I was raised in the late ’80s/early ’90s, and I’ll be the first to admit, the standards for what children could watch were a little looser then. Or at least they were in my home, and in most of my friends homes. As a child, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal to watch a movie about a slasher punishing a street full of children by entering their dreams. But now, as an adult with three children 10 and under, there is no way I’d allow my children to watch the majority of the scary movies I watched as a kid.
They would be up all night, emotionally traumatized by their nightmares, and we don’t sleep enough as it is.
Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about:
Everyone is talking about the new adaption of this Stephen King story, while failing to mention that the original starring Tim Curry was a made-for-TV miniseries that aired on ABC. I was 8 when I watched this three-hour epic about a demonic clown luring children into the sewer.
We actually watched it on our family movie night because, you know, it had a clown and it was on TV, so it couldn’t be that bad. Well, it was that bad. I developed what now seems like a short-term clown phobia. I couldn’t eat at McDonald’s for weeks, and while that may have been good for my health, it wasn’t all that good for my sanity. As a parent now, I’m going to say “nope” to murder-y clowns.
This was actually the first scary movie I ever watched. We watched it on VHS, as a family, because it was rated PG-13, which was a relatively new rating and wasn’t exactly R, so it must be okay. Once again, I was 8.
For those of you who don’t remember the plot line, basically this movie stars a group of subterranean man-eating worms that sense the vibrations of your steps, and then spring out of the earth and eat you. The night after watching it, I sat on my bed, in the fetal position, needing to pee, but afraid that if I stepped on the ground the Tremors would hear my steps and eat me. I eventually wet the bed. The last thing I need is more bed wetting in my house, so this also gets a big fat nope.
3. A Nightmare On Elm Street
This supernatural slasher film (yes, that’s an actual genre) came out when I was 2, which meant an edited-for-TV version would play at least a bazillion times on every station during the month of October. It was edited for TV, so all the blood and swearing was gone, but they failed to edit out the horribly burned sadistic janitor with a handful of knives tormenting teenager’s dreams. I mean, wow. Just wow. Even the trailer is scary. I can remember watching this as a child, dressed in my Halloween costume, and carving pumpkins with my siblings. Perhaps my children are over-sensitized, but they get nightmares from watching Scooby-Doo, so I’m going to give A Nightmare On Elm Street a few more years.
Tobe Hooper, the same guy who directed The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, directed this 1982 supernatural horror film. It was originally rated R, but upon petition, ended up being rated PG (um WTF?), so naturally parents let children watch it. The basic plot was this: A elementary-school-aged girl is sucked into hell through a portal that happens to be in her bedroom closet. I don’t want to speak for your children, but my kids are already terrified of monsters in their closet without a movie making them fearful that it might actually be a portal to hell. The last thing they need is backup, so I don’t fully understand what my parents were thinking by letting me watch this sucker. I spent a full week in their bed.
5. Friday the 13th
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that almost every child raised in the ’80s and early ’90s watched this slasher classic about a picked-on boy who drowned in a lake during summer camp, and then came back to life and sought out revenge by stabbing campers. Like A Nightmare On Elm Street, it played on every channel in October, and while the really nasty stuff was edited out, it still made every child not only afraid to go camping, but also to step into the backyard at night. I don’t care much for camping, so when I do actually go the last thing I want is for my children to be terrified that some half-dead guy is going to hack at them with a machete.
I’m not going to say that you should never watch any of these movies with your kids. To be honest, some of my best memories are of watching scary movies with my family and friends around Halloween. But at the same time, I know that all parents value their sleep, and the last thing any parent wants is a terrified group of children descending on their bed in the night because of nightmares, which is exactly what all us ’80s kids did after watching these movies.
In the long run, I suppose we all turned out fine. I don’t think watching IT did any permanent damage, though I’m no fan of clowns. Perhaps not allowing my children to watch scary movies is why they are all turning into “snowflakes?” But at this moment, I think we all ought to stick with Hotel Transylvania, and leave A Nightmare On Elm Street for a later time. Much later.