PG-13 Horror That Doesn’t Suck: “Disturbia” (2007)

Here’s my vote: “Disturbia” (2007), PG-13. This dark little gem famously owes a debt to “Rear Window,” but it’s not a rip-off or a retelling. It shows how much suspense and dread can arise from a solid script and believable characters — in this case, Shia LaBeouf as Kale and David Morse as his increasingly creepy neighbor, who may or may not be a serial killer. Kale’s father is killed in a car wreck in the first harrowing sequence, which just makes it that much harder to watch when his mother ends up in danger. And they’re such nice people, and they LIKE each other — how can the audience not get sucked in?

The film also contains one of my favorite exchanges:
“It reeks in here!”
“What’s it smell like?”
“The corpse of a rotting hottie!”

I’m not sure how family-friendly rotting hotties are, but the sex and violence are fairly muted, with much left to the imagination… my parents probably would have let me watch it if it had come out when I was a kid. And it’s nice to see a movie about a teen who loves his parents and his friends. I was surprised to find myself pretty unnerved the first time I watched it, and it holds up to the occasional re-watching. It’s a movie with a definite male point of view, but the women are fairly three-dimensional and don’t spend all their time being threatened and/or rescued; the flick even passes the Bechdel Test, technically. Also, Shia LaBeouf. Also, David Morse. What’s not to love?

–Jay Sorensen


PG-13 Horror That Doesn’t Suck: “The Skeleton Key” (2005)

Caroline Ellis (Kate Hudson), gets a job caring for Ben Devereaux, an elderly man recently suffering from a stoke that he had in the attic of his home. His wife Violet (Gena Rowlands) is hesitant about hiring Caroline. Insisting she won’t “understand the house”. However, their estate lawyer Luke (Peter Sarsgaard), convinces her she won’t find anyone better. As Caroline begins to care for Ben, she starts to discover more secrets about the house. But the more she discovers, the more she finds herself and the Devereauxs in danger. Can Caroline save herself and the elderly couple from falling victim to the house’s haunting past?

While it is basically known that great PG13 horror is a rarity, The Skeleton Key is one that I’m my opinion succeeds on every level. Granted it does have its occasional lame jump scares, but in the long run its the build up and atmosphere that gives the film its suspense. As the story progresses, the viewer becomes more and more engaged in the mystery of the house till the film’s shocking ending. I remember when I saw this in theaters and I was tensed through the entire last act. And by the end of the movie my mind was blown. It also has amazing performances by Kate Hudson (who really should do more horror/thrillers) and Gena Rowlands.

The Skeleton Key is one PG13 horror film that severely separates itself from the shitty ones. It provides everything a person wants from a horror film, and quite honestly it fits perfectly. I can’t see it being much different if it were R rated other than more opportunities to drop the F bomb.

–Cody Landman


Favorite “Family Friendly” Horror: “Hocus Pocus” Review

My choice for favorite “family friendly” horror movie is the 1993 PG-rated film Hocus Pocus.

In the town of Salem, Washington there once lived three evil witch sisters. Winnie (Bette Midler), Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker), and Mary Sanderson (Kathy Najimy). On one Halloween night, the sister lure one of the town’s children, Emily Binx, to their cottage, in hopes sucking the life out of her to gain back their youth. Emily’s older brother Thackery tries to come to her rescue, but in the end he is too late, and the sisters turned him into a black cat. The village people show up to the Sanderson house and ultimately hang the sisters, only after they vow to one day return for their revenge. 300 years later, Max Dennison (Omri Katz), and his family move to Salem. Max refuses to believe the stories he hears about the town. However, it is Halloween night, and after Max, his little sister Danni (Thora Birch), and Max’s crush Allison (Vinessa Shaw) visit the Sanderson house and end up resurrecting the 3 sisters, it is up to them, and the cat Binx to save the town’s children and put an end to these sisters once and for all.

Hocus Pocus was one of my favorite films as a kid. I can’t go a Halloween without watching it to this day. The movie is filled with fun characters and great performances. The three actresses who play the Sanderson sisters work so well together and definitely have some great one-liners. This movie is very family friendly with some great comedy, while still keeping it in the horror genre. Who would have thought a film about witches killing children would be a family movie? Hands down the best part of the movie is when the three sisters sing “I Put A Spell On You” and end up putting the town’s adults into a dance frenzy. I swear that song gets stuck in my head every time I watch it, and anytime I start singing it around someone, they know exactly what movie it’s from.

This film in my opinion, is the best family horror film out there. It provides enough fun for kids and adults, and is definitely one that all ‘90s kids know and will hopefully pass on to their kids or younger siblings. It’s a major classic in my book.

–Cody Landman