EXCESS HOLLYWOOD: THE PARENT TRAP

It was billed as the scariest American movie in the past decade.
It was rated R for intense scenes of violence, drug use, nudity, language and sexual situations. Its trailer was pulled from some screens for being too violent. People reportedly fled the theatre and/or vomited during screenings. If you don’t recognize the movie I’m talking about, it’s “Hostel” a film about three backpackers who are captured and tortured in an old factory in Slovakia.

What is it about this movie that would make a parent think it is appropriate for a six-year-old boy?

I have a friend who works for a small theatre chain. We were discussing “Hostel” which was the number one film in America its opening weekend (surprising me and the entire film industry), and I asked him how the audience reacted to the film. According to him, there were some ridiculous complaints about the movie’s violence and tone. (Did the people think they were seeing “Brokeback Mountain”?) What was even more ridiculous than that, however, was the fact that a father and mother actually flipped out on the theatre staff because the movie was too violent for their six-year-old son, who accompanied them to a showing.

I think I’m a fairly rational, fair-minded parent. I don’t want to restrict what my daughter watches, as I know images on a screen can’t cause any physical harm. At the same time, I would be remiss in my parental duties if I didn’t provide some sort of guidance for her. If my daughter was six and she wanted to see “Hostel”,” I’d ask her why. I’d make her explain to me just what it was about the film that appealed to her. If I found her answer to be satisfactory, and she was mature enough to see something like that, I’d take her to see it and sit with her the whole time. I’d take her out of the theatre if it got to be too much for her, and I’d make sure I was there to answer all her questions and assure her it was only a movie. Personally, I can’t see the film appealing to any six-year-old, but maybe there are some prodigies out there who love horror movies.

The parents who took their kid to see the film are morons. They aren’t rational, logical people. How do I know? Because rational, logical parents wouldn’t blame the theatre for their mistake. They would blame themselves for thinking their kid was mature enough to see the film, and they would take it out on themselves. They would also make sure it wouldn’t happen again. The parents who verbally reprimanded the theatre staff probably couldn’t get a babysitter or didn’t want to get one, and they were too impatient to wait for the DVD. So they dragged their kid to the theatre to see what every
trailer made out to be a torture show, and then they got pissed when they discovered there was some truth in advertising.

Honestly, parents that dumb and selfish should have their children taken away.

Were those parents smart enough to be able to answer what I’m sure were the child’s many questions? Did they repeatedly assure the child that it was all a fantasy and that nobody was really hurt? Did they explain why some people may want to torture others? They probably didn’t because they don’t know how to do those things.

This kind of shit angers me to no end, both as a parent and as someone who loves horror/exploitation films (and films in general). It makes people like me look bad. People who are rational thinkers, who think some children (usually much older than six, by the way) can handle scary films. I started watching horror movies around five or six myself. I was reading adult novels at the same time. My parents never censored what books I could read, but they did stop me from seeing certain films. I couldn’t see the special showing of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” but I saw “The Amityville Horro” when it came out in the theatre when I was eight or nine. (I asked my mom about my reaction to the film, since I couldn’t remember. She said that I told her, “It wasn’t as good as the book.” That’s so typical of me.) Parents like the ones at “Hoste” make smart parents look like idiots by default, and I hate them for it.

To the parents and would-be parents out there: Use some sense when it comes to taking your kids to films meant for adult audiences. Don’t be lazy parents and take them because you can’t find a sitter. Don’t be selfish and make them sit through something they can’t handle because you really want to see it. And if you do take them, talk to them about what they are watching, ask them questions and answer the ones they ask. It’s your job as a parent. And at the very least, don’t get mad at other people for your own stupidity. Remember also that stupid parents often raise stupid kids, and twenty years from now you don’t want some guy like me writing a column about your children, who are now parents in their own right.

No matter how one looks at it, “Hoste” wasn’t meant for kids … and now I’m thinking some adults should have been banned from it as well.

Discuss Doug Brunell’s “Excess Hollywood” column in Film Threat’s BACK TALK section! Click here>>>




Posted on January 26, 2006 in Features by
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