Ah, children. At some point, they’re going to ask, “Hey, when can I start watching R-rated movies?” A loaded question as the R rating comes in all shapes and sizes. More importantly, they’re going to ask, “When can I watch scary movies?” That’s a risky situation, as you don’t want to traumatize your child. However, I beg to differ that children can handle a good scare or two, and that it might be good for them.
I remember distinctly when I was nine. I was out on the playground, playing with my friends and my one friend was bragging about having seen all of the recent Saw movies. They sounded disgusting to my little younger brain, but with a quick ask to my mom–a lover of horror films–she disliked those movies but started to open the door a bit to horror movies. With the disgust came honest intrigue as well, so we tiptoed into the genre inch by inch with every PG horror movie we could find.
Here are my genuine tips to easing into the horror genre and either getting someone or even yourself to like the genre. I managed to turn my partner around, and since you’re reading this, my mom was also successful. This article is going to focus primarily on the beginning stages and is part one of a three-part series. You can find part two here and part three here.
WHen the Discussion comes up
Obviously, word of mouth is a powerful thing. You might hear the latest buzz about the newest horror sequel or your kids are hearing about their friends seeing these crazy movies, which are most likely watched behind parents’ back. There is an art to building up the tolerance to horror. One thing that has to come up first: you can turn it off at any time.
Someone might feel the obligation to ‘be brave’ and tough it out during intense movies. The honest truth coming from a horror lover, sometimes people aren’t going to like horror. That’s completely okay, and you should never ridicule someone for being scared of something that is meant to be scary. If they feel forced to watch something, a point of contention and possible trauma forms. Nobody wants that. Sure, it’s funny to scare someone, but it should never get to a point where it’s too much for them.
Luckily, there are plenty of mildly scary movies–even PG horror films. Here is a general guide for easing in with some quintessential horror films that everyone should see when they are mentally ready for it. Another suggestion is to pair all of these movies with a cleanser movie–like a goofy comedy to brush off the intensity and send everyone to bed with good vibes. This first part will focus only on PG horror.
Spielberg Anyone? Start off with Jaws
Jaws is a classic film anyways, so everyone should and can watch this film. With four notably intense scenes–two of which contain jump scares–Jaws comes in as one of the less intense monster movies out there. With a captivating story and brilliant performances, the brutality of it all fades to the background during the majority of the film. While it is Spielberg’s big break, that magic touch that he usually has is not absent in this film in the slightest. It is the first blockbuster for a reason.
However, it is definitely not for people who have a fear for the sea and sharks. The intense scenes will really trigger those phobias, leading to an unpleasant experience. A technique that can be helpful both in the moment and preemptively is adding some fun facts about the making of the movie. This helps encourage the background thought that what they’re watching on the screen is not real and will reduce the stress effects while watching the movie and afterwards. Here are twelve BTS facts that you can share with new viewers from our friends over at CinemaBlend.
DOubles as a Christmas FIlm: Gremlins
Another thing that can ease the mind of newcomers to the genre is a lot of comedy and a touch of cuteness. Gremlins does just that. Gizmo is absolutely adorable and easy to love, so the first thirty minutes set up a sneakily dark twist that can sneak up on parents who groups Gremlins with Beetlejuice and company. It’s a little more intense than a Tim Burton movie, but not as intense as a PG horror flick can get.
Sure, the ‘gremlin’ part of the movie AKA Stripe and his minions can be a little jarring compared to the lovable Gizmo–but the film is full of dark humor and a goofiness to the violence that it is sure to make the viewer laugh if you’re laughing with them. Gremlins is a cult classic for a reason and is one to break out during Christmas time when showing to a younger audience in case you need to break out Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer due to an accidentally traumatized kid–take heed and keep in tune with the emotions to be ready to turn off these seemingly tame scary movies at a moment’s notice.
Poltergeist: Spielberg taking the Back Seat
This film was my first horror film. It was many people’s first. Poltergeist tiptoes more towards a traditional horror movie than Jaws. This makes this film the gateway to the greater part of the genre and will promote a viewer to PG-13 films, which will be discussed in the next section. Poltergeist has two intense scenes in addition to its final fifteen minutes that is chock full of scares to push some boundaries.
This one sadly doesn’t have the happiest of facts to it, there was actually quite a lot of tragedy around the making of Poltergeist. However, this film is chock full of family values and has a certain warmth to it that carries it through the darkness of the subject matter. There is bits of humor and a lot of love between the characters that eases tensions when they’re needed. Overall, Poltergeist remains a tried and true classic and a rite of passage for new horror fans. I wrote a whole piece on the film as it celebrated its 30th anniversary last year, which you can check out here.
That wraps the introduction and collective PG horror flicks to test the waters for someone new to the genre. As I can’t stress it enough, horror should be respected and appreciated by all, but one does not need to indulge in it if they are not into the feeling of getting scared. Horror movies function off adrenaline rushes. Some people aren’t into that sort of thing. Others might want to take a stab at it but haven’t had the priming of becoming a horror appreciator: acknowledging that it is all fake and all in good fun. Much like roller coasters, horror induces a shock that should follow with a flabbergasted chuckle.
The next part of this series will focus on the step into PG-13 territory and how to gradually ramp up to those classics that everyone knows and loves. The PG-13 section will include more modern films that aided me personally in my journey. I mean, look where I am now–I have reached the point where I think I’m qualified to give advice. Getting into horror should never be stressful. It should be fun.
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