"They're here." Get the flashlights ready, fill up the candy bowls, and hold hands. These scary movies will deliver plenty of chills and thrills. Don't be surprised if the kids want to sleep in your bed afterward.
Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein
Rated: Not rated
Cast: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello
It's a monster mash when Abbott and Costello meet Count Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolfman. The hapless duo are baggage handlers who encounter more than one classic screen monster in McDougal's House of Horrors and become part of a plot to give Frankenstein a new and feebler brain -- Costello's.
What Parents Like: Look for vintage performances from Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., Glenn Strange, and the voice of Vincent Price as the Invisible Man.
What Kids Like: It's fun to see a grown man cry. Kids will relate to the hysteric antics of scaredy-cat Costello: "ABBOTT!"
The Addams Family, Addams Family Values
Year: 1991, 1993
Cast: Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia, Christopher Lloyd, Christina Ricci
Sure they wear black and revel in tragedy and death, but the Addamses are a creative, loving, and protective family. They also are affectionate. As the new nanny says, "I just adore little babies. I want to grab them and squeeze them until there's not a breath left in their tiny little bodies."
What Parents Like: Huston is wickedly delicious as Morticia, the slinky and elegant matriarch. When she gives birth, she enjoys the pain.
What Kids Like: As Wednesday, Ricci is a droll moppet, especially when she wonders aloud if Girl Scout cookies are made from real Scouts.
Animaniacs: Spooky Stuff
Rated: Not rated
Cast: Voices of Rob Paulsen, Jess Harnell, Tress MacNeille
Inkblot sibs Wakko, Yakko, and Dot run amok in six skits featuring Frankenstein, the Grim Reaper, and the big baddie himself, Satan.
What Parents Like: You've gotta love a cartoon that intones: "Beyond these doors is an agony worse than all others...whiny protest songs from the 60s!"
What Kids Like: Zany slapstick that pokes fun at typical fright-night fare. In one scene, the kids ask Count Dracula, "Didn't you used to teach math on Sesame Street?"
Cast: Michael Keaton, Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Winona Ryder
A young couple dies in a car accident and discovers unwelcome pests in their home: the new owners. They summon supernatural help to scare the pesky newcomers away, but then need help getting rid of the hired hand.
What Parents Like: And you thought calling the exterminator was a chore! Baldwin and Davis shine as a happily married couple in life and in death.
What Kids Like: Lavishly surreal sets and a devilish Keaton make this a breathlessly quirky and edgy film. Ryder is a Goth girl who wears her gloom like a charm bracelet.
Casper, Casper Meets Wendy
Rated: PG, G
Year: 1995, 1999
Cast: Bill Pullman, Christina Ricci, Hilary Duff, Cathy Moriarty
Ghost for tweens: Ghost meets girl, ghost saves girl. Can ghosts and girls, or ghosts and witches, really be friends, or (gulp) more? In the first film, Ricci is the daughter of a paranormal psychiatrist who makes house calls to the mansion where Casper and his uncles haunt. In the second, Duff is a fledgling witch, who must flee to a Catskills resort with her three aunts to escape a warlock.
What Parents Like: Parents may cringe at the filmy dialogue until they see their preteen staring dreamily at the screen. Ghosts really do get the best girls, especially with Ricci and Duff along for the ride.
What Kids Like: It's an otherworldly little romance with special effects and screwball relatives.
Cast: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis, Harold Ramis
It's bedlam in the Big Apple when ghosts run amok in New York City. A ragtag team of professors-turned-exterminators sets out to capture the unruly haunters and prevent a disaster of Biblical proportions. Think "Old Testament" with "fire and brimstone coming down from the skies."
What Parents Like: Murray and company are in high comedic form and spirits as the wisecracking scientists. Weaver is a sultry demon.
What Kids Like: Get your proton guns ready. These phantoms pop up faster than the ghostbusters can zap and bottle them. The biggest demon turns out to be all fluff: the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man.
Cast: Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, Sarah Jessica Parker, Thora Birch, Omri Katz
Max is a California teen whose family relocates in Salem, Massachusetts, where local lore has it that the three Sanderson sisters will return to wreak havoc. The three witches are intent on getting eternal youth and beauty the old-fashioned way -- by sucking the life force out of children.
What Parents Like: As one character says, "Aren't you broads a little too old to be out trick-or-treating?" Well, yes and no. Midler is a treat as campy, oldest sister Winifred. Too bad there isn't more of the divine diva, or over-the-top musical numbers like "I Put a Spell on You." Parker is fetching as a nymph-like enchantress.
What Kids Like: Twitchy fun that's not too scary, thanks to clever one-liners and diverting subplots involving a zombie, a talking cat, a spellbook, and a cute but bratty kid sister.
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
Rated: Not rated
Cast: Voices of Peter Robbins, Christopher Shea
Oh, nothing compares to the breathless suspense of Halloween, except for maybe Christmas. Linus and Sally wait all night in the pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin to appear, Snoopy is in high-flying form as an ace pilot, and the gang compares their Halloween loot.
What Parents Like: Expectations and frustrations are a part of life. Thankfully, the animation is never dizzyingly hyper or distracting, especially when accompanied by Vince Guaraldi's subtle jazz score.
What Kids Like: Disappointment is finding a rock in your sack. After the original broadcast, children all over the country mailed in candy for Charlie Brown in sympathy.
The Little Vampire
Cast: Jonathan Lipnicki, Anna Popplewell, Rollo Weeks
Tormented souls can be sweet, or at least they are to Tony, a lonely American boy who dreams of vampires. In Scotland he finds a soulful family of bloodsuckers who harbor a secret craving: to become human. Magic amulets, comets, vampire hunters, and a herd of flying vampire cows add clever and startling mischief to an entertaining yarn.
What Parents Like: Meeting the neighbors can be fun. Even vampire moms worry about their kids, and tenderly wipe off their mouths after a messy meal.
What Kids Like: Thrilling flying sequences show the unathletic Tony soaring in the night sky with his new nocturnal best friend, Rudolph.
Cast: JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, Heather O'Rourke
A family's house becomes the site of eerie paranormal activity and visitations. It's amazing how quickly ordinary household objects -- chairs, television sets, the tree outside your window -- can become ominous and terrifying.
What Parents Like: Suburbia is scary, but overdevelopment is the worst.
What Kids Like: Be warned. Youngsters will be running to turn on the light.
Summer of Fear
(aka Stranger in Our House)
Cast: Linda Blair, Lee Purcell, Carol Lawrence
When Rachel's cousin loses her parents in a car crash and moves in with her, strange things start happening. At first Rachel resents the presence of her perfect cousin, who seems to have cast a spell over her boyfriend and parents. Soon Rachel suspects that the stranger in her house is not a poor and mousy relation, but a sinister witch with a murderous temper.
What Parents Like: Horrormeister Wes Craven directed this made-for-TV thriller, based on a spooky Lois Duncan novel.
What Kids Like: Preteens and teens will enjoy watching the havoc Julia wreaks on Rachel's life. When Julia loses her temper, you'll want to give her a time-out.
Cast: Anjelica Huston, Jasen Fisher, Rowan Atkinson, Mai Zetterling
Huston is the Grand High Witch who presides over a convention of cackling, scheming witches in a sleepy seaside British hotel. It's up to Luke, a brave 6-year-old, to stop their evil plan to turn the world's children into mice, using chocolate as the lure.
What Parents Like: Based on the Roald Dahl book, the film reinforces that there are unseen dangers and evils in the world that innocent eyes can't see. Luke's grandmother, Helga, is a stalwart and wise protector.
What Kids Like: Witches can be tricky to spot, but underneath the stylish wigs, dresses, and masks, they have gleaming purple eyes, square toes, and bald, warty heads.
The Worst Witch
Cast: Fairuza Balk, Tim Curry, Charlotte Rae, Diana Rigg
Mildred is the new student at a very proper British boarding school for witches, where the lesson plans include flying in formation and concocting laughing potions.
What Parents Like: With Rae playing both the dean and her dastardly twin, Haggis, this is the The Facts of Life for cute covens. Curry hams it up as the Grand Wizard, complete with musical numbers.
What Kids Like: Mildred gets off to a rough start but she soon passes with flying colors, especially when she transforms the snobby bully into a pig and saves the school.