First off… there are several trigger warnings here. Many subjects covered by horror films are disturbing to mamas in ways we can’t possibly understand. Tread carefully.
There are some things only a parent can understand. On this October Eve, I thought I’d start off the season’s greetings with a fun little list only horror fans who are also parents could understand. These are all movies that have shaped my parenting by providing me excellent motivation to take better care of my children. In descending order leading to most terrible, here are 13 horror films that make being a parent with anxiety absolutely no fun when you also love horror films.
13. The Shining
I have always loved this movie. It’s seriously disturbing in all the right ways with ghosts, hallucinations and insanity, mind games and isolation, bizarre unsettling imagery and both good magic and demons. I used to LOVE watching it and laughing through the silly, over the top weird parts trying to be creepy and giggling at creepy thrills in the spooky parts. Now? Not really so much. If my kid starts making up games with invisible people using funny voices and strange hand movements, there won’t be enough sage in the Western Hemisphere for the amount of cleansing I will be doing. Oh wait, he already does that… Also; bodies of dead children are no longer okay. Ghosts I can deal with, creepy and bizarre randomness I can handle even a ghost in a shower and the elevator with pig’s blood isn’t that bad, but the dead and bloody bodies of those girls just twist my heart in ways only someone chanting “Kali Mah” can appreciate.
12. The Exorcist
So, at what point should I be concerned if my child decides to start talking to me in her made up language that may or may not be a dead and forgotten tongue used by demons in ancient Mesopotamia? For reals, though – the issue here isn’t the possessed girl or the demonic things, it’s the beginning. When there is something wrong with her daughter and they can’t figure it out. The test, the sobbing, the fear she feels as she’s put into a terrifying contraption. It’s not the demon that scares me in this movie, it’s the reality that some things are beyond our control as parents and no matter how much science is used to figure out what it is, we may be powerless to protect them. Disease, mental disorders, so many things we can’t protect our children from – we can try, but it’s still never a guarantee that our efforts will pay off. That is what terrifies me, hurts my heart and makes me not want to watch this movie again. Also, the throwing fits, unwakable night-terrors and the peeing on the floor for no reason while staring off into space has totally happened already, so I’m guessing that’s not really an issue. …right?
11. The Sweet Hereafter
Okay, so this one is not a “horror film” of typical standards, but it was horrifying and that’s close enough. I saw it long before I had children or was even remotely close to being married, so it didn’t hit me in a place of knowing like it does now. Depicting an entire town who has lost its children (yes, all of them) in a freak bus accident, this movie will send chills down any parent’s spine. It’s actually been nearly 15 years since I’ve seen that movie and I still think about it at random and if I allow myself to linger on it too long, excessive paranoia and crying is inevitable. Usually at 3:00am, by myself, in the dark, while terrified that my babies will die, wondering what I will do if they did. This is a major reason I don’t like the mountains, driving TO the mountains, being near the mountains or driving on winter roads. The images of the bus in this movie start scanning through my head at every single turn like a flip book you can’t shut off. Speaking of busses…
10. ANY horror movie with busses
Trick r’Treat, Jeepers Creepers, Riaru Onigokko and as mentioned before; The Sweet Hereafter. If the movie has a school bus, someone is going to die inside it. It’s just the way things are. They either get in a wreck and everyone is killed, they fall off cliffs, into bodies of water, drowning all inside or invaded by aliens, zombies or monsters. These movies made me glad I live in a city that doesn’t use busses very often. Also; Homeschool. Now, I’m not saying the choice to homeschool my children is based at all upon the fact that these movies involve child deaths while inside school busses… that would be CRAZY, right? No, but I will say an excellent perk is knowing my kids won’t be dealing with any of that bus drama. Also, I am doing my absolute best to make sure my kids aren’t the bullies that get murdered by the vengeful spirits dressed like adorable Halloween scarecrow children because they were mean to people. Every parent who sees these kinds of movies should be HIGHLY motivated to ensure they are not raising a bully.
9. Cabin Fever
Or, any virus/contamination movie ever made, for that matter… How many after midnight trips to the ER took place in that first six months of each of my children’s lives becuase of strange marks, bumps, hives, scratches or crying for no reason took place JUST so I could make sure they weren’t dying of some horrifying flesh-eating disease? Well, I’ll tell you; TOO MANY. Oh, and yes – I totally check them thoroughly any time they have played in any outside water source like a lake, river, ocean or even pools. Becuase you never know and now I’m crazy. Thanks, Eli. You’re the best. Really. Speaking of horrors in the deep, dark woods…
8. Blair Witch Project
and other assorted forest horrors…
“Awww, don’t you want to take your children camping?” NO, I do not want to take them camping. “But it would be fun! They get to experience nature, campfires, smores and waking up in the forest – it’s great!” SERIOUSLY, JUST NO. Stop asking. Evil witches, monsters, demons, undead, ghosts, creepy South American natives (again, thanks Eli, that was super special), there are just too many reasons to never take your children to a forest for any reason, ever. So, am I going to jump at the chance to take my children camping? Nope, nope and double nope. It’s not going to happen. Not unless tents now come equipped with electric fences and bug zappers that repel dangerous insects, come with padlocks on the sippers to make sure they can’t sneak out in the night lured by the soft voice of a lady in white, an alarm system that goes off if anyone steps within 100 feet of the tent, steel reenforcement and my own personal Buffy the Vampire Slayer for all my other-worldly needs, WE’RE NOT GOING. On the subject of vacations…
There’s not that much to say about this one. My fear of something happening to my children in the ocean where I am NOT even remotely in control becuase I’m not a super strong swimmer has deeply colored the fact that I love the ocean. In fact, saying I love the ocean is an understatement. I would move to the beach in a heartbeat if I could. I’d go every day if I could. When I DID live closer to the ocean, I’d go there nearly every single day just to look at it, but once I had children, that love was sprinkled with a dash of giant shark could eat my babies with a side of, getting their feet caught in seaweed and sucked under to their deaths. So, I love the ocean, but I do NOT love the idea of something happening to them because I ignored the voice in my head that does nothing but sing the Jaws theme any time they are more than ankle deep in the water. Oh, and while we’re on the “water” topic…
6. Dark Water
Is it a terrible thing to admit this movie is one of the reasons I needed to NOT live in an apartment after I got pregnant? I was already a little anxious in elevators, but this movie just kicked it up a notch and now that I have kids, anytime we are in one, they must hold my hand BEFORE we get in and DO NOT LET GO until we are outside and the doors are closed. This movie is also the reason I will not buy either of my children a yellow raincoat and why I’m super happy that there are no schools in this district that have indoor hallways. Which leads us to the next one…
5. The Ring
One of my all time favorites and most personally impactful horror films of all time, The Ring and the original Ringu franchise is truly one of the best. As a parent, this movie is even more terrible than it was BEFORE I had children, and that is truly saying something. When I reprimand my child for hurting her brother and I ask, “can’t you please just be good and nice to him?” and her response is, “I’m sorry but I can’t today” in a perfectly calm voice, all I could think of was this line: “But I do and I’m sorry. It won’t stop”. Honestly, now that I’m a parent, it’s the desperation and the loneliness that hurts me most. My heart hurts for Samara/Sadako. She was abused, misunderstood, used and neglected. Her evil was borne out of fear, hate and torture. It reminds me of every abuse case I’ve ever heard when a child with special needs is involved. A parent didn’t understand them, hid them away, told them they were useless and stupid. The hopeless, helpless, fight of a mother who DOES love her child is heart wrenching and less scary in the supernatural sense once you have babies. When watching The Ring, when the climb up to the loft where Samara lived it just makes me cry for her. It’s so hard to watch, now. No matter what, though – I don’t even like having this movie in the house. Someone might watch it, then it’ll be all creepy wells, bloody noses and hairballs, burning trees and we all know how that ends, so just no. While we’re talking about vengeful, dead children, let’s consider…
4. Pet Cemetery
One of the first movies on anyone’s list when they consider anxiety with children in horror films, this one really takes the cake as an excellent piece of horror fiction. Many parents become affected by this movie in profound ways. In fact, a good friend of mine actually named his son Gage, after the child in this movie. But for me, it’s a little different… My anxiety associated with this movie does not stem from the idea of an undead, demon child coming after me to cut my ankles, but a massive fear of moving vehicles. Then, watching the traumatic suffering as the mother, having to endure the pain of her child’s death then the torture of seeing him again in a horrifying, undead/demonic state. For the first three months after my son was born, I couldn’t drive anywhere. I couldn’t even carry him outside or to the car becuase I had horrific images of what would happen and every scenario ended with him being crushed by a car in the road. Now that they’re four and five years old, playing in the street is absolutely, 100%, don’t even think about it off limits and I need a beer or a strong SSRI not to freak completely out when the neighbors want to play ball or ride bikes in the road. While we are talking about Steven King, we can’t talk about kids and horror without talking about…
Yes, the stupid, evil clown movie. I know it wasn’t even THAT GOOD, but dude – I can’t. Not anymore. I’m not even afraid of clowns and this movie freaks me out. Actually, that might not even be true… it isn’t the movie itself, it’s the idea of kidnappings and how/where they happen. There’s a reason I park 10 feet away from a storm drain and white-knuckle my kid’s arms as we walk over them (which only happens if it’s completely inappropriate for me to walk a few feet around them to avoid them altogether). There’s a reason I have told both of my children not to play near them, put their hands in them, look too long down the holes… and the reason is that creepy anglerfish demon monster spider with a clown lure. Also, they’re gross and dirty and smell bad and you shouldn’t get too close becuase you can slip and fall inside them never to be seen again. It could happen. No, really. Look it up.
2. ALL THE CRAZY PEOPLE FILMS including;
Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Last House On the Left, Hostel, The Hills Have Eyes, Valentine, SAW, The Purge, The Devil’s Rejects, etc….
I grouped these all in one category because they all involve older kids, actual crazy people (some based on true stories) and way too much unprotected, teenage sex. Okay, here’s the deal with these movies, guys… This level of crazy is real. It’s out there and it actually DOES want to kill, slash, burn, torture and possibly eat my children. That’s not a movie. That is real life. Those people, people like the monsters in these movies…. are actually in the world today, right now, trying to find ways to steal children and do horrifying things to them without getting caught. If any parent ever needed motivation to get in shape, learn martial arts, be strong enough to run with your kids on your back and carry weapons in your car – these movies should just about do it. Also, make sure your kids can protect themselves. Create a plan for how to hide in your home if it is ever invaded. Teach them self-defense and stranger danger. Teach them as they get older that trusting people they don’t know could get them killed. It isn’t just “a good idea” to be careful, it could save their lives. You never know who the next John Wayne Gacy or Pedro Lopez (look it up) will be and your kids need to know how to protect themselves in case you are not there to do it for them. They need to know this isn’t make-believe. This is real and absolutely COULD happen. Oh, also – talk to your kids about sex. Make sure they know that if they have cheap, unprotected sex before they are married, they’ll be murdered by Michael Meyers. At least, that’s the story I’ll be using…
And finally, number one goes to…
1. Final Destination
Seriously, the worst and best; Final Destination wins every paranoia award ever considered. Are there awards for generating the most anxiety in a film? If so, this movie would win. Why? Every, single, freaking thing in your house, in the air, in any theme park, boat, garden or store, anything in or on the ground, in a tree, the tree itself, anything on the road, under the road, or next to the road and a thousand other places you haven’t thought of yet… can kill your child, or YOU, leaving your child vulnerable to Death itself with no one to protect them. You begin looking at your house like a torture chamber, the food you eat as poison, you begin cutting their foods up in such tiny pieces it would be impossible for them to choke on it and when you are stuck behind a truck with logs on the back, you do everything in your power to get the heck away from it as fast as possible. (Yes, that has happened) I once freaked out because a bottle of water fell between my feet while I was driving. No joke, I literally had a panic attack and had to pull over. This movie and its sequels make you start seeing the world in a very different way. One where you realize just how many different ways each and every item, animal, person and plant on Earth can murder your baby. Oh, and it did absolutely NOTHING for my already existing fear of plane crashes… all while hearing John Denver playing in my head on repeat as I slowly start rocking myself into oblivion.
So, there it is. This is my first list, not necessarily my last. These are the order I put them in, but you may put them in a different order… Perhaps you were more affected by The Shining than I was, or maybe you thought Final Destination or the real people horrors were less impactful than I did. What order would you put these in? What movies changed for you once you had children? Any of them ones that you loved and can no longer watch anymore? I’d love to see your lists and carry this throughout October!
I am going to do a “part two” a little bit later on in the month. Titles like, Rosemary’s Baby, The Grudge, Silent Night Deadly Night and many more are coming! Let me know if you’d like me to cover something I haven’t mentioned!
(Oh, and in case you are wondering… I still love horror movies, I now just have to take them in smaller doses with my relaxation oil blends close at hand!)