Let’s first clear up what a “family-friendly” horror movie is. Clearly, you’re not going to want to show this stuff to squeamish little siblings if it’s just going to scar them. Unless it’s part of your plan of course, but that’s your own business. Sam Raimi’s “Drag Me To Hell,” out this week, has been designated by the MPAA as kosher for all human Americans aged 13 and older. From what I hear, it’s also a hella scary ride.
Director Sam Raimi is very good at capturing disturbing imagery on film. Stuff that just doesn’t quite look right. There’s his “Evil Dead” series of course. And the hard-to-find classic “Crimewave” (written by Ethan and Joel Coen) is filled with twisted absurdity. Even “Spider-Man” had its share of chilling imagery and occasional jump scares. Raimi’s not the only one out there who’s interested in scaring children however. Check out these other examples of family friendly horror flicks.
Talk all you want about how director Ivan Reitman’s “Ghostbusters” is a comedy first and foremost. It wasn’t so funny when I hid behind my father’s shoulder at the movie theater back in 1984. Embarrassing childhood anecdotes aside, I can’t imagine “Ghostbusters” seeming as scary to kids today. Computer generated characters -- like Jar Jar Binks or Tom Hanks in “The Polar Express” -- are way more frightening than any Slimer or Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man I saw as a kid.
Okay, now director Fred Dekker’s “The Monster Squad” is funny. It is the first horror flick in film history to provide scientific proof that the Wolfman does indeed have ‘nards. The plot follows a group of nerdy kids who discover that Dracula has taken up residence in their town. Not only that, but he’s brought some friends: Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, the Gill Man (i.e. the creature from the Black Lagoon) and the Mummy. Drac plans to take over the world with the help of a magical amulet, and the only ones who can stop him are -- you guessed it -- the Monster Squad!
Director Joe Dante’s “Gremlins” is a movie that every kid should see, if only to be educated on the three most important rules of owning a pre-transformation Gremlin: don’t expose them to sunlight, don’t get them wet and for heaven’s sake, don’t feed them after midnight. Do so at your own risk, as stars Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates learn when their sleepy little town is infested by a horde of green, slobbering beasties. That’s what you get for letting them indulge in midnight snacks.
For those of you with truly meek and timid younger siblings, “The Haunted Mansion” is about as tame as horror gets. Then again, this is Disney we’re talking about. Disturbing imagery is a no-no and even ghosts have to get a second chance. Based on the popular theme park ride, “The Haunted Mansion” follows Jim Evers (Eddie Murphy) and his family as they cleanse a house of spirits. Note, I didn’t say evil spirits. There’s a bit of that of course -- can't have an adventure without a proper villain -- but most of those ghosts are just looking for a way to go into the light.
Before you “Twilight”-ers start raising a ruckus about how “Twilight” isn’t actually horror, I have one word for you: Vampires. There may be no blood-sucking, no fangs and no gore whatsoever, but is there any better way to expose younger loved ones to these classic horror movie monsters without actually scaring the crap out of them?