Parental Guidance

Parental Guidance: Halloween Edition

This week, Christy offers up some family-friendly alternatives for October 31st.

by | October 25, 2013 | Comments

Greetings, parents seeking guidance. Since Halloween is coming, I thought I’d devote this week’s column to some films and TV shows you could watch with your kids that are spooky/silly/suspenseful/all of the above. Cuddle up under a blanket in front of the TV and let’s go:

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown


My almost-4-year-old son is totally into classic Peanuts cartoons lately, which makes me very happy. What’s so great about these old clips — and this one in particular — is the way it depicts the sweetly funny confusion and angst of childhood. This TV special finds Linus waiting for The Great Pumpkin (as usual) and having no one believe in its existence (as usual). Hopefully when you and your kids go trick-or-treating this year, no one gets a rock.

Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride


Wondrous, strange, poignant and beautifully reflective of Tim Burton’s distinctive, darkly humorous style. With an all-star voice cast led by Burton regulars Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, the film follows the romantic troubles of a shy young man torn between the woman his parents have arranged for him to marry and the woman who rises from the Land of the Dead and accidentally becomes his wife. At a brisk 74 minutes, the whole family can enjoy it.



I swear, I will do more than just pick Tim Burton movies, but so many of them are so very fitting in this category. Like Corpse Bride, this comedy features painstakingly detailed stop-motion animation. Based on his 1984 live-action short of the same name, Frankenweenie follows what happens when a science-obsessed 10-year-old brings his dead dog back to life. This is not really a movie for little kids. But it’s heartwarming, I promise.

Edward Scissorhands


This one’s probably best for tweens and older – I saw it with my mother when I was 18 and home from college for Christmas break and we just cried and cried. This is probably still my favorite Burton film; absurdly funny and achingly melancholy, it’s the perfect crystallization of his signature themes and aesthetic. It’s also an excellent example of his longtime collaboration with Depp.



Not to be confused with Nine, based on the Broadway musical, which isn’t scary in the slightest. The animation is breathtakingly original in this dark family tale of roughhewn rag dolls who represent the last vestige of humanity in a post-apocalyptic world. The story itself is rather thin but it’s always gorgeous to watch (although it’s probably not suitable for the littlest kids). Elijah Wood, Christopher Plummer and John C. Reilly are among the strong voice cast.

Sleeping Beauty


Or if you really want to give your kids nightmares, show them Fantasia (1940) – it still scares me and I’m a grown woman. All classic Disney animated films contain some serious element of danger: a fire in the woods, an evil queen. Sleeping Beauty is my childhood favorite of the genre. The imagery is so vibrant and lush, it makes the film’s villain — the snubbed witch Maleficent, out for revenge against our fair heroine — that much more vivid and frightening.

Stand by Me


Not exactly a horror movie per se, although it does originate from a Stephen King novella. What Rob Reiner’s film does so well is capture the sensation that there’s adventure and danger lurking in the prosaic activities of daily life when you’re growing up. Set in the summer of 1959, it’s also one of the best coming-of-age films you can show your kids as well as a wonderful (and poignant) time capsule of its stars, including the late River Phoenix.

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