4 Movies Like Child's Play (1988)

Staff & contributors

There’s more than a touch of Louis Theroux to this engrossing documentary — fronted by New Zealander pop-culture journalist David Farrier — about an innocuous-seeming Internet phenomenon: the actually-sinister subculture of “competitive endurance tickling”, in which young men undergo “tickle torture” for money on camera. When Farrier unassumingly requests an interview with an American producer of tickle content, it kickstarts a bizarre campaign of harassment and opens up a rabbit hole of unbelievable twists and turns. The wild places this documentary goes are best left as unspoiled as possible, but it’s no spoiler to say this emerges from its seemingly lighthearted premise as a deeply unnerving story about money, power, sex, and shame in the Internet age.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: David Farrier

Director: David Farrier, Dylan Reeve

That one of 1990’s scariest movies is a kids’ movie makes sense when you know it’s an adaptation of a Roald Dahl story (and directed by horror legend Nicolas Roeg, no less). The Witches dispenses with most of the trappings of kids’ films, swapping bright bubbliness and cute animal CGI for macabre thrills and uncanny valley puppetry courtesy of Jim Henson. It’s astonishingly scary, given its PG certification — not just for its intended audience but for adults, too. Death, grief, and evildoers who prey on children all make an early appearance and never leave the film’s frame, stalking young Luke (Jasen Fisher) and his grandmother (Mai Zetterling) across countries as they try to make a new start in England following a family tragedy in Norway. In typical Dahl style though, The Witches — with its creepy premise and high camp touches — finds a clever balance between being nightmare-inducing and deliciously fun, a tonal blend that harks back to the twisted appeal of traditional fairy tales.

Genre: Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Horror

Actor: Angelique Rockas, Anjelica Huston, Annabel Brooks, Anne Lambton, Anne Tirard, Arvid Ones, Bill Paterson, Brenda Blethyn, Brian Hawksley, Charlie Potter, Darcy Flynn, Debra Gillett, Emma Relph, Grete Nordrå, Jane Horrocks, Jasen Fisher, Jenny Runacre, Jim Carter, Leila Hoffman, Mai Zetterling, Michael Palin, Nicolas Roeg, Nora Connolly, Ola Otnes, Roberta Taylor, Rosamund Greenwood, Rose English, Rowan Atkinson, Serena Harragin, Sukie Smith, Sverre Røssummoen, Vincent Marzello

Director: Nicolas Roeg

Rating: PG

Fright Night wastes no time confirming that, yes, that handsome new neighbor is a vampire, and yes, he has to be defeated. By cutting to the chase, the film refreshingly lets its heroes and villains spend a lot of time together, goading each other on in a battle of wills. But apart from that, Fright Night sticks to the reliable '80s-horror formula, full of spectacular makeup effects, cheesy thrills, and delightfully over-the-top performances. Chris Sarandon is irresistible as the evil vampire Jerry Dandrige, while Roddy McDowall's heartfelt performance as the fraud vampire hunter Peter Vincent gives us a redemption arc worth rooting for.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Horror

Actor: Amanda Bearse, Art Evans, Bob Corff, Chris Hendrie, Chris Sarandon, Dorothy Fielding, Ernie Holmes, Heidi Sorenson, Irina Irvine, Jonathan Stark, Nick Savage, Pamela Brown, Prince Hughes, Roddy McDowall, Stephen Geoffreys, Stewart Stern, William Ragsdale

Director: Tom Holland

Rating: R

Director Rachel Mason’s first documentary is an amusing study of accidental allies. Her mother Karen insists that there are better subjects for the film, but what would be better than the mom-and-pop bookstore that sells sex toys and gay pornography? The subject alone is inherently interesting, as these mild-mannered Jewish parents describe their unintentional journey through day-to-day selling and distribution. However, Mason is able to expand her discussion by contrasting her parents’ actions against the wider conservative moves done by the US government in the 1980s. Amidst censorship and epidemics, Circus of Books stood as a safe haven for the LGBTQ+ community, made possible by her parents. In learning about the store, we (and Mason) learn more about her parents. While their job choice was unplanned, the journey of accepting those other than themselves is one that we all should take.

Genre: Documentary, Drama, History

Actor: Alaska Thunderfuck, Jeff Stryker, Larry Flynt

Director: Rachel Mason

Rating: Not Rated