Cheesy Ghost Movies for Kids that Can Appeal to Adults part 3
5. Tower of Terror
This made-for-TV Disney film meant to promote the opening of the ride in Florida was actually written by young adult author D.J. MacHale, who was also a writer for Are You Afraid of the Dark. For those who are unfamiliar with the plot, it’s similar to that of the ride with some added detail. A young starlet similar to Shirley Temple is present for the grand opening of the Hollywood Tower Hotel. She, her nanny, a singer (who some may recognize as Jan from The Office), a man in a tuxedo, and the bellhop all vanish when their elevator is struck by lightning and plummets. Decades later, a tabloid journalist (played by Steve Guttenberg for reasons I don’t fully understand) and his niece (played by Kirsten Dunst who dresses in this movie pretty much exactly like I did in 1997) are asked to look into the disappearances by a mysterious elderly lady. The story goes on from there with the usual slapstick sidekicks and silly paranormal interactions. You have to keep in mind that this was made by Disney. Then you get to the twist ending and your heart seizes up a little, even though you remind yourself that you are watching something from the Magical World of Disney in the 90s. It should not affect you emotionally. Oh and true to the ride, there are a lot of elevators falling.
Part that was legitimately disturbing as both a kid and an adult: Seriously, why Steve Guttenberg? Oh and that bit with the little girl singing “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring” while bathed in green light is pretty creepy.
You know you love it. We all loved it. The generation before mine got a kick out of it. The generation after mine has nostalgia from watching it on TV as toddlers. And my own generation enjoyed it for a number of reasons which I will spread throughout this entry. The plot was pretty simplistic, lonely and abused kid ghost Casper of Harvey Cartoon fame tricks a ghost psychologist played by Bill Pullman to move into his home. Pullman’s character thinks he’s being hired to clear out the ghosts by the current devious owner and her Eric Idle sidekick who think there is treasure. In truth, this is all so Casper can become friends with his new crush the psychologist’s daughter Kat, played by Christina Ricci (who, once again, wore the same clothes I wore in 1995 minus the jean vests...yes, I liked jean vests). There were a lot of jokes in there for the children of the 80s with cameos by Ghostbuster Dan Ayckroyd and the Crypt Keeper, but it wasn’t until I was an adult that I truly appreciated a lot of the jokes about parenthood blatantly splashed around. Fans of slapstick and toilet humor loved Casper’s obnoxious uncles while the rest of us had Kat’s sarcastic one-liners to keep us amused. Then there was the factor which makes some uncomfortable. So many people my age quote this as being one of the movies that made them realize puberty had begun. For me, it was when Devon Sawa came down those stairs and asked Christina Ricci if he could keep her. I admit that my eleven year old self actually swooned, which was a new experience for me. Looking back on it now, his question to her was a little creepy and possessive especially because they were only supposed to by twelve. I also still listen to the soundtrack sometimes.
Part that was legitimately disturbing as both a kid and an adult: Underneath it all, they turned the silly cartoon about a ghost who just couldn’t catch a break in the friend department into an honestly sad story. They turned him into a little boy who sticks around after death so his father won’t be lonely. That same father dies with the obsession of wanting to bring Casper back to life. But why didn’t his dad become a ghost? If he was that devoted to his son, why didn’t he stick around after death to return the favor? That upsets me more than anything else in this movie and always has.
3. Corpse Bride
Based on a Jewish folktale, most people have seen this bittersweet love triangle of a bride unjustly killed, a young woman trying to get some happiness away from her miserable parents, and a young man who struggles to fight for what he really wants. I confess that I was actually an adult (legally, not mentally) when this film came out, but I can still see it from a child’s perspective. As it is Tim Burton, all of the main stop-motion characters have giant eyes and long necks, but the myriad of supporting characters provide a great deal of variety. What I loved best about this was that, despite the nastiness of the villain and the mysterious horror surrounding the bride Emily’s death, the story goes to great lengths to make death less scary. It’s a kid’s movie, after all. You want children who are dealing with loss to think that their loved ones are having a party somewhere and, if they could come back to Earth, their first action would be to visit the people they left. It’s a nice thought, no matter your age.
Part that was legitimately disturbing as both a kid and an adult: “Can a heart still break once it’s stopped beating?” You shut up, bad guy!
Again, I was grown when this movie came out, but I wanted it on the list. This is an obvious message about bullying. As far as modern kids movies go, Paranorman does it’s best to show a modern, inclusive world where people don’t seem to always realize how much of a problem bullying still is. Norman is a boy who can talk to ghosts, a power he is very well-adjusted about, but no one else really believes in or wants to get behind. He lives in a small, New England town where they make all of their tourism money from a famous witch’s curse legend. It has a lot of humor pointed at adults and meant to go over kids’ heads, but is still full of the sort of silly, physical jokes children like. The zombies are very funny, yet give you a bit of a scare simultaneously. The standard angry mob is ridiculous enough to keep youngsters watching from thinking that all rational adults would turn on them if they were fighting a witch. Although, the twist at the end is fairly heartbreaking and would have probably been a little heavy for me if I’d seen Paranorman when I was small.
Part that was legitimately disturbing as both a kid and an adult: My mom hates this movie because of the twist. I cry each time I watch the twist. However, the most disturbing, yet brilliant part of the twist is how it drives home the anti-bullying message in an even better way through a reference to a historical truth. Don’t believe me? Look up Docas Good of Salem.