Why in the world would parents encourage their children to sit down and watch a film designed to terrify them? Because a large number of us are true fanatics for the genre, and we want our kids to feel the same passion that burns within us. I tell you this from experience. I have children, and I’m constantly encouraging them to dive in.
My son’s room is covered in Universal Monster posters, memorabilia and bedding. My daughter can’t get me off her back every last time I visit a Redbox and snag a new genre release; I yearn for her to taste the same drive to view that film that I taste. I’m so passionate about horror that I want my youngsters to not only understand, but feel that very same passion, through and through. It’s impossible for me to not want them to love the genre with an intensity that rivals my own.
However, driven to pass my devotion on or not, I understand that there is a line that must be drawn, and as parents it’s important to avoid crossing that line at all costs. Some films are simply too extreme for our children. Some films are far too taboo, violent or chilling to force on a developing mind. Feed a child a full plate of food, and they’re comfortable, sated. Force them to eat a second plate of equal portion size, and they’ll vomit on your kitchen table. It’s too much, and they will (I know this from personal experience as well) reject it. These are five films that will only work to turn your bambinos away from the genre, which, if you’re reading this, is probably the very last thing you desire.
A Nightmare on Elm Street: If you’re hoping to keep your youngsters on a steady sleep schedule, keep them as far away from Wes Craven’s original A Nightmare on Elm Street as possible. While this isn’t the most controversial or terrifying picture ever shot, it does leave an unbelievably long lasting impression on the highly impressionable. Kids stand at the very forefront of that crowd.
Craven’s monster, Freddy Krueger, was all business in 1984. Goofy one-liners and campy physical presence hadn’t yet become synonymous with the scarred bearer of death-inducing nightmares. And when Fred was treated with respect by his creator (something that Craven again duplicated wonderfully in 1994 with New Nightmare), he was tremendously frightening. No one wanted to let their head hit the pillow after watching this monstrosity turn seemingly decent kids into fleshy confetti, and that’s because the places our minds travel during sleep are essentially uncontrollable. We don’t have much say in where our imagination takes us once our brains downshift and begin recovering from daily events, and that means running into Krueger is a little out of our control. The one thing that keeps us grounded and allows us to separate fact from fiction is control or, in some cases, the illusion of control. In the dream state we lose all hint of control, which means we lose all chance at combating a force as imposing as Freddy Krueger.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: This is the film that welcomed me to the horror fold. My father, not always the most attentive when it comes to general situational awareness, didn’t mind much when I prepared to watch my first horror film at the age of six. My mother, as I recall, was dead set against me seeing this one, but what can be said? My father loves brutal horror films. He always has, and he never once showed a hint of hesitation in introducing his boys to profoundly taboo pictures. While it worked for me, and to this day I issue genuine thanks to the man, I can’t deny that The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is not to be recommended to the little ones. My children sure as hell haven’t seen it and won’t see it for years to come, despite any insistence on their part.
What makes Tobe Hooper’s jarring film about a family of deranged cannibals willing to torture and devour any unsuspecting stranger so outlandish (aside from the fact that it’s loosely based on actual events) is the manner in which it is shot and the complete disregard for censorship or moral boundaries. The film is truly primal, animalistic and savage. It’s as unforgiving as it gets. Even worse, Hooper’s almost guerrilla-style filming actually makes the flick feel real. This could almost be a found footage film, it feels so real. And the issue with that is the long lasting effect it leaves on viewers. This is a haunting picture in an in-your-face way, and if you let your kids see this one, I can tell you – yet again from personal experience – that it’s going to plague their thoughts for a very, very long time. It could eventually be beneficial to your offspring (somehow, it worked out for me), but it could also leave a tremor rippling through the brain for too many years to consider healthy.
Cannibal Holocaust: Speaking of real, some aspects of Ruggero Deodato’s unbelievably controversial genre feature (arguably the most controversial of all time) actually were real! No one in good conscious can throw a “No animals were harmed during the making of this film” disclaimer on this one because animals were flat out killed, and that is a well known fact!
That’s not the only stomach-turning moment in the movie, not by a long shot. But it’s more than enough reason to make sure you don’t let the youngins ever check this one out. Trust me when I say that once you hear the sounds of an animal being killed, you don’t forget it.
A Serbian Film: On one hand, any kid birthed by parents fool enough to allow them to watch A Serbian Film is guaranteed to block out any ideas of entering the adult entertainment field as a career. On the other, they’re going to be repulsed beyond belief, may require counseling, develop an unnecessary fear of their father and may never want to look at another horror film throughout the duration of their existence on this earth. It’s just a very, very offensive, unsettling flick designed to completely shock the viewer. It works… too well.
I can help you to make sure you avoid this one at all costs by simply providing a relatively vague synopsis. Check it out: A Serbian Film is all about an ex-porn star who takes a mystery industry gig because he’s broke and at the end of his rope. But this is no standard gig; it makes BDSM look like a Disney animated film. This guy never gets to know what he’s shooting, not until he shows up. And it doesn’t matter whether he’s beating a woman or much, much, much worse; if he wants to pocket a sizable chunk of change, he’s going to do what he’s told. Even if it means the subsequent destruction of his own family.
Inside: Motherhood is sacred. Our children know that before they can even express it verbally. And for those who are unfortunate enough to grow up witnessing abuse being forced upon the one who gave them life, it bears a life-changing effect. It’s damaging. It’s haunting. It’s absolutely nauseating, and there’s no place for it in society. Not in the home, and not on the big screen. Filmmakers Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury just didn’t give a damn about perception or politically correct decision-making. They wanted to make a horrifying picture, and they did just that.
The atmosphere in the film is jarring. The look, the lighting, the cramped confines, the visceral violence… it all comes together to form a hideous pageantry of terror. Sarah is a woman struggling to hold things together after her husband’s death. But she’s with child, which provides a little hope… until a lunatic woman shows up at her home determined to take her baby… right out of her stomach… with a really, really sharp knife. There’s nothing pleasant about the whole affair, and if Inside is a powerful enough picture to leave a grown man fighting back tears of heartbreak, you can guarantee it’s going to do terrible things to a child. Whatever you do while on your mission to share your passion for horror with your kids, don’t allow them to watch this film.