Wet popcorn brains, peeled-grape eyeballs, basement haunted houses and black-cloaked teachers reading Poe by candlelight; 1981 horror through the eyes of a nine year old. Tame by today’s standards if you ask anyone over the age of thirty-five. But let’s face it, the lack of horror preparation I received in early childhood has left me still anticipating mental psychosis when terror pops up unexpectedly. Relieved only when I make it through to the end, because after all, there were no Monsters Inc. or Coraline’s to help bridge the gap between myself and the “other.” But that is what makes horror scary, right? The “other” is supposed to be an unknown entity capable of leaving you damaged psychologically and fearing your physical world. So, why aren’t my kids afraid of monsters, ghosts, or vampires like I was at their age?
The thought of Tim Curry, slashers, and that vampire scratching at the bedroom window in Salem’s Lot sent me far under my blankets at night up until six months ago. So how is it that my teenager can watch a movie triple the scare and half the cheese of what I was offered and walk away unscathed? My children, like so many, have had the convenience of horror genre in a multitude of mediums since birth – well, practically. Horror is capable of working itself into the central nervous system through a series of stages.
Stage 1: Monsters are our friend s– Monsters, Inc.,
Reality check – It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
Stage 2: Don’t worry, people are creepy and weird in real life too – Coraline,
Stage 3: Scare the pants off of them for two years until they are immune – Goosebumps (books
Stage 4: You can look like a monster – Monster High dolls and accessories
You can love like a Monster, too – Twilight
Why don’t you just act like one while you are at it? – They are teenagers by this point, so pick anything horror and go with it.
The surplus of horror fiction has made today’s youth fearless – this does not include seeing their parents dancing in public. Writers are continuously upping the ante in order to keep their audience interested. That is really hard to do considering the reader/watcher has so many reference points to draw upon. I know, it sounds almost condescending, but actually having to push the limits of horror shows that our youth love that stuff. However, sometimes they are left feeling unsatisfied, not from the writer lacking in craft or originality, but from wanting horror to be steeped in reality. How do we – parents, educators, writers, booksellers – keep them engaged? Keep them reading? How about throwing new titles at them until they find something that has them talking, thinking, and dreaming about the things they fear. Most fear stems from the “other” resembling something familiar, and the reality is kids today are exposed to scary things going on around the world, even more than we were. Media bombards every possible frequency it can occupy with visuals that we fear. There is nothing scarier than what can truly reach out and grab you, affect you, and change you. If kids can’t seem to find the excitement and fulfillment they crave, then encourage them to write their own. Let’s just hope it isn’t about your dancing.