“Horror for Tweens” By Kristina Stancil
Traditional or normal are words that I would not use in descriptions of my family. Examples of when we are not normal include a certain family member who will watch Christmas movies eleven months out of the year but refuses to watch between Thanksgiving and New Years and the fact that the only thing that was ever censored from my viewing growing up was sexually explicit content. So yes, 90% of Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and all of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Children of the Corn was all watched by little me before I was in second grade.
So, my younger sister and I became desensitized to violence at a young age. I became hyper vigilant as a parent to keep my two boys from having the same experience while my sister took the opposite approach. Her eight-year-old and five-year-old have rarely missed a second of shows like The Walking Dead.
It was high school before any form of tradition started taking hold of my sister and I; well I was in high school. She was in elementary school. Movies like Hocus Pocus were year around favorites but one year I am not sure if I was a junior or senior we were picked up from school early and we went to a small video store not far from our house. Yes, millennials, we did have internet but not streaming video service. We actually had to go and pick up VHS cassette tapes. Thus, our first ever two generation horror marathon was on. Every Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre that had been made up to that point was rented. Friday was for Texas Chainsaw Massacre since there were less sequels. I remember this because it was the first time I ever saw Extreme Championship Wrestling on cable rather than a video I had rented. It was also the weekend that I drank so much coffee that I slept from sometime after midnight Sunday till about four am Monday before school.
So, every year we have tried to do this. Sometimes it is hard when we’re are separated in different states but we have often added to it. While I’m not a big fan of exorcism movies since the possessed mirrors some of the effects of the psychosis my older son exhibited there are a few movies that ended up making the tradition three generations, such as The Exorcism of Emily Rose.
Classics like The Fog made it possible for my sister’s oldest daughter, now thirteen to join us one year when she was between nine and ten. Which is a reason my youngest son for the past year has been advocating not just for inclusion, but to watch the movie in which the villain shares his name. Yes, I am the weirdo who named my kids after characters in horror movies. I have a Jason, the baby whose name is self-explanatory and a Dylan which was the name of Heather Langenkamp’s son in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.
Jason wants to watch Friday the 13th both because the killer is named Jason and because on the reboot one of his favorite people is a star. Yes, my son is a big fan of Supernatural, and for longer than I had first realized. He once asked me while we drove to turn up the radio because he heard a song he liked, (Carry on My Wayward Son), knew the words, and then asked, “I didn’t know Supernatural came on the radio!?!” He was probably five or six.
Since he will be eleven this Halloween, (his birthday is Sept 21) he has asked that the movie marathon be on his weekend with me and since I knew the new Annabelle was coming out I suggested that his grandmothers and I watch it first. This set off an almost twenty-minute lecture on the evils of the real Annabelle doll that he learned from Lorraine Warren and haunted object information he learned from her nephew, John Zaffis. (Like I said, not your normal family.) Which he ended with his theories on how objects absorb energy from the people around them and telling me that I should burn my Child’s Play box set since it was an obvious rip-off of Annabelle.
This made me think. He’s already devoured Eerie, Indiana, the television adaptations of RL Stine’s The Haunting Hour and Goosebumps, the Jack Black film adaptation of Goosebumps, and despite a few head turning moments during Supernatural he is always down for reruns of the Winchester boys…what film line up could be used that would a) not warp him like my sister and I are and b) interest him far more than the Universal Classic versions of Dracula and Frankenstein. He is more of a hero boy film type and wanted to jump in the screen ala Dean Winchester and protect the poor monster from Igor when tormented. Things that are not of a YA nature because he’s hyper critical of them and compares them to how either Stine would have written it or how Dean would mock it.
He did fairly well with an edited for television version of John Carpenter’s Halloween and was quite pleased that Jamie Lee Curtis would sacrifice herself for the kids she was caring for. So, when I was working on a paper that led me to seek advice from JP I ended up letting Jason watch the Scream Queens mother, Janet Leigh with me. To which he remarked, “Okay so that’s where Bugs Bunny got it.”
He had more criticism for Norman Bates than he did for the movie but it did get him talking about the difference between fiction, non-fiction, haunted, and being mentally ill. Since he has understood this for a young age and has already made a plan in the event of zombie apocalypse I decided he’s eleven what could work not just for him but for other tweens who are fed up with the unmasking that inevitably happens in Scooby Doo.
So, one night I messaged my fellow horror movie aficionado, Marcey to compare notes with her. Since he often mocks films for the excessive violence and dependence on colored corn syrup we came up with at least the first Scream. It seems a good gateway movie because it references other movies but for the one scene between Billy and Sidney its doesn’t have many ‘mom cringe’ moments.
The same could be said for the classic version of The Fog. As a second-generation fan of Jamie Lee and a third-generation fan of Janet Leigh, it seems fitting to continue the tradition by introducing the royal family of Scream Queens, and yes, I did capitalize on purpose. This movie features both the queen and the queen mother but the plot centers more on the reason for the curse than the fact Jamie violates the rules laid out in scream while still surviving. This is my favorite horror movie and I would love to share it with him.
My second favorite horror movie, The Covenant, which I believe falls in the PG-13 category has no sexual scenes to cause ‘mom cringe.’ It would also be interesting to watch him learn of Sebastian Stan playing a bad guy with no redeeming moral qualities. The redeeming qualities of Bucky Barnes makes him like Stan’s character in the Marvel movies.
Since he is more interested in ghosts the last feature that I would attempt to watch with him would be the second Conjuring movie. The Hulu television series adaptation bored him and made him wonder why in the world “Miss Lorraine” would involve herself when she had more serious issues to deal with like keeping Annabelle in her locked case. I must admit the series was slow in getting to the point of the haunting.
It will be amusing when he sees this movie since he tends to lecture the screen on people being or doing stupid things…yet another reason I think he’d identify with Sydney in the Scream franchise.
I considered expanding this topic, Horror for Tweens into a non-fiction but I am interested to know what other parents think, specifically those that are already apart of the horror community. At what age is blanket permission to horror acceptable? Also, what are some other films with low sexual content that might be suitable for tweens and younger teens? I would love to hear from you! Either post in the comments that usually accompany these Halloween Haunts blog or email me at email@example.com
Now if I could only change his mind about being Dean Winchester when he grows up….
BIO: Kristina Stancil is an author who specializes in the genres of paranormal and true crime. A horror addict from a young age, she dedicated her graduate studies in Literature to researching the genre from an academic point of view with the passion of a diehard fan. She published two of her more well received research papers, The Allegory of Stephen King, and her thesis, Horror for Education and Entertainment electronically.
Kristina is the owner of Thrillerz 13 Entertainment, a site dedicated to helping new authors with marketing and in some cases publication. In 2013, Thrillerz 13 launched Blood Reign Literary Magazine dedicated to promoting and publishing new authors.
She is currently juggling three projects at this time: Murder and Mayhem in North Mississippi for the History Press, (Arcadia Publishing), helping her local library establish a workshop for youth writers interested in the horror genre, and building revenue to bring Blood Reign and its anthology Silent Scream out of hiatus.
A list of Kristina’s works can be found by visiting her website, www.kristinastancil.com