So many great children's films are based on great children's books. This definitely applies to Halloween films and films that are just awesome to watch around Halloween. The films and novels I have listed here are all relatively modern and that is not because older films and older novels are not good. It is simply because kids are, by definition, pretty modern. Therefore, if I want to write a list that is going to be relevant at all for your kids, I should probably include stuff that is not going to bore them to tears. So, without further ado . . .
"The Witches" by Roald Dahl and "The Witches" (1990)
This is the oldest film/book of this list. The reason it made the list is because it is simply so awesome and really does not require the special effects that make newer movies so cool. Why? Because it is a Jim Henson film and it has actors like Anjelica Huston creeping out little kids everywhere. What makes it such a good kid's story? It is simple. The plot pits children against evil. Children love it when the protagonist is a child, as evidenced by literally every movie on this list. What makes it such an awesome movie? It freaked me out as a kid. There. I said it.
"Coraline" by Neil Gaiman and "Coraline" (2009)
Well, the film for this selection does have more animated old lady breasts in it than I care for, but it also has a strong-willed (if a little bratty) protagonist, an epically strange villain and a bunch of other weirdos to round out the cast. This movie/film is not exactly made for Halloween, but it has all of the elements that a good Halloween film should have, so I say get this one out around Halloween time, elderly boobs and all. (Note: They're really not showing, just a little too prominent for my delicate sensibilities.)
Every Single Harry Potter Book by J.K. Rowling and Every Single Harry Potter Film
Argue with me if you want. Tell me I am wrong, if you wish. That is your privilege, but I am going to come right out and say that this series is everything you want in a Halloween movie for kids. They progress in age appropriateness, so you have a great film for every age. They have witches, wizards, werewolves, shape shifters and all other manner of magic. They have drama, suspense, likeable and detestable characters -- I mean, what else could you want? Even if you are one of those soulless creeps that doesn't like Harry Potter, the least you can do is let your kids watch it around Halloween time. Do not let them miss out because of your bad taste. It's in their best interest.
All right, that should do it, unless you want to watch kids' movies until you are ready to stick your head in the pumpkin with the candle still lit. If you have the time, pick up the books to accompany the films. Your kids may want to get some chills beneath the covers while they get ready for bed this October. None of these books is horribly scary, so if a child is progressed enough to read them, he or she should be emotionally ready to handle them.
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5. "Interview with the Vampire"
The film "Interview with the Vampire" features youthful versions of Hollywood mega stars Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. The original novel was the first in a massively successful series by supernatural horror author Anne Rice. Now, you could easily argue that it is not a very scary film and you would be correct, at least when you compare it with other films on this list. That is why it comes in at number five. However, some people like their Halloween romantic and the homoeroticism that both the novel and the film swim with is certainly that.
4. "Pet Sematary "
Before "Pet Sematary" became a reasonably good horror film, it was a book by Stephen King about a land that had turned "sour" and would resurrect the dead buried there. Most of the film trods along well enough, but does not exactly have constant chills, that is until [spoiler alert] a very small boy rises from the dead to become a creepily adorable psycho killer with a taste for flesh and love for stabbing. When that tiny voice asks its daddy to come and play and you know very well that it means "Come over here so I can stab you too," sh*t gets really spooky.
With all of the decreases in horror lovers' sensitivity, films like "Dracula" are simply not as frightening anymore. However, this is Bram Stoker's story, the one that sparked literally every vampire story that ever followed. If you love horror and you haven't seen the original, you are doing it wrong. Go check it out and get the book while you are at it. You may find the novel is actually quite frightening.
2. "The Shining"
Stephen King is making the list again with his story of a haunted hotel, the evil that lurks there, the father it controls and the son it torments. The novel and film version are quite different. Of all the stories on this list, this is the one with the most to offer in terms of diversity. Stanley Kubrick really focuses on the tribulations of the alcoholic father while King's focus is the shining of young Danny.
1. "The Exorcist"
Whether you like it or not, this is the scariest novel and film of all time. Many will disagree with me, but many will also agree. When you take the supernatural, in this case the ultimate evil, and put it in a child, it makes for some scary Halloween fodder. Moreover, the filmmakers were committed to bringing the disgusting bits of William Peter Blatty's novel to life, so you get quite a few ick moments to go with your "Holy crap, this atheist wants holy water beside her bed" moments.
So, you already know I liked "Doctor Sleep" and I have to say that it is not because I am a rabid Stephen King fan. I am, of course, but I have damn good reasons for liking this book. Firstly, it is a sequel to "The Shining," but it is not about "The Shining." It is about the shining and even more so than its predecessor. When I say that, I mean that we clearly can't go back to The Overlook and spend another novel there, though, in some ways this novel does that. Instead, King explores the namesake of the first book to a much fuller degree than the first time around. This time, we are dragged through the good, bad and ugly aspects of the shining via Danny Torrance (Warning: This is where the spoilers begin), aka Doctor Sleep.
I liked that this sequel does not lean on "The Shining" the way it could have. That was a huge success for King and a complex enough story to pull an immediate and heavily replicative (for lack of an actual word) sequel out of it. Of course, there is a ton of "The Shining" in "Doctor Sleep," but they are two completely different novels. Danny isn't a boy. The antagonist isn't a haunted hotel and there are subplots that could not have existed in the limited space of The Overlook. It's exciting in ways that Stephen King has only become in the past few decades. I mean, how could he have gone all these years writing masterfully without getting subtly better all the time?
For me, everything that King writes feels like it is viewed through 50s colored glasses. I do not know why. Maybe it is King's taste in music, the way he describes people, the cars he prefers to write about, etc. Shoot, I don't even know if he writes about the 50s at all. It is just the way I see it. So, that being said, you will probably meet some characters and places that seem a lot different to you than they did to me when I read "Doctor Sleep," but I think you will like them as much as I did -- even the bad ones.
If you don't have the time and just want to get into this one as soon as possible, don't bother rereading "The Shining." You don't need it. King will remind you of what you need to know and the rest will come or remain hidden. It doesn't matter. You will fall right into step with "Doctor Sleep," either way.