Growing up in the Eighties, there was no shortage of horror movies, ones that shaped and influenced me, I keenly remember watching things like Child’s Play, Nightmare on Elm Street, Carrie, Poltergeist. There was never a moment where it was suggested kids shouldn’t watch these movies, many hours of play primary school with mini Freddie’s terrorising the rest of the playground.
I remember being introduced to the Hellraiser series while being looked after by my neighbours after school. I was hooked, it was colourful, gory and the scene in the hospital has never left me. Let us also not forget movies like Gremlins, Beetlejuice, Ghostbusters – movies that were to a greater degree aimed at a younger market.
A friend shared an article that expressed the dismay at the lack of horror for children these days. I did a quick search for horror movies for children, it threw up things like Nightmare before Christmas, Monsters Inc and Frankenweenie. Which I think really, misses the point. I even found A Neverending Story on the list. Horror? Really, are we calling challenging scenes and emotions horror? Most of the themes become scary only when you get older and the full implications of the movie and what it is actually saying. The only thing that really might upset a child, is the same thing that upsets me and that is a pony possibly drowning in quick sand. But themes of death and sadness are not things that children should be shielded from, they are a part of life and children don’t get a free pass in real life. Why hide it in their films?
But death, in and of itself isn’t horror, and subtle themes, again will be missed by children. You have to remember that when you watch something as an adult you have a different, not necessarily greater, understanding that that of a child. This means that when you watch the same movie as an adult, you are no longer viewing it as you might have done.
Now I am going to go in a slightly different direction for a moment but please bear with me – it will all come together!
When I was a child, my mother made a friend, I was never entirely sure how this relationship started, or how it continued as she didn’t really seem to enjoy Helen’s company. Helen had a daughter a little younger than me, and we spent time together, I spent weekends with them. Not sure why, I never really enjoyed it, and since my mother had children it didn’t give her a break. Now one of the things that my mother couldn’t understand and didn’t agree with was Helen’s insistence that her daughter not wear a school uniform. Not that her daughter went to a school that didn’t have a uniform. No, that her daughter was given special privilege to not wear uniform. So instead of just being part of her class, she stood out in her entire school.
Again this might sound like I am going on the weirdest tangent but there is a reason for this colouring in, please bear with me. It was something that Helen took from her own childhood, she hated wearing uniform. She therefore felt her own daughter shouldn’t be put through the same thing her mother forced her to go through. And another hold over i have noticed is homework. I have lost count of the amount of people how keep bringing this up. That they don’t understand the point, that their children should learn enough in their school day, that they should be able to wind down after school, that it isn’t the parents responsibility to educate their children. I won’t go on. But it illustrates a point.
People are using their own experiences to colour the experiences of the next generation. When people don’t like wearing a uniform or doing homework, instead of appreciating or understanding why these things are important. But this is something to expand on in another blog post.
My point is that decisions on what movies to make, what to give the green light to, are made by people remembering the ‘video nasty’ movies from the Eighties and Early Nineties. It is entirely possible that they are trying to remove the possibility of their children being subjected to the same. When you look at what is considered as horror for children, you are looking at movies like Coraline. I really like it as a film, but horror it isn’t. The storyline will appeal to most children, who hasn’t felt that their families are being entirely unfair and wanted to start over. But again what we catch as adults watching this movie is darker than what children will be watching. We are not watching it with the gaze of innocence. We understand more because of experience. Remember the difference in tone between the songs of innocence versus songs of experience.
We don’t have technicolor gore in our movies, we have a different taste now. Most of our horror is psychological, it is the shock value, paranormal. Most gore horror is now reserved for Zombie films and series that seem to have become more popular with the rise of other horror. Instead of a class hack and slash, we are terrorised by what lies beneath, what could be, what once was. This again is a throw back to what was popular when our generation was beginning to develop conciousness. Our generation, the generation after us, we remember the cheap thrills and gratuitous violence and have segregated it. We like our horror thoughtful, we like to have our shocks in the dark. We like to have bumps in the night and now a bloody body.
Now before you point out the obvious, yes there are movies out there in the main stream that bask in the gore, but they are the exception. They are not as prevalent as they once were. So what I am trying to say, in a rather long winded, and round about way, it isn’t just that the horror aimed at children is somewhat sanitised, horror has become something different. Everything evolves.