Tuesday, March 10, 2009

If it's a horror movie, leave the kids home

Here's the question of the day: Would you take a child to see a movie in which a teen-aged woman is pinned to the ground and raped, in which another woman appears topless and in which sadistic villains threaten a family in its isolated country home? You wouldn't, but some folks would.

Earlier this week, I saw a few young children exiting the theater after a packed preview screening of "The Last House on the Left," an especially brutal remake of Wes Craven's 1972 horror cult favorite. If you know the original, you know that the movie is not an ordinary, run-of-the-mill "R" rated hunk of violence. It's the real ugly deal.

How do parents defend taking kids to this kind of movie? I've heard these excuses: "We can't afford a babysitter." "We cover the kid's eyes during the violent parts." "The kid will sleep through it anyway." "It's none of your damn business."

OK, maybe it isn't any of my business. Tell a parent that he or she is out-of-line, and you take your life in your hands. Look, I'm definitely not an "it-takes-a-village" kind of guy, but it makes me ill to see little kids in movies with hard "R" ratings. I watched adults avert their eyes during the more violent scenes in "The Last House on the Left." I only can imagine what havoc the movie's more graphic images can wreak on a child's fragile mind.

I've said it before. I'll say it again. To my way of thinking, taking a kid to this kind of movie constitutes a blatant form of parental irresponsibility. Theaters only can caution parents about potentially objectionable content in a movie. The same goes for publicists who run preview screenings. Kids accompanied by adults can't be kept out. I wish it weren't that way, but it is.

So unless a movie has been given the more restrictive NC-17 rating, it's up to parents to protect their children from big-screen terror. Shame on those who don't.

p.s. If you've read me over the years, you know this is not a new complaint, but I feel that it must be made from time-to-time lest the subject stop being a cause for shock and dismay.


Steve Oelrich said...

Bob, I couldn't agree more. I once took my very young son to see "Congo," a movie about superintelligent gorillas in Africa (based on the book by Michael Crichton). By the standards of today's horror/slasher films this sci-fi actioner was pretty tame, but it gave him nightmares for weeks and months on end. I long regretted that. But I've seen this sort of thing over and over again. I even saw a young child with his parents at "The Departed" -- ye gods! I think your concept of a "hard R" for some films is an interesting one. Maybe the MPAA could establish such a category for the clueless parent/guardian that would keep kids under, say, 13 out of such fare. It would also avoid the stigma of the NC-17 or X ratings.

Derek said...

That makes me ill to read that. Parental responsibility has been on the decline for years.

I saw the original and that was disturbing enough. No desire to see the remake but I can only imagine -- or try not to imagine -- how much more brutal it is. I think the previews of the movie on TV are brutal enough

Jon-Michael said...

Amen Robert! I think the same could apply to many PG-13 movies that depict graphic sexual activities, all because they don't show complete nudity. I have two kids under the age of 4 and I have found myself seeing fewer and fewer movies these days. Parenthood has made me surprisingly sensitive to the silver screen.

Henry said...

I think this crosses over from "irresponsibility" to actual abuse.