Movie Mom

Movie Mom


More on Scary Movies — from Christianity Today

posted by Nell Minow

Christianity Today asked parents what scary movies have “worked” with their kids — scared them enough to be entertaining and instructive but not too much to be truly upsetting.
I found the comments very insightful. Here are some excerpts:
I recently heard Tony Campolo speak, and he was trying to communicate to parents that “safe” is not what we are raising kids to be. Safe kids will not change the world. Instead, we want them to be wise, powerful, courageous, tenacious, furious at injustice, unprotected from reality, totally dedicated to serving Christ and his beloved people.
Pinocchio, The Wizard of Oz, Spirited Away, Mirrormask, even The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe are all fine examples of scary movies for children. Because they are all steeped in the classic fairy tale tradition. These types of well-written, well-made films can provide integral lessons to youth as they journey on the scariest trip of all: the road to adulthood…”Family-friendly” need not mean “intellectually stunted.” These types of films, watched with a discerning eye, teach deep lessons.
Being scared in the moment can produce a teachable moment, but if the kid is prone to nightmares then nothing is being learned.
A little over a year ago, I wrote about why (and how) we like to be scared, and just this month we’ve had a spirited discussion about whether “Coraline” is too scary. I agree with this comment in the Christianity Today story:
Every single child is different, and the parents should know their child best. If your child is 12 and scared of things, I don’t care if a movie is rated G–if it’s going to scare your child, don’t take them. If you aren’t sure, read your child a thoughtful review of the movie and see if they even want to go. Some children of 6 aren’t scared by anything. Some children love the feeling of feeling scared; they’re aware that it’s “just” a movie.



  • Dustin Putman

    Hi Nell–I likewise agree with this Christianity Today article. It got me to thinking about a really scary family movie that I used to love as a child. I was curious if you have seen it and what your opinion of it is: “Return to Oz,” the darker-than-the-original 1985 sequel starring Fairuza Balk. The Wheelers, Princess Mombi with all the heads in the glass cases, the escape from the mental institution. I can imagine some children would be horrified by this film, while others would eat it up. I still can’t believe Walt Disney Pictures released it.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks, Dustin. I am a fan of “Return to Oz” and it is in my book. And I think Fairuza Balk is wonderfully talented and there are some great special effects. But it is a very dark story (like the book it is based on). I agree with you that it is not for many kids, but just right for some.

  • Alicia

    Margaret Hamilton terrified generations of children, including me. She gets my vote for best movie witch, ever. Even the winged monkeys weren’t as frightening.
    “The Wizard of Oz” was probably my first “favorite movie.”
    My late father, who was a Lutheran minister, preached a children’s sermon about “The Wizard of Oz.”

  • jestrfyl

    It has been my experience that “safe children” are often the ones at greatest risk. Once these formerly protected children experience the unrestricted life at college or in the work place, they often make choices for which they could not anticipate the consequences. Many times these choices are life changing in a very powerful, but negative way.
    Scary things help us understand the wide variety of consequences in a given situation, and to help us think about what choices we might have made in a similar situation. Obviously we are not likely to face flesh eating zombies or flying mutations that spit fire and acid. But we are likely to find ourselves in dangerous neighborhoods, compromising situations, or having to decide between what appears to be a pleasurable but toxic choice and a less pleasant but beneficial one (red pill / blue pill; eat me / drink me) A gradual progression through the many fears that are part of our developmental tasks help prepare us for adulthood.
    But then, most of my 9 to 12 year old summers were spent pouring over “Famous Monsters of Filmland” magazines and idolizing Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, as well as memorizing entire issues of mad magazine. “What, me worry?!”

  • http://bigdaveblogger.blogspot.com Big_Dave_T

    Don’t forget there are few things more emotionally bonding than the collective fear experienced watching a scary movie. I remember going to the Hammer films when I was a kid and feeling a great sense of community with the other kids in the theater. And, yes, there were teachable moments during apocalyptic movies like Them too–one reason we baby boomers fear the A-bomb today, as if we needed a better reason than global destruction.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Good points, Big Dave, as always! “Them” gives me goosebumps!

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments as always, jestrfyl. Parents are in denial if they think they can — or should — always protect children from being scared.

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