First, let me come right out and admit that I’m not against dressing up on the 31st of this month, collecting candy and bobbing for apples. If you’re offended by this stuff, I’m sorry (I’ll try not to eat from my bowl full of Snickers bars in front of you).
Yes, there are a few frustrating things about this holiday, probably the biggest being the incredible shrinking size of young girls’ costumes (as a dad of two teenage daughters that really bugs me). It’s also intriguing to see the curiosity young people have toward things paranormal. But those elements aside, I still think that young people, families and youth ministries can have good clean fun on Halloween. For me personally… I love popping some popcorn and sitting down to a fun, scary movie.
The question is, are there any quality scary movies that don’t include gratuitous shots of naked teenagers getting slashed up at a slumber party? In other words… any appropriate scary movies that we can actually show to teenagers?
Top 5 Scary Movies I’d Actually Show Teenagers
(I’ll list the next 5 tomorrow)
(WARNING: Please don’t just read the titles below, rent the film and show it at youth group. You will be fired! There are several of these that I would not show at youth group- but I would co-watch with certain teenagers. So read my description and my linked review carefully, then view the film yourself, using your discernment.)
Signs— (directed by M. Night Shyamalan) This is one of my favorite films overall, so it’s a cinch to nab a spot on my top 10 scary list. This movie, starring Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix is about a small farming family that wakes up to discover 500 foot crop circles in their backyard. After these crop circles begin appearing all over the globe, the world soon fears invasion from another world. Don’t let the premise mislead you, the film is anything but corny. In fact, it’s quite deep, with some scenes that will springboard some fantastic discussion. We actually provide an entire curriculum with small group discussion questions and a Bible passage on our web site.
Jaws—(directed by Stephen Spielberg) Another of my film favorites. I always find it funny to see the expression on someone’s face when I tell them it’s one of my favorites. I can tell when it’s someone who either hasn’t seen it, or hasn’t seen it in a couple decades and remembers that phony looking mechanical shark from Universal Studios and the sequels, which pale by comparison. Do not be fooled, the first film is amazing, hardly showing the shark at all. Spielberg probably scared more people with this film than almost any film in history. I think of the film every time I get in the ocean. If you haven’t seen it in a while, you should turn out the lights, turn up the volume so you can hear John Williams Oscar-winning score, and be ready to be pleasantly intrigued. The best scene is without a doubt Quint’s story about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. I still show that scene to illustrate good storytelling in my 10-Minute Talks workshop. I like to show this film to teenagers on what I call a “Dive-in Movie Night” where they all watch the film… in a pool!
The Exorcism of Emily Rose—(directed by Scott Derickson) I debated including this on my list simply because, I wouldn’t show this to all teenagers. So give me a moment to plead my case. First, this is a film directed by a Christian filmmaker who loves to use his films to provoke discussion (Here’s my interview with him about the film). The film is really about a court case that eventually argues, does God exist? The premise, based on a true story, uses the scary events of an exorcism gone wrong to stimulate questions about the afterlife. I wouldn’t show this film to my daughters because it would be too frightening. The film is terrifying. But for those parents and youth workers whose kids are the type that frequent movies like the current Paranormal Activity 3 that just raked in $54 million at the box office last weekend, this film would be perfect. It’s clean, it’s grounded in truth, and asks all the right questions.
Super 8—(directed by JJ Abrams) Maybe it’s because I’m 41-years-old and I remember watching films like Goonies and E.T. in the theatres as a young boy, maybe it’s just because I like good film making… but Super 8 delivered a great story, lovable characters and plenty of jumps in this nostalgic film about a group of friends in 1979 who witness a catastrophic train crash and begin to notice inexplicable events in their small town. Great film, totally clean (except for the language that was pretty realistic for the kids of that time), only PG-13 for the sci-fi action and violence.
Ghost and the Darkness—(directed by Stephen Hopkins) This film (which has nothing to do with ghosts) is based on the chilling true story of two lions in Africa that killed 130 people in a nine month period. In the spirit of Jaws, and Alien, the director cleverly chose to not show the lions for much of the film, instead, just the horror of surprise and the fear of what lurks in the dark. Val Kilmer, Michael Douglas, Tom Wilkinson… not too shabby. This 1996 film delivers all around! (Completely appropriate for teenagers. I’d show this film to youth group kids with no hesitation.)
5 More Tomorrow
What about you? Any scary films you like to show your teenagers? Any films you showed…and then regretted?