Saturday, October 19, 2013

Best Animated Scary Movies

Most animated movies feature quite a bit of suspense and frights.  Scenes from Snow White, Pinocchio and Fantasia are absolutely terrifying and could even be scene as an influence in live-action horror films.  More recent movies such as Secret of NIMH have been seen as too frightening for some children and have gained a larger adult following from their mature tone.  This list is just about animated features that are marketed as scary or can be classified as horror films, as plenty of animated movies have some scary elements to them.  I stuck to mainstream American family films because that is what I know.  I should note that I have not yet seen Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit or The Corpse Bride so I cannot include those two.  Daffy Duck's Quackbusters does not work as a feature, you are better off watching the individual Looney Tunes shorts.

10. Frankenweenie (2012) and Hotel Transylvania (2012)
I personally did not enjoy either of these.  I ranked the forgettable Frankenweenie as one of the most overrated films of 2012.  And Hotel Transylvania was kind of a mess.  It lacked heart and originality, the father-daughter relationship was pretty contrived and it was not all that funny (essentially Adam Sandler doing an irritating voice for a whole movie).  Most of the characters were unnecessary, mainly just giving an excuse to cast celebrities, which surprisingly Selena Gomez gave the best performance.  The voice actors, writers and animators all seemed to be telling different stories.  The "hip" dialogue did not fit Sandler's accent, Kevin James' voice did not fit that design, etc.

However both movies are very well designed.  Frankenweenie can be stunning and beautiful.  And there is a good look to Hotel Transylvania, Genndy Tarktavosky directed it after all.  I may just be more nitpicky than I should, you very well may enjoy these films as there are good things to both.

9. The Black Cauldron (1985)
This is definitely the second worst Disney animated feature of all time (Chicken Little is the only one that is worse).  However in discussing animated features that are pretty scary this one deserves mention.  There is definite ambition and talent behind this movie that does have a sense of high fantasy, with an emphasis on a darker, mature tone.  Several of the scary scenes involving the army of the dead were cut, but the Horned King himself is frightening enough.  This is very much in line with other eighties eerie fantasy movies of the times (i.e. Return to Oz) which are weird enough to qualify as close to horror.  And although I can be very harsh towards this movie when looking at it in an animation perspective, it is Halloween and how many scary nostalgic movies are actually good?

8. Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island (1998)
"This time the monsters are real."  Even though the trailer for this direct-to-video feature gives away the twist it is still extremely creepy.  Easily the darkest Scooby-Doo I have ever seen.  Although the gang had tangled with actual supernatural creatures before in series such as 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo and movies like Scooby-Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf the creatures in this movie are actually extremely unsettling.  There is suspense and I remember it really getting to me as a kid.

7. ParaNorman (2012)
This was really different and a pretty pleasant surprise.  For the most part it tugs on all of the right heartstrings and is relatable while featuring the perfect combination of comedy and suspense.  The characters are really well designed in an exaggerated way, which is refreshing as so many modern animated films strive for realism or a uniform CGI look.  This also uses celebrity voice actors in an interesting way as it casts them against type (Anna Kendrick as a self-centered teen, Christopher Mintz-Plasse as a bully and Casey Affleck as a dumb jock).  The suspense scenes are well done and the scares are pretty legit.  My main complaint is that the character of Norman started off very sympathetic, relatable and almost tragic but the character stops growing and you stop caring about him near the end of the film.  Still one of the best animated horror movies and more unique animated features in recent years.

6. Rise of the Guardians (2012)
I am curious to see who will pick up the television rights to this movie because they will have an excuse to air it at Halloween, Christmas, Easter and probably Thanksgiving just due to lack of Thanksgiving programming.  This movie really surprised me and it is upsetting that it did not do better at the box-office or get an Oscar nomination.  There is a real scale to this movie, it is very cinematic and exciting.  Halloween is represented in the movie by the character Pitch (essentially the Boogeyman), voiced terrifically by Jude Law.  The character is really eerie and the scenes focusing on darkness are full of wonderful atmosphere.

5. Monster House (2006)
I really like this movie.  A good suburban neighborhood horror story focusing on a group of kids.  It is funny, scary and creative.  This is the only time that motion capture has really ever worked in a feature for me, mainly because the eeriness of the visuals add to the movie.  The animation on the house is also extremely well done as are the action sequences inside the house.  This really should have beat out Happy Feet and Cars at the Oscars (or they should have nominated the underrated Curious George, but I digress).

4. Coraline (2009)
Imagination and good storytelling just makes things so much scarier.  No cheap tricks in this movie, it is really unique and unlike anything else.  The visuals are great, script is great.  Just a fantastic film that is frightening to people of any age.

3. Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
I believe that many people cite this as one of their favorite Christmas movies because it is cooler to like something scary than sentimental.  However this movie works because it isn't just eerie and unsettling but it does have a lot of heart.  Jack is a likable character who learns a valuable lesson and has a great love story.  There is also a real tenderness to Danny Elfman's score and Henry Selick's direction.  This is really the perfect combination of what makes Halloween and Christmas so great.  As far as the Halloween elements go, just look at the dark moody visuals and the creatively, almost messed up designed characters and gruesome gags.  It is a classic for a reason, really great movie.

2. Monsters, Inc. (2001)
A monster movie that shows that the monsters in your closet as not being so scary.  Part of what makes this movie work so beautifully is how the characters are designed.  They are likable and almost cute (as well as marketable) but you believe that they can be scary.  Especially in the scene where Sully gives a scaring demonstration with a terrifying roar.  This movie is full of different types of scares many of which deal in suspense or emotion, this is a very heartfelt movie.  The whole concept is also extremely creative and the entire universe feels real and logical to the audience.

This year's Monsters University was great too, I will include it in a blogpost about the Best Prequels when I get around to it.  It also has a scary scene in a cabin that works more on a psychological level.

1. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
I named this as my favorite scary movie and wrote a whole review on it.  Easily the best adaptation of Washington Irving's classic American horror story and best animated scary movie.

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