In this era of what I dub “torture-porn” movies like “Saw” and “Hostel,” there are few films on which burgeoning horror-philes can safely cut their teeth. Sure, the Disney Channel has some great offerings like the “Halloweentown” series, but I’m talking about films that are scary enough to scare you without leaving you traumatized or with the need for therapy. Films that make you feel like you’ve sneaked something by your parents, though you really haven’t; films that leave you feeling a bit more mature after watching them.
With that in mind, I present three of my favorite oldies-but-goodies horror/suspense films appropriate for the pre-junior high and junior high set. Forget gratuitous violence and excessive blood and gore. These films scare you the old fashioned way–by letting your own mind scare yourself.
Watcher in the Woods
Not many have heard of this 1980 Disney film starring Bette Davis, but those who have seen it still can’t believe this taut psychological, paranormal thriller was made by the mouse house. When an American family with two young daughters moves into an old English manor, they soon begin to realize that history really is alive. It seems one of the former tenants, a teen girl who mysteriously disappeared during a solar eclipse, may have never disappeared at all.
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Based on the Ray Bradbury novel and written by Bradbury himself, this 1982 film starring Jason Robards and Jonathan Pryce is almost like HBO’s “Carnivale” for kids. The movie is a typical “be careful what you wish for” package, wrapped in the already-ominous concept of the traveling carnival. For two young boys in Middle America, the fun offered by the carnival during the darker days of autumn strikes their fancy. Only one of them is keen enough to be wary, knowing that most carnivals have already folded up their tent flaps for the season.
Do you still look at a flock of birds gathering on a telephone wire with great suspicion? I do. I can thank Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 classic and Mrs. Themas for that. A San Francisco socialite who likes to play pranks, finds out the prank–or rather the beak–is on her when she attempts to deliver some Lovebirds to her target. Compared to many of today’s horror movies, this black and white flick would seem tame, but its lack of a soundtrack, other than children singing in the beginning and the sound of the birds, is highly effecting.
So, these are three of my kid-friendly favorites–what are yours? Which scary (but not too scary) movies would you watch with your kids?