Slightly Scary kid movies
October 29, 2021 8:26 AM   Subscribe

8 year old and 10 year old want to watch a Slightly Scary Movie. Nightmare Before Christmas has been watched too often and is not scary enough. Coraline is too scary. (The original Jurassic Park was not bad in terms of fear/excitement factor.) Can you help?
posted by Omnomnom to Media & Arts (33 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Spirited Away
posted by mbrubeck at 8:30 AM on October 29, 2021 [16 favorites]

Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Jaws are both really great movies with scary elements in the vein of Jurassic Park if you want to go that direction. Poltergeist is also fantastic but may be a little too scary, what with intentionally being a haunting story.

I just really like Spielberg ok.
posted by phunniemee at 8:37 AM on October 29, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My kid found Pirates of the Caribbean and Howl’s Moving Castle to both hit this Halloween-y sweet spot.
posted by tchemgrrl at 8:45 AM on October 29, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: +1 Spirited Away
Hocus Pocus
Over the Garden Wall (it's not a movie but a Cartoon Network miniseries, but so great and just the right amount of spooky for that age group I think)
posted by microscopiclifeform at 8:45 AM on October 29, 2021 [6 favorites]

The Goosebumps movie wasn't terrible (review with age recommendations).
posted by Wobbuffet at 8:45 AM on October 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

Should be okay?
  • Ghostbusters
  • ParaNorman
  • The Wizard of Oz
These are PG-13 so maybe in a year or two
  • The original Addams Family
  • Beetlejuice
File under "How in the hell was this rated PG"
  • Poltergeist
  • Jaws (Even the edited PG version!)
  • Gremlins

posted by jeremias at 8:52 AM on October 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

It hasn't aged 100% great, but maybe they'd like The Goonies?

Super 8 might be a good one to check out if they watched and liked Stranger Things and can handle that vein of sci-fi scary.

Mirrormask might be a little tough to track down on streaming, but it's a spooky Neil Gaiman story that is a bit less traumatic than Coraline and is also STUNNINGLY beautiful.

+1 Over the Garden Wall, I can't say enough good things about it, I watch it EVERY YEAR around Halloween.
posted by helloimjennsco at 8:53 AM on October 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

Time Bandits maybe? The Evil Genius is creepy, and so are some of the earlier appearances of the Supreme Being (when he's just a disembodied floating head), but that's tempered with some goofy scaled-down-Monty-Python antics and a lovely plot thread involving King Agamemnon.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:55 AM on October 29, 2021 [7 favorites]

Seconding Time Bandits, which was notable for me as a kid because it’s the first movie I ever saw with a truly nihilistic ending (capped off with a VERY jaunty and catchy George Harrison tune!)

I personally think Beetlejuice would be fine for an eight year old and a ten year old. It does have some jokes that are not super appropriate for kids, but the nice thing about most adult humor is that it goes over their heads anyway. You’re going to find this to be the case in any movie from the eighties, people just did not super sweat these things too much back then. Ghostbusters was the perfect ratio of scary/fun when I was a kid, and it was YEARS before I realized Ray was getting a blowie from a ghost.

Fun trivia - the “how the hell is this PG” take on Gremlins is what inspired the MPAA to create the PG-13 rating! I also think Gremlins would be fine for kids, it is MUCH goofier than you might remember - only caveat here is that the movie completely spills the beans on Santa Claus.
posted by cakelite at 9:08 AM on October 29, 2021 [2 favorites]

Little Shop of Horrors? PG-13, as there's a murderous plant that eats people, and there's some chopping up done offscreen but shown in silhouette. There's some domestic violence (verbal abuse, slapping around) to a protagonist by a villain, the later of whom later sings a super catchy bop about sadism that whooshed right over my head at a very sheltered age 11. But the cast is terrific, the plot hums along, the songs are great.
posted by mochapickle at 9:12 AM on October 29, 2021 [3 favorites]

Poltergeist is a terrific movie that scared the living shit out of me when I saw it around eight or so…so obviously I kept watching it and watching it! It’s probably too scary for today’s little kids, but uhm, some kids LIKE being scared so it might just turn them into degenerate horror movie fans and there are worse fates.
posted by cakelite at 9:21 AM on October 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

My go to PG movies are:
Cloak and Dagger (1984)
Explorers (1985)
The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)
The Sorcerer's Apprentice (2010)
SpyKids (2001)
posted by racersix6 at 9:24 AM on October 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

If they're not quite ready for The Monster Squad yet, they will be soon. And don't forget The Goonies and Young Frankenstein!
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:25 AM on October 29, 2021

I’ve seen Goonies mentioned a couple of times; just a warning that we found it aged *very* poorly for this generation’s norms.
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:37 AM on October 29, 2021 [2 favorites]

Having rewatched Monster Squad last year I will say this about it... they use a homophobic slur in there A LOT. So if that is an issue for you I'd give it a pass.

I'd suggest the very goofy the Ghost & Mr Chicken.
posted by Ashwagandha at 9:38 AM on October 29, 2021 [5 favorites]

Another vote for Spirited Away.
Also, Matilda.
posted by Zumbador at 10:13 AM on October 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

Could your kid pull off some of the black and white classics? They are tense, but not bloody. Movies like The Blob, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, Night of the Living Dead, and Plan 9 from Outer Space would be some examples.
posted by The_Vegetables at 10:40 AM on October 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

Night of the Living Dead is straight up terrifying nihilism and not for kids! Roger Ebert wrote memorably about this film when it first came out and describes the reaction of the kids expecting “I Was a Teenage Werewolf.” Great movie, but there is none of the Joe Dante goofiness of Gremlins or the Spielbergian family values of Poltergeist to be found.
posted by cakelite at 10:53 AM on October 29, 2021 [5 favorites]

Casper (1995)
posted by sewellcm at 10:54 AM on October 29, 2021

As a kid my favorite was Watcher in the Woods. It's Disney staring Bette Davis.
posted by ShakeyJake at 10:54 AM on October 29, 2021 [3 favorites]

posted by Rocket26 at 11:17 AM on October 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

Not sure if this is exactly what you're looking for but The Halloween Tree is spooky fun, and is probably one of my favorite Leonard Nimoy roles.
posted by Aleyn at 11:32 AM on October 29, 2021

I loved Casper as a kid! Terrified by The Witches, though.
posted by Pwoink at 11:58 AM on October 29, 2021

Best answer: Box Trolls (stop motion, only a little scary)
The Witches-depends on the kid, I liked it
Wizard of Oz or Wiz
90s Addams Family movies
posted by emjaybee at 12:12 PM on October 29, 2021

Return to Oz is maybe on the edge of too scary, but might have enough whimsy to be worth trying.

Also, I was very much a horror kid and I loved a lot of the Universal Monster films at that age. I would especially recommend The Invisible Man for 8 to 10 year olds - it has a lot of comedic moments, as well as cool early special effects - and maybe Bride of Frankenstein and The Devil Doll (the 1936 one about shrinking people, not the 1964 one about ventriloquism).
posted by darchildre at 1:26 PM on October 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

If you're looking for a Goonies analog that is more today-appropriate, Finding ʻOhana (netflix) is a well done homage to the format.
posted by furnace.heart at 1:35 PM on October 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

Paranorman is good and fun, though it might skew slightly older, I think a tween audience might be ideal. It has some scary zombie things and some ostracized teen feelings but also plenty of humor and a pretty thrilling plot so it depends on the kids.

Monster House is legitimately really scary and spooky so it might be too much but it’s a great movie with solid plot and direction and a really cool style.

Kiki’s Delivery Service is about a young witch with a black cat but isn’t scary at all, though it’s pretty exhilarating.

Coco is a fantastic movie about the Day of the Dead full of skeletons and music and color. It doesn’t seem like it would be scary but might spook a sensitive kid. Great way to introduce this wonderful holiday to someone.

Over the Garden Wall has a run time of a movie if you marathon it. It is gorgeous, haunting, funny, autumnally evocative and delightfully weird. There is a monster in it that spooked me as an anxious adult but might not scare kids as much. It’s about two siblings getting lost so it might especially resonate with your kids.
posted by Mizu at 1:37 PM on October 29, 2021

The Secret of NIMH has dark imagery, spooky characters, and scary situations. One of my favs even as an adult.
posted by Rora at 4:48 PM on October 29, 2021 [3 favorites]

the child catcher in chitty chitty bang bang scared the crap out of 9 year old me. but it's only 10 minutes of the movie.
posted by bruceo at 5:50 PM on October 29, 2021

What about ET?
posted by SLC Mom at 10:34 PM on October 29, 2021 [2 favorites]

Is Bedknobs and Broomsticks still a thing? I loved that movie as a kid.
posted by lydhre at 6:39 AM on October 30, 2021

Addams Family (the one from the 90s) isn't scary but a bit creepy, and probably really fun for that age. I watched it recently and it holds up!
posted by radioamy at 6:04 PM on November 1, 2021

Response by poster: Pirates of the Carribean and Hocus Pocus both hit the sweet spot and I think the Addams Family movies will, too.

(We already know and like Spirited Away and Labyrinth.)

Thank you!
posted by Omnomnom at 12:14 AM on November 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

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