‘Tis the season to be spooky! But while we prepare to announce the winner of our Horror Award on Friday, we mustn’t forget that Halloween is for the whole family, not just horror fans. So, here are our tips for writing a family Halloween movie…
- Have a genuinely scary premise. A lot of writers try to soften things for younger audiences, but a lot of better family Halloween movies have pretty terrifying concepts – they just present them in a light-hearted way! Tim Burton productions tend to be very good at this. THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS: Santa Klaus is kidnapped by the King of Halloween Town, who then terrorizes the world’s children with horrifying presents. CORPSE BRIDE: a man ends up married to (surprise, surprise) a literal corpse. These are scary ideas, but the presentation makes them okay for kids.
- Have a strong sense of humor or sense of wonder. You still don’t want to terrify children with your premise no matter how scary it is (well, we assume you don’t…), so you need to counterbalance it. So make things fun! Comedy helps to take the edge off and make things fun instead. Alternatively, if your protagonists aren’t scared themselves – if they’re instead fascinated by the macabre (as THE ADDAMS FAMILY are) – that’s another way of signalling there’s nothing to really be afraid of.
- Give your script a strong visual style. Again, this is another hallmark of Tim Burton’s films that helps to develop a sense of wonder, rather than the hard-edged or gruesome style of horror films. Of course, the specifics of how a film looks will ultimately be controlled the director, the production designer, and other crew members on a film – but a screenwriter can (and definitely should) give an idea of what their world looks like. With a family Halloween film, there’s even more potential to do interesting things than in most other genres!
- Don’t dumb things down too much. A common mistake is to oversimplify things. But kids tend to understand more than many people give them credit for, and besides, your film isn’t just for them – it’s for the whole family. Make sure there’s enough in there to keep mom and dad interested too; the more demographics your script appeals to, the better.
- Unlike most horror movies, give it a happy ending! In a lot of horror movies, things don’t end too well for the main characters. If you’re writing a family Halloween movie though, it’s better to have a happy ending – particularly one that focuses on the value of, well, family. After you’ve taken your audience on a thrill ride through the macabre, make them feel safe again at the end of it all.
So there you have it, our advice for writing a successful Halloween movie. If you want to check out more hints and tips from WriteMovies, take a look at our other Writing Insights articles. Have a happy Halloween!