Trolls, Holes, Gremlins, Goonies and seeing movies at the wrong age.

Really enjoyed Troll Hunter the other night, but slightly baffled by its 15 rating for ‘sustained intense threat’. I watched it with the kids (10 and 12) who were thrilled, but never terrified.

But then my poor kids have been subjected to all sorts of horrors over the years. I made the mistake of showing them Gremlins when they were way too young, and they never made it past the first hour, and this has subsequently put them off ever watching it, or its sequel, ever again (the merest suggestion sends them running from the room).

And yet they both loved Joe Dante’s more recent and much more frightening movie The Hole…

So I guess it all comes down to timing. This blog post was inspired by a chat with my friend Jo who revealed a friend of hers didn’t get The Goonies. I didn’t understand. He’s about the same age as me, and everyone in my generation loves The Goonies. Was he mentally deficient somehow? Missing a gene? No, he’d simply made the mistake of seeing it in his 30s and for him it was a bunch of annoying kids running around.

I first saw it when I was 12. I was in California on an exchange trip and feeling very, very homesick. The previous film I’d seen on that holiday was Mask…

Aaargh! Laura Dern!

… so my hopes weren’t high. But The Goonies was a non-stop roller coaster thrill ride, that made me laugh so much I thought I’d puke, and the people sitting around me were giving me some very concerned looks. For me, it’s one of the most pivotal films of my childhood. Beyond reproach.

Similarly, esteemed critic and Jessie Birdsall look-a-like Mark Kermode has frequently said he just doesn’t get Star Wars. And I totally understand this: to really feel the full power of the force you need to have seen it between the ages of 5 and 12 (I was 5: first generation Star Wars fan and it ruined my life).

So be wary of film ratings and remember that age and context is everything. The Omen (first viewing aged 11) is far scarier than The Exorcist (I was 21), but nowhere near as ball-tighteningly horrific as the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz (I was probably 3) or the ultimate horror… the video for Bohemian Rhapsody (age 2).

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Author, screenwriter, and co-founder of the Bestseller Experiment podcast.

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