EW: The Case For Letting Kids Watch Scary Movies

Anthony Breznican's article "Making The Case For Scary Movies For Kids" (family-room.ew.com)
has me thinking.  

He argues passionately  "Yes, we have to think about what’s appropriate for any given age, and yes, all kids are different. But to deny them access to the macabre entirely only creates a mind with a false sense of security. If we don’t let kids safely poke around the dark corners of their imaginations, how will they ever find out what’s hiding there?"

As a parent of four girls, I've often left my kids watch scary movies as my wife eyes me doubously.  Are we harming them for life or toughening them up?

Of course, no one is advocating the three year old watch Halloween!  But my kids did watch both versions of The Shining, and loved it (that is, the nine year old and eleven year old).  They all watched Thinner -- and they liked it.  They also liked Cujo and loved (I mean LOVED) Christine.

Three reasons to censor the movies: 1. Language.  2. Sex Scenes.  3. Gore.  A good parent watches the movie first so they know what their kid is about to see or hear.  But just because a movie contains scary scenes does not mean it is totally inappropriate.

Breznican laments, "as my generation of kids has turned into the parents, we’ve made a virtue out of sheltering our own children from any ghoul or ghostie less friendly than Casper."  

He argues that perhaps scary movies -- good ones -- speak more about life than we are ready to admit.  About Pet Sematary he says:
There’s a reason we crave scares, whether it’s the free-fall of a roller coaster or the dread of a Stephen King novel. As we clutch the edges of Pet Semetary, reading about a father resurrecting his deceased little boy, it’s the actual terror of losing a child that underpins the horror. The supernatural elements, if anything, are like those cushioned roller coaster straps that lock us in and make us safe before the plunge – this just feels dangerous, but it’s all pretend. It’s a defense mechanism as our psyches seek out the worst-case scenario.
Here's where I draw lines:
1. Kids don't get to watch movies with lots of naked people.
2. Kids don't get to watch movies with absolutely pointless killing or violence.
3. Really scary stuff!  Some movies are too scary for kids.  I think the Sixth Sense is terrifying!  Amityville Horror is pretty scary -- I think.  
4. Kids don't get to watch cartoons all day.  HA!  Some days I want to sick Pennywise on Caillou.

But most of King's work really is more story than fright.  Seriously. . . when was the last time Stephen King actually scared you?  

What I'm driving at is that horror falls into multiple sub-genre's.  There's the Texas Chainsaw stuff that is just cut ups -- not at all fun!  And then there's Christine, which actually has a story worth discussing.  One night after watching Needful Things (which I hate -- the movie) my daughter said, "That movie has a good lesson."  It does?  "Things aren't what we should worship."  

Here's another thing: I don't censor the Bible for my kids.  We read Exodus verse by verse -- and have been digging through 10 plagues.  That is far more scary than Christine!  A death angel actually moves through the land, taking lives.  Rivers turn to blood. . . you know the story.  

So, check out the EW article and tell me what you think.


  1. I will say this, one time this kid at an art school I interned at for a summer brought in a copy of Freddy vs. Jason to class and watched it all by himself. The kid had to be no more than freakin' eight at the latest! So...I guess it's partly a matter of training and mental conditioning.

    The great irony for me is that not much of the horror films that are being released at the moment rise above the level of F vs. J. So in that sense i don't have to worry about what to take kids to, because the level of quality f these films is so low you'd have to be desperate to see them. i don't say this is true of all recent horror films though.

    I agree you shouldn't show the hack and saw level of gore films to kids though.


  2. I work at a movie theatre. There is NOTHING too vile that some a-hole won't drag their grubby little kids to it.

  3. Anything scary gets watched at home. . . where it can be shut off at a moments notice. Also, it means I've already seen it!

  4. My 10 year old daughter watched Paranormal Activity and Paranormal Activity 2 at a slumber party and now is a huge horror fan.

    She's seen most of the Stephen King stuff now (I have not let her see Carrie or The Shining because of nudity), but she likes almost everything she sees.

    Her mother is very much against this.