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10 Scary Movies
the Whole Family Will Enjoy

Hauntmaster, 10/23/2005

Ah movie night, that time honored tradition of the American household. With Halloween fast approaching it's time our movie choices turned to those with scary themes. But when the whole family is together it becomes difficult to pick a movie that everyone will enjoy. The kids might be a little too young to sit through that Hellraiser marathon and mom and the grandparents may like comedies. So we thought we'd take a moment and make some suggestions that wouldn't have you watching Harry Potter or Casper for the 16 millionth time.

In no particular order here are some great choices:

  • High Spirits
  • Abbott and Costello Meet...
  • Beetle Juice
  • The Ghost and Mr. Chicken
  • Tremors
  • Lake Placid
  • The Ghost Breakers
  • Attack of the Killer Tomatoes
  • Sleepy Hollow
  • Serial Mom

High Spirits (1988)

Grandmas love Steve Guttenberg and the rest of the family will love this hauntingly amusing tale. Steve Guttenberg plays Jack Crawford the yellow livered husband of Sharon Brogan Crawford (Beverly D'Angelo) who's been sent by her father, the landlord, to investigate Peter Plunkett's (Peter O'Toole) scheme to pay the mortgage by opening Castle Plunkett as a haunted hotel. Sharon is skeptical of the ghosts but Jack falls for the first ghost he meets.

If you enjoyed this one, Steve Guttenberg also starred in Disney's made for TV movie, Tower of Terror. While geared more toward children, the Tower of Terror is a good choice when you want a funny and light-hearted movie with just a few spooky scenes.

Abbott and Costello Meet ....

The comedy duo Bud Abbott and Lou Costello made an extremely popular series of spooky slapstick comedies where they encountered Universal's classic monsters and paranormal phenomenon. Their most famous movies were Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) and Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955). Other great spooky Abbott and Costello movies include such notable titles as Hold That Ghost (1941), Abbott and Costello Meet The Killer: Boris Karloff (1949), and Abbott and Costello Meet The Invisible Man (1951).

In Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein Bud Abbott plays loveable Chick Young, a shipping clerk who along with his co-worker Wilbur Grey (Lou Costello) have to deliver several valuable crates to a museum of horrors. Unfortunately for the hapless clerks, the crates contain Dracula (Bela Lugosi) and Frankenstein (Glenn Strange)! Soon the creatures are running loose and Chick and Wilbur must team up with the Wolfman (Lon Chaney Jr.) to thwart Dracula's evil plans.

Beetle Juice (1988)

A timeless classic that parents will enjoy watching for the third or fourth time and is still funny enough for children to enjoy nearly 20 years after its release. Beetle Juice is the story of a couple of recently deceased home owners, played by Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis, who find themselves ill-equipped to remove the living who have infested their dream home. The home owners contract the services of Beetlejuice, a "bio-exorcist" (Michael Keaton), to rid their home of these obnoxious New Yorkers with hilarious consequences.

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966)

Another timeless classic, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, is the story of typesetter Luther Heggs (Don Knotts) who longs to be an ace reporter and get Alma Parker (Joan Staley) the girl of his dreams. Heggs may be getting his big break when he is assigned to spend the night in the town's most notable haunted house, the "Old Simmons House" where 20 years ago tonight Mr. and Mrs. Simmons died in a murder/suicide.

Tremors (1990)

Rednecks meet giant killer worms in Tremors starring Kevin Bacon as Valentine McKee and Fred Ward as Earl Bassett, two mostly out of luck handy men in a tiny dustbowl of a town who encounter giant man eating worms. The worms seem to have the upper hand and townspeople disappear one by one but can these unlikely heroes get their acts together and save the townspeople? This film is a guilty pleasure the whole family can enjoy.

Lake Placid (1999)

Oh yes, another bigger is better when it comes to killer animals movie. This time we move from the desert to the idyllic Lake Placid, or it would be if it weren't for a giant crocodile that's eating all the townspeople. It's up to Bill Pullman as Jack Wells a determined Fish and Wildlife officer, Bridget Fonda as bookworm-ish Kelly Scott, and Brendan Gleeson as the sarcasm-despising Sheriff Hank Keough to hunt down the menacing monster before it kills again.

Oliver Platt as eccentric philanthropist and crocodile devotee Hector Cyr and Betty White as a townsperson with a dark secret Mrs. Bickerman, steal the movie time and again with their immensely humorous dialog.

The Ghost Breakers (1940)

Bob Hope in a haunted castle, who could ask for a better set-up? Bob Hope plays Lawrence "Larry" Lawrence, a New York radio personality who runs afoul of mobsters and must flee the country. Paulette Goddard plays heiress Mary Carter who has just inherited a Cuban castle that is reported to be haunted. Together with Larry's assistant Alex, they set off for Cuba and discover there may be a hidden treasure in the castle. If only they could find it before the ghosts, zombies, and mobsters find them.

Willie Best as Alex, Larry's ever scared assistant, delivers classic, "feets don't fail me now" looks that perfectly define all spooky movies from this era and are sure to get a laugh.

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978)

When you just don't want to take anything seriously the movie of choice should be John De Bello's 1978 instant classic, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. This extremely low budget spoof of extremely low budget horror movies is the story of a group of scientists who band together to save the world from mutated killer tomatoes.

For a full night of marinara madness combine with Return of the Killer Tomatoes for a saucy double feature sure to have you writing painful puns at the office the next morning.

Sleepy Hollow (1999)

A personal favorite in my family is 1994's Sleepy Hollow starring Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci. Based loosely on the Washington Irving short story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Johnny Depp plays Constable Ichabod Crane who is sent to the small upstate New York town of Sleepy Hollow to investigate a series of allegedly supernatural murders. In his investigations, Ichabod encounters the Headless Horseman, discovers conspiracies, and falls in love with the beautiful Katrina Van Tassel (Christina Ricci).

The movie does contain violence and some limited gore but with proper parenting Sleepy Hollow is suitable for nearly every member of your family and an excellent primer for the horror genre.

A great double feature and a way to familiarize your children with the legend of sleepy hollow would be to combine this movie with the animated Disney version, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.

Serial Mom (1994)

A picture perfect family in a picture perfect world, or so it seems at first. Kathleen Turner plays Beverly Sutphin, nurturing mother, loving wife, model citizen, and oh, she's also a serial murderer. Directed by John Waters, Serial Mom (1994) is a classic Waters film full of mixed emotions; should we laugh or be horrified at the actions of this 1950's caricature of this seemingly perfect mom.

There is some violence and language but for a family with children in the early teens or older, this will be a great choice for your Halloween movie night.

Punk fans will enjoy seeing LA's preeminent rockers, L7 playing "Gas Chamber" as Beverly ducks into their concert as she tries to escape the police.


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