31 Days of Family-Friendly Frights - SantaFe.com

Thirty-one days hath October. Thirty eerie days of frightful build-up to the scariest day of the year: All Hallows Eve. And what better way to celebrate the season of fear than with spooky movies? We’ve got 31 suggestions, one for each night of the month, or you could just binge ‘em, on Halloween week. However you want to do it, just pop some corn, light the jack o’lanterns, turn down the lights, and enjoy an evening of good old-fashioned film frights, with this family-friendly list of spine-tingling movies fit for all ages, young and old alike.

Hocus Pocus

The original and still the best tale of the Sanderson sisters, three daffy witches trying to make a comeback after a 300-year dirt nap, and the plucky kids who thwart their evil intentions. Corny jokes and sight gags aside, the atmosphere is colorful and lively in the way that only “scary” Disney films can be. Stars the powerhouse trio of Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy. 1993. Rated PG. 96 minutes.

Mad Monster Party?

If you’re a fan of the old Universal monsters (and really, what horror fan worth their calm superiority isn’t?), this one is a must-see, whether it’s the season or not. All of the greats are gathered together for a party at Drac’s castle. What could go wrong? Sure, it’s 55 years old, but it still stands up better than a mummy in a moth storm. Boris Karloff and Phyllis Diller lend their vocal cords. 1967. Unrated. 94 minutes.


Not all kids who can see dead people are mopey. Norman is one of those. He’s just an average animated kid trying to save his town from a zombie invasion, by using his secret power to converse with the undead. Of course, he has help, but if you’re expecting a typical Disney ride, you’d better buckle in. Paranorman is not one of those. Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Alex Borstein, and John Goodman provide vocal backup. 2012. Rated PG. 93 minutes.

Corpse Bride

A weird little number from the weird imagination of Tim Burton, about a comely young dead girl who crushes on a shy, but still breathing, young, soon-to-be-married boy, and makes his life a living heck. An all-star cast, including Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Emily, Watson, Tracey Ullman, Joanna Lumley, Albert Finney, Christopher Lee, and oodles more give voice to the ghastly proceedings. 2005. Rated PG. 77 minutes.


From the acclaimed mind of best-selling author Neil Gaiman comes this odd little animated tale of a plucky 11-year-old who trips into spookily idealized version of her frustratingly dysfunctional home life, and a few sinister secrets, too. Another cavalcade of stars, including Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, Keith David, and Ian McShane make mouth noises. 2009. Rated PG. 100 minutes.

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

British Claymation treasures Wallace & Gromit become the only hope for the terrorized people of their village after a monstrous saboteur threatens their age-old tradition: the annual giant vegetable growing contest. W&G are unsung heroes of the monster-grabbing trade. Just saying. Vocal patterns by Peter Sallis, Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes, Mark Gatiss, and a bunch of real-life English people. 2005. Rated G. 85 minutes.


The ghost with the most takes on the case of a boring dead couple after they have a falling out with an obnoxious new family that has moved into and renovated their stodgy old home. And they have a goth daughter. Who sees dead people. Hilarity ensues. Tim Burton directed this surreal boofest, starring Michael Keaton, Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Catherin O’Hara, Jeffrey Jones, Winona Ryder, and Glenn Shadix. 1988. Rated PG. 92 minutes.

The Lost Boys

Joel Schumacher’s rad ‘80s vampire tale turns Dicken’s Oliver Twist on its jugular, in this tale of a single mother who moves to a beach town with her beautiful children for a little peace and quiet, only to fall foul of a nest of bloodsuckers with great hair. Stars Jason Patric, Corey Haim, Dianne Wiest, Barnard Huges, Kiefer Sutherland, Edward Herrmann, Jami Gertz, Corey Feldman, Alex Winter and others. 1987. Rated R, but a soft ‘80s R. 97 minutes.


The original metaphysical mop-up crew gets its start when ghostly activity goes off the charts in New York City and they find themselves in the unenviable position of being the only geeks who can stop a roided-out supermodel and her demon dogs from taking over the city. Say that three times fast! Stars Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, and more. 1984. Rated PG. 105 minutes.

The Addams Family

The first big screen rom-com adaptation of Charles Addams gothic etchings, about a psychotic family and their unhinged quiet daily lives, until con artists make the mistake of attempting to weasel their way into their all-too-eager clutches. Hilarity ensues. Features Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia, Christopher Lloyd, Christina Ricci, and a bunch of other people you probably don’t remember. 1991. Rated PG-13. 99 minutes.

The Witches

The original and still the best version of Roald Dahl’s freaky little book about a nosy orphan who discovers an evil plot to rid England of children, after stumbling into a witch’s convention in a seaside hotel and is turned into a mouse. Much better than that horrible HBO Max remake. Stars Anjelica Huston, Mai Zetterling, Jasen Fisher, Rowan Atkinson, Brenda Blethyn, and more eccentric English people. 1990. Rated PG. 91 minutes.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Before the angsty teen soap opera that bewitched a generation of television viewers, Joss Whedon’s original comedy neckbiter — about a pert, self-centered cheerleader who discovers it’s her job to rid the world of grody vampires, whether she likes it or not — gave new meaning to the word “campy.” Stars Kristy Swanson, Donald Sutherland, Paul Reubens, Rutger Hauer, Luke Perry, Hilary Swank, David Arquette, and others. 1992. Rated PG-13. 86 minutes.

Ernest Scared Stupid

Probably the dumbest horror movie ever made, but beneath the veneer of pork cracklins and cheap beer lies a heart of comic gold, about a bumbling lackwit who accidentally unleashes a child-obsessed troll on his small town and must then become its unlikely hero. Jim Varney and Eartha Kitt lend their best scenery-chewing theatrics to this goofy romp that made “bugger lips” a popular ‘90s insult for about five minutes. 1991. Rated PG. 91 minutes.


The movie adaptation of the popular comic book from Famous Studios, which asks the question, what would the Pillsbury doughboy’s ghost look like? Friendly, that’s what! Even when an “afterlife therapist” and his spirited daughter are hired to exorcise the mansion he haunts with his fleshie-hating uncles. Bill Pullman, Christina Ricci, Cathy Moriarity, and Eric Idle lend star power. 1995. Rated PG. 100 minutes.

Hotel Transylvania

More than just a retread of Mad Monster Party?, because this animated monsterfest from animation pioneer Genndy Tartakovsky gives Drac a teenage daughter, which turns the entire classic-monsters-gathered-together trope into a family free-for-all of hormone horrors. Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Fran Drescher, Molly Shannon, and more funny people crack-wise for the mic. 1012. Rated PG. 91 minutes.

The Watcher in The Woods

Disney’s sadly forgotten haunted house movie about a normal American family who move to a creepy old house with a terrible secret is probably best known as one of the last performances by the late, great Bette Davis. Creepy cool with a slow burn of mounting tension missing from many horror films today. Also stars Lynn-Holly Johnson, Kyle Richards, Carroll Baker, and David McCallum. 1980. Rated PG. 84 minutes.


Cute little critters become heck-raising beasties that turn a small town upside down, in Chris Columbus and Joe Dante’s clever cautionary tale about what happens when we forget to follow the rules. Traumatizing Christmas stories aside, this one is a delight for all ages, skewering ‘80s movie tropes gleefully. Features Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, Corey Feldman, and Judge Reinhold. 1984. Rated PG. 106 minutes.

Monster House

The house is alive! At least, that’s what the kids think, but they’re gonna have a heck of a time convincing the adults, whose skepticism leads to untimely ends for many of them. Can the kids save the day? Duh. Mitchel Musso, Sam Lerner, Spencer Locke, Steve Buscemi, Catherin O’Hara, Fred Willard, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Lee, Kevin James, Nick Cannon, Jon Heder, and Kathleen Turner provide vocal histrionics. 2006. Rated PG. 91 minutes.


Tim Burton fleshes out his short film and gives new life to this animated “adaptation” of Mary Shelley’s masterpiece, about a kid named Victor Frankenstein who attempts to bring his beloved pooch back to life via a science experiment. Hilarity ensues. The vocal articulations of Winona Ryder, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau, and Christopher Lee capture the eerie perfection of this stylish tribute. 2012. Rated PG. 87 minutes.

Muppets Haunted Mansion

The newest film on the list and one of the few made for television, featuring the whole Muppet crew at their brilliant best, as their annual Halloween party becomes a blood-curdling excursion into wacky terror when Gonzo decides to spice things up by spending an entire night in Disney’s haunted mansion. Live actors Will Arnett, Taraji P. Henson, and Yvette Nicole Brown mix it up with the Muppet vocal crew. 2021. Rated PG. 52 minutes.

Toy Story of Terror

One of several short films based on the beloved animated toy series, which brings back all the originals for a road trip that takes them to a creepy roadside motel, where toys disappear unexpectedly, leading to a mystery of monstrous proportions. Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Carl Weathers, Timothy Dalton, Wallace Shawn, Don Rickles, Kristen Schaal, Kate McKinnon, and Laraine Newman provide vocal calisthenics. 2013. Rated G. 22 minutes.

Little Shop of Horrors

The hit Broadway musical with a body count, adapted from a Roger Corman movie, is transformed into a spirited fright film about a nerd who befriends a homicidal singing plant, only to become its unwitting accomplice in consumptive crime. Starring Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, Vincent Gardenia, Levi Stubbs, Steve Martin, Jim Belushi, John Candy, Christopher Guest, and Bill Murray. 1986. Rated PG-13. 94 minutes.


Be careful what you wish for is the message of Jim Henson’s magical fable, in which a young girl must journey to the lair of the Goblin King to rescue her baby brother, after selfishly casting him away. Designs by fabulist Brian Froud transform Muppets into marvelous creatures of fantasy. Starring Jennifer Connelly, Toby Froud, Brian Henson, Frank Oz, and David Bowie as the Goblin King. 1986. Rated PG. 101 minutes.

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad

An oldie but goodie from Disney, in which two classic tales are transformed into animated treats, the main course being Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, in which a gawky schoolmaster is bullied into believing a headless horseman will be his undoing. Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows isn’t scary, but a nice aperitif, nonetheless. Featuring the vocal pronouncements of Bing Crosby and Basil Rathbone. 1949. Rated G. 68 minutes.

The Haunted Mansion

Would you spend the night in a haunted mansion? Sure, it’s been done before, but when the mansion in question is based on a Disney attraction, you know it’s going to be one heck of a ride! A modern family finds themselves trapped in a haunted house full of secrets and tongue-in-cheek humor. Starring Eddie Murphy, Marsha Thomason, Jennifer Tilly, Terence Stamp, and Wallace Shawn. 2003. Rated PG. 88 minutes.

Monsters Inc.

Remember when Pixar wanted us to believe that monsters were cute, cuddly, and afraid of kids? Turning the human-scaring biz on its hairy, pointed ear, two likable monsters must rescue a dreadful child when it inadvertently sneaks into their monstrous world of wonders. Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Mary Gibbs, Steve Buscemi, James Coburn, Jennifer Tilly, and more lend their vocal orations. 2001. Rated G. 92 minutes.

The Monster Squad

Oh, no! Dracula and his classic crew of hench-monsters — werewolf, the mummy, and Frankenstein – are terrorizing a small town! Naturally, it’s up to an obnoxious group of potty-mouth kids with unusual skills, and a love for classic horror, to defeat them. Andre Gower, Robby Kiger, Tom Noonan, Brent Chalem, and Duncan Regehr star in this cult classic filled with plenty of ‘80s charm. 1987. Rated PG-13. 79 minutes.


Reality and fiction converge when children’s author R.L. Stine’s imaginary ghoulies and ghosties are set loose on an unsuspecting town, and it’s up to the author, his high-spirited daughter, and the lunkhead boy next door to stop them. Hilarity ensues. Watch for the cameo by the real R.L. Stine! Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, and Ryan Lee star in this monstrously literary free-for-all. 2015. Rated PG. 103 minutes.

It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Seriously, if you don’t know who Charles Shultz and his Peanuts gang are, you’ve been living under a rock. The callow sad-sack title character and his animated friends explore the spooky season of Halloween, including the mysterious cult figure known as the Great Pumpkin, with typically youthful charm. Peter Robbins, Christopher Shea, Sally Dryer, and Bill Melendez lead the adolescent voice cast. 1966. Unrated. 25 minutes.


The first in a series of increasingly corny TV movies, the adventure begins with a bewitching promise when a young girl is informed that she, her mother, and her visiting grandmother are all witches. Of course, grandma wants to recruit the youngster to help her fight evil in the titular locale, because that’s what witchy grandmothers do, right? Debbie Reynolds, Kimberly J. Brown, Judith Hoag, and others get in on the enchanting romp. 1998. Rated G. 84 minutes.

Nightmare Before Christmas

Tim Burton once again brings his offbeat imagination to the screen, this time with a tale of a lonely Pumpkin King who wants to mix things up in Halloween Town, and does so by trying to shanghai Christmas, much to the dismay of the town’s creepy denizens. Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara, William Hickey, Glenn Shadix, Paul Reubens, and Ken Page lead the extraordinary vociferations. 1993. Rated PG. 76 minutes.


This article was posted by David Salcido

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