You may not know this, but I’m a proud auntie! I just gained a new nephew and now I’ve even got a niece on the way, too! And like all good horror fans, I’m counting down the days until I can introduce them to the wonderful world of spooky, supernatural, creepy, and fantastical cinema. Here’s my own personal top 10 list of childhood favorites that helped shaped me into the loveable weirdo I am today. I can’t wait to one day share these with my little circle of critters.
10. Beetlejuice (1988)
This is one of the earliest “scary” movies I can remember watching as a kid. The only part that legitimately freaked me out was when those weird talon-hand things reach out of the soup bowls in the “Day-O” dinner scene. The effects are macabre, but cartoonish, over the top, and silly. Plus, didn’t we all have little crush on Michael Keaton as Betelgeuse? Good, me neither.
9. The Adventures of Ichabod (1949)
This one is usually found in a double feature, along with Mr. Toad. It’s a super simple mini-movie from Walt Disney, narrated in a jaunty musical fashion by the famous crooner, Mr. Bing Crosby. I watched this tale of the unfortunate school teacher and his headless horseman foe EVERY Halloween, and it wasn’t truly the fall season until I did.
8. The Wolf Man (1941)
Ahh...another oldie but a goodie! I feel like I can safely assume this one needs no explanation. I do want my nephews and nieces to know the genre roots, eventually. The Wolf Man was (and still is) my favorite classic monster. Maybe the wolf isn’t as emotionally gripping as Frankenstein’s monster, or as sexual as The Count, but he’s got good hair.
7. Coraline (2009)
Before my nieces & nephews delve into this film for the first time, I hope they start by reading Neil Gaiman’s original book. It’s got the creepy, it’s got the whimsical, and it’s got an adorable, stop-motion animated little girl with blue hair. Coraline is a smart and plucky heroine who travels into a scary alternate reality and HANDLES that shit. The dialogue is funny without having to ever play "dumb" for the family audience.
6. Are You Afraid of the Dark? (1990-2000)
Obviously, this is a TV show and not a movie - but it's still deserving of a place on my list. Words cannot express how badly I wanted to be in a kick-ass scary story circle like The Midnight Society. That’s probably the dream for all little horror fans. Oh, and what about that one episode with the girl who’s slowly turning into a doll? Fucking frightening, amirite??
5. Stephen King's IT (1990)
I hope that someday my nieces/nephews and I can watch IT, followed by the promising-looking remake. This was the movie that started my lifelong devotion to Stephen King. Telling stories from the POV of the kids is a user-friendly way to get the youth into the genre. Just forward all those therapy bills for the coulrophobia treatments directly to me.
4. The Watcher in the Woods (1980)
Another Disney offering, this little known gem is pure gold, people. Those of us who were raised on this CREEPY af movie form a tight-knit little cult. The basic premise is that an American family moves into a big old house near the woods in England. A young girl, Karen, lived there years before and mysteriously vanished. The “present day” kids begin to unravel the truth about what happened to poor Karen. It’s cheesy fun with visuals that still haunt me to this day.
3. Goosebumps (1995-1998) & R.L. Stine's The Haunting Hour (2010-2014)
Since both of these come from the mastermind of R.L. Stine, I counted them as one. I can only hope the children in my life end up loving R.L. Stein’s macabre little world as much as I still do. There’s some kind of creature, ghoul, living dummy, or evil cuckoo clock tale for everyone’s tastes. One of my favorite things about R.L. Stein’s stories? They don’t usually have happy endings. Toughen up, kids! Welcome to horror!
2. The Witches (1990)
Just because an evil witch turns you into a mouse, doesn’t mean that you should give up on trying to destroy them and save the day. Who didn’t get the pants scared off them as a kid after those ladies peeled off their disguises and unveiled their diabolical plan to rid England of all children?! Angelica Huston is a fierce Goddess in this role. Slay, mama, slay.
1. Return to Oz (1985)
I’m sure everyone on planet Earth is sick of me talking about this movie and how much I adore it. Return to Oz shaped my love of horror and dark fantasy. This “sequel” to the classic story picks up with a much younger Dorothy, after she gets back from her original adventure in Oz. She’s about to have her brain fried in a crude psychiatric facility when she’s suddenly transported right back to Oz. There she meets all sorts of mutants, and a wicked witch named Mombi, who can take off her head and exchange it with one of the thirty extras she keeps in glass and golden cabinets. Did I mention this is a kid’s movie? Cool. One of the best parts about this tale is that it suggests Dorothy may just be insane and not an inter-dimensional traveler after all. I’m a romantic, so I choose to believe the former. I am ecstatic at the idea of one day introducing this twisted, fun (and it is really fun), creepy movie to a new generation.
Hocus Pocus (1993)
Another staple, beloved by many, and also released by Disney. If you haven’t watched and loved this movie, I kindly suggest you stop living under a rock and do so immediately. This one certainly helped fuel my obsession with Halloween, but not necessarily with horror. I’m sure the kids will see this one a million times without any help from me.
The Craft (1996)
I watched this one during my formative years and I mean I watched it a lot. My sister, cousin, and I were OBSESSED with this movie. Now that we’re adults, I’m so happy to see that other people our age binged out on The Craft as well. It was a call-to-arms for misfits who didn’t fit it in at school. I’m getting worried that the film industry doesn’t make stuff like this for spooky teens anymore. C’mon, Hollywood! Prove me wrong and give my nieces & nephews movies like this to grow up on!