Thursday, 16 June 2011

Horror - Straw Poll

Right a serious one this time, I want your opinions.
My 8 year old son keeps asking to watch my DVDs.  You know the ones.  The ones with 18 or R on the spine, and I keep saying  "When you're older"
Now I know there's certain films, that I'll no way let him watch yet, but then again there's certain films that I'm sure I watched when I was around his age.
I first watched An American Werewolf on pirate video when I was around 10, and I remember creeping downstairs and sitting on the cold hall floor watching Salem's Lot through a crack in the door when I was 9.
Obviously, these movies terrified me, but also instilled in me a lifelong love of horror.
He has already watched some early black&white Hammers (Quatermass etc.), and a few B monster movies. but nothing scary.
The question is, how much is too  much too young?  I don't want to scar him, or give give lifelong nightmares or neurosis' that he'll never get over (I'm not a total monster).  But then again I don't want him  to come to films too late to get a passion for them - a passion that can only be gotten by watching movies early on in life.
I know he's not ready for The Thing, but maybe he is for Jaws?
No to Hostel, but maybe yes to The Monster Squad?

I know it's all subjective.  What you may let your child watch, I wouldn't and vice-versa.  But I'm hoping to get a few replies here (whether you have children or not) on what you feel is appropriate viewing for an 8 year old - and don't say 'I'd let him watch A Serbian Film', I want serious answers.
I'm not asking for parenting advice, just interested in people's opiinions.

Bear in mind, this is the boy who's pestering me for this to put on a leash and answer the door with on Hallowe'en!


  1. That's a tough one. I often wonder what I'll say when my kids (if I ever have any) want to watch something questionably inappropriate. I'm really not sure if I can give you a good answer. But I do believe that my love for horror films stems from my parents never letting me watch movies like Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th when I was a kid. It sort of became like forbidden fruit.

  2. I would play it by ear. The R rating was the limit when I was a child but there are plenty of great horror films that are appropriate for certain children his age (The Monster Squad, The Jaws franchise, Gremlins, the Poltergeist trilogy, The Midnight Hour, Hocus Pocus, The Hole 3-D, The Gate and a handful of R rated films that in truth, really shouldn't be rated R such Army of Darkness and the like). Also, pretty much anything from the 60s backwards is pretty safe. But like I said, play it by ear, see what your son as an individual can handle. Jaws did give me nightmares but I think that they were due to the sheer amount of times I watched those films (at least one of them on a weekly basis when I was in my single digits). Movies can scare a child but they can still love and appreciate them at the same time, at least I did. Also, despite my parent's best efforts to keep me away from them I did find my way to the harder stuff when they weren't around. A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Halloween...they made it awfully hard to go to bed but, as a horror fan from birth, I couldn't have been happier (or more terrified) when I was watching them. Now look, we run horror blogs. We seem to have made it out alright.

  3. When I was little my parents really didn't monitor my viewing habits. I pretty much was allowed to watching anything, as long as it wasn't porn.

    If I ever have kids, I'll be more selective about what they can and cannot see before the age of 18. That being said, my first exposure to horror came in the form of James Whale's "Frankenstein," and, "The Bride of Frankenstein." So I had a good introduction with the Universal Monsters. I've been a fan of Boris Karloff eversince.

    I say that it depends on the child. You know your son at this stage in life, better than anyone else. There are lots of kid friendly horror films to choose from--Monster Squad, Mr. Boogedy, Halloweentown, Saturday the 14th. Come to think of it, an episode on Children's Horror (no, not puberty)would be a good topic.

    I'd say, from my perspective--eight years old is too young for an anything "R" rated. However, there are several PG and PG-13 rated flicks out there.

  4. Thanks for the input guys. I already am pretty sure what to show him, and what not to (as I said, all he's seen are some old B&W creature features)
    What I'm interested in is what you lot deem 'appropriate' for a minor to watch.
    Do you feel children lose their innocence by being exposed to these movies at too young an age?
    Or did it do you no harm? ; )

  5. First let me say that I wish I could afford one of those lifesize werewolf models your kid wants. It'd be so cool to just have one in the corner of the living room, watching everyone.
    When I was a kid I saw a lot of horror films that were rated too old for me, but the gore never bothered me and I think it'll bother kids even less nowadays due to the internet/video games and so on. When I watched American Werewolf in London, as a child, the only bits that scared me were the parts that had sudden jumps, like when the nazi-zombies storm through the window. In fact, that's pretty much still the case now. I think the element you may need to be cautious about is the actual subject matter. Hostel is based around around people being sold to be tortured by the idle rich; that wouldn't be appropriate for a child. Films like Jaws or American Werewolf however don't have that cruel, sadistic, dehumanizing streak, and so seem more fitting.

  6. Difficult one. Will have he same dilemma in a few years time. If you feel as a parent he his mature enough to see the ones YOU watched at that age, fine, just take it slow and give him time to take it all in. If he has nightmares etc. back off.

    It would be recommended you avoid remakes and anything recent. Steve's Hostel comment is apt, as is the point he makes about that genre.

    I'd say it did me no harm but it certainly had an impact. After all, I blog about gaming the zombie apocalypse and run a web-store all about zombies...we make of it what we will eh!

    You'll make the right decision sir!

  7. Just going by what I watched as a child, I'd say a definite "NO" to any of the R and 18 rated movies. I know that might surprise you.

    When I was a kid, I watched all the old black and white Universal films, the ITV series "Beasts" and "Thriller", a couple of Hammer Draculas, "Salem's Lot" and the BBC's "Supernatural". And apart from "Dramarama" and "Dramarama Spooky" that was it as far as horror went. No Jaws, no Freddy (which was still to come) and certainly nothing really adult.

    The difference between me and a lot of other horror buffs was that I read lots of books instead (including James Herbert) but I started with the "Alfred Hitchcock presents" ones and then went on to "True Ghost Stories" by Aidan Chambers and most of the Pan Books of Horror. I was also reading Robert Westall and Narnia books so it wasn't all horror.

    Of course the occasional adult movie did slip in occasionally such as "The Collector" (the Terence Stamp one) but TV was better when I was a kid so I was into "Grange Hill" just as much as "The Sweeney", "Minder", and even "Happy Days" and "MASH".

    I don't have kids but judging by what I did, I think that a diverse and eclectic pool of entertainment as possible is the key especially for an 8 year old.

    "18 and R" movies are rated that way for a reason (and a legal one unless you want a visit from the social services). Remember there's a big difference between an 8 year old and a 10 year old and also that times have changed. I don't know your age but I bet you didn't have the Freddies and Jasons (or even Rambos) in existence when you were a little kid either.

    As much as I would have found it humourous to suggest "A Serbian Film", you've nipped that in the bud so I've given you a serious answer.

  8. A couple of excellent shows mentioned there Dr.Blood. Watched most of them myself. I'm not sure you are outside of the norm because you read alot of books though - I find most horror fans to be a fairly literate bunch myself.
    I know exactly what my son can and can't handle, as I said in the post I'm not after parenting advice - I was simply hoping to start a discussion on children watching horror.

  9. I just think that time has changed things so dramatically (and I do mean that literally) that kids don't have the quality entertainment that we used to. To let them watch things which were the product of an age which was increasingly more nasty in every way is something to think hard about. We simply had less hardcore stuff available to us so we've grown with it and what we continue tame now may still cause some minor psychological disturbances for kids. As adult horror fans we are, ironically, the last people who should be able to decide what kids watch.

    Personally, if I had kids, I wouldn't let them watch anything harder than "Star Wars" or "Twilight" until they were at least 15. (The chances are that I'd have kids who were into Westerns or something else completely different to me knowing my luck.)

    Part of the problem is that the education system (worldwide now) is so lacking as far as any kind of moral instruction is concerned that a diet of horror films might (though probably wouldn't) add to the detrimental effects on the next generation. It's a difficult one for sure and it makes me glad that I only have cats to worry about.

  10. Something went horribly wrong with my spell checker there... "continue" was supposed to be "consider" but I'm sure you've worked that out. :)

  11. To answer your question, "How does one define 'innocence'?"

    I don't think children loose anythng from what they watch. If you show them something too spooky as a kid, it might turn them off. As for what can "warp" a child--I think that has more to do with how they are parented--how the parents interact with the kid, and how their parents interact with eachother. Also, you have to consider how their peers treat them as well.

    I don't think horror movies, or cinema in general will harm a child. It's the horrors they can see in real life that will affect them the most.

  12. Some interesting opinions guys, thanks very much.
    Normal, irreverant service will resume in the next post.

  13. Tasty blog, Dr. C, and love the question.
    I have been showing my son monster movies since he was 7 (he is now 11) and I would have to believe has gained more than he has lost (in terms of innocence) from watching the older films especially: CFTBL, King Kong, and the sad man child Frankenstein’s monster for instance. Hard not to watch any of those and think, “Geez, why couldn’t they just leave em the hell alone.” Kong wasn’t hurting anyone. The creature was minding his own business. And Frankenstein’s monster, well that incident at the lake was an unfortunate accident. At the risk of sounding pedantic, I think there are good lessons to be drawn from many old and some new movies and don’t really worry about those we watch warping him. When I want to show him a movie that is, except for one or two small parts of sex or nudity or really cruel graphic violence, pretty appropriate, I keep an 8X10 piece of cardboard in hand and cover the screen until the moment passes. Dorky I suppose, but it doesn’t take away much from most movies to censor boobs and sex.


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