I started my official October celebration last week when I launched my month-long series of Halloween-themed Top Fives with my Top Five 2013 Movie-Inspired Costumes. I continue it now with my Top Five Halloween Movies for Kids.
5. Casper (1995)
The movie about everyone’s favorite friendliest ghost. A paranormal expert and his daughter move into a mansion haunted by Casper, the ghost of a young boy, and the ghosts of his three rude uncles. Throw in a couple of sad backstories and you have a charming film that embraces the soul of Halloween. This is a very kid-focused filmed and thus some of the jokes don’t seem so funny now that I’m older. However, the rest of the film stands up pretty well. This is a solid live-action kids film that has enough spook without too much of the cheese.
4. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
Disney released several program features that consisted of multiple short films. This one is made up of two animated shorts and it makes it onto the list mostly because of the second, although The Wind in the Willows has its fair share of eerie elements as well. Mr. Toad’s near death is pretty chilling and the weasels are quite devious. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow moved a little slower than I remembered but I was very young the last time I saw it so I’m sure it seemed to fly by then. The last few minutes are the scariest, peaking with the Headless Horseman chasing Ichabod through a dark forest. Both shorts are well composed and light bits of entertainment. Disney takes on two classic stories with Basil Rathbone and Bing Crosby narrating. What more do you need?
3. The Witches (1990)
The only film on the list that doesn’t take place on or around Halloween. I remember being scared out of my wits by it when I was a kid so I thought it deserved a spot. Plus, it’s about witches, which are definitely Halloweeny. Based on the book of the same name by Roald Dahl, it tells the story of witches whose main pastime is the destruction (polite euphemism for murder) of children. Specifically these witches hatch a plan to turn all the children in the world into mice. One particularly nasty scene involves the witches “revealing” their true forms by peeling away normal looking skin to display their wrinkled and boil-ridden faces. Dahl’s stories were rather dark when you really think about them. It’s a good creepy (but not too creepy) for a dark and stormy Halloween night.
2. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
There seems to be a Peanuts themed short film, or television special, for every holiday and they are always wonderfully endearing. This one focuses on Linus’s obsession with seeing the “Great Pumpkin,” a mythical being who delivers toys and candy to the children of the world on Halloween. No one believes him when he tells them the Great Pumpkin really exists but neither that nor their jokes and laughter will deter him. Children are so quick to believe in fantasy and magic. This film stands as a reminder of that splendid quality of youth, with a bit of Halloween spirit thrown in.
1. Hocus Pocus (1993)
This is another well-done live-action kids film. There doesn’t seem to be many of those nowadays so we must reach back and find some classics. By the way, to make you feel just a little old, this film is twenty years-old (hard to believe, I know). The witchy Sanderson Sisters are awoken thanks to a young boy who inadvertently breaks a spell. The Sisters wreak havoc on Salem, Massachusetts; their main goal to suck the life force out of children. It’s not as violent as it sounds. This is a favorite Halloween film of my generation. While I don’t fully understand the level of obsession with it, I do understand the appreciation. It’s an entertaining and creatively executed film that holds up well after twenty years.