UTG’s 31 Days Of Halloween: Films For The Whole Family

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Of all the holidays celebrated worldwide, no single day is more loved by the UTG staff than Halloween. With the arrival of the year’s best month, the time has finally come to begin rolling out a plethora of features and special announcements we have prepared in celebration of our favorite day, including the one you’re about to read.

Now in its third year, 31 Days Of Halloween is a recurring feature that will run throughout the month of October. The hope and goal of this column is to supply every UTG reader with a daily horror (or Halloween-themed) movie recommendation that is guaranteed to amplify your All Hallows’ Eve festivities.

In this special, first-time installment of 31 Days, the entire UTG staff has weighed in on some of our favorite spooky family films. Some are animated, some are live action, and some are both, but they’re all sure to appeal to kids and adults alike. Spoiler: there’s a lot of Tim Burton.


Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Edward Scissorhands can be quite terrifying, but the underlying message of understanding a foreign environment or persons stands true as validation for this as a family film. Through blasted arenas of bright color against black, the film sits eerily in tone, but can resonate well with audiences of all family backgrounds. Coming from director Tim Burton’s own feelings as an isolated teenager, the trails of Edward as a frightening figure only solidify Burton’s message of understanding all variants of the human experience. It is a message of accepting someone with circumstances out of their control, and knowing that while shrouded in darkness, there can be blasts of color. — Drew Caruso, News & Feature Writer

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It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)

My father is probably the biggest fan of Charles Schulz and his cartoons that has ever walked the planet. My earliest memories all include some type of Snoopy interaction, be it through the comic strips, toys, snow cone machines, or the numerous classic television specials. I still hold all these memories quite dear to this day, but no piece of Peanuts sticks with me quite like It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Like anything related to Charlie Brown and his friends, this timeless story is not as much about the season it takes place in or the events that happen throughout the journey as it is the lesson the story has to share. That said, Linus’ pursuit of the mysterious Great Pumpkin is something I believe we can all relate to. We’ve all held out hope for something that seemed too good to be true, and even when others told us our passion was foolish we kept our faith. I might not have a blanket in my hands all the time, but I still spend countless nights every year in my own metaphorical pumpkin patch, hoping and wishing with every ounce of courage I can muster that the things I believe in turn out to be real. — James Shotwell, Founder / Editor

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Frankenweenie (2012)

Frankenweenie, based off of the 1984 short that got Tim Burton fired from Disney, is the last of a dying breed. Burton is one of the only people that can make his stop-motion films look so unearthly and meticulous yet lace them with heartwarming messages. Frankenweenie is his most personal film, spinning a black & white tale about a boy with a penchant for horror filmmaking, his dog, and a town that doesn’t quite understand him. To me, this resonates. This homage to old horror films like Frankenstein and Dracula is about the kid that sat at home and was influenced by culture through film instead of playing outside with other kids.

Being Disney’s last stop-motion animated film ever, Frankenweenie ends on a somber note. Through Victor Frankenstein reanimating his dog, chaos reigns after some other kids try out the same technique. One of Burton’s most heartwarming turns into a monster battle film for a little while but in reality, the only thing going into battle are the children’s lost hopes of bringing their beloved pets back and returning life to the way it was. That’s what makes Frankenweenie endearing; it’s so heart-achingly honest in the way that it presents the plight of children dealing with loss that you can’t help but identify with all the players in the film. — Sam Cohen, Film News & Reviews

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Beetlejuice (1988)

Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! Like, what the hell is Tim Burton thinking in this one? No run of watching faux universe ’90s Halloween films (what a genre, eh?) is complete without Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice. Coveted as a cult classic — and rightfully so — this goofy film surrounds a world I still have subsequent questions regarding. Maybe the best way to go about answering the mystery of Beetlejuice’s world is dusting off the VHS version and giving it one more go? — Matthew Leimkuehler, Music Editor / Feature Writer

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Coraline (2009)

When it comes to animation and horror films, stop-motion is probably the first thing that comes to mind, as it lends so well to the overall creepy aesthetic most directors are trying to achieve. In terms of family friendly stop-motion, Coraline perfectly captures the imagination, and nightmares, of a little girl who just feels like she doesn’t belong. Admittedly, Coraline is probably for the kids who are a little off, which is probably why it’s such a popular film to watch in my family. The film blends incredibly beautiful stop-motion with other animation styles that captures the innocence of youth, and brings both laughs, awe, and scares to life. — Tyler Osborne, News & Feature Writer

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Young Frankenstein (1974)

Young Frankenstein is a true gem of its time. The Mel Brooks directed comedic reimagining of the beloved tale is a quirky, humorous, and spooky delve into a more mature master plot. What makes the film so perfect for haunted family fun is the variability of the work. There is adult humor that is sure to only resonate with the parental audience, but it is so well done that it will be quick wit that will most likely go over the kids’ head. The performances of the entire cast demand appreciation for their humorous stature and movement, especially the frantic Dr. Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) and his trusty assistant Igor (Marty Feldman). In the hunt for Abby Normal, the entire family can enjoy this timeless classic filled with spooky laughs. — Drew Caruso, News & Feature Writer

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Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)

Wallace and Gromit were introduced to the public way back in 1989, but it wasn’t until 2005 that the dynamic duo were given a proper feature length film to further allow audiences the opportunity to fall in love with their personalities and hilarious hikinks. Lovingly referred to as the “first vegetarian horror film,” the human/canine team find themselves in quite a pickle when pitted against a massive, veggie-hungry beast in Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Aardman Animations’ excellent stop-motion claymation magic leads the way in a fun and wondrous romp through an exciting mystery with delightful characters, surprising twists and plenty of killer jokes; some for the whole family and some aimed specifically at parents that young children won’t catch onto. — Brian Lion, Co-Owner / Editor

wallace and gromit


Ghostbusters (1984)

Ghostbusters is a film that shouldn’t need an introduction. Actually, the film, the franchise, shouldn’t even need this paragraph. 2014 marks the 30-year anniversary of the initial release of the original Ghostbusters, where Bill Murray, marshmallows, and embryonic CGI changed the way we look at ghostly comedy.

Whether it’s due to Sigourney Weaver’s unforgettable fried egg scene or the green Slimer ghoul, the flick will undoubtedly be ingrained in the minds of Generation Y moviegoers for years to come. If you don’t take the opportunity to share these films with any and all members of your family, they’re missing out on iconic pieces of American cinematography, especially considering they certainly know the theme song. Introduce them to the source. It’s requisite family viewing for the Halloween season. — Derek Scancarelli, Head of Videography / UTG TV

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Monster House (2006)

It’s incredibly difficult to make a horror film geared towards children that also has the ability to send chills down the spines of adults everywhere. Monster House is one of the very few films to ever accomplish this feat, but for whatever reason it’s rarely praised when classic horror tales are discussed. The film itself is one of the most beautifully rendered CGI romps to ever hit the screen, and it’s only made better by the fact it has a truly engaging story to tell. There are numerous mysteries of the strange house across the street, each slightly more unsettling than the last, and the film does a great job of keeping you on your toes throughout its runtime. The big third act reveal is a little too depressing for young audiences, but it makes the overall impact of the story far greater for those able to appreciate the heartbreaking origin of the house that appears to be alive. — James Shotwell, Founder / Editor

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Mars Attacks! (1996)

What isn’t to love about Mars Attacks!? The mid-’90s film composed by out-of-this-world mastermind Tim Burton and starring Jack Nicholson (twice), Danny DeVito, Annette Benning, Pierce Brosnan, and a young Natalie Portman (with a “killer” cameo from Tom Jones and several other well-known actors) is a glowing and brilliant display of extraterrestrial creativity. The sardonic sense of humor portrayed via Burton and the star-studded cast is impeccable and playful, making this one of the downright best films to dust off and re-visit during the Halloween season. — Matthew Leimkuehler, Music Editor / Feature Writer

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ParaNorman (2012)

In a decade swarmed with zombie-themed everything, ParaNorman showcases a unique take on the genre not only with Laika’s gorgeous, unrivaled stop-motion claymation, but within its original storyline as well. Featuring a perfectly chosen voice cast and an ideal balance of lovable characters, playful spookiness, and even a powerful overlying message relevant to any age, ParaNorman is a fun-filled adventure that takes a highly popular and easily marketable theme and adds its own little twist. Add in some clever nods to classic horror films and another flawless Jon Brion score and you’ve got a recipe for success that makes this film unforgettable within an exhausted sub-genre. — Brian Lion, Co-Owner / Editor

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Casper (1995)

Casper is Halloween. there is nothing more Halloween than the teenage love story of a ghost and a girl — and a scene of ghosts eating an incredible amount of food. It’s one of the few all-ages films to create a balance between a spooky and heartfelt paradigm. Every part of the film, from the goofy father to the warming feeling of a lost ghost finding his place, is worth a watch with your loved ones. Who said Halloween can’t warm your soul? — Matthew Leimkuehler, Music Editor / Feature Writer

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Monsters Inc. (2001)

I can’t believe it’s been well over a decade since Pixar released Monsters Inc., one of their most beloved films to date. From the animation, to the endless amount of characters within the film’s universe, to the stellar voice cast that give them life (e.g. John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi), Monster’s Inc. will undoubtedly live on as a classic animated film. The best part? It’s a perfect choice to include in your Halloween season movie-watching rotation for the whole family. It’s just as lovable as any other Pixar gem except that its characters are monsters, and what better time to enjoy furry, fanged, multi-eyed beasts and slippery, slithery, serpent-y creatures than around All Hallows’ Eve? Snuggle up with your kids (or parents) and watch Mike and Sully do what they do best: SCARE! — Brian Lion, Co-Owner / Editor

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Ernest Scared Stupid (1991)

Jim Varney’s seemingly endless series of Ernest movies was a major staple of my childhood, and the one film from the franchise that has stayed with me ever since is his goofy Halloween entry in Ernest Scared Stupid. Nevermind the dismal 17% rating on Rotten Tomatoes; Ernest Scared Stupid, while indeed Stupid, is a must-see this season for any family that enjoys goofy humor mixed with spooky themes. Varney shines in his usual multiple roles and the antagonists in this film–some truly disgusting trolls–actually creeped me out as a kid due to their surprisingly impressive, practical costumes; akin to something created by Jim Henson. The story may be ludicrous and the acting almost embarrassingly bad, but if you can let go of standards to enjoy some wacky, empty entertainment, Ernest Scared Stupid can account for a fun, 90-minute escape. — Brian Lion, Co-Owner / Editor

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The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)

What makes the story of Sleepy Hollow alluring for family spooks lies within the history presented within it. With The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow, a fallen solider of the Revolutionary War loses his head in battle, only to remain and haunt the town that encompasses his burying grounds. While the subject matter can seem quite daunting for a family setting, Disney, as they do so well, take rather unsettling folklore and turn it into family fun. Yes, you will see a Headless Horsemen, and yes, you will see flaming pumpkins being tossed at adversaries, but you will also be given musical numbers, and fun art style, and bits of humor to wrap this urban legend in a tense, but fun family adventure. If your kids can take this, maybe in a decade or so we can revisit Tim Burton’s vision of the New York community. Coupled with the lighter tone of The Wind In The Willows, this double feature is perfect for a quiet October evening held by a warm living room. — Drew Caruso, News & Feature Writer

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The Addams Family (1991)

In the 75-plus years since their cartoon debut, The Addams family have experienced countless adaptations, but it wasn’t until 1991 that they were given a proper theatrical feature film. To this day, Barry Sonnenfeld’s The Addams Family remains one of my childhood favorites, and after a recent, long overdue rewatch, I realized how many elements of the film I likely didn’t understand or appreciate as a child. Over two decades later, I’m able to fully embrace this film as a smart, perfectly cast, dark comedy with endless, witty macabre jokes and characters that you can’t help but love, no matter how sadistic and unusual they may be. With perfect portrayals of each family member by all involved (Anjelica Huston, Raúl Juliá, Christopher Lloyd, a young Christina Ricci et al.), The Addams Family is a hilariously creepy (and kooky) film that the whole family can get into, especially because most kids won’t be privy to the much darker themes and dialogue that will give the parents some extra laughs — if they’re all together ooky. Sic gorgiamus allos subjectatos nunc! — Brian Lion, Co-Owner / Editor

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The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Despite its co-opting by the Hot Topic crowd, nothing can sap the nostalgia-fueled charm of The Nightmare Before Christmas. There’s a reason the charismatic king of Halloweentown, the curiosity-cursed Jack Skellington, can be seen grinning from every tote bag and t-shirt. His ill-fated journey and Christmas education delight even as we wince at his ignorance.

Everything in this film blends together seamlessly. Henry Selick has only directed a handful of movies, but each has been a victory. Danny Elfman’s music, ever full of magic and whimsy, elevates the impeccable stop-motion imagery. The idea of a Halloweentown, a Christmastown, and a wood that houses their doors is just one of the many bits of clever imagination in this clever-yet-terrifying film. And this film is terrifying, which is part of why it works so well. Oogie’s hellishness made a “skeleton king” seem a relative (misguided) angel. The journey was harrowing, and thus the victory that much sweeter. Granted, the clown with the tear-away face is still around, and still so very, very terrifying. That clown is still the real nightmare. — Tyler Hanan, News & Feature Writer

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The Gate (1987)

Goosebumps before Goosebumps, The Gate tells the story of two grade school friends who accidentally open a gate to Hell in a suburban backyard. Released during the post-Goonies / Gremlins era, the film’s scares are gore-less and geared primarily at a younger crowd, but executed with enough panache that it’s worth an annual re-watch for horror fans of any age. Whatever it lacks in grue, it makes up for tenfold with a smorgasbord of practical effects, including impressive stop motion, miniature, and man-in-suit gags. One transformation in particular – a dead body that turns into a dozen little demons as it hits the floor – still feels absolutely seamless. These effects, combined with a camera that knows just where to sit, give the film a punch that manages to strike the raw nerve of a surprising number of childhood fears in its tight, eighty-five minute runtime; featuring everything from “there’s something under the bed!” shocks, to a deeply unnerving “my parents want to hurt me” moment.

Perhaps most impressively for a film that features a geode and the discography of a Satanic metal band as major plot points, The Gate manages to paint a picture of late eighties suburban childhood as deftly as anything released under the Amblin banner. Parents are mostly out of the picture, older sisters are pre-occupied with boys and bad hair, and friends are left to fend for themselves. — Chris Cullari, Guest Contributor

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The Boxtrolls (2014)

Having included both Coraline and ParaNorman, I figured it was only right to feature the entire Laika hat-trick by showcasing the studio’s most recent triumph in The Boxtrolls. And whereas every other film on this list requires that you stay home to watch them, this just so happens to be the only one we’ve included that you can likely still take your family to see in theaters currently. If you haven’t already done so, I suggest you do just that.

The film features Laika’s gorgeous stop-motion animation–which has only improved since their past releases–and a unique story that balances both dark and heartwarming themes with charming characters and a creepy, eccentric antagonist. A top-notch voice cast, as the studio is wont to include, featuring Elle Fanning, Ben Kingsley, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Game Of Thrones‘ Isaac Hempstead-Wright, help wrap this endearing animated gem up in a near-flawless package for the whole family to enjoy with laughs and chills aplenty. — Brian Lion, Co-Owner / Editor

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Brian Leak

Editor-In-Chief. King of forgetting drinks in the freezer. Pop culture pack rat. X-Phile. LOST apologist.
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  • Derek – UTG Review

    I gotta be honest Drew, Edward Scissorhands TERRIFIED me as a kid! hahaha!!