The transition from PG to PG-13 horror can seem like quite a leap if not done properly. There are some good PG-13 movies out there. Those ones will scare the pants off you and might cause someone to step away from the genre just as they were getting into it. Here at The Void of Celluloid, we want to level the playing field so that everyone can learn about and appreciate the genre. This is part two of our Starter Horror series, you can find part one here.
With the step to the greater beyond comes a jump in time as well. PG-13 didn’t exist until Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which released in the mid-eighties. Funnily enough, the aforementioned Gremlins kind of led the charge on that one due to some traumatized kiddos. Have no fear though, there are some gems in the genre that are perfect for ramping up to the classics that we’ll discuss in the final part of the series. You can check out my commentary about PG-13 horror here.
Things to take note of: The big step
PG horror bans a lot of things so the transition may seem a little intense. PG-13 horror contains blood and more violence than eyes may be used to–hence the discretionary warning that comes with the genre. Therefore, please be advised that while you might want to make the horror loving buddy out of your eight-year-old kid, some of this content is too intense for them. Let your kid be a kid for a while longer–then you can expose them to the darkness and make them into cool young adults once they come of age.
As for the adult audience coming to this for guidance, PG-13 horror films are ripe for the taking when it comes to scary movie nights with friends or Halloween parties. Don’t go in alone if you think it might be too intense for you. Have a scream and a laugh with a buddy and note that these movies are meant to scare you. Don’t be embarrassed if one of them riles you up a bit too much. You’ll learn what subgenres you like and don’t like on this journey.
Horror COmedy anyone? Tremors
This is a prime example to introduce people to the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Tremors is one of those movies that many consider to be a comfort film. It’s funny, ridiculous and has an impressive monster that everyone should be familiar with: the Graboid. It is definitely funnier than it is scary, but there is quite a bit of blood, guts and carnage that edges this into this category. On top of some on screen kills that are pretty brutal, this film is a perfect mix of comedy and horror that will test the waters gently if one is ready for more intense films.
This film spawned several sequels, but we can ignore that if we don’t desire campiness–all of them don’t live up to this one. Therefore, this is a perfect film to show the potential of franchises and see how one feels about the cheesiness the genre can provide. Not all horror sequels are equal, though–we can get into that another time. This film has the constant intensity of a typical horror movie with bits of comic relief thrown in. A perfect soiree for a newcomer after they’ve taken their baby steps.
An Introduction to Atmospheric Horror: The Others
There are two paths a horror movie can take: short term scare or long term. The long-term scare is what usually garners horror films critical acclaim. Enter another modern classic, The Others starring Nicole Kidman. Atmospheric horror plays primarily in the suspense genre, much like the classic Hitchcock movies. When atmospheric horror is mild, it is the most accessible form of horror movies and deserves appreciation even from non-horror fans.
The Others is simply a ghost story with killer twists and turns. It has its mild scares, but its atmosphere it creates and the pit of dread it plants in its viewers are what makes it a horror movie. Much like movies such as The Haunting (1960) or The Sixth Sense, the story is rich around the scares. If you prefer the slow build up to a major twist rather than the traditional horror movie rollercoaster, then make atmospheric horror movies your go to. Trust me, though, there are strictly atmospheric horror that are not for the faint of heart, so make sure you tread lightly and prepare yourself.
Insidious: The top Tier PG-13 Horror Movie
As I’ve stated before in previous articles, Insidious is the pinnacle of PG-13 horror. It will scare the daylights out of you. With little to no blood but effective jump scares, James Wan knocks it out of the park. This film sparked the PG-13 horror craze of the early 2010s. The ghosts in here are nightmarish. Also, there is something incredibly atmospheric about the Further. This purgatory-like dimension adds something to the film that makes it stand out amongst other films of its kind.
Insidious remains one of the more intense starter horror movies, but it is a sure sign that someone is ready for the next step if they genuinely enjoyed it and found the scares exciting rather than traumatizing. This film has sequels–the third one is a really solid prequel–and will have a new installment out this year, so if one wants to stay in the tamer category, go on with the franchise and support the new one in theaters when it comes out. Nothing beats a good theater experience, especially for a horror movie.
That wraps up my three picks for starter PG-13 horror movies. 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 final part will focus on three classics that are good for starters–not necessarily going to throw them in the deep end with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That will be the final part of this series. I hope this is a good guide to those who are curious or to parents who aren’t sure how to introduce their kids. Nobody wants nightmares.
Thanks for spelunking this void with me. If you’re new to the Void of Celluloid, welcome. Feel free to spelunk some other voids while you’re here and follow me on other platforms by clicking the buttons below. We post regularly and stay up to date about what’s going on in horror today, reflect on what went on yesterday, and plan for a better, horror filled tomorrow. See ya next time.