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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Boy's Got to Know His Limitations

If you've been reading The Vault of Horror since the early days (all the way back in October), then you know about how much my son loves horror movies, and how much I enjoy showing them to him. Being a mere pre-schooler, his viewing has been confined to the more "tame" variety, such as Universal monster flicks, '50s sci-fi shlock and the like. But he's a tough little bruiser, so it takes quite a bit to unsettle him. He likes pushing himself, and nothing usually phases him. It's enough to make you occasionally forget that he isn't even four yet.

Once in a while, I had even experimented with movies like Shaun of the Dead and Fido, which tend to me more light-hearted, with only isolated bits of graphic stuff that can be easily fast-forwarded through. But that's about as adventurous as I got.

Then one day, as he and I were sitting on the couch, he suddenly hopped down, trotted over to the DVD tower, and pulled down The Return of the Living Dead. It had to be the glow-in-the-dark font on the special edition that got his attention--that and the zombies.

"Daddy, can we watch this?"

"Uh...no, no we can't watch that one. That's a grown-up movie. That's too scary."

What followed was a slowly escalating temper tantrum, of the kind that's usually reserved for bedtime or the denial of candy. Screaming, crying, jumping up and down, insisting. Now, I'm not one of these parents that simply gives in to their kids' every demand, creating spoiled brats in the process. But what I am is a pragmatist. We could go on like this for a couple of hours, I thought, or I could use this as an opportunity to teach the boy a valuable lesson. Cruel? I think that's putting it a little too strongly. I knew there was no way he'd get very far. And I was right.

As he sat on my lap, the opening scene in the medical supply warehouse held him transfixed. All those skeletons, split dogs and stuff--right up his alley. But then Frank and Freddy headed down to the basement. At the sight of the Tarman sealed up inside the trioxin cannister, he let out a little gasp. His eyes widened. Then stupid Frank smacked the cannister, letting out the gas. The Tarman's eyes opened, and we're off to the races.

Leaping off my lap for the first time, the little guy sprinted out of the living room, through the dining room and into the kitchen. A few seconds later, as the opening credits rolled, he crept back in, standing next to the TV.

"Daddy, I was just looking for a snack."

"I know, kid. Do you want me to stop the movie? Is it too scary?"

"No, I wanna see more. I'm not scared."

He climbed back up on my lap. We watched a little more. He laughed at the split dog yelping on the warehouse floor. But his reaction to the cadaver in the refrigerated locker was a little different. Once it started banging on the door and screaming to get out, he immediately jumped down off my lap again and bolted back into the dining room. Again, after a few seconds, he was back, this time a little slower.

"Daddy, I was just checking too see if the flowers on the table were OK."

I'm gonna need to teach the boy how to make up better excuses, some time before he starts dating.

"Are you sure that's all it was?"


"Can I ask you something?"


"Be honest, now."


"Is this movie scaring you?"




"Do you want me to take it off?"



"Yes. Let's put on one the movies that aren't scary."


Relieved, I happily picked up the remote and ended the brief experiment. Just like I expected, he made it less than 15 minutes in before his stubborn little will gave out. As I put the DVD back on the shelf and took down Monsters Inc., I watched him sheepishly seat himself on the couch, a shy grin crossing his face.

"You know, it's OK to get scared sometimes. Everybody does. I told you there are some movies that are just a little too scary for you right now."



"That was the only movie that was scary."

"I know, boy. I know."


gord said...

Haha, great story.

The killing of the cut in half dogs always throws me in to hysterics as well.

Mr. Karswell said...

Shoot, I was excited to hear what your kid thought of Linnea Quigley's cemetery striptease.

Funny story though... my kid just turned four and saw Army of Darkness for the first time the other night. He was more scared of the scene with the 3 books than anything else which was weird, and typically the end battle with all the stop-mo skeletons totally blew his mind. Maybe try it with your kid if you haven't already since it's somewhat "horror-lite" with alot of 3 Stooges-esque comedy.

Anonymous said...

Wow, just because of this story I'm going to watch RotLD, thanks.

B-Sol said...

Wow, I had never thought of Army of Darkness--thanks Karswell! I'm sure he'd love it. He already loved Jason and the Argonauts, so he's a big fan of stop-motion skeletons.

Johnny 666 said...

He sounds like a bright little fella!

Reminds me of a time when I was babysitting a neighbours kid (I cant beleive people paid me to do this shit), and the little brat kept bugging me to watch what videos I had in my bag. It was our good ole friend, The Evil Dead. I knew he wouldnt make it beyond the opening credits, so I wasnt too worried about him seeing anything not suitable for his 8 year old mind...

...Unsurprisingly, he was cowering in bed before Ash and co had even reached the wooden bridge.

Makes you think back though, do you remember the first horror film you saw as a kid, and how you reacted to it?

B-Sol said...

Yep Johnny--check the introduction in the right hand sidebar for an amusing little anecdote!

Johnny 666 said...

haha, you think the highlighted red print would have drawn my attention to that:-)

Karl Hungus said...

I remember when I was a kid, watching Aliens for the first time. Had to stop as soon as the nightmare scene towards the start, scared the bejeesus out of me!

Dove said...

I just loved this post and you dealt with the situation perfectly.

Heck I still get scared by horror movies today, didn't stop me watching them then and won't stop me watching them now. Strangely enough I started reading horror long before I started watching it.

Anonymous said...

Love the story. RotLD is one of the first real "scary" movies I saw when I was a child. It scared the hell out of me. I could never forget the tarman in the basement and had a tough time going anywhere near my basement for months (okay, years).

Now however, I absolutely LOVE that movie.

B-Sol said...

I had a very similar experience with that movie, and in fact I recounted it in another post on ROTLD. It's listed in Best of the Vault under "My Adventures"

Anthony Hogg said...

I think my first exposure to horror movies/scenes came to me courtesy of my cousin.

I was six years old (or younger?), and I remember being in his darkened bedroom with my sister and watching Nightmare on Elm Street on VHS...and The Terminator. The latter movie ingrained itself into my psyche, thanks to that scene where Arnie pops out his eyeball into the basin.

Several years later, I remember being chilled by the TV movie Intruders. Specifically, the scene with the "repairmen" (?) looking up from the backyard into someone's window...

Oh, and the ghost special on Unsolved Mysteries, hosted by the late Robert Stack, totally freaked me out! Especially as it was screened at about 2 in the morning.

They did some coverage of the allegedly haunted Queen Mary cruise ship. There was a scene of blood red footsteps made by an invisible presence...

Freaky stuff indeed.

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