Top 10 Horror Movies to Watch With Your Kids

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)

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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)

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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)

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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.


Honorable mentions:

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!

~ Sandra (@LilMsMnstr)

Beyond Sword & Scale: 10 True Crime Podcasts Worth Your Time

Sword & Scale is arguably the most popular true crime podcast out there. The show has a crazy amount of support via Patreon, its subscriber numbers are in the millions, and I've seen it mentioned in various magazines and blogs. But there's so much more out there! Don't get me wrong, I love S&S - I just also love a lot of lesser-known shows. So, with the recent start of S&S's newest season, and since my podcast subscription list is about 98% true crime, I wanted to share some of my favorite shows that aren't S&S.

10. ACCUSED

If you liked the first season of Serial, chances are you will like Accused. Cincinnati journalists, Amanda Rossmann and Amber Hunt, spent close to a year investigating the 1978 murder of Elizabeth Andes. This wasn’t a case I was familiar with, which naturally made the content a bit more interesting to me. The two women speak with friends and family of Elizabeth’s as they try to dig deeper into the mystery surrounding her murder. The show is only 11 episodes long so I’d suggest starting with numero uno, “The Crime.” As an added bonus, if you go to the Accused's website, each episode contains additional notes and info (there's even an interactive crime scene).

Snapped should sound familiar to seasoned fans of the Oxygen network. Snapped is a long-running Oxygen network show that quickly became a fan favorite. Riding this success, producers launched the podcast version of this popular true crime show and tbh, it seems to be a solid companion/addition. Featuring only women who've committed murder (or have attempted to), Snapped covers the women’s life stories, upbringing, and, most importantly, the circumstances which lead to them committing their crimes and the eventual fallout. Just like you’d expect from the TV show, the stories behind each of the crimes are delivered by the killers themselves, their family & friends, the family & friends of the victims, police officers & investigators, lawyers, and witnesses. Episode 1, about Carol Kopenkoskey and her confession to the murder of her husband, is a solid introduction to this entertaining show.

Article from the Oxygen network's blog: 33 Women Who 'Snapped' and Committed Murder

This was originally a show that aired on Investigation Discovery (my favorite channel). Similar to my next entry, Mind of a Murderer is a podcast that I really hope will be eventually brought back for another round of episodes. It’s hosted by Dr. Michelle Ward, a world renowned criminal psychologist and trial consultant, and covers six chilling cases of murder. Episode 5 - Evil Rider: Karl Knapp is an exceptionally unnerving episode as you can’t help but wonder what causes some people to just snap.

It’s no secret that I have a fondness for Ms. DeLong. I’m an Investigation Discovery junky so, of course, I'm a huge fan of the show Deadly Women, of which Candice DeLong is a recurring expert commentator. Her history as an FBI profiler makes her a perfect choice for a true crime show commentator - not to mention, her quips and puns about the killers just can't be topped. Facing Evil is also a regular show on ID and is currently in its fifth season. It’s really a damn shame this podcast was only one season because I will listen to just about anything that Candice DeLong hosts. If you don't start labeling everyone as a "sociopath" after watching/listening to a show w/ Candice, then you're doing something wrong.

Phoebe Judge hosts (and co-created!) this well-produced TC podcast. Though Criminal primarily covers stories of murder, there are multiple episodes peppered in throughout, which cover interesting crimes outside of the world of grisly murders. With each episode coming in at around 20 minutes long, you can easily squeeze a couple in during your morning commute. Criminal seems to prefer to focus on the various individuals involved in the crimes, and often uses recorded interviews with these folks, in order to give new perspectives on fairly well-known cases. If you need a place to start, I liked Episode 23: Triassic Park. It talks about the lure for some travelers to take “unauthorized souvenirs” home with them. In the case of this episode, you’ll learn why you shouldn’t take any wood home with you from the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.

Hollywood & Crime is a serialized docu-drama that discusses and investigates a series of horrific murders which took place in 20th century Hollywood. Fans of TC will be familiar with at least one of these cases: Elizabeth Short, better known as The Black Dahlia. H&C uses voice actors and audio reenactments to transport its listeners back in time. Unlike the more info-heavy crime podcasts, this particular style plays out like some of my favorite Investigation Discovery shows, with equal parts entertainment and information. H&C is another newbie to the lineup of crime podcasts and hasn’t even hit ten episodes, meaning you can easily start listening now and catch up in no time.

This is a newer find for me and it’s already one of my favorites. In fact, it’s a newer podcast in general and is currently only in its first season. Host, Benjamin, uses his calm and almost hypnotic voice and pacing to discuss cases of UK crime. As I don’t live in the UK, many of the cases he covers are new to me, which is always an added bonus. One of my favorite episodes so far was Episode 9, which talks about MI16’s (the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service - think James Bond) involvement in the murder of a 14-year-old boy from Manchester. Each episode seems thoroughly researched, well-paced, and relatively short, with most coming in at around 30 minutes. I look forward to future episodes and seasons!

Here’s another new show that was an immediate hit with me. It’s produced by Earwolf Radio, in partnership with Investigation Discovery, and is described as a “12-part weekly documentary podcast...a fascinating, contemporary audio investigation of the Boston Strangler story.” Stranglers is hosted by Portland Helmich, who has worked as an actress (The Purge: Election Year) and TV producer. Her narration and interviews are refreshing and light in contrast to the heavy, grim subject matter of the Boston Strangler murders of the early 60’s. Stranglers uses witness and expert interviews, as well as voice actors and sound effects to bring listeners right back to this terrifying time in Boston’s history. As this show is a 12-part documentary, it’s likely there aren’t any plans for a second season. But if they change their minds, I’ll be one of the first to subscribe.

This show has remained in my top three true crime podcasts since I first started listening. The host is an anonymous Australian gent, who primarily discusses cases of Australian true crime (the show does venture away from Australia every so often). Kudos and high praise are due to those behind-the-scenes researchers of Casefile because this seems like one of the better-researched shows I’ve listened to. At just over a year old (started in January of 2016), Casefile is already a hit with true crime fans and I, for one, hope it sticks around for a while. If you’re looking for somewhere to start, try Episode 19: Snowtown. The Snowtown murders are fairly well-known and it was interesting to hear about it from an Australian. If you’re a horror fan and have not seen the movie The Snowtown Murders, cancel your plans for tonight and watch it. It’s one of the most unsettling movies I’ve seen - Daniel Henshall (The Babadook) is seriously chilling in his portrayal of murderer, John Bunting.

This is a perfect podcast for folks who are interested more in the facts and circumstances surrounding crimes and less so in all the gory details. That’s not to say hosts Aaron and Justin don’t ever discuss the grim details surrounding any particular crime (sometimes it’s impossible to avoid) - it’s just not the focus. When I first started listening to GWP, I was instantly hooked and binged almost the entire catalogue in just over a week. I say “almost” because I’m not so much a fan of the episodes where the hosts either interview someone or have a guest “expert” joining in for the discussion (I skip over most of these). I can’t really say I have a favorite ep, but if you’re looking to check it out for the first time, try Episode 69 about Lucie Blackman. Even though there is a guest on this episode, he is well-versed and knowledgeable about the case and is able to discuss it in a factual way without much focus on his personal views/biases. If you are intrigued by the case of Lucie Blackman, I highly recommend reading the novel, The People Who Eat Darkness. I couldn’t put it down and read the entire book on a 6-hour flight to Brazil.


In addition to my 10 current faves, these are the podcasts that either simply didn't make the cut or are still sitting on my list of shows to check out. If there are any that you want to share that aren't listed here, put them in the comments! I'm always looking for new true crime to check out. I'm a serious junkie...

  • Detective - I enjoyed the first season of this show (it's all interviews with Lt. Joe Kenda) but my interest has sort of waned with the second.
  • Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories - This is a great "filler" show. I haven't been totally sucked in, but I like it enough to keep checking out new episodes.
  • My Favorite Murder - It's obvious hosts Karen and Georgia have a genuine love of true crime and use that to offer a casual and humorous approach to covering cases of murder. I'm just not wild about it, personally.
  • Real Crime Profile - I've only listened to a handful of eps, but this show seems to be well thought-out and produced.
  • Thinking Sideways Podcast - Though not one of my favorites, it's a popular show that has a lot of listeners. The hosts seem to offer a nice balance to the heavy subject matter.
  • True Crime Garage - This is a show that has been suggested to me by multiple folks however, I have a really difficult time listening to the hosts and their banter. One of the host's has a voice that's like nails on a chalkboard to my ears...
  • Last Podcast on the Left - I get that a lot of people love this show and I respect that, you do you. I'm no Puritan but I'm definitely more facts/material over personal commentary and this show is just packed with too much off-putting humor for my taste.

Already Gone Podcast, The Vanished Podcast, Undisclosed, Truth & Justice with Bob Ruff, What the Crime?!, In the Dark, Someone Knows Something, A New Winter, True Crime Historian, Thin Air, True Murder, The Trail Went Cold, Actual Innocence, True Crime All the Time, Serial Killers


Good Love/Bad Love: Ten Horror Movies for Valentine's Day

What's more horrifying than being in love? Romance is a common theme in scary movies. Here are some horror films that explore all that is great & terrible about love.

First up - The Good:

The Signal

Sure, our couple is having an illicit affair, but we can all agree her husband is just awful. And that's before the strange signal starts to turn everyone into murderous psychopaths. Their love story forms the connective tissue of this anthology film.


Spring

How do you trick someone like me into watching a romantic movie about straight white people? Make one half of the couple a literal monster. Spring manages to hit all the same beats as a normal romance while somehow feeling fresh & inventive.


Let the Right One In

Two lonely kids find each other in the sweetest damn horror movie ever. I'm not crying, you're crying. SHUT UP.


A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

Vampires are always being all sexy, but usually it doesn't do anything for me. Maybe this one works because our vampire is so un-vampirey. She's just a girl who dances to records in her bedroom & happens to find the boy of her dreams. Le sigh.


Dead Alive

Sure, it's super cheeseball, but Lionel & Pacquita are in love. His overbearing mum can't keep them apart, & neither can hoards of the undead. They're so in love they don't even mind that their triumphant kiss happens while they're both coated in blood & gore. Those crazy kids.


And now - the not so good:

May

Poor May's only friend is a porcelain doll. She desperately wants to have a connection with a real person, but she's just so damn weird. When she can't seem to find that perfect person to love, she decides it might be better to assemble one herself.


The Loved Ones

See that sweet looking little gal in the picture? That's Lola. You know how the song goes, right? If this little Lola decides she wants you, you're in very big trouble.


Calvaire

Suave crooner Marc is used to attention from the mature ladies in his audience, but when he's stranded in the middle of nowhere he attracts a whole lot of attention from the locals. Especially Mr. Bartel, who decides Marc is his missing wife, come back to make everything right. Sometimes it's not so fun to be the object of people's desire.


Bug

Sure, trust is essential in any relationship. But you've got to have limits, people! By all means listen sympathetically when your boyfriend complains about invisible bugs & shadowy army conspiracies. What you don't want to do is start thinking 'hey, this makes sense.' Because no.


High Tension

What to do when you discover your best friend has a crush on you? It's a tricky situation, for sure. Here's something you shouldn't do - don't invite her to your family's secluded country home & then leave the tool shed unlocked. Not if your best friend's alter ego is a murderous psychopath, anyway.