Should Horror Be Viewed by Children?

It’s a topic that comes up a lot…or did…as I was raising my now 18-year old daughter… As a child born in 1969…raised in the 70’s, mostly in the drive-in era…I was exposed to all kinds of horror growing up…my parents, for whatever reason, installed no filter onto what we could watch…at ANY age.

I can recall watching Last House on the Left, no sound…at the drive-in, released in1972…I was 3 years old, maybe 4 by the time we saw it. We were there for The French Connection or Dirty Harry…parents were at least, but I (not to take anything away from Gene Hackman or Clint Eastwood) spun around and crawled to the back of the station wagon so I could see the gritty, raw violence of Last House playing on one of the other screens. I recall staring in awe at the chainsaw scene towards the end…never had I
seen anything like this and damnnit, I was in love. Same love I had for The Exorcist, the Hammer films, It’s Alive…all seen in the back of that station wagon from the rear, so I could ignore whatever mainstream movie the parents were watching in favor of the gore and violence, the horror movies playing on the other screens.

Another memory burned into my young brain was the film Deranged released in 1974. Ed Gein-like story…I, even now, can vividly recall my 5-year old eyes locked in amazement at the corpses he’d set up around the dinner table…the shirtless, bra only attire of his tied up female victim at the dinner table. Another victim managed to escape and run through the snow dense woods only to step into a bear trap…her screams of pain and the approaching, gun-toting maniac closing in, dragging her by the trap chain to induce more pain. Then eventually stripping her naked, stringing her upside down and gutting her…sheer terror when you’re only 5… But it was an exhilarating terror.

It was never terror that drove me to beg to sleep in my parent’s bed. It was an exciting; “I can’t wait to get home and be sent to bed so I can hide under the covers and be scared to peek out over the movie I just saw!” The fear and dread was something I looked forward to…something I craved…and found myself craving more and more…to the point I started buying horror novels to read in between trips to the drive-in. The Exorcist, being one of them. Imagine reading that graphic, descriptive horror classic by William Peter Blatty when you’re only 7 or 8! As I closed in on 10 years old, I was treated to more awe-inspiring horror when Halloween entered and changed the genre in 1978. Slashers were all the craze and by then, drive-ins were a thing of the past…now it was all about begging the folks to take me to an actual theater to watch, or trying to sneak in to Friday the 13th, Phantasm, Zombie…

Posters of such films began to grace my walls…magazines like Famous Monsters, Fangoria, and countless Eerie, Tales from the Crypt, and Creepy comic books started to fill my bookshelves. My music changed from the Elvis Presley albums my Mom had that she’d let me listen to…now, I craved and sought out darker music; AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Ozzy, Black Sabbath…if it had a spooky or scary/devil-related album cover, I was all over it. And so on and so on…until this quest for horror found its way to a new and expanding internet and I found myself in my 20’s, living on my own, with no one to keep this horror addiction in check.

Then…boom…I’m 32, married, and have a brand-new baby girl…as she gets older…and more curious about the world…I see my opportunity to turn her into a mini-me. I can still recall the fit of anger I sent my wife into when she slept in one Saturday and awoke to me and our 2-year old daughter watching the Texas Chainsaw Massacre re-imagining with Jessica Biel. Wifey came out towards the end where a pile or box of ears was visible on the screen. She gave me hell about exposing our daughter to that kind of
gore and violence…but…surprisingly, my daughter was ok with it…wasn’t crying…wasn’t scared…was pretty damn entertained.

As years passed, she (and whatever friend/s happen to be sleeping over) were introduced to the Saw series, the Paranormal Activity series…of course, ALL the Texas Chainsaw movies…everything that thrilled and chilled me as a kid, I passed along to her and she ate it all up. Even the 70’s TV classic, Trilogy of Terror…that little doll scared the crap out of her and about a dozen of her little friends when I played it at her 7th birthday party. I can still recall the multitude of screams from those tiny children…though, NONE of them walked away from the screen…all scared to death, but all LIKING IT! She even got into shows on her own, getting all crushy on Carl from Walking Dead, becoming a regular, addicted watcher of our beloved AMC zombie series as well as FX’s American Horror Story, partly cuz she got all crushy on Tate Langdon and other Evan Peters characters.

She also found a love for horror on the PlayStation; spending hours on Call of Duty Zombies, the entire Dead Rising series, several Resident Evil games, and even games where you don’t get to fight back, just hide from monsters and mutants like Jennifer Carpenter in Quarantine. When she got The Sims, I was proud she wanted to download the Halloween/Spooky add-on.
And now…she’s 18…isn’t a goth looking loon…has normal relationships with her friends, and she has plenty of friends…holds down a job, is a senior in high school with a solid grade average, mostly A’s and B’s. Unfortunately, her passion for horror has waned as she gets older and busier in her
social life and balancing school and work. I just don’t think she has the time for it as much as before. Don’t get me wrong, she still loves it…still watches American Horror Story every time Ryan Murphy is nice enough to pen another season and recently started binging Walking Dead from the beginning just because. 


They’ll let you know right away if it’s not their thing…but if it is…wow, you and your child just opened up another facet to your relationship, one you can share forever because horror movies just keep coming out. No matter what our age difference, no matter who she ends up marrying, no matter how many kiddos she might end up having…I know I’ll always be able to lure her away for a couple of hours to watch a horror movie with dear ole Dad. Cuz, the genre of horror in itself, be it true horror, literature, TV series, or full-length movies…brings people together out of love. Love for the genre, and then love for each other…not just because she’s my daughter, I’m her Dad and we HAVE to love each other…that’s part of it, I guess…but because we share a love for the same thing. 

Horror is forever, even though each of us, individually are not. But memories can be passed down and repeated, given new life…as I introduced her to horror, she can introduce her kids to it…and old Grandpa (someday) can visit to take his grandkid/s to the theater for latest installment of the Saw series, The Conjuring series, The Boy/Brahms series or whatever horror movie or series is, at that time, all the rage and the “next big thing”.

Embrace the horror, people…and even better, embrace it with someone you love…especially your children…cuz having something you absolutely fear at the same time you absolutely love it is an amazing feeling and I am SO GLAD I had that growing up and am SO GLAD I was able to give that to my daughter. Let’s hope it continues generation after generation! Long live horror and long live the wonderful memories it gives us and our loved ones we share it with.