Week two of our Halloween Movie Countdown comes to a close with some beautiful, spooky, thunderstormy (yes, I just made that word up) weather as I write this. Perfect weather for Halloween movies! Curl up with a cozy blanket, a warm drink and check out what we watched this week!

We had a busy week with school, field trips, spending a holiday fun day at Disney with family and getting ready for Mama’s Fall Concert with the Inland Master Chorale, but we still found time to watch a few classic Halloween kid’s movies.

Remember our rating system from last week’s article;

One pumpkin for each of the following categories: 

1- spooky
2- charming
3- teach a lesson of some sort
4- have great music that moves the story and/or makes the spooky parts better
5- reference Halloween at least ONCE in the film.
Additionally, one “harvest moon” is awarded by each of them when they decide it’s a keeper. This is like their “bonus point”.

First up;

Paranorman Directed by Chris Butler and Sam Fell, Music by Jon Brion, Laika Studios

Okay, first of all.. this is one of MY favorite movies. …I’m not just talking about specific to the season, I mean it’s on the list of my favorite movies literally ever. I caught it back when it was on Netflix a few years ago and at the time, my son hated it. It terrified him. I tried a year later, still no. The year after that, he AND his sister (5 at the time) both rejected it with a hard no.. the “I’d rather go to sleep in my room with the door closed in the dark than even know this movie exists” kind of no.

The zombies, the witch, how mean people were… his father who didn’t understand him, how his sister was always talking with a “mean voice” and was clearly a liar because she only pretended to like Norman… for all those reasons and more, the answer continued to be nope, nope, nope.

Forever the optimist, I bought it last year anyway and every so often I’d suggest it, get a “NO WAY”, put it back on the shelf, hoping “maybe next time”…

Until this week. This week, they reluctantly agreed. BOTH of them. They sat down and watched the entire thing with me and the verdict was;

“Oh mom, that was so great!” – Girl child

“Well, those people were pretty mean to those zombies but I guess they’re friends now because they said sorry”. – Boy child

WIN FOR MAMA!

Norman has a gift and can see/speak to ghosts. His family doesn’t understand him. He’s rejected by them, his peers at school, his teachers all think he’s weird and the adults in town don’t bother hiding how much they don’t care for him… but he can’t help who he is; a sweet, good kid who can talk to ghosts and loves horror movies.

As the plot thickens, we find out that the “Witches Curse” the town thrives off of is not only a true story, but someone has to stop the curse from happening every single year. Norman’s creepy Great-Uncle Prenderghast (who he has never been allowed to see or know anything about) had always been the one to do it before, but once he died, the duty was passed on to Norman. He must be the one to prevent the curse from happening. Chaos ensues, the witch is released, Norman realizes she’s not evil… she was just a little girl with a gift… just like his. Once he realizes this, he makes it his mission to help her – not just stop her.

She is reluctant to stop because she has so much hurt in her heart. She was murdered by men who did not understand her gift and she’s angry. Or, as my 6 year old said, “she’s not evil, mom… she’s just sad-mad”.

Norman helps her to remember who she really is, a little girl named Agatha Prenderghast. Once she remembers and allows herself to heal, Aggie is set free, her curse removed and all the tormented souls are allowed to rest. 

Wait, did you catch that? PRENDERGHAST. Same name as his great-uncle, right??? Clearly, although this is never ONCE touched upon in the film… Norman and Agatha are related. That seemed important to me, even though it was never discussed.

Other aspects of the film worth mentioning;
The music is powerful in its simplicity and drives forward those emotional cues so perfectly.
Horror references abound! Good for fans of all ages, if you enjoy horror, you’ll appreciate that the creators of this film clearly do, too.
Even though Halloween isn’t technically mentioned at all in this story, the town, the colors drenching the screen, the autumn shades everywhere… even though it’s not i the movie, it still screams Halloween.
The story is THICK with lessons about compassion, kindness, empathy and forgiveness. I’ve referenced this story a great deal when talking to my children about bullies.
Being a Laika Studios picture, you know that visually it’s going to be stunning and they absolutely do not disappoint.

There are so many moments that get me emotional in this movie, from beginning to end, it’s just a beautiful story worth telling, worth hearing, worth making a Halloween (or any time of year, for that matter) tradition.

The film hit all but one of our qualifiers (does not directly reference Halloween), but it’s still a “five pumpkin” movie in our books. Both of them also asked if we could watch it again, too. Bonus points awarded!

 

 

Disney’s Mr. Toad & Ichabod (AKA; The Headless Horseman) Directed by James Algar & Clyde Geronimi, Music by Oliver Wallace – Songs performed by Bing Crosby, Disney Studios

Back in 1949, Bing Crosby narrated and performed in this Disney animated short film telling the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, otherwise known as “The Headless Horseman”, and it was paired together with their telling of “The Wind in the Willows” to become one in “The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad”. 

I tried this one last year and, like many others, the response was a resounding NO from the younglings who were terrified of Brams’ song telling the tale of the Headless Horseman, but also, until the last 10 minutes, it was just too boring. The short film is a dialogue heavy, fairly mature story, softly voiced by the crooning Bing Crosby in his ever-so-charming fashion that rolls and lulls, drawing you closer… unless you’re a 5 and 6 year old child, in which case, he bores you to death.

This week, at ages 6 and almost 8, my children agreed to give it a try after fiercely rejecting it just a week ago! I think my daughter noticed I was disappointed, so she said she’d be willing to watch it… for me… (isn’t she the BEST!?)

So, the classic story is told almost entirely in prose and completely narrated. The songs are classic Bing with a spooky twist and the animation is , as it always was back then… rich, colorful, always beautiful.

The story leads up to the events taking place on Halloween night, at midnight, as Ichabod attempts to reach the other side of the covered bridge. With some lighthearted moments, great songs throughout and some fantastically creepy scenes, this is a sure-fire classic for the whole family… after about age 6. Before then, at least in our house, it wasn’t even worth bothering.

So it hit most of our criteria; it takes place on Halloween, it’s charming, great music and is certainly spooky, but… what was the lesson learned??

Due to the dated nature of the story as written, it’s a little bit sexist, it glorifies bully culture, it makes greed okay and doesn’t really send a great message about seeing people for who they truly are, as most everyone in this film is judged on appearances above all else… so, does it have ANY redeeming moral character? When I asked my children what they learned from this movie, here’s what they had to say:

“He should have left before midnight, then the Headless Horseman wouldn’t have come” – Boy Child

“I didn’t really learn anything mom. No one in this story was very nice at all” – Girl Child

So, there you have it. 4 out of 5 pumpkins, as it failed to provide a compelling lesson. Not sure if either of them really want to ever see it again, though… no Harvest Moons for this one and I can’t say I blame them.

 

 

Frankenweenie Directed by Tim Burton, Music by Danny Elfman, Disney Studios

A Tim Burton retelling of the Frankenstein tale, Frankenweenie is an emotional, sweet, lovable tale about a boy and his dog and the fact that we are all willing to go to the ends of the earth for those we love.

Based (obviously) on the Mary Shelley Novel, Tim Burton recreated his original short, live-action film from the 80’s in this stop-motion animated, full-length picture. A boy who loves science and isn’t good at sports looses his beloved pet, Sparky the dog, when it is hit by a car chasing a ball. He uses research from his science class to test a theory and see if he can bring the dog back to life. It works, but things quickly get out of hand, as others in the town learn of his experiment. Their greed escalates the situation and, just as in the original, Sparky and the boy who reanimated him, are attacked by an angry, ignorant mob of selfish people who don’t understand what is actually going on.

If you know the real story of Frankenstein, you know how this ends; the monster dies in a fiery inferno after the mob lights a windmill on fire. Same thing happens to poor Sparky. But, because it’s Disney and it’s a sweet story of redemption, our little undead doggie gets a third chance at life when the town realizes he’s not actually evil, he’s just dead.

It’s a charming story of love, compassion, friendship and learning to respect others’ differences. It’s spooky, scary even for a minute (it got a scream out of my 6 year old at one point), and it had a great lesson attached; be kind, be yourself, love others. The music, by Danny Elfman, was of course perfect in every way; emotional, silly, exciting, scary, perfectly “Elfman”, perfectly Tim Burton, this movie was a winner all around.

As it takes place on “Dutch Day”, not Halloween, we can’t give it all five pumpkins, but we will absolutely be watching this one again.

 

 

That’s it for this week, catch us next week when we cover Egor, It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!, Casper, and a special “binge-watching weekend special” of all three Hotel Transylvania movies!

What do you think of these picks? Do you agree/disagree? We’d love to hear from you!

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