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A Dad's Guide to Introducing Your Kids to Scary Movies

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Okay, so you're a horror fan. Have been all your life. In your teens you were at the opening of every scary film and you lived in the horror section of the video store. Your walls were lined with posters of maniacs and sadists. In your 20s, you found that special girl who not only looked like a vampire Betty Page, but also knew what names like Myers, Krueger, and Voorhees meant to you. Things went so well with Betty that you even got married.

Now you're in your 30s and you and Betty have...well...  kids.  Here's the conundrum: how do you introduce your kids to the one thing that you love most about pop culture (horror) without scarring them for life? I got two myself, and I'm constantly being asked how I can be a horror director AND a father. Well it's not like I'm forcing them to watch The Exorcist every night before bed.

Here's my Top 12 list of films & TV shows to show your junior horror scouts that will introduce them to the world of fright films without messing them up (that much).

1. It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown (1966) - Ya gotta start light, and it helps to do it with characters they already know. And after all, what speaks to children more than introspective armchair psychiatry, light jazz and tales of WWI Air Force Heroes. Wait, what?

2. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) - This one's a ton of fun. What I like most about the villagers of Halloween Town is that they span the gamut of horror icons. You got maniacs, ghosts, witches, bad kids and evil scientists. It's a great primer, and hey, even Disney approves.

3. Frankenstein (1931) - James Whale's classic may have been terrifying in its day, but now it's mostly nostalgic for adults, and not too scary for the kids. Why? Because Karloff's face as that character has been appropriated and used EVERYWHERE, so it's already pretty familiar to most little ones. Get ready to cover their eyes though when Frankie tosses the little girl in the lake. That scene's been controversial since day one, and for good reason.

4. Abbot and Costello meet Frankenstein (1948) - Okay now that the kids were scared (just a little) of Frankenstein, iit's time to laugh at him. I first saw this film when I was seven years old and I remember being enthralled by the monsters and, at the same time, laughing my ass off at Abbot and Costello. Their comedy really is timeless. And kids still love ‘em.

5. Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) - Another Universal Monsters favorite. This one directed by Jack Arnold, the king of the 1950's B&W atomic horror and commie scare films. His other stuff is also worth checking out and possibly showing the kids: It Came from Outer Space, Tarantula, and The Incredible Shrinking Man. Just make sure your little ones aren't scared of spiders. Jack was, and they're in most of his films somewhere.

6. The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966) - Don Knotts in a Haunted House. Nuf' Said. They'll be cracking up and snuggling tight the whole time.

7. Monsters vs. Aliens (2009) - After they've seen all the old classics, they'll actually GET the references in this one and enjoy it all the more.

8. Anything Goosebumps by R.L. Stine (the '90s) - These made for TV movies were great. They can be scary too, so watch with prejudice and make sure they're not too much.

9. The Wizard of Oz (1939) - Okay this one's ancient, it's meant for kids, yada yada yada, but it STILL scared the piss out of me when I was 6. The villain is the Wicked Witch and she's pretty terrifying as the antithesis of motherhood and all that's good. Most kids are fine with her, but damn... she scared me.

10. Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971) - Yes the Gene Wilder one and not that abortion left on our doorstep a few years ago by Tim Burton. Roald Dahl, unlike a lot of authors, didn't sugarcoat children as lovely little dearies. On the contrary, I still think some of the biggest asshole characters to grace the silver screen are the brats from this film. Most of the movie is delightful fantasy, but the dark moments are very dark, and wonderfully twisted.

11. Gremlins (1984) - Not too scary, lots of laughs. Best physical effects ever. If Anything you'll spend the whole night telling them they CAN'T have a mogwai because they're not real.

12. Monsters Inc. (2001) - This one has monsters and gets right to the heart of childhood fears, but it's fast, funny and made me cry like a bitch at the end.

So there you have it. Twelve great films and shows that should help you introduce your kids to your twisted world.  Just remember, you don't have to stop loving what you've always loved just because you're a dad.

Happy Father's Day and Gaudium Per Atrox.

 

(For more of FEARnet's celebration of Father's Day, check out our list of movies that give dads nightmares as well as Drew's fond memories of watching horror with HIS dad .)

 

BONUS VIDEO - Drew's parenting skills in action:

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