Why I let my 10 year old son watch gore-filled horror films
How to use 'The Night Watchmen'
to introduce your kids
to film and cultural studies.
As I’ve mentioned time and time again, we do not censor our kids from much. Watching horror films is nothing new to them. It doesn’t mean they are fearless. It doesn’t mean they are immune to the thought of monsters lurking under their beds. It doesn’t mean they have become so desensitized at the thought of what lurks in the dark that the dark doesn’t scare them. They have fears like most kids and like most kids, they hold a fascination for things unknown. Our kids’ ripe young imaginations and unbridled curiosities give them a natural inclination to be drawn towards the unknown despite their fears. Could you say the same thing about your kid(s)?
I’m not attesting you force your own children to watch horror films when they have no interest in them at all - don’t be cruel. If they do show some interest, however, there’s no reason not to watch horror films with them. I’ve found from experience that even the silliest and campiest horror films can serve a useful purpose .
...and this is where the film 'The Night Watchmen' comes in. Screening at Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival on August 2, 2017, the film revolves around unlikely heroes - in fact they are as far from the hero archetype as they're going to get - and their battle to save the world against “clownpires”. Yes, clownpires, part clown, part vampire, and as to be expected, they feast on the living (I suppose describing corporate employees working the night shift as the 'living' is debateable but that's for another discussion altogether). The night guards aka the scary old dudes with the flashlights, paired with a young rookie and the token strong female, in a bumbled, awkward, and hilarious mess fight evil clowns infected with a sort of vampire virus. If the thought of clownpires doesn’t jostle your conventional expectations of vampire or clown portrayals in horror films a tad bit, the evening workers that the clownpires feast on turning into vampires with zombie-like characteristics will.
To put it simply, 'The Night Watchmen' is a fun-filled gore fest that can be compared with the likes of ‘Evil Dead’ (the original). The truth of the matter is most fan cult followers of films like the 'Evil Dead' do not watch the film to exercise intellectual discourse or thought. I am an avid fan and you will not find me analyzing the scenes like I’m back in film theory or cultural studies class. It doesn’t mean, however, that watching 'The Night Watchmen' with your kids though a ton of fun has to be a brain-numbing exercise.
Take and use this post as an “Introduction to Film Studies, Media Studies, or Cultural Studies for Kids” primer...or maybe use the info in this post as simply another way to bond with your kids..hey, whichever works best for you.
To get you started, here are some questions to ask to help spark a discussion with your kids. Depending on your kids’ ages, you may not get very far talking about some of these subjects, if at all. No matter. The whole point is to just introduce a few theoretical concepts to them and get them thinking and talking.
Did your child/children enjoy the film? What did they love/like/hate about it? Discuss what makes films like 'The Night Watchmen' attract an active fan cult following. Ask your child/children why they think the film appeals to or attracts viewers. You can discuss what a ‘cult’ following means in context to independent or art-house type films. You can show them the photos on Facebook of fan art surrounding the film or fans wearing clothing advertising their love of the film , as well as read reviews written by fans and non-fans alike. Explore the social or cultural significance when certain audiences proclaim their adoration for films such as ‘The Night Watchmen’. Your discussion can surround topics involving conventional ‘mainstream’ films vs. the unconventional types. Ask the question - what makes a film ‘mainstream’?
Talk about the clownpires. What are these creatures in 'The Night Watchmen'? Are they clowns, vampires, or zombies? Does the film challenge how vampires, zombies, or clowns are commonly portrayed in films and if so, in what sense? If your child was confused by the creatures like my 6 year old was (she asked to watch the film - she didn’t get an invite from me), I urge you to reflect on the confusion. What caused the confusion? What was particularly confusing about the creatures’ portrayals? My 6 year old asked me if she could just refer to the clownpires as zombies - that’s quite telling about how she has come to perceive zombies, clowns, or vampires. After establishing similarities and differences in the portrayals of these common monsters of popular culture, discuss the social or cultural significance of how they are commonly portrayed, what sets them apart from their human counterparts in the film, and ultimately how they are portrayed in 'The Night Watchmen'.
What makes the particular set of characters in 'The Night Watchmen' anti-heroes, or do your kids just classify them as heroes? Discuss the definition of a hero and how heroes have been portrayed in films. If the characters of the film were to fit common hero archetypes, how would they be different? How would Ken, the enthusiastic gun-toting guard, be different? How would Luca or Karen be different? How would the plot be different if the typical heroes were involved? How does your child identify with the anti-heroes of the film versus conventional hero types?
In the end, there are several topics you can discuss, and these are but just a few. If you are talking to younger kids, be sure to remember that you are not in a college seminar or in a film theory or cultural studies class with other film theorists or pop culture media geeks. Don’t bore your kids. Don’t lose them with your theoretical meanderings and philosophical lectures. Don't impose your opinions on them, and never show disappointment when they 'just don't get it'. For most, 'getting it' doesn't happen until later, if at all, so don't expect your kids to have deep philosophical or intellectual awakenings. Awaken or nurture their interest in film and cultural studies, open their minds by encouraging them to always raise questions, deepen their understanding of society and the people around them, let them express their thoughts freely but always remember that you are a parent and guardian first before their teacher - don’t let these roles be at odds with one another.
Here’s a disclaimer I feel necessary to emphasize before parents start watching the film with their young kids. First of all, I will always tell parents to watch the film first before involving the kids. Make sure it’s a film you are willing to show them in consideration of you knowing your children best. For the parents, however, who don’t wish to heed my advice and watch the film first, I have to make you aware that 'The Night Watchmen' contains images which depict extreme gore and violence (yah, well, duh), partial nudity (breasts to be exact), sexually themed scenes, and drug use. I leave it up to you to make a decision based on what is ultimately acceptable to you.
Well, this concludes the ‘How to use 'The Night Watchmen' to introduce your kids to film and cultural studies guide’...or just something to add to your repertoire of ways to spend quality bonding time with your kids. For those of you interested in obtaining a list of fun and spooky arts/crafts/writing projects to do to help initiate conversations surrounding horror films, Join our Circus by scrolling to the form below and you will receive updates on these projects as they arise.