What Happened to Kid-Friendly Frights?

My family has a tradition of loving horror-themed movies and TV shows. Well, my mom and I do anyway, and there's nothing I'd love more than to share that love with at least one of my three kids. My son is out of the running; a fantasy fan, he scares very easily, and doesn't enjoy the experience. But my twin daughters are almost always game for a spooky experience. Sadly, the closest they often come is a bowl of Count Chocula.

Of course, I'm not sneaking them into The Wolf Man or Shutter Island (my Mom had no such hesitation bringing her 8-year-old to see Burnt Offerings), but the landscape of really scary -- but still appropriate --  films and TV for kids is a little dry, and has been for too long.

Sure, we get a week or so of thrills around the end of October, but that's a long wait. And what we usually get is a mixed trick-or-treat bag of jokey "special episodes" that rarely treat the genre with any true reverence. (Though I'll give The Simpsons' "Treehouse of Horror" another solid shout-out).

Nearly a decade ago, children could choose from horror-themed TV shows including Are You Afraid of the Dark?, The Nightmare Room, Goosebumps, Real Scary Stories, and –- on the sci-fi side -- Animorphs. My girls love watching a Nightmare Room DVD we bought at a garage sale, even though it seemed to be not only starring high school kids, but written and directed by them as well. It was produced a year before they were born.

Genuinely scary movies for kids are also few and far between. Monster House was a promising sign in 2006, but the only other tenants of that block are Harry Potter and Edward Cullen, whose movies aren't always appropriate for the Goosebumps crowd.

I say it's time for a resurrection, and there's good news on the way. Horror master Sam Raimi's Ghost House Pictures has created a division for younger audiences called Spooky Pictures; I'm looking forward to what they conjure up.

But for now, my girls and I just make excited plans for a future, perhaps distant, in which three generations of Schwartzbergs hit the theater -- two of them getting the senior citizen discount –- joyously looking for spirits, monsters and vampires to have their wicked ways with us.

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