I'm not referring to the downside that is obvious to any die-hard fans of slasher horror--which is that sacrificing an R-rating for a younger demographic means the loss of most of the violence and gore that fans go in for in the first place. Rather, I'm talking about the problem of exposing teen-age and pre-teen audiences to material they probably shouldn't be watching unsupervised.
At no time in the past were slasher flicks marketed to the under-18 crowd. Despite the fact that the characters were always teenagers, the audience was always more in the 18-25 range. But a movie like the new version of Prom Night, now the number-one movie in America, is playing to wider audiences than ever before. And there's a drawback to all that, which a story out of suburban Chicago draws attention to.
The Herald-News reports that a multiplex in Naperville, Illinois was forced to pull the movie on its opening night, after an unruly gathering of some 300 unsupervised patrons age 11 to 15, all on hand to see Prom Night, had to be ejected by police. The paper described the scene as a "near-riot", during which a 911 call from the theater led to the dispatch of 11 officers and squad cars to restore order. An arrest was made when one of the young theatergoers refused to leave.
And here comes the interesting part. A representative from the theater chain commented that the Naperville incident was not islolated. Rather, several such large-scale disturbances had been reported at Prom Night screenings across the country. In all cases, those involved were underage patrons dropped off by their parents.
Needless to say, this is not something that could have ever happened, for instance, with the original Prom Night back in 1980. That film was rated R, and thus viewers under 17 could only get in with an adult--and for the most part, the audience was made up of adults, anyway. Somply put, we're talking about an audience here that would ordinarily be dropped off to see movies like 10,000 B.C., Drillbit Taylor or Nim's Island. Instead, they're being taken to see a flick whose subject matter is thematically R-material, but because it's been stripped of graphic violence, it's suddenly deemed appropriate for kids that have barely outgrown Hannah Montana.
This is the negative repercussion of marketing slasher movies to children. Of course, the picture's number-one status will be all that studios pay attention to. In their minds, the strategy of toning down horror movies for teens is a sound one, resulting in wider profit margins from a genre that typically doesn't bring in many number-one hits.
We can't rely on Hollywood to have scruples--never could. As parents, it falls on us to do our jobs as the custodians of our children. Part of that is supervising what they watch--that's where the responsibility lies. So use your heads, people.