There’s a common thought process that horror isn’t really a kid friendly genre. I for one don't believe that for a second. As a child of the 90’s, very diluted horror was marketed to me way more than I had realized, and it wasn’t just movies. Most horror movies hitting cinemas were still a little too “adult” for my mom to take me to, but there were definitely age appropriate options during my childhood. Here are a few I grew with!
A school library staple, the Goosebumps books series were kid-friendly horror novels - plain and simple. Sure, many of them had happy endings, but they featured some terrifying subject matter at times. For example, am I ever NOT going to be afraid of ventriloquist dummies? Outcome unlikely. This series definitely helped introduce an number of horror themes to the young ones. The Goosebumps television series was one of my favorite things to watch growing up. I was extremely upset when I missed an episode, and I made sure to catch every re-run. Some episodes genuinely terrified me, while others were just a little unsettling. All in all, however, the series definitely started my addiction to the feeling of being creeped out at a very young age. In particular, the episode about the haunted mask still sends a shiver down my spine if I sit around and think about it for too long. While the Goosebumps never gave me actual nightmares as a kid, this series definitely had me wanting to sleep with the hallway light on.
When discussing childhood Halloween movies, one must include "Are You Afraid of the Dark?". In fact, Nickelodeon is bringing this series back to terrify a new generation! Where Goosebumps just unsettled me, "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" full on terrified me. The combination of eerie storytelling and just weird stories really got to me as a child. The clown and haunted pool episodes are still hard for me to get through as an adult who is an avid horror fan. Although, this was a kid's show, it absolutely frightened me.
The House of Mouse even got in on the scary action when I was child. They aired a few Halloween episodes that could be quite terrifying for a child. For example, there was an episode based on Lizzie McGuire where they convinced Kate that she cursed everyone. It was beautiful, weird and scary as hell, especially for such a wholesome show. But they didn’t leave it to just the shows. "Don’t Look Under the Bed" had absolutely no right being as genuinely frightening for a Disney Channel Original Movie. I expected it to be like Halloweentown, fun and playful - but I was absolutely wrong. I think I’ve watched that movie exactly once all the way through and really have very few plans to be revisiting. Imagine that, Disney, home of everything happy, scared that hell out of small kids and had a grand time at it. I’m not even mad. In fact, in my opinion, they were some of the best episodes, but of course, I’m a sucker for a Halloween episode of any T.V series that goes all in.
I think marketing horror to young audiences is a smart idea. It jumpstarts a whole new generation of fans of the genre. I’m fairly certain that the reason why 90’s kids grew up to be obsessed with horror is because we spent so much time reading and watching scary things as kids. Starting young makes you want more, makes you want to see how far you can push yourself before you find that thing that genuinely terrifies you. This isn’t to say I fully encourage letting a kid watch IT then taking them to the circus the next day, like my mother did. That’s probably not a good way to incorporate horror into a kid’s life! But a little scary imagery doesn’t do anyone any harm. In fact, it could spark the imagination. Age appropriate horror is great because it still gives that rush and thrill of something scary without pushing the boundaries too far. Horror franchises marketed to kids typically do pretty well, so apparently it works.
Kids love being scared. Make more scary things aimed towards kids.
- Lady Lilith