Sometimes we forget that Halloween is predominantly a holiday for children, as we’re often too busy trying to procure an awesome costume before we’re stuck with “sexy french fries” and hitting up as many haunted scream trails as possible before the season ends. But the bewitching evening is really supposed to be about the kids, as much fun as we’re all having as adults. Trick r treating, spooky crafts and carving pumpkins are all time-honored, kid-approved traditions.

So is getting scared out of your little mind by all of the nonstop horror programming playing around the clock on TV throughout the month of October. During childhood, it’s a rite of passage to stay up late, far past bedtime and watch these scary movies to prove your bravery (and fail). We’ve all been there, even if the films seem tame in comparison to the horror fare coming out in theatres today. Let’s reminisce about five spooktacular films that caused many a sleepless, nightlight-aided night during our childhoods. And you know, laugh about it since we’re big strong adults now.

It (1990)

Why: Clowns

This was an understandable one, as clowns are the stuff of nightmares for even the burliest of fully-grown adults. But something about a homicidal clown-being luring children into the sewers and attacking them based on their biggest phobias makes this Stephen King story just a bit more brutal for kids to digest. The power of “It” is that the clown takes normal, childhood tropes and turns them into weapons. Who can forget the inhaler full of battery acid, or the blood balloons?

Beetlejuice (1988)

Why: Claymation, Sandworms

Tim Burton’s story of a bio-exorcist attempting to rid a haunting house of its living occupants is obviously a hilarious and fun romp, but for little kids, some of that Burtonian charm gets a bit overwhelming. Beetlejuice gets creative when his usual tactics of scaring away the Deetzes don’t seem to work (blame the gothic teen), turning the Maitlands’ heads into claymation monsters and cranking up the theatrics to get his job done. Not to mention the sandworms from the other dimension that exist outside the door if the Maitlands try to leave the house.

Gremlins (1984)

Why: No pet is safe

Obviously, a gremlin is not a real creature and therefore poses no threat to our communities or ourselves. But as children – weren’t you at least a little bit worried that a gremlin might wreak havoc on your life and eat everything in site? Not to mention, even if a gremlin wasn’t a possibility, what if other pets suddenly became afflicted. The clock strikes midnight and your hamster starts multiplying. This is probably all your fault, too.

Pet Sematary (1989)

Why: The cat’s dead, everybody’s dead

Another nightmare-inducer from Stephen King, this one kills off the family pet first before the real bloodshed begins. Come on, man. The father then buries the kitty in the haunted pet cemetery, which brings it back to life – but not as it was in its first life. When he tries to repeat this when his toddler dies, it has far more gruesome results. And he never learns his lesson. Grief does strange things to people, but so does burying them in the haunted pet cemetery.

Ghostbusters II (1989)

Why: There’s a demon trapped in a painting, that’s why.


According to multiple children that I have babysat, this film is extremely frightening because there are “demons in a painting that want to steal a baby, and that is not okay.” From the mouths of babes. The spirit of Vigo the Carpathian is trapped inside of a very ornate painting, and he wants to possess the body of a child before the New Year so he may return to life and rule the world. It’s a scary prospect for any child, although incredibly cheesy as an adult. Plus, you know that the Ghostbusters are going to save the day – there’s nothing to worry about after they bewitch the Statue of Liberty to come to life and fight him. But what if?