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Scary Movies for the Whole Family

by Francile Albright

Our family loves a good scary movie. In our house around this time of year, we pop some popcorn, get out the blankets, turn out the lights, and prepare to be spooked. Our biggest challenge every year is finding movies that are scary enough for good fun, but not so scary they send anyone to bed with the lights on. We tend to steer clear of the horror genre — too much blood, gore, or violence, and we’re out — but our son Finn, who is in 7th grade this year, has long been a big fan of movies with ghosts and good jump scares. With his help, I’ve put together a list of some of our favorite scary movies over the years.

Coraline, Frankenweenie, ParaNorman (all rated PG)

For families with kids in early elementary school, these movies are a great introduction to the scary movie genre. The aesthetic in each is truly creepy, and each deals with themes of death, loss, and acceptance from a child’s perspective. The animation in all of these movies is innovative, visually interesting, and serves to keep the scaries at a distance. Not for kids who are easily frightened, but great for any family wanting to indulge in that “it was a dark and stormy night” vibe.

Goosebumps (PG), Poltergeist (PG), The Sixth Sense (PG-13)

When your kids are ready to venture into live-action scary movies, but you want to proceed with caution, this list is a good progression. Beginning with Goosebumps, and ending with The Sixth Sense, you go from creepy monsters and funny jump scares, to supernatural mayhem, and end with legitimate dramatic suspense. If your family can get through The Sixth Sense without any major bedtime disruptions, then you may be ready to move on to the next list.

The Others (PG-13), The Conjuring (R), Insidious (PG-13)

Beginning with the artsy, tension-filled drama The Others, this line-up will introduce your tween/teen into the truly scary movie universe, and will even have the adults in the room reaching for a blanket. The Others is the least scary of the bunch, but it has a high creepiness factor and a great twist at the end. The Conjuring and Insidious veer toward the more traditional scary movie — demonic possessions, blood curdling screams, and terrifying jump scares — without rising to the traumatic experience of a movie like The Exorcist. Both The Conjuring and Insidious are a part of a franchise of related storylines, so if you like them, you can enjoy exploring the prequels and sequels together throughout the Halloween season.

Here’s to popcorn, blankets, and exciting jump scares that can only be found in a good scary movie — Happy Halloween!