Spook My Son
June 26, 2020 4:30 PM   Subscribe

Looking for scary movie recommendations for a six year old (so within specific parameters).

My child really likes spooky movies, and we've watched Coraline and Nightmare before Christmas many times. He has a pretty high level of non-spooked-ness, so found many Goosebump and Are You Afraid of the Dark episodes not scary, and isn't as interested in the more traditional monsters as what I'd deem "uncanny valley" or "psychological" movies. Things like "is there really a ghost", vs "a werewolf chases you".

We've basically burned through everything spooky I can think of that's still child appropriate, being myself a scary movie chicken, and I don't want to give him nightmares with something that's completely inappropriate. Articles online mentioned the same movies we've already seen (like Coraline) or slasher movies for teens.

As he is six, I specifically want to avoid big gore and sexual violence completely. Some naughty cursing or nudity isn't a problem. Implied, off-screen violence is OK in reasonable doses. (A shot of trees while someone goes "aaaagh" for example.)

"Slower" movies are fine, especially if the spooky tension starts early. He really likes Castaway, for example (we skip the dead body scene), so movies made for adults that are still child appropriate are a great recommendation as well as actual for-children movies. (On the other hand, Twilight Zone episodes we tried were just too abstract - but there might be specific episodes that'd work well!)

We're having a lot more screentime than normal, being stuck inside endlessly, so thank you for bringing my it's-halloween-all-the-time-perky-goth-boy some joy.
posted by hapaxes.legomenon to Media & Arts (41 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If you’re willing to go old school, there’s The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, which was scary enough for child me. No big gore or sexual violence, but there might be some 1960s sexism.
posted by FencingGal at 4:38 PM on June 26 [4 favorites]

Curse of the WereRabbit is probably more fun and mocking of the genre, but it might work?
posted by freethefeet at 4:44 PM on June 26 [4 favorites]

My morbid now-seven-year-old loved Beetlejuice.
posted by arrmatie at 5:05 PM on June 26 [16 favorites]

When my brother was around seven, he loved Ghostbusters, as did my nephew at roughly that age when my brother showed it to him. It's a comedy, of course, but it definitely has spooky stuff going on.
posted by holborne at 5:09 PM on June 26 [9 favorites]

Would something like The Others suit you? No gore, but mounting suspense and involves children closely.
posted by SPrintF at 5:12 PM on June 26 [3 favorites]

Wellll.... my ex and I were never really good at choosing kid-appropriate movies, buuut.... when my kids were little, they LOVED M. Night Shyamalan movies. They particularly loved Signs, The Village, and The Lady in the Water. Lots of suspense, and almost all of the scary parts are psychological or jump scares. The Village had a little more violence, but they weren't particularly upset by it. You could always watch them first.

I also let them watch The Blair Witch Project, which, in retrospect, was not my best parenting moment. My youngest still gives me crap about the trauma. Oops.
posted by SamanthaK at 5:13 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]

Paranorman and Jumanji (the original, obvs)
posted by Crystalinne at 5:13 PM on June 26 [3 favorites]

I went nuts for Svankmejer when I was a slightly older kid. A lot of it is definitely *not* stuff most people would feel good about showing to their child. Alice, Punch and Judy, and Food are things I'd be happy to show to a six year old. It's not quite horror, but it's disconcerting. (I'm also not a parent. I'm the weird guy who introduces my friends' kids to complicated things their parents have to spend time explaining.)

More usefully, every Twilight Zone episode is available streaming.
posted by eotvos at 5:23 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]

Have you watched Labyrinth?
posted by ChuraChura at 5:25 PM on June 26 [15 favorites]

They're heeeeere

posted by TWinbrook8 at 5:26 PM on June 26 [4 favorites]

I remember being terrified by The Adventures of Ichabod/The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Disney cartoon, but I haven’t watched it in more than 30 years. I was also terrified by Tremors as a kid, but that’s more of a “monster chasing you” type deal.
posted by frau_grubach at 5:34 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]

Stranger Things, Howl's Moving Castle, Gremlins, The Mummy
posted by crone islander at 5:58 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]

I enjoy very tolerably scary things at most and really liked The Others.
posted by less of course at 6:20 PM on June 26 [4 favorites]

Here is list of all G and PG movies in the Horror genre on IMDB.

Stuff on the list that I would recommend:
Addams Family movies (two older and one new)
King Kong
Frankenweenie (another Tim Burton movie)

Something Wicked This Way Comes was good but I don't see it available on Disney Plus, and Disney owns it.

IMDB has Parents Guides for most movies that give you details on the scary scenes that are in each movie. It is at the bottom of the Storyline section on the right when you are viewing the main movie page.
posted by soelo at 6:21 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]

With Poltergeist, I'd say have a quick look at the face scene before going ahead with that. It's only a few seconds, but it's a bit on the gory side, and back when I was a horror loving kid it did freak me out a little.
posted by SometimeNextMonth at 6:28 PM on June 26

Henry Selick, the director of Nightmare and Coraline, also made James and the Giant Peach, which has a similar plot theme to Coraline. He may also enjoy Selick's Monkeybone, which has a trip to a bizarre otherworld, with illustrations by Mark Ryden. I found the film difficult to enjoy, and there are some randy bits by the monkey that you may want to skip.
posted by effluvia at 6:47 PM on June 26

If he likes old black-and-white movies, I can’t think of a better “is there really a ghost” movie than The Uninvited. My brother and I watched this on TV as kids and love it to this day.
posted by elphaba at 6:56 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]

Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride.
posted by Morfil Ffyrnig at 6:58 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]

You might also consider Snow White and the Huntsman. There are clips you can see on YouTube. Actors are Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron. The graphics are stunning, and Charlize makes the movie worth watching as the Golden Queen Ravenna. There's also a sequel with Emily Blunt.
posted by effluvia at 7:00 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]

Eerie, Indiana might fit the bill.
posted by abeja bicicleta at 7:01 PM on June 26

Mr. Boogedy is on Disney plus.

I saw Alien at that age and it fucked me up good and proper.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:34 PM on June 26

The Witches
posted by sallybrown at 7:48 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]

At the safe end, I'd suggest anime like A Letter to Momo, Spirited Away, or Flying Witch, all of which are gentle and warm but also at times eerie/spooky.
posted by Wobbuffet at 8:08 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]

Monster House I somehow found a bit scary even though it’s for kids! Also Kubo and Two Strings. James and the Giant Peach still makes me uncomfortable to this day.
posted by buttonedup at 8:14 PM on June 26

This Island Earth
posted by cda at 8:16 PM on June 26

It sounds like you're looking for that sort of "Hard PG" that my kid enjoys. I would second Monster House, Frankenweenie and Paranorman. Both recent Goosebumps feature films and The House With a Clock in Its Walls have plenty of spookyness that borders on disturbing without being gory.

If the Goosebumps TV show wasn't spooky enough and Twilight Zone too cerebral, Creeped Out is a sort of Black Mirror for kids that hinges more of conceptual/psychological horror, but has some decent monsters as well.

I would recommend rewatching Ghostbusters or Gremlins yourself before sharing with a six year old. Both have gory/frightening puppetry (which is great), but also some outdated humor (which is less so).
posted by subocoyne at 9:09 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]

Two words: Vincent Price.
Do preview his works because the psychology can be unnerving. Also, I would wait on The Abominable Dr. Phibes and Dr. Phibes Rises Again. Way over the top for a child.
posted by TrishaU at 9:16 PM on June 26

Ooh, what about Doctor Who? Maybe when he's a bit older, but my colleague's 8 year old enjoys them.
posted by freethefeet at 11:54 PM on June 26 [3 favorites]

I came to recommend Forbidden Planet but wondering if maybe he'd appreciate the look and feel of the 30s monster classics from this list? I haven’t watched them since since I was a kid but they were a Saturday afternoon TV staple for the boomer generation.
posted by bonobothegreat at 5:31 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]

The Sarah Jane Adventures is the Dr. Who spinoff for children.

I know you said your son couldn't quite get into Twilight Zone but he enjoys suspense so the 15th episode of season two titled "The Invaders" might appeal. The premise is simple - an old woman is living alone in a country cabin when tiny aliens land on her roof. They attack her. She fights back. The episode is only a half hour so not a lot of time investment.
posted by Constance Mirabella at 5:51 AM on June 27 [3 favorites]

Things like "is there really a ghost",

I never really liked the show, but: "Is there really a ghost?" + "six year old" = Scooby-Doo episodes. There are a lot, and they're typically cheap and terrible, in that limited animation sort of way, but this is exactly what they are.

You may have to explain who the Harlem Globetrotters are.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 6:53 AM on June 27

Try the Night Gallery series episode The Dark Boy Available online various places, including here. It's short, so easy to pre-watch to see what you think.
posted by gudrun at 8:16 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]

Buzzfeed unsolved: Supernatural. 2 guys (who are best friends and very adorable) sometimes go to haunted places, try to contact ghosts, and talk about the history of the buildings. No violence is seen, but they do mention things like "This is where the wife was stabbed to death", etc. Some episodes are more lighthearted than others. One person is a %100 sceptic, the other believes.
posted by FirstMateKate at 8:33 AM on June 27

Arsenic and Old Lace? Much of the movie is funny, but I found the character of Jonathan *terrifying* as a child.
posted by epj at 11:19 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]

What about not-movies? As a kid I loooved those book series about aliens, ancient mysteries, pyramids, and hauntings, etc. There are tons of books and TV shows about all of that. Had the perfect "maybe it's real?" thrill. Generally not gory.
posted by emjaybee at 1:34 PM on June 27 [1 favorite]

Someone mentioned Scooby Doo and the movies are actually a lot of fun and involve “real” monsters (you come to find out.) Scooby Doo on Zombie Island is a good one that I think even adults still enjoy.
posted by buttonedup at 8:47 PM on June 27

Harvey (1950) because James Stewart has a delightful time talking to a pooka.
posted by TrishaU at 1:50 AM on June 28 [1 favorite]

Perhaps this is too obvious, but Ralph Fiennes' Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter series is pretty dang scary.
posted by effluvia at 11:46 AM on June 28

I would respectfully disagree with the other poster and urge you not to show your six year old Alien. I saw it at that age and it was terrifying, and not in a good way. I used to pity my friends whose parents didn’t let them watch anything, but as an adult I wish mine had been a lot more careful.

Not sure how firm my handle is on age appropriateness, but some possibilities: Spirited Away - while not primarily creepy, it’s got some definite creep factor going with the little girl being lost in a semi hostile spirit world, No Face especially, but it also has a happy ending and is just magical and great in general. This is a great time to watch old movies - I remember Them, about the giant ants, being super scary but not traumatizing. Possibly too scary, but the Room for One More twilight zone episode?

I was into Hitchcock when I was young, not sure if it was that young, but some of those could be good (not Marnie or Psycho, obviously), although that’s more psychology, suspense, and danger from humans than supernatural stuff, not sure if that fits the bill. Strangers on a train and Shadow of a doubt were ones I liked that I don’t remember devolving into silliness.
posted by sumiami at 10:36 PM on June 28

What about The Dark Crystal? It's not quite horror but it's got some spooky moments for sure.

When I myself was a tiny goth babe, I was obsessed with this made-for-TV Disney movie called The Child of Glass, which is about a little boy who befriends the ghost of a little girl who was murdered. (Which is pretty intense! I adored it though. It's set in the modern day, but on a plantation, so it's possible that there's some problematic stuff I didn't catch when I was 7.) The whole thing is on YouTube.

I feel like the second Del Toro Hellboy movie (Hellboy II: The Golden Army) might also be OK? (The first one has an intense scene of a hospital burning up that I would not, personally, show a small child; also, tons of Nazis.) It's PG-13 and it has fantasy violence, but the most potentially gruesome part is animated and pretty abstract.

He might also dig The Triplets of Belleville. Again, not officially horror, but it definitely has a lot of horror and suspense moments, and a generally faintly-unsettling tone.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 9:09 AM on June 29 [1 favorite]

Thank you for the suggestions, everyone! He loved The Village and "hard PG" is just the right category of things to search for. We now have a list of scary & funny-scary movies to watch, and he thinks it's "pretty flex"* that a bunch of people on the internet wanted to help him. :)

(*i guess that's how you say cool now idk)
posted by hapaxes.legomenon at 2:49 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]

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