Why Children’s Horror Matters

We have all gotten our intro into horror somehow at a young age. Some of us through
movies we shouldn’t have necessarily been watching at the time. Others through age
appropriate mediums within books or television shows that came on at that sweet spot between
school ending and dinner. They may not have been as graphic or as heart pounding as the stuff
we saw on the big screen but they still left some lasting effect on us. Planting seeds of fear and
unanswered questions only our imaginations could take a crack at. As a lover of the genre over
the years I have seen a change happening which needs to be addressed.

“Are You Afraid Of The Dark?” is probably my favorite horror television show that I can
remember that was specifically marketed to children. Today as a 33 year old man I own all of
the dvds not just for nostalgia but for how effective the stories were for me at the time. Some of
those stories still haunt me to this day and have inspired me to put my own stories out there.
What I loved about the show so much is its rawness in how it told its stories with the scare
factors. Of course it being a show broadcast on Nickelodeon they could only go so far but to be
honest there was minimal hand holding even if their market was us kids at the time. From the
way the music was scored to some of the villains portrayed on the tv. I can still have
conversations with peers today about certain episodes that left lasting impressions on us. That’s
when we start talking about how Children’s Horror today doesn’t really take those same risks
and consequently gets left behind or forgotten.

We can take an author like R.L.Stine who has had a massive amount of success with his
Goosebumps series. Similar to “Are You Afraid Of The Dark?” Goosebumps took risks and
treated the medium of horror with respect and didn’t really censor certain aspects of the scares.
They did have a leg up since each episode was adapted from a book in the collection so it was
pretty easy to follow. Of course some episodes were scarier than others but they relied more on
story than gimmicks to get their point across. Another example of that would be the book series
“Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark” by Alvin Shwartz. The market was children but because most
of the stories were sourced from urban legends they got a bit gruesome.

Fast forward today and
most of the things we see on television for kids or in books is very tame. Not saying that we
need to see a severed limb chasing a group of elementary school kids down a dark corridor
armed with a hatchet in every story but at least add some sort of dread in there.
It almost seems as though we treat kids like they’re not little human beings at all. Like
they have never been through anything terrifying so we don’t want to put that on the screen or in
a page. Especially now when the world seems to be in a state of consistently trying times its not
really reflected in the art for them. I see new shows coming out where they literally act like the
pandemic doesn’t exist which is a huge missed opportunity. These kids have new fears and new
anxieties that they go through on the daily which needs to have its own exorcism in their psyche
through the mediums they digest. It’s only then will we get more new and exciting perspectives

because these kids will have faced their own fears and be happy to show us how to face similar.
It’s really that simple…If we want more exciting adult horror then we have to treat the children as
humans with their own valid experiences because as we all know some of the greatest stories
ever told come from someone drumming up something they saw as a kid.

Written by Tyrone Willams. Check out his instagram here.