Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Fine Line Between Scaring Our Kids and Scarring Our Kids

This past weekend was not only the kids' first weekend of summer vacation, but also Hubby's 4 day weekend due to Memorial Day. We decided to stay at the house all weekend, grill out and have a movie marathon. What movie series did we choose? The Harry Potter movies? The Star Wars saga? Indiana Jones?

Nope. Thanks to Hubby's and my stellar parenting, we chose the Scream movies for our 11 year old and 8 year old to watch. And let me tell you now, they LOVED them!

The kids have been begging us for some time now to watch horror movies. The Girl is the ringleader of this mission, of course, but she has asked to watch everything from the Nightmare on Elm Street movies to the Chucky movies to Stephen King's IT.

We almost gave in to IT. We are very close. Hubby and I were both scarred by that movie when he was about The Girl's age and I was about The Ginger's age, so we figured it was time for our kids to be scared of creepy clowns for the rest of their lives, too. Then we remembered that it was a mini-series, and of the 3 hours of bad late 80s hair and clothing, there was only about 30 minutes of scare-factor time. That could wait for another weekend, or a random Tuesday afternoon. We needed scare moment after scare moment.

So yes, we chose the Scream trilogy (let's face it, the 4th one was crap). Many of you will see nothing wrong with our decision. The kids can see more violent things just watching the news one night or heading to Yahoo! to see the latest happenings in the world. I also understand that there are many of you who can't believe we showed a bloody, gory horror movie to our 11 and 8 year olds, much less 3 of them.

Well, we did. And like I said before, the kids loved them. For Hubby and I, we are pretty open with our kids when it comes to movies. As long as there is no nudity, sex, extremely gruesome gore and horror (think
the Saw movies or the Hostel movies), the language in, say, a Quentin Tarantino movie, or themes that are way over their heads like any Quentin Tarantino movie or Fight Club. Everything else is pretty much fair game (on a case-by-case basis, of course). We look up the parental guidance rating on IMDB and if it's acceptable to us, we allow the kids to watch it.

Does this cause our kids to be more desensitized to things like evil, gore and crime? In this world, in this day and age, the kids are already growing up desensitized. I watched my first horror movie at age 7. It was Stephen King's Silver Bullet, and I begged and begged my parents to rent it for me. I understand that the level horror movies were at 25 years ago is not the level they are today, but we aren't letting our kids watch movies where bodies are being dismembered or people are explicitly tortured. A stabbing here and there, sure. My kids watched a season of Face Off with me (the movie makeup reality show); they know what movie makeup is. I'm an artist, for crying out loud. My kids have seen some dark paintings and artwork, morbid-looking tattoos, and count on the fact that if they want to be a blood-dripping zombie or a murdered prom queen for Halloween, their mom is going to hook them up with a realistic costume and makeup job.
Candyman- Screw that...

So if my kids come to us, wanting to watch horror movies, at least we are able to carefully handpick ones that aren't filled with obligatory boob shots or cutting off a piece of the male anatomy (Hostel 2, anyone?). There's a fine line between scaring our kids and scarring our kids, and we know the difference between the movies that will scare them enough to keep them happy and the ones that will make them never want to sleep in their own bed alone again... like Candyman. I watched that one when I was a teenager and again about 10 years later just to see if it really was as scary as the first time I watched it. It was. I refuse to watch it again. The Girl keeps begging to watch that one. It's not happening. And it's not because of the whole penis-in-the-toilet part of the movie. It's because that movie scared the ever-loving crap out of me to where I couldn't look in the mirror for days, especially a mirror in a dark room, and even at the age of 32, I refuse to be scared by it again, thank you. I have a thing about mirrors. That's how a horror movie can get me every time- have something pop up in a mirror that really isn't there. I'll scream and cover my eyes... every... single... time. Stupid mirror stuff...

We've even tried movies like The Sixth Sense and The Woman in Black; ghost movies with a high creep factor but little to no gore or actual violence. The kids jump at certain parts, but it's definitely not the peeking-out-from-under-a-blanket-and-between-their-fingers scary that the Scream movies gave them. I'm not sure why serial killers are scarier than ghosts for the kids. The chances of the kids coming into real-life contact with a serial killer is slim to none, but the chance that a ghost is sitting right next to them while they watch these horror movie- pretty high (if you believe in that stuff).

I'm not sure what's next on our list of horror movies for the kids. Hubby and I refuse to sit through movies like The Grudge or The Ring again- those had me sleeping with the light on a few nights after watching them; we'd be horrible parents to subject our kids to those. We've thought about Poltergeist (because, like Stephen King's IT, every child needs to know the horrors of clowns) or the Paranormal Activity movies, but I think that's pushing the limit for their ages. The Blair Witch Project scared the crap out of me, but Hubby was bored by that movie. And our kids laughed through Gremlins. That movie gave me nightmares as a kid, but The Ginger gasped a few times and The Girl laughed, so the rest of that series is a no-go.

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated, so leave them below. It's going to be a long summer, so we'll have plenty of time to feed the kids' fascination of horror movies. Honestly, I couldn't be happier. I love horror movies, and I'm glad my kids have developed my love for them.

Now just to get them hooked on good music. I'm sure that's easier said than done, though.

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  1. Mine are 5 and 7 so I'm going to wait a few more years. But I cannot wait! Last summer they got a little show of Child's Play thanks to their Aunt... I STILL have to check under the bed for Chucky lol. It probably wasn't any better when I bought a Chucky doll for my sister's birthday and the kiddos saw it either... But the laughs were great! And Candyman scares the pants off me too!!! Probably in my top 5!

    1. I think we did "Gremlins" when the kids were about 7 and 9. Like I said above, they jumped at some parts, but laughed through it.

      Candyman is one of the ONLY movies that has truly scared me. I'm always in search of that movie that will make me have nightmares, and every other movie has fallen short. I'm not even sure what's in my top 5, lol.

  2. Our favourites (I took a poll among my kids) are American Werewolf in London, Alien, Aliens,Psycho, Jaws, Silence of the Lambs, The Shining and, for some horror with a bit of humour, Shawn of the Dead. There is a fairly adult theme to Silence, but we were totally creeped out by it! Then there are the old films: Wolfman, Dracula, Frankenstein, etc. The number one horror film of all time is The Exorcist. But, I admit, that is one I've never seen. Good luck. You're in for a FUN summer!

    1. And I think it's grand that you're watching movies with your kids. The best part is talking about them afterwards!

  3. Whatever you do, don't watch The Devil's Rejects. Too true to life horror, sleeping with dead bodies aaack! I will stick to Footloose and Dirty Dancing thankyouverymuch.

    1. Soooo true. I do love that movie, though. Other scary ones for me are Wrong Turn and The Hills Have Eyes. Something about cannibal imbred crazies that scares the crap outta me, lol.