Introducing young ones to your favorite pastime is a tricky endeavor. If done correctly, you can create your own little mini-me to share your hobbies. But done wrong, the end result to lead to nightmares, night sweats, and expensive trips to the therapist.
For fans of horror movies, part of the joy of the genre is sharing your favorites with your friends and family, to see their reaction to every jump scare, every scream and every hack of a maniac’s knife. But for those with small fries in their life, introducing little ones to an adult-oriented genre could result in nightmare fuel for the ages.
So, this begs the question: how can you get your kids on the right of good taste without emotionally scarring them for the rest of their lives?
The answer: Carefully.
Introducing your horror hobbies and evil entertainment will take time and will require a perfectly cultivate viewing experience that is age appropriate, easy to understand and can develop into a love for all things scary.
Starting with the youngins, films and TV shows should have no blood, no screaming, no big scares, and nothing traumatic for either the characters or the viewers. This is good clean fun that both teaches, which a small, barely noticeable slant towards the weird. It is important to focus on spooky, not scary.
For older kids, monster movies and scary movies should focus on the creature features, not nudity or adult situations that might not be suitable for the average 13-year-old. While these movies might contain some language, violence, and blood, it will contain nothing too disturbing. No cannibals. No torture. No naked coeds. Just some good, old-fashioned horror.
Here is a guide to age appropriate scary movies to help build your child’s budding interest into a full fledged obsession. Consider this your horror movie starter kit:
Age 3 – 4:
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (Disney)
Disney doesn’t produce horror movies, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t try to scare the hell out of your kids. Most kids get their first taste of spooky when Ichabod is chased by the Headless Horseman.
Bunnicula (Warner Bros. Television)
Cartoon bunny that sucks the life out of veggies and helps with friends thanks to his vampiric powers.
Count Duckula (Nickelodeon)
Another vegetarian vampire toon series that will appeal to the DuckTales crowd.
Groovie Goolies (Home Video)
Classic ’70s toon featuring a Laugh-In style gags with Drac, Wolfie, the Mummy and more.
Age 5 – 7
The Addams Family (MGM Television)
Classic TV show put the emphasis on spooky, kooky, and all together ooky.
The Munsters (CBS)
The other first family of television horror. Herman, Lily, and the entire Munster crew were your average American family, who just happen to be undead ghoules.
Ages 7 – 10:
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (Universal)
A comedy wrapped around an introduction to creature features.
Are You Afraid of the Dark? TV series (Cinar/Nickelodeon Productions)
Kiddie horror anthology from the ’90s that centered on the Midnight Society, a group of kids who like to tell scary stories.
Corpse Bride (Disney)
An undead bride returns from the grave to find her beloved in this jazzy Tim Burton pic.
Master of Mini Horror Tim Burton brings his short film to the silver screen with this adorable adaptation about a boy and his undead dog.
Goosebumps (20th Television/Saban)
“Reader, beware, you’re in for a scare!” Based on the kids books (which should also be encouraged), this anthology series is a perfect G-rated intro to scary stories.
Hocus Pocus (Disney)
A trio of evil witches run amok (amok, amok) looking to become immortal. Teens and a talking cat must save the day.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (Disney)
Tim Burton has been teaching kids to love the dark for almost 40 years. This 1993 classic follows the tale of Jack Skellington, who wishes to add his signature twist to both Halloween and Christmas. Hijinks ensue. Teach your kids about the joys of the undead with a Tim Burton double feature of Nightmare and Corpse Bride.
The Twilight Zone series (CBS)
If the kids can handle the black n’ white, then they will love these freaky little tales featuring killer dolls, evil robots, alien invasions, and the worst monster of all: man, himself.
Ages 10 – 12
A young girl in a strange new town discovers a hidden world with a sinister secret. Watch with the kids because some of these visuals can be quite shocking. A great spooky kiddie movie, perfect for any rainy day.
Ghostbusters (Columbia Pictures)
It’s never too early to introduce your child to the joys of Bill Murray.
Goosebumps movie franchise (Columbia Pictures)
A surprisingly adorable and fantastic feature with all of the charm of the show and books, and none of the cheesiness.
Hotel Transylvania series (Sony Pictures Animation)
Introduce the kiddos to Dracula, Wolfman, Frankenstein and the entire classic Universal monster lineup in this CGI toon. Warning: Does contain Adam Sandler making fart jokes.
Little Shop of Horrors (Warner Bros.)
What better way to introduce man-eating plants to your child’s data banks than through catchy tunes and Steve Martin?
The Monster Squad (Home Box Office)
“The Wolfman has nards!” You can thank Shane Black for that classic line.
Norman Babcock is a kid who can speak to dead people. But when the zombie uprising begins, he must use his powers to save his town.
Return to Oz (Disney)
This might not have started life as a scary movie, but that is sure as hell where it ended up. A hallway of decapitated heads, long-legged creatures on wheels and Dorothy strapped to a doctor’s table awaiting electric shock while patients howl around her…yeah. This even scares the hell out of me.
The Witches (Lorimar Film/Jim Henson Productions)
Roald Dahl’s classic tale about a young boy who is turned into a rodent after stumbling into a convention for witches. Stars the delightfully menacing Angelica Huston.
The classic Universal Monster Movie lineup
Includes Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), The Invisible Man (1933) and The Wolf Man (1931). Most kids might instantly reject these classic scarers due to the lack of color, but if given a chance, it can be a great intro to the classic movie monsters and open the doors to explore their legacy.
Ages 13 – 15
The Conjuring (New Line Cinema)
A great scary movie from James Wan that leans into the jump scare, but is a solid frightfest for the PG-13 sect.
The Frighteners (Universal)
Comedy and laughs soften the blow of legitimate scares in this Peter Jackson pic with Marty McFly.
Gremlins (Warner Bros.)
Joe Dante’s Christmas classic about adorable furry little creatures who have a bad side thanks to late night snacks.
Remember being afraid to get into a pool because of your fear of sharks? Well, share that fear with a new generation!
The Others (Miramax)
Alejandro Amenábar’s ghost movie is a perfect blend of jump scares and tension building anxiety.
Ages 15 – 17
Creepshow (Laurel Entertainment Inc.)
George Romeo teamed with Stephen King for a set of truly scary stories perfect for any sleepover or night in.
Happy Death Day (Blumhouse)
The pic achieves the impossible: A PG-13 slasher movie that is both funny and scary.
Perfect for 15+. No nudity, barely any cussing, a little drug use that will probably go over their heads. Be wary though: Watching this pic too early can create a fear of clowns. And trees. Possibly chairs.
The Thing (Universal Pictures)
John Carpenter’s masterpiece might have gross-out (and sublime) practical effects, but the movie is a who-dun-it for the most part.
Twilight Zone: The Movie (Amblin Entertainment/Warner Bros.)
Classic anthology movie that ups the ante set by the TV show with scarier stories and beasties.