Every week, the Criticwire Survey asks film and TV critics two questions. (The answer to the second, “What is the best film in theaters right now?” can be found at the end of this survey.) Send suggestions for future questions to sam at indiewire dot com.
Q: Over the weekend, RogerEbert.com’s Matt Zoller Seitz showed “Aliens” to his 11-year-old son, and seven other 5th grade boys at a slumber party. The comments to his
post promptly filled up with readers second-guessing his decision, as
well as people fondly remembering the theoretically inappropriate movies
they’d been shown at a similarly tender age. What’s the first
“inappropriate” movie you remember watching, and what effect did it have
Adam Nayman, Cinema Scope
My mom showed my brother and me “The Terminator” when we were little kids because she’s cool like that. The story of how she came to see the movie is better than the one about my first viewing. She’d gone to the library to rent William Wyler’s “The Heiress” — one of her favorite movies — and the cassette case got switched around so that when she made it home, Olivia de Havilland had been replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger. A steadfast fan of apocalyptic science-fiction — she’d seen “Planet of the Apes” on opening day — my mother decided to give “The Terminator” a try and was impressed. Although she did wonder what happened to the group of teenagers who’d tried to rent “The Terminator” for their slumber party and ended up with “The Heiress” instead. Perhaps they all grew up to be cinephiles. Perhaps one of them, dear reader, is you!
Chase Whale, Flaunt Magazine, The Playlist
My mother took me to see “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” when I was eight years old and it forever changed the way I saw movies. When it released on VHS, she bought me a copy and every time I watched it, I would write down all the reasons why I loved it so much. Then I started doing this with other movies and a trend started. Over time (and many, many movies later), I learned how to articulate what I did/did not like about movies I watched and why/why not. If she did not trust her instincts to take me to see this movie I so desperately just had to see, you would not be reading this sentence right now. I owe everything I have achieved in film criticism to my mother for taking a chance on an R-rated movie.
Alan Zilberman, Brightest Young Things, RogerEbert.com
Weirdly enough, my first major inappropriate movie was also “Aliens.” I first watched the film when I was nine years old, in fourth grade. A classmate piqued my interest about the film, and I caught it one weekend on TV. Even with the safe-for-network-TV edits, I had nightmares for years afterward (until I was maybe fifteen). After reading Matt Zoller Seitz’s article, I wondered whether the current state of video games makes it easier for younger viewers to handle mature entertainment. If I was in fifth grade today, I think violent, intense games like “Call of Duty” and “Alien: Isolation” would mean that Cameron’s films would effect me less. That being said, “Aliens” is now one of my all-time favorite films and I watch at least once a year.
Greg Cwik, Indiewire, Movie Mezzanine
“Terminator 2,” “Alien,” and “Aliens” were the first rated-R movies I owned on VHS, all ripped from library copies. The first time I watched “Terminator 2” in widescreen, many years later, and I saw the Carolco logo give way to vast shots of a no-longer sad-faded Los Angeles, now vivid and not cropped, accompanied by that looming orchestral score, I was awestruck. I watched those movies so many times, I wore the tapes out, and my Dad (begrudgingly) had to make copies, perpetuating the generational decay and turning the already dark-as-fuck photography of “Aliens” in a murky abyss pervaded by shouts and gunfire. I got “Terminator 2” and “Aliens” from the library, but Ridley Scott’s film arrived in the mail as a belated birthday gift from an uncle who lived in California. He’s dead now, having drunk his liver into oblivion. My mom doesn’t remember this, and says it seems unlike him, but I clearly remember having that oblong black box, adorned with simple green font, and finding the film utterly hysterical. Who else would have mailed me an utterly inappropriate movie? I wish I knew where that cassette was, but it’s probably lost now.
Marc V. Ciafardini, GoSeeTalk, The Film Stage
Funny, it was “Aliens,” shown at the slumber party as that is, hands down, one of my earliest memories of seeing something waaaay sooner than I should have. Fifth grade for me is remembered for multiple screenings of “The Rocketeer,” “Top Gun,” “Back to the Future” and “Ghostbusters” I & II — all good, all fun. But thanks to my Dad, I received a cinematic trifecta of awesome in the form of “Aliens,” “The Thing,” and “Total Recall.” Talk about eye-opening! I also watched “Risky Business” and “Animal House” plenty of times, although arguing inappropriateness between John Carpenter and John Landis is like comparing apples to oranges.
Still, many things that have been deemed “inappropriate,” in my life, have always been the most fun. For me, every movie listed above was a bonding experience (like the slumber party), and not my Dad plunking me in a chair leaving me to Ripley and facehuggers à la Malcolm McDowell in ”A Clockwork Orange.” Really, whether something is or isn’t appropriate is subjective, but mostly, parental discretion comes down to common sense. Suffice to say, the entertainment world has changed a lot since I was 11. R-rated films of the ’90s kind of pale in comparison to what can be seen and experienced in cinema, home theaters or on TV these days. Hell, even ”The Walking Dead,” with all of its gruesome and glorious kills, can go toe-to-toe with Cameron, Carpenter and Verhoeven any day of the week. Sounds like Matt’s son and his friends had a memorable time with those absolute badasses (huge high five to him for the suggestion!), and I hope that helps define their cinematic tastes going forward. It did wonders for me!
Adam Batty, Hope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second
Appropriately enough, Matt’s tweets on Saturday night brought back memories of my own first inappropriate movie: “Alien.” A cousin had recorded a television airing of the film, we must have been around 8 years old, and a group of us gathered to watch it one Summer’s afternoon. I say “gathered”, but I distinctly remember being forcibly encouraged to watch the thing, with the mere idea of the infamous chest-burster sequence, which had already bled in to the realm of urban legend within the realm of my familial circle, terrifying me. I’d be lying if I claimed that I kept my eyes on the screen for longer than a couple of frames.
Michael Pattison, Sight & Sound
It was “Alien”, funnily enough. A pal, a year older than me, wanted to watch it and he’d been given permission from his parents. I had to get permission from mine too — and, lo and behold, my folks had seen it on a date as teenagers in 1979! I was eleven. Good film.
Tomris Laffly, Movie Mezzanine, Film Journal International
I wasn’t raised by parents who were cinephiles that watched movies in a methodical, studious fashion; but still, they watched a lot of movies when I was a kid. I was brought up in a small Turkish city during the ’80s with a single “serious” movie theater — meaning, the only movie theater in town that would show movies the rest of the world was watching, a year or so late. For anyone who really wanted to keep up with film over there, renting videos was the only option and there were thankfully no shortage of video rental stores around. Every now and then, my parents would let me watch one of the films they’d rented, once they’ve seen it and determined I was “mature” enough to experience it. And I definitely did see things a little beyond my years here and there. Though the first “inappropriate” film I vividly remember watching is Clouzot’s “Les Diaboliques” (thanks dad). I was pretty young — not even 10 — at the time, and as I recall, it was my dad’s first time watching it too. (If I remember correctly, we caught it on TV so my dad didn’t really have the option of checking it out in advance.) So admittedly, his decision to let me see it was an accidental one. I won’t lie: I was truly, utterly scared. But even as a kid, I remember looking beyond its scares, being completely swept away by the story and the twist in the end. I remember talking about it constantly. Sure, it ruined my sleep for a few days, but I got over it quickly. What stayed with me in the end was a cinematic curiosity, activated at a young age. Good parenting right there, dad!
Richard Brody, New Yorker
Timing is everything, and when I was a child, inappropriate movies didn’t exist yet, or, rather, they weren’t showing at the sorts of neighborhood movie houses that my parents frequented (or admitted to frequenting); if They Were Curious, they didn’t let me know. So the first inappropriateness had nothing, yet everything, to do with movies: my cousin, who’s about ten years older than I am, showed me her copy of John Lennon’s illustrated book “A Spaniard in the Works”; this was around 1966, when I was eight, and it was the first time that I remember seeing naked adults outside a locker room — and with Lennon’s signature emphasis on their carnal prickliness. Naked, OK; hairy, ummm… but why John Lennon of The Beatles, whose 45s and movie “Help!” (caught in first run at the Meadows, around the corner) were my positive effervescent delights, took such a monomaniacal delight in the things of the body, it would take me a few more years to figure out. At the time, it seemed just a violon d’Ingres, an oddball sidebar skew to the work at hand, as if he were also collecting butterflies while playing in the band. But certainly no harm was done, curiosity was piqued, some useful ideas were put latently into place. As for the formally movie-specific: it’s seeing “Last Tango” at seventeen with my parents. The explanation is ignorance: none of us knew in advance what it was, beside a highly praised work of art, and they indulged my preference for the ostensibly highbrow — and we never spoke about what we saw; not when the lights came up, not in the car ride home, and not in all the years thereafter. The effect? Only one of the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to. And by that time, the other nine hundred and ninety-nine had become much easier to get.
Danny Bowes, Salt Lake City Weekly, The A.V. Club
Probably going to see “Last Tango in Paris” with my mom because she’s a Bertolucci stan and insisted “You can’t watch anything Storaro shot on a fucking television set.” Neither of us died.
Piers Marchant, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Pop Matters
Because my parents were both cinephiles, I was subjected to a steady stream of De Sica and Truffaut films as a wee lad way before I had any means of making any sense of them, but the first film I can recall seeing that thoroughly impacted my impending teen years was, appropriately enough, “Animal House.” If memory serves, it came out in 1978, making me 12, or, the perfect age to witness wonton sexuality, raucous beer bashes, and Belushi’s manic comic stylings. I went with a couple of my father’s students, who crackled with glee that he okayed the plan. I entered the theater a prepubescent who thought “Star Trek” was the greatest narrative drama humans had ever created; I left 109 minutes later knee-deep in adolescence and dying to go to college.
Monica Castillo, International Business Times
My mom took the MPAA ratings like an oath in our house when my little sister and I were growing up. It was no choice of hers that I watched my first R-rated movie without her blessing. It was at a similar birthday party situation where I saw Tim Burton’s “Sleepy Hollow” with my elementary school friends (we were about 9 or 10). About halfway through, most either lost interest and went back into the pool or were hiding behind the couch, but a few girlfriends and I stayed until the bloody conclusion. My mother was not pleased on the car ride home when I kept recounting the multiple beheadings.
Scott Mendelson, Forbes
The first “inappropriate” movie I got to see in a theater was “A Fish Called Wanda” in the summer of 1988. I was eight years old, we were on a family vacation, and our group just wanted to see that movie so they took me along and hoped for the best. I’m told I did the sitcom thing where I loudly asked what a certain profane word meant, but I don’t recall doing such a thing. Beyond certain special circumstances (“JFK,” “Terminator 2”), I was not allowed to see most R-rated movies until I was thirteen, although I did catch quite a few in their “edited-for-television” formats as my parents had no issues with that arbitrary distinction. I was a movie nerd from a very young age, so I was always annoyed that I wasn’t allowed to see any number of “important” movies, although my parents occasionally made exceptions for stuff like “The Godfather” and (after I read the book) “The Silence of the Lambs.” Truth be told, I may be subjecting my oldest to a deluge of “inappropriate” films this summer. I was planning on waiting until my daughter was eight/going on nine and making “Batman V Superman” (with Wonder Woman, natch) her first in-theaters mass audience PG-13 blockbuster, but since we’re expecting a third child in late May, I may have to make some tough calls. Do I make my wife stay with three kids while I go to a press screening, or do I hope she can handle stuff like “Jurassic World” or “Ant-Man”? A “movie night” of “Jurassic Park” and/or “Thor” may be in order to test the waters.
Casey Cipriani, Indiewire
I can recall watching “Raiders of the Lost Ark” with my parents and brother when I was very young, maybe 5 or 6 or so. As I grew up, I thought that everyone drank the way that they do in that film, by taking shot after shot and slamming the glass down on the table upside-down. In my later, drinking-age years, every time I’d take a shot I’d slam it down on the bar, upside-down, and all my friends would look at me funny until I explained to them why I did it. Actually, they’d still look at me funny after I explained, but it didn’t make it any less fun. So I guess that my shot-drinking style is a direct rip-off of Marion Ravenwood, whom I saw totally house a dude 5 times her size in a shot drinking contest at 5 years old. That, and the melting Nazi faces scared the crap out of me, but prepped me well for “Poltergeist.”
Stephen Whitty, NJ.com
I understand the outrage, because I regular face it; for three years I’ve been writing a Saturday column called Family Viewing, which recommends classic films to watch with your kids. I always put a suggested minimum-age recommendation there, and detail any “objectionable” material and yet I regularly get angry emails from people whenever my choices (“Night of the Hunter,” “The Graduate”) deviate from Disney or MGM musicals.
Well, sorry, but I first saw “Psycho” at 11 or so, and it didn’t (twitch, twitch) hurt ME.
What I find amusing about all of this nervous modern parenting is when I think about how different it was when I was a kid. My parents both grew up in the 20s/30s, and to them, going to the movies was a whole-family event. It was also one in which the child had no voice whatsoever. So I saw “Charade” at 4, “Goldfinger” at 5, neither of which was particularly “appropriate.” (I also saw a lot of epics — “Khartoum,” “Beckett,” “A Man For All Seasons” — which bored me silly.)
This tradition continued right into the early ’70s — I remember seeing “The French Connection” and “The Last Picture Show” with my parents, and “Frenzy” with my mother, which was particularly uncomfortable. But by then — age 12 or 13 — I was already sneaking into R movies on my own, like “A Clockwork Orange” and a movie fan who was open to anything. Which their kind of parenting had enabled.
So when my kids were in middle-school, there were PG-13 films I wouldn’t let them go see — and R films I would, or showed them to myself. I would much rather a 13 year-old saw “Adventureland” or “The Way Way Back” or “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” or “The Breakfast Club” than most of the tween dreck flooding theaters. Graphic violence is upsetting, and not everyone is comfortable with sexual material, but what a lot of some “acceptable” movies say about class, race and gender is even more noxious.
Ultimately, I think the decision is up to the child and the person who knows him or her best — which is undoubtedly his or her OWN parent, and not some busybody. Sure, there are a few obvious maybe-we-should-alert-social-services choices — I’d worry, deeply, about any parent who thought it a good idea to show his 11-year-old “Salò” or “Killer Joe” or a Gaspar Noé film — but mostly it’s up to the parent. And common sense.
Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo! Movies
My (much older) sisters took me to “Psycho” when I was nine. The steamy sex stuff between Janet Leigh and John Gavin went over my head. The shower scene was terrifying. Almost as much was Martin Balsam getting knifed on the staircase with those Bernard Herrmann screech chords. Despite the doctor’s explanation at the end I didn’t fully understand why Tony Perkins dressed up as his mother until years later. Bad sleep for months. Mother furious at sisters. Took baths (instead of showers) for months and probably still have soap in my hair from washing it out in tub. (According to Janet Leigh, she never took a shower again.) Still and all, the realization, 15 years after I saw “Gigi” as a five-year old, that the movie was about a girl trained as a courtesan who held out until marriage, was more of a shock to the system.
Anthony Kaufman, Indiewire, Screen
When I was 12-years-old, my parents took me to see Paul Verhoeven’s “The 4th Man.” Totally inappropriate for an already hormonally imbalanced adolescent, the film lingers in my mind as surrealist soft-core fever-dream. I don’t recall much from the movie except the famous scene in which the femme fatale castrates her lover with a scissors, and the squirmy discomfort of watching it all unfold sitting next to my mom and dad.
Adam Kempenaar, Filmspotting
For either my 9th or 10th birthday party, I remember having a sleep-over with a bunch of friends and my parents letting us watch “Revenge of the Nerds” — a movie that doesn’t just feature its fair share of standard ’80s female toplessness, but also full frontal nudity. Over the course of that school year, we probably watched it 100 times and memorized every line. Even before that though, I would watch “The World According to Garp” whenever it was on HBO. Took me a few years to fully grasp exactly what Helen and Michael Milton were doing in the front seat of the car in the driveway that rainy night. Can’t imagine letting any of my kids — the oldest is 12 — watch either movie now, and yet, the thought of my parents possibly preventing me from seeing them seems absurd.
Mike McGranaghan, The Aisle Seat, Film Racket
This is a subject near and dear to my heart, because I had a father who basically took me to whatever movies he wanted to see. My mom took me to Disney movies, but Pops took me to see the Richard Pryor comedy “Silver Streak” when I was eight, as well as Mel Brooks comedies like “Young Frankenstein” and “Silent Movie.” My first R-rated movie was “Animal House.” We were at a family gathering over Thanksgiving, and The Movie Channel was running it. The film had become a phenomenon the year before, and all the adults wanted to watch it. I convinced my folks to include me, and they did.
From there, it was pretty much off to the races. Dad began taking me to see R-rated stuff in the theater, including “National Lampoon’s Vacation” and “Stripes.” And then there was “Porky’s.” I was thirteen when it was released in March of 1982. All my middle school friends wanted to see it. We agreed that we would go on the opening Saturday. They all had plans for how they would get in. Some were going to buy a ticket to a PG movie and sneak in. One kid planned to tell his parents it was a Porky Pig cartoon, with the hopes that they would just drop him off at the theater. I merely asked my dad to take me. When we got to the theater, I was stunned to look around and see no one I knew. In fact, I was the only kid there. Everyone else’s plans had been foiled. The following Monday, I briefly became very popular in school because I was “the kid whose dad took him to see ‘Porky’s.'” My job was to tell all my curious peers what happened in the movie. Let’s just say I was very good at that job. (I still remember how furious my mother was when she found out I’d been taken to the film.)
So what effect did this have on me? Not much of one, honestly. I think I was mature enough to handle this kind of material. That said, the seeds of my fondness for edgy comedy were definitely planted in my childhood. Once I realized that comedy could push boundaries, I generally lost interest in “nice” humor. Inappropriate movies taught me that adult material can be interesting and challenging. That knowledge continues to make me fascinated by films that take risks, especially the ones that use humor.
Joey Magidson, The Awards Circuit
The first “inappropriate” movie I remember watching is probably “Eyes Wide Shut.” My grandfather was a projectionist at the big movie theater in Brooklyn (Sheepshead Bay, to be precise about the theater), so I could always go to the movies, so long as my folks were okay with what I was seeing. At home though, I had more control, so I’d watch just about anything. IFC gave me things like “Magnolia,” but “Eyes Wide Shut” I distinctly remember having to sneak through HBO. It wasn’t the sex orgy I was partly hoping for, but it did help expand my cinematic mind.
Jeff Berg, Las Cruces Bulletin, ABQ Free Press
I remember making the train ride and the accompanying walk from the station to a downtown movie palace in Chicago to see “Candy” and also “Valley of the Dolls,” which was also my first real date.
V of the D date was memorable, since we were in the cavernous Chicago Theatre (or State-Lake, can’t recall which), in the balcony, and some perv came and sat down next to my date and then part way into the movie, started rubbing her leg, something I dare not even do. But she was a tough young lady and she immediately whacked him with her handbag, and he fled in terror. That was better entertainment than the movie!
Luke Goodsell, Movie Mezzanine, 4:3
Seeing “Spirits of the Dead” — and specifically Fellini’s “Toby Dammit” — one night on TV by accident, having no idea what it was. It still creeps me out, and I’d gladly show it to a kid over a Disney movie any day.
Gary Kramer, Gay City News, Philadelphia Gay News
My mother took my twin brother and me to see “Saturday Night Fever” because she wanted us to see the dancing and the music. I swear we saw the PG-rated cut (which was released the year after the film came out) but she believes we saw the R-rated version. She did take us to our first R-rated film, “Animal House” around that same time. I remember that I wasn’t all that keen to see that film when it was suggested, but I remember really enjoying it. I respected my mom for her judgment; she felt we could handle these films which were very much part of the popular cultural conversation. The only restriction I recall was during the first week we got Cable TV. She wanted to monitor us watching “10”; we could only see it after she got home that night, and watched it with us. Of course, this meant we only saw the ending, but I recall that was the best (naughtiest) part.
John Keefer, 51 Deep
Perhaps it’s because I have subjected myself to all manner of unsavory exploitation films over the years that a film doesn’t immediately spring to mind. My parents were pretty good with keeping the R-rated stuff away from me as a kid until my movie obsession and constant whining would break their will and they would let me rent “Reservoir Dogs” for example, which I ended up watching with my mom and we both really liked it. Hmm… but anyways, if we’re talking about scarification of the psyche there was a movie I saw when I was about ten called “Needful Things” which I remember being a pretty straight forward King adaptation with the great Max Von Sydow, whose gravitas I was too young to grasp as well since I hadn’t seen any Bergman at that point. There was a scene where two women, manipulated by Von Sydow’s Satan or whoever he was supposed to be, wanted to kill each other. A pretty standard scene in a horror thriller but it did deeply disturb me. I think the reason was that I had never seen a movie where two people were desperately passionately trying to murder each other and both characters were kind of sad and put-upon in their own ways. “Ave Maria” played on the soundtrack and that pretty much ruined that song for me forever. Yeah… so that’s a scene at least that was too much for me.
Luke Y. Thompson, Topless Robot
My parents took me to see “Quest for Fire,” having heard that in Europe it was rated okay for kids. Not having a solitary clue about movie ratings in Ireland, they dressed me up in “older” clothes thinking I could maybe look 12 (I was probably six). When we got there, the ticket seller asked, “Did you know it’s over-18s only?” My dad could only reply, “He’s not 18.” Fortunately, this was a regional theater in small-town Ireland that wanted our money, so she just said, “It’s your responsibility.” I remember laughing hard at the caveman on caveman violence as my mom put her hand over my eyes, and vaguely understanding the difference between animal-style sex and regular, and even typing that I can’t believe I got in. But I liked it – not for the nudity, but because I thought caveman and prehistoric beasts were cool. I haven’t seen it since and I’m afraid to – the memories are much more fun.
Josh Spiegel, Movie Mezzanine
The first “inappropriate” movie I watched was probably “Airplane!” That, or “Young Frankenstein,” both of which were arguably far too risqué for me; I don’t remember when I first saw them on VHS, but it was certainly before I turned 10. First, I think it’s safe to say that these movies wouldn’t ever be rated PG now — remember the nudity in “Airplane!”? But more to the point, a fair deal of the humor just went right over my head as a kid. However, that doesn’t mean I didn’t find them both deliriously funny. These movies, more than most modern comedies, functioned as the basis of my sense of humor, along with Marx Brothers comedies and Abbott & Costello routines. (Needless to say, I was a super-cool kid growing up in the 90s and being mostly uninterested in the shows/movies of the era.)
It’s a shame, by the way, that this question has to come up in part because a comments thread was overtaken by a group of real-life Helen Lovejoys. A parent showing their child — and other children, but part of me bets this argument would’ve reared its obnoxious head even if Matt Zoller Seitz just showed his son and no one else “Aliens” — an R-rated movie before that child is 17 may not be something I plan to do with my son, or it may be. But I have roughly the same reaction to the fact of Seitz showing “Aliens” to his 11-year old that I had to the news of William Shatner not attending Leonard Nimoy’s funeral: “And I should care why?” Seitz’s article is typically excellent, but its circumstances don’t rub me the wrong way. When it comes to immersing your children in cinema, there’s no correct or incorrect method. It’s as subjective as our reactions to cinema itself. That anyone needs to be told this is kind of awful.
Neil Young, Hollywood Reporter, Sight & Sound
The first film I have *any* memories of watching is Roy Ward Baker’s “Vault of Horror,” an X-rated horror portmanteau which must have made a very quick segue to the small screen. Some time in November or December 1975, I deduce — I was four — after the Dr. Who serial “Pyramids of Mars” (25 Oct – 15 Nov), but before Jaws, which opened in the UK on Boxing Day. Dr Who was in its most horror-y phase at that time, with the unique Robert Holmes running the show and wasting no opportunity to amp up Gothic dread and nastiness wherever possible (Pyramids features murderous mummies who turn out to be alien robots controlled by an ancient force of megalomaniac evil – “kneel before Sutekh!”). I’ve written at some length about how Holmes and the programmers of late-night BBC and ITV Friday/Saturday horror movies shaped both my childhood and, by definition, all that’s followed. File under “didn’t do *me* any harm!”
Scott Renshaw, Salt Lake City Weekly
Not 100% certain it was the first, but it was certainly the most indelible: Summer of 1976, a double-feature of the quickie “Jaws” knock-off “Grizzly” with “Jaws” itself when I was not quite 10 years old. Did I happen to mention that this was during a visit with my cousins in Southern California where I would be going to the beach the next day? And that my mother was *not* pleased that my uncle had been quite so cavalier about how he entertained me and my brother (who, incidentally, was only 7)? I was seeing Ben Gardner’s head in my nightmares for quite some time after that.
Zac Oldenburg (@ZacOldenburg), HavingSaidThat.net
I don’t know how inappropriate it was for me to watch it, but I think you could have made an argument that I was a tad too young to by watching “Jurassic Park” in the second row of a theater. I was only a couple years below the PG-13 rating, but that movie was one of my most memorable and intense movie experiences I have ever had. I loved it, and it had a profound effect on my love for movies and Spielberg.
Q.V. Hough, Vague Visages
As the youngest of three siblings growing up in the late 80s, I used to snatch up R-rated VHS tapes from the kitchen table before they were returned to Jerry’s Service in Barnesville, Minnesota. One of the films that left a strong impression on me was Christopher Cain’s “Young Guns,” a story about Billy the Kid. By watching so many films at a young age, I was able to distinguish fiction from reality and found the historical aspect of Billy the Kid more interesting than his six-shooter. I knew that Emilio Estevez was an actor, as I already seen him in John Hughes’ “The Breakfast Club.” While I went on to study Film/TV Production in college, I earned another degree in History and still have a fascination with Billy the Kid.
Sean Axmaker, Parallax View, Seattle Weekly
My parents didn't go to a lot of movies, so it was always a special event when they took us the theater. But they had no problem taking me and my sister to select grown-up movies when were kids. At age 7, I saw "Woodstock" in the theater (I chanted "Well it's one two three / what are we fightin' for? / Don't ask me I don't give a damn / The next stop is Vietnam" at school the next week), at 10 I saw "Jesus Christ Superstar" (I had listened to the original album recording for years), and at 11 my sister and I laughed our asses off at "Blazing Saddles." So they saw no problem taking us to another rock opera that we all knew almost by heart. Hell, "Tommy" was even rated PG. It gave me nightmares! Luckily I didn't understand just what Uncle Ernie was up to in the dark, but the brutal bullying by Cousin Kevin, the drug-induced nightmare imagery of The Acid Queen, and Ann-Margret's nervous breakdown (with baked beans pouring through the TV) imprinted upon my fragile little mind. It seems obvious in retrospect that this was no film for a kid but this was The Who with Elton John and Tina Turner and Ann-Margret, we all loved the album, and what did my parents know from Ken Russell? Luckily for me it didn't scare them off from taking us to grown-up movies, though I think it did make them a little more careful in their choices. And apparently I survived the trauma, though I was leery of modern horror films until high school, that time when all boys seem to become fascinated by them. But I've never seen "Tommy" again.
Cameron Williams, Popcorn Junkie, Graffiti with Punctuation
Remember that one kid whose parents were never home? That was a childhood friend of mine, Tim. Not only were Tim’s parents never home, but he also had an uncle who worked as a handyman at several hotels. Tim’s uncle would shut down rooms for painting and fixing holes in the walls, and he would record the films showing on the in-house movie channel onto VHS tapes.
It was the late ’90s, so the hotel in-house movie channel was the place where films went in the no-man’s land between a theatrical release and home video. The tapes looked exactly like how you’d expect a bootleg VHS to come packaged; the generic box covering boasted the number of recording hours, and a plain white tag on the spine displayed the title of the film written in black marker featuring Tim’s Uncle’s best handwriting. The day that tag said “Speed” was a memorable one, but there were other times when movies from years gone by appeared as if Tim’s uncle was subtly schooling us in cinema. Most of the time, the older films were horror (he was also messing with us), and nothing recharged your cool ranking in the primary school playground quite like bragging about the latest spooky film you’d seen. The peer pressure to watch was unbearable.
I was scarred by most of the films I saw while Tim’s parents were never home, “A Nightmare on Elm Street” 1-7, “Friday the 13th,” “Halloween,” and more. I was around 10 years-old and not as tough as my buddy Tim who seemed to froth at the mouth of any kind of gore. I was a little more sensitive and prone to intense nightmares, still am. Upon reflection, I was more vulnerable at this age due to a very aggressive father who would go into fits of rage over the smallest things in our household. I was already on edge and living in a state of adolescent fear. The film that pushed me to breaking point and felt the most ‘inappropriate’ was “Child’s Play.”
As a kid, the satire, black humor and bonkers concept of Tom Holland and Don Mancini’s film flew straight over my head. During a screening at Tim’s house I projected straight onto Andy and felt the raw terror of a killer doll. I was caught between a being a kid and those awkward pre-teen years so my imagination was still running wild and that transitioned into my nightmares. They got so bad after seeing “Child’s Play” that I refused to sleep in any bedroom alone. I spent months, which became close to a year, sleeping on the couch in the living room of our house so I could be as close to my parents’ room (my mum) as possible in case Chucky came to kill.
The dread peaked at Christmas time when my younger sister was gifted a talking doll from Santa (I was still a believer). The gimmick was that the doll giggled or spoke as you rotated it in different directions. The doll had to go. On Christmas night, when I thought the doll would come to life to start its killing spree, I crept into my sister’s room and took it. As protector of the family unit, I took on the reasonability to give the doll a shallow grave in the backyard. My mother was always one step ahead of me, and when the doll was missing in the morning she conducted a discreet interrogation, found the doll, cleaned it up, and returned it to my sister before a tear hit the ground. Following the incident at Christmas my parents (my mum) tolerated more couch sleeping and we reached an agreement to put the talking doll at the bottom of the toy bin each night before couch-time.
I eventually grew out of this phase once the hairs started sprouting on my face, I was an early bloomer, or a “pubic freak” as a hairless bully in my classed once said; having facial hair wasn’t cool in school yet. Slowly, I became more terrified of talking to girls, or worse, if the girls found out I slept on the couch at home because I was afraid of a killer doll movie. We all grow up so fast.
Q: What is the best movie in theaters?