Throw Open the Gates: 10 Movies and Series to Welcome a Horror Newbie

Chủ nhật - 19/05/2024 21:51
From Wednesday to Gremlins and Ghostbusters (but not the one you think...), we've got a list of titles to awaken the horror fan lurking within.
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It’s that time of year where the weather gets cooler, kids get antsy for costumes and free candy, and horror fans wrack their brains trying to think of movies to show the kids in their lives that won’t lead to full-blown kindertrauma.

The idea behind so-called “gateway horror” is to bring young people into the scare season squad without frightening anyone too badly, though many of the entryways that play for the young can also work for their older counterparts who may not be as into the genre or previously had resisted it.

Take the recently debuted Goosebumps series from Disney+ for example. It’s about a group of kids who find themselves dealing with supernatural forces all inspired by R.L. Stine’s beloved middle grade book series.

The best examples of gateway horror don’t just usher the viewer into the wonderful world of weirdness, but also point towards other stories they might want to dig into. The 2015 Goosebumps film is so jam-packed with these elements you could use it as a road map in that regard!

So, come on in, grab a comfortable seat, have yourself some popcorn and prepare for a few scares!


Wednesday deep in contemplation

Last year, between X and Scream, Jenna Ortega became the reigning queen of horror, but it was her turn as the titular Wednesday in the Netflix series that seemed to garner the most widespread attention and make her a true star. Viewers of all ages connected with this story of the teen Addams sent away to Nevermore Academy where she stumbled into a murder mystery that she could not ignore. Filled with mystery, romance and monsters, Wednesday offers plenty of intrigue in a first season that presents a complete story while also hinting at where it might go in the second season.

From Wednesday, you could segue easily into the live-action films The Addams Family and Addams Family Values, which are classics for 90s kids. Many of the elements in place in those films — not to mention the original Charles Addams comic strips and the 1960s Addams Family TV series — can also be found in the recent CGI kids films The Addams Family (2019) and The Addams Family 2 (2021). If you’re looking for something along similar lines featuring even younger kids in the lead roles, you can also check out the spooky time-travel tale presented in Disney+’s The Secrets Of Sulfur Springs.

Watch on Netflix

The Haunted Mansion

The Haunted Mansion has become an institution in and of itself. A dark ride that originated at Disneyland, this trip through a decrepit abode filled with boisterous spirits also has locations in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disneyland. Beyond that, the ride has spawned any number of collectibles, comics and its own breakout stars like the Hitchhiking Ghosts, the Hatbox Ghost and Madame Leota. Heck people enjoy the ride so much, they want their ashes spread in the confines of Gracey Manor after slipping from this mortal coil!

As a Disney property, the live action offerings have skewed more towards the all-ages audience, which is great for our purposes. The 2003 Haunted Mansion film starring Eddie Murphy did not set the world on fire, but it does offer laughs and scares along with a story that does not shy away from race and class issues in America. Just this year, the House of Mouse debuted another Haunted Mansion film, curiously in the summer, but that means you can stream it now on Disney+ and see where you land with it.

However, the most surefire hit of the bunch came to D+ in 2021 when the streamer unveiled Muppets Haunted Mansion. A fairly self-explanatory mash-up, this 50-ish minute special properly pays homage to the attraction while mixing in the Muppets’ signature humor as well as a few spooky moments to create a must-watch for the whole family.

Watch on Disney+

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Not all gateways start at the beginning!

Okay, you might be exasperated at the idea of suggesting the more recent Ghostbusters: Afterlife instead of the 1984 original, but hear us out. Sometimes the best way to get a newcomer to sit through an older movie is to get them into the most recent version. If a viewer does not have a pre-existing love for Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis or Ernie Hudson, we bet they like Paul Rudd, Finn Wolfhard and/or McKenna Grace!

Afterlife essentially acts as its own gateway to the rest of the series with Egon’s estranged family taking over his farmhouse after his death. The longer they’re there, the more they understand about who he was and what he did as a Ghostbuster. On the surface, the film is about a potentially apocalyptic ghostly infestation, but it’s also about coming to understand the choices parents make when they think they’re doing what’s best for their kids.

If Afterlife hits, obviously go right back and watch Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II, but also don’t sleep on the totally separate 2016 reboot starring Leslie Jones, Kate McKenna, Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig. A watcher who really gets into the ghost aspect, but wants something more restrained, might enjoy the classic 1973 flick The Legend Of Hell House.

Watch on Starz

The House With A Clock In Its Walls

Can these three find the clock in the walls?

Based on the 1973 YA novel by John Bellairs, The House With A Clock In Its Walls brought a surprising amount of scares to the kiddie party for a 2018 film. In it, 10-year-old Lewis moves in with his uncle played by Jack Black after his parents die, only to discover that his new home once played home to a pair of evil magicians who hid something nefarious. Needing to take control of something in his life, Lewis begins learning magic, though it does not net the intended results. As you might imagine, spooky shenanigans ensue, but don’t worry, Cate Blanchett is also along for the ride!

It may come as a surprise that this family skewing cinematic offering comes from none other than Eli Roth. House is a totally different animal from his far more intense and bloody films like Cabin Fever or Hostel, so we don’t recommend following that path just yet for young viewers. However, the film leans into the world of Gothic horror and might be a nice pathway towards the British Hammer films of the 1970s or the 1960s collaborations between Roger Corman and Vincent Price that adapted Edgar Alan Poe tales like The Pit And The Pendulum or The Tomb Of Ligeia. Not every gateway needs to lead into films, though, so why not check out the original book series starring Lewis? Bellairs penned two additional installments before passing away in 1991. After that, Brad Strickland did three more based on Bellairs’ unfinished work and then another six on his own.

Rent on Prime Video


Coraline offers stop-motion spookiness!

Speaking of books that might send tingles down the spine, you can’t talk about scare fare without getting into the works of renowned writer Neil Gaiman. The Sandman comic and TV series might be a bit too intense to start with, but Coraline was specifically aimed at the younger set. The 2002 book focuses on a girl of the same name who discovers a strange door in her house that leads to another world where mirror versions of her parents have buttons instead of eyes. She then must go on a journey to find her real parents who have gone missing.

In 2009, a stop motion adaptation debuted and did an incredible job of translating Gaiman’s words to the big screen. This turned out to be the first original film from stop motion geniuses Laika which also crafted ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls and Kubo And The Two Strings, plus Corpse Bride which was a co-production with Tim Burton Productions. All of those are also worth a watch as is A Nightmare Before Christmas from Coraline director Henry Selick. Meanwhile, all of Gaiman’s books are worth a read. Good Omens is a comedic look at the Antichrist co-written by Discworld architect Terry Pratchet and the YA-aimed The Graveyard Book.

Watch on Max


Tremors is one of the best monster movies of the 90s!

Today, Tremors might be known as the film that launched a ridiculous number of direct-to-video-and-streaming sequels and even a TV show, but the 1990 original is a stone-cold classic. In it, the small desert town of Perfection, Nevada finds itself under siege from huge underground worm-like monsters known as graboids. Starring Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Reba McEntire and Michael Gross (who carried on with the franchise), the movie follows this group of survivors as they utilize their talents and a bit of luck to try and outwit the murderous monsters.

One of the brightest horror films of all time, in terms of actual sunshine, Tremors relies on a different kind of subtlety when it comes to slowly revealing the graboids before going all-out. In that way, it’s a fantastic cousin of Jaws and could make a super fun double feature. From there, you can segue into any number of killer animal flicks ranging from Grizzly and Piranha to Frogs and The Food Of The Gods.

Watch on Prime Video with AMC+

The ‘Burbs

Do these suburban sleuths scrounce up scandal in The 'Burbs?

You won’t have much argument if you name Alfred Hitchcock as a must-watch director in the world of horror. Psycho and The Birds are the obvious examples, but he was the master of toying with expectations, building suspense and then delivering the cathartic scare. If you’re dealing with someone who does not want to watch a “really old movie,” maybe you can show them a “pretty old movie” in the form of 1989’s The ‘Burbs!

Starring Tom Hanks — everybody loves that guy! — the film takes place in a suburban cul de sac where the neighbors begin to wonder about the oddball newcomers, the Klopeks. Are they murderers or have these suburbanites gone made? Taking cues from a variety of Hitch classics, including Rear Window, this Joe Dante movie expertly combines comedy and suspense as Hanks’ Ray Peterson and his pals try to figure out what the Klopeks are hiding, if anything.

Watch on Starz

Night Of The Comet

How can you not dig Night Of The Comet's Sam and Regina?

Every teen wonders what it would be like if all the adults in their lives disappeared and they got to live their own lives. That’s exactly what happens to sisters Regina and Sam in 1984’s Night Of The Comet after a celestial body turns almost everyone in town to dust. With nothing else to do, the young women hit the mall, the radio station and even wind up in a secret bunker. Comet is unabashedly 80s in its presentation, but it winds up showing how these two characters evolve as they come to grips with the end of their world and the beginning of a new one.

This movie starts off with sex and child abuse in the beginning, so take that into account. It then goes on to feature one of the most realistic and ultimately touching sibling relationships in horror as Regina and Sam explore an impressively empty LA. If you dig that aspect of the film, there’s any number of I Am Legend adaptations including The Last Man On Earth starring Vincent Price or Charleton Heston in The Omega Man. Or, if you prefer mall-based horror, there’s also the second George A. Romero zombie movie Dawn Of The Dead and Chopping Mall, which is equally 80s and may not be appropriate for younger viewers with its furniture store sexcapades and wild murders.

Watch on Pluto TV

The Gate

Glen and Terry investigate The Gate

Growing up is hard. You’re trying to figure out where you fit in the amorphous, scary-compelling world of grownups, but are not ready to leave childhood behind. Your body’s throwing you curveballs, your siblings want nothing to do with you and you have to deal with all that while still learning geometry? Now imagine all of that, but with a portal to hell opening in your backyard. That’s the basic plot of The Gate from 1987, which pits teens Glen — a young Stephen Dorff — and Terry against overwhelming powerful spirits who have no problem using dead pets and the deepest insecurities to mess with these kids.

If the potential viewer can get invested by the time a European metal album becomes a prominent plot point, then you should be good as the end leaps into full-on haunting with excellent special effects. Of all the films on this list, this is the one that might have some of the gut-punch moments, but it also appeals to those of us who feel insecure about our place in the world. The sequel, Gate II, is worth a watch, though it’s not as good. More importantly, if your view likes this film, moving right on to Poltergeist should not be a problem, though that one revolves around a much younger child in danger, which might not sit well with some folks.

Watch on Prime Video


Our guy Gizmo knows how to pose!

Gremlins, also directed by The Burbs’ Joe Dante, expertly draws the audience in with a warm, small town holiday story starring the adorable Gizmo before giving you one of the most well put together horror comedies of all time. This move should be called the Gizmo Effect because it works so darn well. In fact, Gremlins was so effective that it and Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom lead the MPAA to create the PG-13 rating back in 1984.

The film’s lead character, Billy (Zach Galligan), might be a young man instead of a kid like many of the protagonists in these titles, but he’s still super charming and relatable in his quest to woo Phoebe Cates’ Kate and have fun with his new mogwai pet. But, when he can’t follow the rules, he winds up with a gremlin infestation in otherwise picturesque Kingston Falls.

Thanks to the practical effects of this era, there’s a more visceral connection to both Gizmo as a character and his murderous offspring who represent pure chaos. Depending on who you’re watching with, you might want to subtly skip over Kate’s uber-depressing backstory. Heck, you might want to do that anyway to avoid a brutal emotional takedown. From there, do yourself a favor and put eyes on the wonderfully wacky Gremlins 2: The New Batch as well as the Max original series Gremlins: Secrets Of The Mogwai. Beyond that, there are plenty of increasingly more violent, scary and weird mini monster flicks ranging from Leprechaun and Critters to Troll and Troll 2.

Rent on Prime Video

We hope this list helps you have a spookier Halloween season without scaring the bejeezus out of anyone!

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