Scaring Children

Everyone knows that traditional fairy tales have always been a bit scarier than their modern incarnations.  The years have seen the attitude adapted that children need to be protected from the grotesque, that they don’t like things that scare them and that anything that might do so should be avoided.  Now obviously if you are going to sit a child down in front of Saw, you should probably get your head checked, but the truth is that most kids like being scared, if it is done in the right way.

Growing up ,my favourite moment in any film was in Jurassic Park.  That moment, which I’m sure you all know, involved a man being eaten on a toilet.  I found this hilarious and took great pleasure out of watching it on repeat.  Moments like that suggest I was not that worried about being scared.  An expert on this is of course Neil Gaiman and the adaptation of his book Coraline to the big screen, continued that theme.  It is a creepy and dark film/book, yet children and adults took great joy in it.  this animation was of course done by stop-motion animators Laika, who this month have released their newest film, The Boxtrolls.

Much like CoralineThe Boxtrolls is not a traditional children’s tale.  There are no fairies or princesses and everything is not awesome.  In fact, it suggests that Coraline may be one of the prettier films that this studio release, as it’s stop motion characters take on a truly alien appearance, with the adults in particular often verging on the grotesque.  It is also a fantastically entertaining film.  I can’t speak for any children out there, but the fact it is number 1 in the UK box office this week also suggests it is hitting it’s market.

The Boxtrolls revels in its grotesque nature and there are moments where even as an adult I looked at the screen with an eye raised in disgust.  Ye,t from my own eye I think it masterfully balances between these vulgar images and actually dropping into being terrifying for a small child.  The presentation of the most grotesque character in the film, Archibald Snatcher voiced by the brilliant Ben Kingsley, borders on horrifying, but never crosses into it.  Instead falling nicely on a gross out humour scale, much more intelligent than any of the many movies that go for that style.  While the fact that the supposed monsters in the film, the boxtrolls themselves, retain an air of cuteness flips any old stereotypes on it’s head and instead creates a story that disgusts and entertains in equal measure.

I don’t think The Boxtrolls is a classic in the way that Coraline may well be but, it’s success is further proof that scaring children, if done with intelligence, is something to be embraced.  Kids enjoy the disgusting and when watching a movie like this I would be willing to be there would be more of them laughing, than running out in tears.

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