Raising the next generation of cinephiles… H is for horror… D is for death… your lessons in film must surely have breadth

Samara

In my role as pop culture mentor and guide to my two lovely young daughters, I am often wondering what is and is not appropriate for their viewing, reading and listening pleasure.  What are the things that will cause them embarrassment… me embarrassment… what will trigger a nightmare… or what will help propel them into loving something more?  What are the pitfalls a parent should look out for when traveling with your children through the culture maze?

For film… this is a frustrating problem.  For a horror fan, the frustration is greater.  On one level, the last thing a parent should do is frighten your child.  However, fear is a natural and normal reaction to horrible things… just look at almost every fairy take and nursery rhyme… and children seem to thrive with a little scare now and again.  But how much is too much, and when is something appropriate for an eight year old… or a six year old?

I’m not really thinking about my six year old quite yet… although she has shown a proclivity towards the unseemly… I’m focusing on my eight year old (two months from nine) daughter.  A few months back, she and I sat down and watched Jaws from start to finish… this was a test case.  I made a point to not have her close her eyes, to not let her know when anything would happen and ultimately to watch closely at her reactions when anything scary or gory came on screen.  To say she passed the test with flying colors is an understatement… she loved the experience.  After the film we talked about what she liked about it… what frightened her… and ultimately whether or not she enjoyed being frightened.  She was completely reasonable regarding the fact that this is a film and is not real… and it turns out, yes, she loved the fright… the jumps… and was appropriately bummed out when Quint gets chomped on and relieved when Mr. Hooper reappears.

So what would the next step be?  We have covered action/adventure with quite a few Spielberg films (Jaws, the Indiana Jones quadrilogy and the Jurassic Park trilogy)… now it was time to move into truly frightening territory… but where to start?

Zombie movies are out as a genre… for as much as I love them, the gore is simply too over the top.  So I guess gore is something I don’t wish to subject a little girl to.  I remember being a young lad and seeing The Amityville Horror on TV and having nightmares about blood dripping down the walls and some sort of pig with red eyes (I haven’t seen it in ages… my memory is hazy)… but that’s not really gory, but it was creepy and scary.  Then again… I was a bit of a pussy when it came to these things thanks to an overprotective and terrified mother.

I’ve spent weeks now looking over my  DVD collection and talking about various movies with Mrs. Blahg and my daughter as to their appropriateness for a younger audience… using our well known, and hardly perfect, ratings system… and so far we seem quite comfortable in most PG-13 movies… and I’ve been looking at some R rated films as well… language I could care less about, not an issue with us… but violence, gore and terror are some aspects I am concerned with.  Fortunately for me, my eldest is most put off by two adults kissing and will cover her eyes.  I think if anything even resembling a sex scene were to appear on screen she would self-regulate and cower in fear of catching the gross.  So that is certainly off the table.

{A brief side note regarding the MPAA ratings system… I generally think it’s a bunch of BS.  The fact that so much violence is alright, yet the sight of a woman’s nipple would damage you somehow is quite possibly the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.  I may love the horror genre, but I abhor violence and its prevalence in our society.  One aspect of the ratings system that I DO like is what they actually say regarding each rating.  G – good for everyone.  PG – know your children  PG-13 – see it with children under 13  R – Only with a parent.  I believe we often forget that they aren’t banning anything other than NC-17 film to the young [usually for sex though… sigh].  That’s all… thanks, back to the regularly scheduled post…}

What does that leave us with in terms of appropriate horror?  Monster movies, action/adventure and supernatural shit.  Jaws fits into action/adventure and monster… thus, King Kong will probably be coming soon (debating on which version they should see first… I’m saying the 1933 original [which I have on DVD], Mrs. Blahg thinks the 1976 Jeff Bridges version [which I do not have on DVD] and ultimately so as not to bore the kids, we will probably go with the more recent Peter Jackson version [which I do…], flaws and all).  But still… what about horror?

A couple of weeks ago, we found our answer.  Mrs. Blahg and I were flipping channels one evening and came upon one of our favorite PG-13 horror-lite films, The Ring.  As we watched a bit of it, our girls began watching with us… and I was pleasantly surprise how few of the details I had recalled, yet enough so that I knew when to change the channel when something either disturbing or scary would come on.  After finally changing the channel and telling them the basic gist of the story… my older daughter began her campaign to bug the crap out of me until I was ready to acquiesce and let her see it.  With minimal deliberation… realizing that the scares are too intense, there is zero gore and really, my girls can relate to a creepy kid coming out of a well and through the TV much more so than some giant ape… plus, we don’t have any blank videotapes lying around, therefore we figured, little for her to be frightened of.

When my mind had been made up to give it a go, Mrs. Blahg took our youngest out with her to run some errands on a nice Saturday morning and we popped the DVD in.  In an hour and a half, my daughter went from being a horror genre neophyte to demanding more.  Zero nightmares ensued… no closing of eyes… jumps at the appropriate times… everything went wonderfully and she discovered the joys of a good fright.  The pleasures of being creeped out and recoiling appropriately as you find yourself squirming on pins and needle.

The only downside is that she is annoyingly pressing me to purchase The Ring Two, regardless of how crappy I keep telling her it is.  What will happen when she finds out The Ring Three in 3D is being released next year?  I imagine I know who I will be seeing that with.

Now, she wants to push the envelope… and I’m treaded lightly… but this time, we may break into something a bit more visceral.  The supernatural realm seems to be a good one… perhaps InsidiousThe Omen could be good, I’ll just have her close her eyes at the decapitation (even that probably wouldn’t phase her, she calls out old special effects as not being very special… she needs a few more lessons in perspective).  Perhaps An American Werewolf in London?  I’m thinking maybe Alien or Cloverfield (scary, yet monster focused… not too much gore… in the case of Cloverfield).  There are so many options… and my sadistic side that wishes to scare the shit out of my wee children is doing battle with my parental urge to protect my little angels from the evils of the world and the horrible violent tendencies of man.  I guess it’s time for them to get a taste of the darker side of life.

Warping the minds of little children since 2002,
Cornelius J. Blahg

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