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How to create a family-friendly horror movie
A recent Reddit thread looked into whether a PG or G rated horror movie could be created, even though they're mainly a thing of the past. - photo by Herb Scribner
Is it possible to make a horror movie thats suitable for families?

Redditors tried to answer that question this week in a thread called How would you make a G or PG rated horror film that would be enjoyable for adults? (This thread contains some mature language.) Their answers ranged from the new and innovative to the surprisingly realistic.

It would be enjoyable for adults not because it scares them, but due to its style and humor, Mr_Mu wrote about what he feels would make an effective family-friendly horror movie.

Another commenter said a PG horror movie would have it play out as a comedy for adults, but a horror movie for children.

Some commenters were a little more imaginative with specific movie ideas, like user lightlycrisped, who wrote that a PG horror movie could start childish and then subtly become a horror film.

Make it something that in the beginning seems like a totally normal children's movie, but over the course of the film, several subtleties become clearer and clearer to the adult audience which make it very unsettling and disturbing, lightlycrisped wrote.

And then there was a joking, yet politically infused movie idea from Rusty Detective: Student loans and paying house bills, while (maintaining) a stable family. Then all of a sudden both parents lose their jobs.

There are also some PG horror movie options already, like animated films ParaNorman, Monster House and The Nightmare Before Christmas, that families have embraced in recent years. Movies like Jaws (1975), Gremlins (1984) or Watership Down (1978) are also rated PG and considered to be horror films, too.

But, as Reddit users pointed out, movies like "Jaws" and "Gremlins" were released before 1984 when the PG-13 rating was invented and would have likely garnered a PG-13 rating if they were released today because of their strong language and mature themes.

That would effectively make those films unsuitable for many families. As I wrote in 2013, a study from the Annenberg Public Policy Center and University of Pennsylvania found that PG-13 and R-rated movies have a similar amount of violence. The study said that 90 percent of PG-13 and R-rated films had main characters use violence, and 77 of those movies had characters partake in sexual behaviors and showed alcohol and tobacco use.

There is essentially no difference between the most popular movies rated PG-13 for younger viewers and restricted, R-rated films in showing main characters engaged in both violence and alcohol use or violence and sexual behavior, according to the study.

So if PG is the new PG-13, and PG-13 is the new R, is it possible to have family-friendly horror movies anymore?

According to these Reddit users, yes, as long as the films are tame and approach horror subtly.

Anything truly scary (will) be PG-13 even if there is no adult content, wrote enderandrew42. But it is entirely possible to make a movie that is terrifying without nudity, gore or swearing.

Users gave the example of the sci-fi film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) because it has moments of complete silence mixed with terrifying music, which make it somewhat of a horror film though still rated G and suitable for young viewers and families.
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