So, I was just reading an article about Tim Burton in which he talks about the trouble he's had when producing some of his films, as TPTB are worried about parents reactions to the dark content. Now, when I was a kid lots of things scared me, no more so than the dark and thunderstorms, and I probably watched things which were inappropriate for my age...sneaking into a neighbour house to see the Thriller video when I was only 4 probably left me scarred for life....lines of zombies dancing in formation with a man who's face was falling apart before the application of make-up....shudder, but you live and learn.
My favourite film, to this day, is The Goonies...well, that's not at all scary I hear you say, ah but what of Chester Copperpot, his remains squashed under a boulder....his skull rolling off as Mikey pulls on the key from around his neck....or what about the finale, a ship full of skeletons with various fatal wounds, one poor fellow with a pair of daggers protruding from his eye sockets....or perhaps, my personal favourite nightmare inducing scene, Chunk, happily tucking into a freezer full of ice cream (flavours of which I'd never even heard of before at aged 7.....rocky road?) when he bumps a bag revealing the horrendous figure of a grey complexioned man, mouth agape, eyes wide with a perfect bullet hole through his forehead 'it's a stiff'....oh yeah, good 'ol family fun.
And yet that's exactly what it was...I'll admit, I viewed the above scenes through the cracks in my fingers in the past...the imagery indeed scary for my young brain to process, but then that's kinda the point....and having the chance to process such scenes within the safety of the movie is a right of passage which is fast becoming edited out by worrying adults. These days children have no problem viewing The Goonies....as all 'scary' scenes have been removed....as has any bad language...today's generation are just too precious to be exposed to anything which may give the poor darlings nightmares.....Apparently what was good enough for pre-teens 20 odd years ago is no longer acceptable for the same age group today.
Case in point..Gremlins a dark comedy released as a PG in 1984 is a 15 today for the DVD release....the granny on the stenna stairlift flying out the roof of her house now apparently not so much with the funny and more with the mentally scarring according to TPTB?.....I can only imagine what the content will entail when the remake finally gets off the ground....much of the original appeal thrown out of the window (unlike the grannies) as filmmakers/studios opt for the corny jokes, dumbed down visuals and story for mass merchandise approach of the easily influenced High School Musical generation.
The thing is, Tim Burton has his head screwed on right, kids like to be scared...not wanting to sound to cheesy here, but the world isn't all cotton wool and happy endings and being prepared for the unexpected is a good thing, even if it is just in a movie.
I grew up on a mixture of influences, but one thing I'm happy about is that certain aspects weren't omitted from my viewing just in case I got scared....
Doctor Who...those Daleks, those Cybermen and, even worse, the questionable acting ability of Slyvester McCoy
Chocky....A series about a boy with an alien in his brain, the opening sequence started with the most blood curdling scream, ingrained into my psyche ever since.
Knightmare....a children's role playing game show in which the life force animation peeled away the layers of helmet and skin to reveal muscle and skull until finally the eyeballs rolled toward the screen like a pair of demented marbles.
Moomins....stop motion animation of the ultimately bizarre and kinda creepy persuasion from Finland
Grange Hill....Always controversial and in no way an accurate depiction of any actual school anywhere in the UK, once had silent credits roll over the image of a teenage Zammo, eyes wide and spaced out on drugs whilst holding an empty slip of foil...the sole reason I have never dabbled in such things
The Play Safe Adverts....airing in between CBBC and neighbours it was impossible to avoid these happy little gems which showed hapless kids getting into strife whilst playing on railway lines, with kites or Frisbees near overhead power lines or football next to disused ponds or quarries...needless to say those kids didn't fare well in their innocent playtime....it's a wonder I ventured outside to play...and yet I did
Terrahawks....what can go wrong with action adventure Gerry 'Thunderbirds are go' Anderson puppets?....Zelda, the corpse-like looking foe of the good guys and her son Yung-star who sounded like he was stuck in perpetual gargle mode
The Box of Delights....oh yeah sounds all Christmassy and fun, but then there's men folk turning into wolves all kidnapping vicars all over the shop...and yet another kids show with a slightly disturbing opening sequence
The Children of Greene Knowe...A house haunted by children killed by the plague, a dotty elderly relative oh and there's a tree which is alive in the back garden and it wants to eat you...the kids even had a creepy song about it #Green Noah Demon Tree, Evil fingers can't catch me#
Century Falls...Russell T. Davies' work from early in his career involved a cursed village, an ancient mask, psychic twins and a church going up in flames all before neighbours at tea time
Wizbit....a talking magic hat, an 8ft rabbit and all hosted by Paul Daniels who also sung the theme tune the whole concept is terrifying especially in this clip....
Okay, so there may be a tad of exaggeration on the last one, but you get the idea....my childhood offerings on TV were scary as, and the same could be said for the movies.....the Goonies and Gremlins weren't the only mild nightmare inducing fare on offer....
Willow....all action, adventure and comical little people, until the double headed beast rips a soldier in half
Neverending Story...it's not enough that an evil wolf is chasing down the main character or that Artex drowns in the Swamps of Sadness, but a couple of statues with laser eyes char boil a knight in armour too
Watcher in the Woods....Disney goes creepy with Bette Davis, a couple of American kids and a portal in time
Citty Chitty Bang Bang...two words: CHILD CATCHER
Watership Down....let's watch a film about cute bunnies....which attack each other, get hit by cars and die
Return to Oz....where to start...the mental hospital, the wheelers, the Deadly Desert, the Nome King and the corridor of screaming heads courtesy of Mombi
Ghostbusters....kinda self explanatory though I could handle Slimer, the Stay Puft Marshmallow man, Gozer and even the evil dogs from hell, but it was a long time before I set foot in my library again
All of the Indiana Jones films (except crystal skulls...because dude, what were you thinkin')....people on spikes, eaten by crocodiles, hearts being ripped out, the variety of odd cuisine (monkey brains, snake surprise and the sheep eyeball soup) but most of all the ghosts and face melty Nazi's of Raiders just about had me poopin' my pants as a small child......
But it was fantastic entertainment of which I have revisited many, many times throughout childhood and even as recent as last week....for all the bits which were mildly frightening there were enthralling, action packed and fantastical stories, which weren't watered down just in case the parents of some small moppet were worried about the long term effect the 'scary bits' would have on their offspring....suck it up people.
At least some are still engaging youngsters with tales of daring do and aren't afraid to push the boundaries of what scares a kid can cope with.....Doctor Who (although largely fluff) continues to entertain, thanks mainly to Steven Moffat who brought us the highly creepy 'are you my mummy' child in a gas mask, the 'don't blink' angel statues and the more recent 'count the shadows' in the library....Joss Whedon produced some seriously excellent fantasy television hit the nail on the head with 'the gentlemen' of Hush and of course and honorary mention should go to JK Rowling who's mind for the slightly off kilter and down right disturbing has been a breath of fresh air amongst the decline of children's entertainment and complete cop outs which generally seem to be the fare on offer...even from previously daring folk such as Steven Spielberg and George Lucas exhibit a.) A.I. all going well until he added a completely unnecessary ending, exhibit b.) War of the Worlds where everybody lives eventhough they run into a barrage of fire and of course exhibit c.) Jar Jar Binks.....nuff said
I feel sorry for this 'cotton wool' generation, TPTB should give them more credit as to how much of 'the scary' and unexpected they can deal with.....and I won't even go into the lunacy behind goggles and gloves for playing conkers in schools playground.