Looking for a scary movie to watch, but put off by blood and gore and PG-13 and R ratings? Grab the kids and some Halloween candy and watch some of these spooky Disney movies, which might be scarier than you remember.
“The Hunchback of Notre Dame”
This House of Mouse’s adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel about a deformed bell-ringer trying to escape the throes of a priest and rescue a gypsy goes to some dark places. The film is horrific not because the villain is otherworldly, but because he is so earthly — a priest who uses his power to manipulate, gaslight and abuse people (when he’s not singing about his lustful tendencies toward said gypsy).
“The Black Cauldron”
Back in the 80s, Disney took some serious risks, one of them being this Lloyd Alexander adaptation that became the first animated Disney film to earn a PG rating. It flopped at the box office, but it now has a cult following. And it is legitimately scary. Peep the Horned King practicing some necromancy:
“Escape to Witch Mountain”
Some lighter fare about two telekenetic/psychic orphans on the run from an evil millionaire. Better than you remembered, and better than the 2009 remake starring The Rock.
“Something Wicked This Way Comes”
Did you know Disney adapted Ray Bradbury’s classic back in 1983? This version stars Jonathan Pryce as Mr. Black, the leader of the carnival that comes to town. One of Disney’s darker outings.
“Toy Story 3”
The “Toy Story” franchise isn’t typically regarded as horror. But dig a little bit deeper to its central theme (talking, living, breathing toys, who even question their own reality, and apparently fear mortality) and you’ll find that it’s kind of creepy. But nothing is scarier to a kid than having your toys taken away from you and burned, and nothing is more worrisome to a parent than seeing your children hurt. All of the above, plus every parent’s state of emotion at sending their kid away to college, is on full display in “Toy Story 3.”
“The Brave Little Toaster”
Another entry into the “inanimate objects with rich inner lives” category, this animated jaunt about outdated household appliances who go on a trip to find their master deals with some dark stuff like abandonment, loneliness and self-worth. It is also features an exceptionally creepy clown.
Tim Burton’s short film that was the basis for “Frankenweenie” actually predates “Nightmare Before Christmas.” This homage to “Frankenstein” has some touches of “Pet Semetary,” what with its themes of consequences of reanimating the dead and all.
“The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad”
At almost 70 years old, Disney’s take on “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” still causes chills.
“Mickey’s Christmas Carol”
This isn’t a Halloween film, but it’s still spooky. “A Christmas Carol” always was. Particularly the ghost of Christmas Future.
“The Watcher in the Woods”
Maybe the most horror-centric film on this list. This 1980 Gothic horror exercise features Bette Davis as the matron of a country home next to some scary woods that hold a dark secret. Apparently there’s a Lifetime Channel remake on the way this month, directed by Melissa Joan Hart.
“Fantasia” is beautiful. At 77 years old, it’s still a perfect marriage of animation and music. One sequence in particular is still terrifying, however. I give you “Night on Bald Mountain”:
“Return to Oz”
One would assume that a Disney interpretation of a book from the “Wizard of Oz” series would be fairly whimsical. Nope. It starts with Dorothy getting shock therapy treatment and never lets up.
“The Black Hole”
Starring Anthony Perkins and set on an abandoned spaceship hovering near a black hole, this thing’s got all the trappings of a Gothic horror film, just set in space. It was Disneys first-ever PG rating (for some dark themes and some bad words) and it was also a way for Disney to cash in on the “Star Wars” hysteria that was then sweeping the nation.
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