Cheesy Ghost Movies for Kids that Can Appeal to Adults part 4
1. Canterville Ghost
My favorite ghost movies (meant for kids) which I watched as a kid! There are many versions of this Oscar Wilde satirical short story, but I’m going to focus on the two that I watched the most when I was very young. Both of these versions kept the original idea of the story which is the friendship of a girl/young lady could save a bitter old ghost from restlessness. They also both included the famous blood stain that refuses to be cleaned up (Creepy? Yes? No? Yes.).
The first is the 1940s version which completely rewrites the story in order to create World War II propaganda. Charles Laughton was a cowardly lord cursed to haunt his ancestral home until a “kinsman could do brave deed” for him. Like in the original short story, he becomes a famous ghost through practice, frightening the crud out of his descendants for centuries until he meets six year old Lady Jessica (played by Margaret O’Brien) and U.S. army private Cuffy Williams. Yep. I said Cuffy. Both are his distant relatives and both are trying to do their part for the war effort (remember to buy war bonds in the lobby). The frights of this this film end early on, being replaced by jokes about the cultural differences of two English speaking countries, another shout-out to Wilde’s commentary in the original story. The British characters are all the “stiff upper lip” sort, while the Americans are all loud and brash. The greatest line involves a country dance where Lady Jessica’s aunt comments that she believes the swing style is known as “woogie boogie”. Overall, kids enjoy this version for the scene of chasing a blockbuster bomb through British fields and the ghost spitting at his family portraits, while adults . . . usually enjoy it for the same reasons.
The other version that was dear to my heart in childhood was the 1986 TV version starring Alyssa Milano and Sir John Gielgud. This one is closer Wilde’s short story but changes the setting to something more contemporary. Sir Simon (Gielgud) was a prideful lord whose selfishness leads to the accidental deaths of his wife and daughter. As a result, his wife’s family killed him and, just like in the other version, he went on to be one of the most famous ghosts in England. Enter Jennifer, an American whose father and new step-mother move her into Sir Simon’s home where everything he does to scare the parents gets blamed on her. But of course, all of this is biting Sir Simon in the ass because Jennifer holds the key to releasing him from his ghostly existence. For kids now-a-days, they can associate with Milano’s issues with her parents and school, as well as laugh at some of the 80s-tastic elements like the ghost listening to a Walkman. For adults, many of the so-called “scary” scenes become funny and somehow that makes the move more endearing as it gets older.
Part that was legitimately disturbing as both a kid and an adult: In the Charles Laughton version, the most upsetting part was that his own father walls him up alive in order to kill him. No one really says too much about how awful his death was and the fact that it was HIS OWN DAD WHO DID IT TO HIM!
In the John Gielgud version, a paranormal investigator manages to temporarily call forth Sir Simon’s wife. She keeps whispering Simon’s name in an utterly creepy voice. Every time I watch that scene, it freaks me out a little and feels like it will never end.
Hocus Pocus because no one in that was a ghost in the traditional sense save for little Emily who only had two lines. The witches are, as I understand it, resurrected “from under the ground” so they’re technically zombies. Billy Butcherson – zombie. And Thackery Binx is an immortal cat and technically didn’t die. So I stand by my honorable mention.