Cheesy Ghost Movies for Kids that Can Appeal to Adults part 2
8. Restless Spirits
Another made-for-TV Canadian “masterpiece” for kids, this one had a historical background and a more realistic teenage protagonist. Made in the late 90s and starring Marsha Mason as a no-nonsense grandma, it’s about Katie, a girl who still harbors bitterness over her father’s death from years earlier. She, her little brother, and the crush-worthy neighbor boy (the 90s were a magical time for standardized romantic tropes) discover the ghosts of Charles Nungesser and François Coli. The spirits are based on two pilots who really did vanish off the coast of Newfoundland in the 1920s. For the most part, the movie is an adventure tale of the kids trying to salvage the wrecked plane so the ghosts can finally finish their flight. The Canadian government is after them and locals try to stop their plans, blah, blah, blah. But Katie’s part in it all focuses more on how we don’t always completely move on from death and how sometimes when a kid acts out, even they don’t know the reason for it.
Part that was legitimately disturbing as both a kid and an adult: The Canadian government is coming for me if I try to help ghosts!
7. Amazing Mr. Blunden
I doubt most of you have heard of this one. It was directed in 1972 by Lionel Jeffries (Grandpa Potts from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) and was based on a now equally obscure book simply called Ghosts. First of all, in case you haven’t already noticed, this movie was super British. Not just the language and plot, but the production values have a certain look like the film is somehow slowly dying in front of you. This look could only mean it was filmed in the UK before the BBC got its budget. The story is part ghosts-part time travel, where a pair of children want to rescue a different set of children who died a century earlier. This includes a lot of the signatures of a paranormal mystery which have since become cliché. Tropes such as surprise names on gravestones, adults that just won’t listen (specifically the titular Mr. Blunden), and the anniversary of a tragedy. Mr. Blunden is really more of a secondary character, but a major theme by the third act is his guilt over the past. I really liked this movie as a kid. As an adult, there are parts which are a little difficult not to focus on like that fact that some of the actors’ lip sync is off and the time travel stuff doesn’t make a lot of sense. Still, this is a descent film that was one of the earliest ideas of a ghost story meant make adults rethink dismissing childhood “fanciful tales”.
Part that was legitimately disturbing as both a kid and an adult: The children who are fated to die are at the mercy of their selfish uncle, “childlike” new aunt, and her wicked parents. The aunt is a former dancehall girl who speaks in baby talk and whines when things aren’t about her. There was a particularly strange scene where she comes down the stairs softly singing about her new dress to her niece, unaware that her mother was just abusing the girl a second before. As an adult, I want to smack the aunt.
6. Haunted Mansion
I know, I know. This movie “bombed” at the box office. It’s one that most people catch on television, riddled with commercials, and realize that it wasn’t an awful film. If you love the Disney ride, you should at least appreciate this movie, whether you are a kid or an adult. For those who don’t know, it’s about workaholic dad played by Eddie Murphy bringing his family to a secluded bayou manor where their ghost host wants to get with Murphy’s wife. You should secretly love it. Secretly love it for Terrance Stamp saying “Hell” in a Disney movie (an honor formally reserved for Maleficent). Love it for the awkward graveyard scene which was pretty much identical to the ride. Love it for the fact that there is no logical reason why Madam Leota (played by Jennifer Tilly) and the singing busts are leftover when all other ghosts move on. If only the Hatbox Ghost could have been a character.
Part that was legitimately disturbing as both a kid and an adult: It wasn’t so much disturbing as it was just sad. The opening sequence gives hints to the death of a young woman in a mask while a party goes on in the ballroom. What looks like a hundred people in the mansion and no one knows that this woman is dying just a couple of rooms over. Of course, if they had saved her there would have been no plot. Damn story structure.