When I was but 10 years old my parents foolishly left me alone with a remote control and a television. Feeling more than a little mature with this newfound responsibility I immediately decided to challenge my 'grown upness' by watching the first part of Stephen King's It. Big mistake. What followed was plenty of sleepness nights, a new (completely rational) fear of clowns and an even bigger mistake by my parents: they didn't let me watch part two.
Huge parental failing on their part because if they had done I would have discovered that scary Clown-man turns into stupid, rubbish Spider-monster and most importantly, that the kids were alright. Instead I had years of letting my imagination get the better of me in relation to circus folk living in my school's shower.
20 years and one resurgent Joe Dante picture later, and that imagination is still maintaining a level of dampness in my now adult pants.
Not that It was ever really meant for children, but today's new brand of kiddie horror isn't a million miles away from the Stephen King chiller. Having just seen Joe Dante's The Hole in 3D it's clear that either the 12 and unders can withstand a lot more horror than I could as a wee bairn or filmmakers are purposefully scarring youngsters for life. If it's the latter it may be no bad thing.
Like parents buying pets with short shelf lives for children, so they can be more prepared when Granny shuffles of this mortal coil, scary films set kids up for life. None more so than The Hole. With it's message of 'face your fears', but coupled with nightmare-inducing jester dolls and zombie walking children, the creator of Gremlins and Eerie Indiana knows just how much and how little to show to creep out and terrify.
Recently we've had Coraline, Monster House and The Spiderwick Chronicles to put the heebie jeebies into toddlers. Hell even the darkness of Wall-E shouldn't be underestimated. While there may be no actual horror, the 25 word pitch is pretty alarming. A robot lives alone on a decaying Earth surrounded by recently deceased versions of himself. Versions of himself he harvests to keep on living. Sweet dreams kids!
Look to the past and Bambi is more than responsible for accelerating the learning curve of pre-teens. Look further still and away from the silver screen, the majority of fairytales were written to help teach kids the more wicked ways of the world. All Hollywood does is update them, lay on the moral a little thicker and present you with walking, talking incarnations of the things you could only dream of.
But therein lies the rub. Like It, when presented with the actual monster it's suddenly not as scary. Recent adult horror like the Nightmare on Elm Street remake and the Saw series need to throw several gallons of blood at you to muster a jump. The restriction of a lower rating actually gets the filmmakers working harder on the scare. Coraline, The Witches and The Hole realise all too well, the less you see, the more fucked up you just might get.
Are there kids films that still get to you? Any films you really regret watching as a child? Once again I've admitted to being a big wuss first, it should be easier for you to confess...