My children love Hallowe’en, and love Friday nights featuring pizza and a DVD.
So we leapt at the chance to combine the two in a frugal family movie night, when HMV kindly offered to send us some spooky Hallowe’en goodies.
Read on for my tips if you fancy a frugal movie night for Hallowe’en, and find out our top 13 family-friendly films.
Tips for a frugal Halloween movie night
Nowadays, Hallowe’en seems to be an excuse for the shops and supermarkets to sell all kinds of merchandise, but a family movie night really doesn’t require terrifying amounts of money.
Reuse costumes and decorations
I dug out our big box of Hallowe’en costumes and decorations, as I do every year. Costumes can be adapted or passed down from bigger to smaller children. If you invest in face paints for Hallowe’en, they can be whipped out in future for everything from fancy dress parties to Comic Relief and the #worldofpain that is World Book Day.
We also make some of our decorations – cutting out ghosts, pumpkins and bats from white, orange and black card is quick and easy even if you don’t have an arty bone in your body. For the gravestone in the picture above, I just cut up the side of a cardboard box and nicked some of the kids’ poster paints.
Pick up a free pumpkin
If you’re keen on pumpkin carving, you can get one that costs up to £2 for free, via TopCashback Snap and Save*. Buy the pumpkin, snap a picture of the receipt, upload it at TopCashback, and get up to £2 back. You can even use the pumpkin flesh to make soup afterwards. That’s win:win on the frugal front.
Add a few extras
If you resurrect costumes and make some of the decorations, it’s possible to afford some extras here and there. These vampire teeth and spooky fingertips went down particularly well with my children. We also enjoying playing a “pin the smile on the skeleton” game before settling down for our film.
As an added bonus, this stuff can all be reused in future. If I’m going to buy anything special for Hallowe’en, I’d rather it lasts, unlike say buying paper plates, cups and napkins that go straight in the bin afterwards.
Make your own pizza
I have learnt the hard way that my children don’t always eat lovingly crafted, photogenic Hallowe’en foods. (Let’s pause for a minute to remember the crispy cake spiders, the gingerbread men skeletons and the mummified frankfurter sausages of previous years).
However, they will eat pizza and in our house it wouldn’t be movie night without pizza, so pizza it was. Plus salad, as a nod to health.
Rather than forking out for a delivery or takeaway, we make our own pizza for a fraction of the cost. (Here’s the pizza dough recipe)
Pizza toppings are also a great way to use up odds and ends that wouldn’t stretch to a whole meal. A couple of slices of ham, a slightly sad looking pepper, the last of the cheese or the final few mushrooms? Chop ’em up, shove ’em on a pizza and enjoy.
Bag a bargain DVD
We don’t pay for a telly subscription, but only have Freeview. This means if we want to watch a particular film at a particular time, we use a DVD. But when it comes to DVDs for a film night, they don’t have to cost the earth either. We use our local library at £1 a pop, borrow from friends, snap up bargains from our local charity shop (always check for scratches) and look out for offers in supermarkets and shops like HMV. If you buy online, check whether you can earn any cashback by clicking through from websites like TopCashback* or Quidco first. (More about cashback here).
Favourite family films for Halloween
I reckon frugal movie nights should feature films the whole family can enjoy. That means the adults don’t have to endure the likes of Pooh’s Heffalump Halloween Movie, which is enough to make A.A. Milne spin in his grave. Equally, I’m keen to avoid films that will give my 9 year old and 7 year old the heeby jeebies and keep them in nightmares till Christmas. Even Beetlejuice and Gremlins will have to wait.
So here’s our tried-and-tested, suitably spooky top 13 list of family-friendly Hallowe’en films. Hopefully you might find the odd new film to try, along with some familiar favourites.
1. Monsters, Inc (2001, U)
Especially good animation for younger children, from Pixar. When younger, my daughter preferred a furry Sully toy to a Disney princess on a visit to the Disney store. Go figure.
2. Wallace and Gromit – The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005, U)
I like Wallace and Gromit so much I actually bought the box set. The Were-Rabbit is charming, inventive and only mildly scary.
3. The Little Vampire (2000, U)
This was a surprise success when we borrowed it from the library. The problems a boy faces when moving to Scotland, his friendship with a young vampire, and the desperate search for an amulet. Richard E. Grant gives good vampire too.
4. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001, PG)
Wizards, witches, spells and flying on broomsticks – what’s not to like for Hallowe’en? The early Harry Potter films are gentler than later ones, and more suitable for younger children. The Philosopher’s Stone features a fabulous Hallowe’en feast in the great hall too.
5. Addams Family (1991, PG)
When I grow up I want to be Morticia Adams. Brings the stylish to spooky, with incredibly black humour. My kids love Wednesday and Pugsley’s hideous games.
6. Addams Family Values (1993, PG)
I can’t resist the inspired Addams Family sequel either. Any child who has dealt with sibling rivalry will relate to this film. The Thanksgiving perfomance to parents during summer camp is a particular high point for anyone who has ever suffered through a school play. Worth protecting children of a nervous disposition from the electrocution scene (or maybe that’s just me).
7. Hotel Transylvania (2012, U)
OK this animation isn’t quite as witty as The Addams Family, but it’s a fairly gentle funny film that won’t terrify the younger generation. Parental over-protectiveness to the fore.
8. Casper (1995, PG)
One spooky house, one friendly ghost, Eric Idle hamming it up and Christina Ricci as the new kid in town who throws a fabulous party. My children are still searching for hidden doors in our house, and the chance a chair will surge down to the cellar.
9. Ghostbusters (1984, PG)
The original and best. Comedy ghosts, slime, destruction and a marshmallow giant for the children, and asides from a gloriously politically incorrect Bill Murray for the rest of us. Luckily Sigourney Weaver gives as good as she gets.
10. The Witches (1990, PG)
It’s a based on a Roald Dahl book and stars Angelica Houston, so it was always going to be good. Scary, funny and fabulous special effects when the witches turn errant children into mice. Watch out for the bit when Angelica Houston reveals herself to be a witch underneath though.
11. E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (1982, PG)
Spielberg’s unashamed tear jerker, which also provides the inspiration to learn to ride a bike and important historical relics like phones with cords. Remember the bit with E.T. toddling round under the sheet at Hallowe’en? No? Go back and watch it again.
12. ParaNorman (2012, PG)
OK so it’s about a boy who sees dead people and a zombie invasion, but this is another gem from Laika (Boxtrolls, Coraline). I’m not a great fan of preachy films, but ParaNorman does a good job of communicating it’s not great to be mean to people just because they’re different. Also: funny.
13. Frankenweenie (2012, PG)
Touching stop-motion animation of a boy, Victor, trying to bring his much-loved dog, Sparky, back to life. It’s a Tim Burton film, so it was always going to be odd, but the dynamics between the children are very believable. I was concerned by the bat / cat transformation scene, while my son was actually more worried by the children playing on a roof. Good one to start a conversation about death and loss.
Now – over to you. What are your favourite family-friendly Hallowe’en films? What are the shocking absences from my top 13? Do share your recommendations in the comments, I’d love to hear!
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