I’ve always been of the opinion of “starting kids early.”  The sooner you can get them started on good horror fiction, the more likely they are to end up sick, twisted individuals like you and I!  But there’s a difference between starting them on something like Aliens versus something specifically made for children.  Sure, there’s Goosebumps and plenty of old seasons of Are You Afraid of the Dark to watch, but, ultimately, those are both child-friendly tales of classic urban legends and ghost stories that we’ve all heard, slimed up to appeal to the Nickelodeon audiences of the time.

Still, there are some movies specifically made for kids that are both scary and relatively family friendly, and actually end up being both scary, and something that kids are likely to pop in every Halloween for years to come.

Check out my top 5 kids horror movies after the jump!

BatmanVsDracula_low5. The Batman vs. Dracula

The Batman television show was better than it had any right being.  Though it had a weak couple of seasons (3 and 5, specifically), I think the series really found a great voice and differentiated itself from the previous Bruce Timm Batman series, while still managing to not suck when compared to it (I know some differ in my opinion on that one).  While supposedly a more child-friendly series than the previous incarnation, the series still managed some very adult themes and episodes (like a zombie one that was better than the recent Smallville zombie episode).  Not only that, the show managed to produce a DTV animated movie that is, hands down, probably the most violent official film version of Batman to date.  While not entirely appropriate for all ages (a vampire Joker licking blood off of the floor of a blood bank might traumatize the younger set), a mature child, and any Batman-loving adult owes it to themselves to see this fantastic movie.  Dracula comes to Gotham, makes Penguin his Renfield, and Batman is getting blamed for the missing people in town.  Plus, Batman punches a vampire…and he EXPLODES.  Hella awesome.

gate4. The Gate

Man, this movie traumatized me as a kid.  Playing a record backwards, a young Stephen Dorff and his dorky friend (who looks like a young Marilyn Manson, but isn’t) open a gate to another dimension in their backyard, where small creatures come out, kidnap his friends and family, and basically mess this kid up.  He even gets and evil hand (sound familiar) and has to stab it in a bloodless, but surprisingly violent scene.  A great kid’s horror movie that stands up well to this day (save for some bad fashion sense) and the perfect movie for a middle grade kid looking to step out of Harry Potter into some scarier surroundings.

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)3. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad

Is there a scarier visage for a child than that of the Headless Horseman on his black horse atop a hill in the middle of the night?  Even the Mr. Toad portion of this film is surprisingly offbeat, but the real meat comes in Disney’s interpretation of the classic Washington Irving tale that, to this day, can’t be beat (sorry Tim Burton).  While the film is definitely a slow burn, it’s worth the wait for one of the scariest American animated sequences ever.

nightmare_before_christmas_ver12. The Nightmare Before Christmas

So, technically, this isn’t a horror movie.  But it’s rooted in horror, and it’s quite possibly one of the greatest Halloween movies EVER.  Very few movies capture the essence of the Halloween holiday quite as well as this movie.  And there are some sure scary elements for children of a younger age, but this movie really is fun for kids young and old.  Currently playing in limited release in 3D (a must see, by the way), and a necessity of any home DVD/Blu-Ray collection, The Nightmare Before Christmas, the story of the Pumpkin King who, unhappy with being stuck with Halloween all the time, decides to take over Christmas, is essential watching for two holidays, and the perfect introduction for and child into more horrific imagery, tinged with the sweetness of childhood memories!

monstersquad1. The Monster Squad

Quite simply, the greatest children’s horror movie EVER.  A group of kids a lot like we were when we were youngin’s are faced with the impossible task of saving the world from Dracula, the Werewolf, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Mummy, and Frankenstein’s Monster.  Scary, fun, and action-packed, this is the movie that will convince kids that monsters are cool.  Not only that, it’s rare to see such cool portrayals of the classic monsters – even Dracula, in a Bela Lugosi-esque impression, is damn intimidating.  A little violent for kid’s TOO young, I did see the movie in its original theatrical run (I was seven) and have loved it to this day.  It does earn its PG-13 rating, so be warned.  Still … this movie deserves to be seen as a family, with hot popcorn and the sound turned up way high!