Family Films Go Spooky

I have one inner rule when it comes to personal Halloween observance—creepy over cutesy. I have little interest in candy corn, apple-bobbing, pumpkin-carving, cartoon specials, babies dressed as chihuahuas, or chihuahuas dressed as babies. But ghosts, vampires, bats, zombies, monsters, nightmares, haunted houses, graveyards and dark nights are always welcome. As a result, for years I spent one kind of Halloween with my kids, and another with my wife.

So I was cautiously thrilled to see this week’s announcement that Sam Raimi’s Ghost House Pictures is launching a new brand of scary flicks for kids called Disney will be producing its own scary films for families under a banner called Double Dare You (Cutesy alert!).

Between the two, I’m not sure I trust Disney to do right by Halloween, given a likely mandate to incorporate everything from the already-frightening Miley Cyrus to far-from-it Mickey & Co. Ghost Pictures has the better record: Give me the Mac Guy in Drag Me to Hell over Dr. Doolittle in The Haunted Mansion any day.

Still, teaming with Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth helmer Guillermo del Toro is a shrewd start for the haunted house of mouse.

Spooky Pictures' first film will be The Substitute, about sixth graders who believe their latest substitute is an evil alien. In other words, it’s about sixth graders. The movie already sounds like a very special episode from R.L. Stine’s The Nightmare Room or Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid of the Dark?, but I’m choosing to be optimistic.

After all, there have been good scary movies for kids, or at least with kids in them. As a child, I remember being joyously freaked out by a Disney LP version of The Haunted Mansion. And if anyone knows good horror, it’s American film director Sam Raimi.

Scary films went through a smart-ass slasher stage in the '80s, then a bloody cringe binge, and are now going the family way. By my calculations, the pendulum’s sharp edge should swing back to more grown-up fright fests by the time my kids are old enough to enjoy them with me. 

So, in the meantime, pass the popcorn and bloody eyeballs, please.

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