morbid daughter, Wednesday. Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, and Chloë Grace Moretz voiced the roles in Greg Tiernan's CGI reboots, The Addams Family (2019) and The Addams Family 2 (2021). But don't overlook Herman and Lily, who were played by Fred Gwynne and Yvonne De Carlo in that other 60s classic sitcom, The Munsters (1964-65). They returned for Earl Bellamy's feature spin-off, Munster, Go Home (1966), before the roles passed to Edward Herrman and Veronica Hamel in Robert Ginty's Here Come the Munsters (1995) and Jeff Daniel Phillips and Sheri Moon Zombie in Rob Zombie's The Munsters (2022).

Speaking of iconic television, do make sure your teens know all about Buffy Summers, who was played in 145 episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2002) by Sarah Michelle Gellar after the role had been created by Kristy Swanson in Fran Rubel Kuzui's feature, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992). Also created by Joss Weedon, Angel (1999-2004) followed the close encounters of David Boreanaz's vampire with a human soul, whose relationship with Buffy reminds us of the romance between Bela Swan (Kristen Stewart) and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) in Catherine Hardwicke's adaptation of Stephanie Meyers's bestseller,

Twilight (2008), and its sequels, New Moon (Chris Weitz, 2009), Eclipse (David Slade, 2010), and 'Breaking Dawn', Parts 1 and 2 (Bill Condon, 2011-12).

While we're in franchise country, don't forget how creepy things get as Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) strive to rescue Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) from Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) in Gore Verbinski's Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003). Twelve year-old DJ Walters (Mitchel Musso) finds terror on his own doorstep in Gil Kenan's Oscar-nominated Monster House (2006), as he becomes increasingly suspicious of the behaviour of neighbours Horace and Constance Nebbercracker (Steve Buscemi and Kathleen Turner).

Maggie Gyllenhaal co-stars as Zee the babysitter, but teenager Victoria Justice deeply resents having to mind eight year-old brother Jackson Nicoll in Josh Schwartz's Fun Size (2012), as she's been invited to a cool party. She and best friend Jane Levy decide to go anyway, but panic sets in when there's no sign of Nicoll among the trick or treaters. Four young friends also receive an invitation they can't refuse when they're asked to solve a mystery at a haunted castle in Ruth Treacy's Spooky Stakeout (2016).

Another creepy property, this time in 1950s New Zebedee, Michigan, provides the setting for Eli Roth's adaptation of a 1973 John Bellairs book, The House With a Clock in Its Walls (2018), as 10 year-old orphan Lewis (Owen Vaccaro) comes to live with uncle Jonathan Barnevelt (Jack Black) in a house that was once owned by a warlock and is situated next door to a dwelling inhabited by witch Florence Zimmermann (Cate Blanchett). And the tales of Alvin Schwartz are brought to the screen by writer-producer Guillermo Del Toro and director André Øvredal in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019), which is set in 1968 and follows three frisky kids as they venture into the old dark house in Mill Valley, Pennsylvania that was once owned by the Beddows family and find a book of chilling stories written in the 1890s by a daughter who was accused of witchcraft. It's enough to send you in search of a tome by the modern master of horror writing and Cinema Paradiso users can revisit the films adapted from his novels and story collections in our article, Top 10 Stephen King Films.

A still from The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018)
A still from The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018)
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