Alice and Bob are two mischievous little kids aged around 8-12. One day, they decide they'll go to the movies. Their parents are fine with this, but warn the two of them not to see that new horror film that just came out. Alice and Bob swear they'll see an age appropriate kid film and go off to the movies innocently. Of course, they'll go see the horror film anyway, either getting in easily or sneaking in if the guy at the ticket booth won't let a pair of kids in. This backfires when they find out how terrifying and gruesome the horror movie is, and nearly end up half-traumatized. The rest of the episode will usually consist of them having nightmares and eventually being outed to the parents at seeing the film. Another common version is the kids watching it at home when the parents are out. Sometimes, though less common, the parents will be there as well.
Of course, in Real Life, a lot of children enjoy a good horror movie. At least depending on their age.
If this trope pops up in a kids' sitcom, it will almost always overlap with Can't Get Away with Nuthin'. See also Girls Are Really Scared of Horror Movies and Scare 'em Straight. When something like this happens in Real Life, see What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?. It can sometimes be inverted when adults are terrified of the movie but kids love it (for example, Neil Gaiman noticed this reaction with regards to Coraline). See also Fridge Horror for that case; perhaps the kids don't understand why the events of the movie are something to be afraid of.
- Bill Cosby:
- His famous "Chicken Heart" routine is this with a horror radio show (Arch Oboler's Lights Out). It culminates in him smearing Jell-O on the floor to trap the giant heart and setting the couch on fire.
- Another routine involves him and a friend going to the movies and trying to watch Frankenstein, and never opening their eyes to see the monster. This leads to them staying at the theater for hours, through multiple showings, trying to build up the courage to look at the monster. Afterwards, he and his friend walk home, late at night, scared that the monster's going to jump out and get them. This leads to them running into a wino, mistaking him for the monster, and running up his front and down his back, and all the way home.
- Calvin and Hobbes:
- Calvin, allowed to stay up one night without a babysitter, decides to rent a VCR (kids, ask your parents) and a bunch of scary movies. The aftermath:
- After reading a bunch of scary comics in A Nauseous Nocturne, Calvin fears a monster is coming to eat him. He's right.
- He also gets pretty traumatized after reading a superhero comic where the superhero gets his spine blown to pieces. He tries to cope by watching TV, but his mom responds "There's too much violence on TV. Why don't you go read something?"
- In Zits, Jeremy watches Scream (1996), The Exorcist, and The Blair Witch Project when he's home alone, and every little sound in the house starts terrifying him. He ends up not sleeping because of it. And killing the water heater with a baseball hat when it gurgles. Connie actually predicted this might happen before she and Walt left.
Connie: Check the fuses. Every light in the house is going to be on tonight.
- One Sunday strip of For Better or for Worse has Elizabeth and April laughing at a low-grade B-movie, and then going up to bed. Cue both girls lying in bed wide-eyed in fear and unable to sleep.
- The basic plot of "Home UnAlone" (from Calvin and Hobbes: The Series) is this, though it takes an interesting twist...
- The Time Fixers: Nicktoons of the Future episode "Cousin Calamity", Mickey takes the Nicktoon Cadets to watch a Jaws parody movie which scares Junior so much that he becomes afraid of water.
- The Iron Giant: Upon unexpectedly having to work late, Annie Hughes forbids her son Hogarth from gorging on snacks, staying up too late, or watching scary movies. So, naturally, he plunks down in front of the TV with a box of Twinkies to catch the midnight Creature Feature as soon as she's gone. And it's his paranoia over hearing noises after being creeped out by the movie that leads him to leave the house with his flashlight, helmet, and BB gun, and discover the Giant for the first time.
- In the first Home Alone movie, Kevin watches an old gangster movie that he was previously not allowed to see. It ends up scaring him, but he later uses the audio of that scene to ward off the burglars (as well as to scare the living daylights out of a pizza deliveryman). He watches another in the second one and the same thing happens, except he uses it to ward off the hotel staff instead.
- In Ways to Live Forever, Sam and his friend Felix watch a horror movie in secret, until the parents find out and freak out. As the two kids are dealing with leukemia, they wanted to be able to say they've seen a horror film before they die which puts the parents in an interesting situation.
- This is Framing Device of Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders which prompts grandpa Ernest Borgnine to switch to telling the kid a G-rated wizard story instead.
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid:
- In Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, Greg and Rowley watch a B-Movie called Hello, You're Dead that they found in Rodrick's room, featuring a muddy hand. Rowley has his eyes covered the whole movie. Greg doesn't find the movie all that scary... until the end, when the "muddy hand" crawls straight to the screen, meaning the "hand" is coming for the viewer next.
- Manny, who's already scared of ghosts, accidentally watches one of the horror movies left in a player. The result is a Nightmare Fuel Coloring Book.
- Discussed in the Harry Potter spin-off, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a collection of wizard fairy tales with commentary by Albus Dumbledore. He tells the true story of a little girl who was once ordered to go to bed, because she was too young to hear the story about to be told to her older siblings. The story, "The Warlock's Hairy Heart", was about a bitter man removing his heart so he would never fall in love, who eventually killed a woman and ripped out her heart and ate it to try and feel emotion. She was so traumatized that she rewrote and Bowdlerized all the tales into horrible mountains of glurge. She never could manage to do it to TWHH, so she just refused to print it.
- In Sonic The Hedgehog In Castle Robotnik the gang at the start of the book are watching one and everybody (even way-past-cool Sonic) are scared at one point or another. It was apparently even worse than last weeks The Scrunchback of Dotty Name.
- The current page quote is lifted from the 27th book in the Christian kid's book series The Incredible Worlds Of Wally Mc Doogle, My Life as a Haunted Hamburger (Hold the Pickles), wherein the eponymous 13-year-old Walking Disaster Area Wally McDoogle sneaks into a horror movie called Body-Stealing Ghosts from Jupiter. He is so traumatized by the film that it's almost a parody of this trope, unable to even write a superhero story without elements from the film slipping in. Unusually for this trope, we are never shown if Wally's parents ever found out that he watched the movie, and it mainly serves to kick off the plot of the story. (Where Wally and his friend Wall Street set out to find out if there really are such things as ghosts after an argument over whether or not there are.)
- The Suite Life of Zack and Cody has the twins take their dates not to see the kiddie film "Doggie Came Home", but the horror film "Zombie Mom". Zack ends up having nightmares and sleepwalking in the hotel, stacking the lobby furniture against the door to stop the zombies.
- A variation happens in an episode of Lizzie McGuire where Matt gets scared watching a horror film, though it happens with his parents present. He ends up trying to Feng Sheui the house to get rid of evil spirits.
- In an episode of Jessie, Zuri develops a deathly fear of dolls and won't sleep in her own bed after watching a scary doll movie with Emma (although Emma isn't scared).
- Not a horror film, but in Raising Dad, Sarah takes Emily with her and her friends to see an R-rated movie called "Love To Love". Emily ends up trying to practice making out with a boy from school. At the end of the episode, Sarah reveals that she's been lying to her dad about what movies she sees for years.
- One episode of Hope & Faith has the family try to convince Hope to quit her chef job by showing themselves pretending to be completely lost without her. Justin's part?
- On Full House, Stephanie wouldn't eat Jell-O for a month after watching The Blob (1958), but she demands to be allowed to watch The Wolf Man (1941) with D.J. and Kimmy. When Jesse caves in, she winds up scared by that too, and he winds up dragooned by Joey and Danny into helping her get over her alarm by playing a slacker teen wolfman in an improvised skit.
- An early Wizards of Waverly Place episode deals with an underage Alex sneaking off to see an R-rated, Scream-like horror movie, against her parents and Justin's wishes. She magically, accidentally becomes trapped in the movie in the process, and Justin has to save her.
- Zoey 101 has Dustin watching a Japanese horror film with the guys against his sister's orders. He naturally gets so scared, he refuses to sleep in his own dorm room. When Zoey and her friends tire of Dustin wanting to sleep in their room every night, Zoey confronts him and he admits that he wasn't really scared after the first night and just wanted to spend more time with his sister.
- Gabe did this twice on Good Luck Charlie:
- He threw a Slumber Party where he and his friends watched a horror movie leading them to mistake Bob for a zombie.note
- When PJ leaves for a two-day Kwiki Chicky college, Gabe becomes thrilled to have his own room and celebrates. However, after watching a horror movie, he is too scared to spend a night alone and even forces Charlie to sleep with him.
- In The Goldbergs episode "Mini Murray", Pops wants to see The Great Mouse Detective, but Adam wants to see Poltergeist. How does he accomplish this? By telling Pops that Poltergeist is The Great Mouse Detective. Adam winds up getting scared of some things in the episode, like a clown doll, and attempts to throw it out.
Pops: Where the (bleep) was the mouse?
- In "Mister Knifey-Hands", Jackie's parents let Adam see A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), since he claims he's old enough to handle it, and ends up having nightmares and trying not to fall asleep.
- Phil of the Future has underage Pim sneak out to watch the scary movie "Creepy Crawlings" with Curtis disguised as her father (although Curtis was more interested in watching a rock documentary film called "Rocky Ridge"). Needless to say, she gets scared and receives her Laser-Guided Karma.
- Parodied on Father Ted, where amazingly thick twenty-something Dougal is warned to definitely not watch the horror movie that's coming on that night. You can probably guess what happens from then. What makes it even better is that in an earlier episode, he gets scared out of his wits by a Goosebumps style book written by Gary Lineker.
Dougal: Whew. I'm not reading that book any more, Ted!
- Inverted in Cory in the House. Cory, Newt, and Mina attempt to exploit this to rid of Sophie. It ends up backfiring when they themselves get scared and Sophie doesn't.
- The Australian soap Neighbours once featured a storyline in which a young boy suffered nightmares after watching a horror video which two older teenagers had left lying around.
- The plot of the Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn episode "Field of Brains". The quads wanted to watch the eponymous horror film although their parents said they were too young. This led them into thinking there really was a Zombie Apocalypse.
- The Shake It Up! episode "Party It Up" has Flynn watch a horror movie.
- Max & Shred had neighbor Howie watching from the stairs the horror movie Abby and her mother were watching. They tried to placate Howie by showing her kiddie films and giving her anything she asked for. This was ultimately subverted as she loved horror films and had seen that movie nine times before.
- Even though the "kid" in the situation is a 40-year-old man, Brent from Corner Gas is pressured to watch a horror movie by his parents and Wanda after he admits he has never seen one. He's the only one who doesn't get scared by it. Oscar and Emma are too scared to go into their basement, and Wanda is too scared to go into the gas station's stockroom. Oscar was somehow scared by the movie despite having slept through the whole thing.
Oscar: I saw the credits. [nervously] Some of the letters were bleeding.
- In one episode of McGee and Me!, "The Not-So-Great Escape", Nicholas wants to see a new horror movie, but his parents won't let him see it, and ground him when he argues that he should. He manages to sneak out, but ends up not liking the movie.
- In an episode of The Cosby Show, Vanessa wants to see a movie that is not a horror movie per se, but is violent. Her parents forbid her to go, but she goes anyway. She later has nightmares so bad she makes herself strong coffee to keep awake.
- Possibly referenced in the opening to the Moxy Früvous song "Splatter Splatter":
Kids in their PJ's, big bowl of Nachos
Another perfect day in Rhododendron Park
The sun is shining, now dad's reclining
Roll down the shades to watch a movie in the dark
- The Hurricane says he gained a fear of/desire to destroy twins after his babysitter had him watch The Shining. He also hates the idea of clones, because they're basically the same thing twins.
- The Dinosaurs episode "Monster Under the Bed" Starts out with Earl letting Baby watch a horror movie involving a mad scientist bringing vegetables to life. Naturally, the Baby spends the next few days screaming about a monster under his bed, keeping his parents up. Then it transpires that there really is something under the bed...!
- Alvin and the Chipmunks has "Nightmare on Seville Street," where Alvin, Simon, and Theodore see a ''Hideous Harold'' movie and get scared out of their wits. Later on, there's a storm which knocks out the power, and naturally their imaginations run wild. Later on, Dave has to go out in the storm in a hat and raincoat, prompting the boys to believe that Hideous Harold himself is out there...
- Subverted on Arthur. Muffie's parents try to ban the "Scare Your Pants Off Club" books (an expy of Goosebumps) after she has nightmares from reading one. It turns out that she reads them all the time and that the nightmares were caused by her sneaking ice cream.
- Played somewhat straight when Arthur and Buster watch The Squirrels. Mrs. Baxter mentioned how the movie scared her as a kid and thinks the boys can handle it. Naturally, Arthur and Buster are terrified of the movie and develop a fear of squirrels from it, but they don't want to admit it to anyone else. Eventually, it turns out the entire gang saw the film except Binky. Eventually when Arthur and Buster tend to an injured squirrel does their fear go away, but then Binky rents the movie and is now scared of squirrels.
- In an episode of The Buzz on Maggie, Maggie and Rayna sneak into a scary R-rated movie. Rayna ends up so traumatized she'd rather watch the baby movie that's playing on another screen. Maggie plays it cool at first, but eventually starts hallucinating the movie's monster everywhere until she confesses to her parents. They decide her trauma from watching the movie was punishment enough.
- In the Bob's Burgers episode "The Trouble with Doubles", Louise hosts a screening of a scary movie while Bob and Linda are away. Everyone but Louise and Tina is traumatized, so much that they can't get them to leave before Bob and Linda return. Tina has to calm them down by showing them an embarrassing video of her as a baby being potty trained.
- Camp Lazlo: In "Movie Night", according to the Bean Scout regulations, Edward is too young to watch Mountain Zombies of Scab Lagoon (rated BB, Big Boys), and has to watch Mr. Cotton Goes to Bubbleland instead. He later locks himself in the projection room and watches Mountain Zombies of Scab Lagoon alone and scares himself silly.
- One episode of the Dexter's Laboratory reboot has both Dexter and his dad sneak downstairs after bed time to watch the late night b-movie horror flick, The Parasite Within. This results in the two of them getting increasingly freaked out when searching the dark house after the movie is over, and the next morning has both of them frozen in a catatonic state in the hallway.
- Doug did this in both Nick and Disney versions of the show: In the former, Doug goes to watch a monster flick but can't get through the movie without covering his eyes when the monster reveals itself, leading to nightmares. He eventually gains the courage to finally sit through it and finds that, not only is the monster not scary looking, but the zipper on the costume is showing. In the Disney version, Doug is forbidden from seeing an R-rated Terminator-like flick that everyone is talking about. He and Skeeter manage to sneak in and are horrified by the violence of it. When having dinner with the family, he daydreams their heads coming off their bodies and flying around. When he wakes up from the nightmare, he ends up spouting to his parents that he went to see the film in hiding and gets grounded.
- Inverted in the DuckTales (2017) episode "Terror of the Terra-firmians!". After watching a horror movie about mole monsters, the children are either very entertained by the excessive violence in the movie, or overly critical about the various plot holes. However, Launchpad, one of the adults accompanying them, is utterly traumatized, believing that the movie depicted true events.
- In "Horville's Hut of Horrors", an episode of the Ewoks cartoon, Wicket and his friends take their younger siblings to the titular Hut of Horrors, instead of to the Wokling-friendly Tumble Bunnies Show as instructed by their respective parents, leaving the Woklings deeply traumatised and the older Ewok children desperate to avoid being found out. That night, Wicket has a nightmare in which his mother tells him that, for scaring his little sister, he will "never set foot out of this hut again". Waking, he confesses and, as punishment, is made to miss the forthcoming warriors' overnight in order to give the Woklings their own private Tumble Bunnies Show, with him as the ringmaster.
- Inverted in an episode of the The Fairly Oddparents, Timmy and Poof are both forbidden by their parents to watch the horror movie, I Was a Teenage Blowfly as Mrs. Turner and Wanda both think this will be in effect. But it's Mr. Turner who is the jumpy one through the whole episode, even starting a mob upon seeing a Fly-Headed Timmy (the result of a wish Timmy made with Poof so they can both see the movie). After Timmy clears up everything, his dad allows him to watch the movie with him while still under the bravado that he isn't scared... until he is spooked by Mrs. Turner coming into the room with face cream. Timmy doesn't even flinch.
- The Goof Troop episode "Midnight Movie Madness" dealt with Max and PJ seeing a horror film. Ironically, Max gets scared and he wanted to see it and PJ ends up enjoying it even though he didn't want to see it. After Pete finds out, and learns it didn't scare PJ, he tells him that the movie was based on a true story and ends up scaring them for most of the night. Meanwhile, Goofy gets locked out of the house during a thunderstorm and gets covered in mud and leaves, making Max, PJ, and Pete think he's the killer.
- In the Halloween Episode of Jem, one of the Starlight Girls is terrified of a horror film she watched. She's terrified of Halloween period and is superstitious, though Jerrica tries to show her that it's a fun and lighthearted holiday.
- Johnny Test:
- One episode has Johnny and Dukey, after several attempts, getting an M-rated game. They get nightmares after they play it.
- Another episode had Johnny stay up late watching a horror movie marathon despite his dad telling him not to. To ensure that he wakes up on time and keep his illicit film-viewing a secret, he steals his sisters' alarm clock, which just happens to be programmed to record the sleeper's dreams and make them real.
- An episode of Kid vs. Kat has Coop and Dennis both staying up to watch a Creature Feature style horror show, which Kat takes as an opportunity to scare the hell out of them.
- The Loud House episode "The Price of Admission" has Lincoln sneak into a scary movie called "The Harvester" against his parents' will. He's scared when he gets home and can't spend any time in the dark without thinking of the movie.
- Happens in Miraculous Ladybug, with Villain of the Week Sandboy getting akumatized because he was terrified of a movie he watched before going to bed.
- In the Monsters vs. Aliens episode "Attack of the Movie Night", Sqweep sees a horror movie despite being warned not to, and gets scared by the monster in the movie. To get him over his fear, the monsters device a costume like the one in the movie to get him to face his fear. Only two things wrong with that scenario: One, Sqweep got the memory of the movie extracted, so when he sees Coverton wearing the costume, instead of being scared, starts attacking him; and two, that extracted memory comes to life, so now the movie monster is on the loose.
- Pepper Ann:
- Pepper Ann gets invited to a slumber party where they will be watching the R-rated film "Gutter Clowns", which Lydia warns Pepper Ann against seeing. At first, Pepper Ann tries to stop the girls at the party from watching the film, but ends up watching it anyway, and is terrified for the next few days.
- Subverted with her friend Nicky watching the movie right next to her, and she's amused by the So Bad, It's Good Cliché Storm.
- Rocket Power: In "Reggie: The Movie", Reggie goes to see a horror movie called "Sharkenstein's Revenge" that scares her so badly that she blows a big surfing competition the next day. In this case, her father actually gave her permission to see the movie if she thought she could handle it and, although she didn't want to see it, she was goaded into it by her friends calling her chicken.
- Rugrats: "Real or Robots" begins with Tommy and Chuckie watching a scary movie where a Mad Scientist replaces all the children's parents with robots, which, as Stu points out, is way too scary for infants to watch. This makes Tommy become suspicious that his father is a robot.
- In The Simpsons:
- Homer takes Bart and Lisa to see a horror film about a possessed doll. All three end up terrified that there's a monster in their attic, which leads into the episode's real plot about Artie Ziff living in their attic.
- "Wild Barts Can't Be Broken" has the neighborhood kids sneak out after curfew to a drive-in to watch The Bloodening (a parody of Village of the Damned). They aren't traumatized at all, and it just turns into another thing they're being unjustly policed for.
- In "O Brother, Where Bart Thou?", Bart takes the orphan Charlie to see Sever V. After Charlie is scared witless, Bart realises that having a little brother involves more responsibility than he previously thought.
- In one of the original shorts from The Tracey Ullman Show, Bart drags Lisa and Maggie with him to watch a scary alien invasion film rather than the latest installment of the Happy Little Elves. Lisa and Maggie wind up dealing with the movie just fine, but Bart ends up screaming in terror when one of the aliens in the film happens to look just like him.
- The SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Don't Look Now!" has SpongeBob and Patrick go to the movie theater to watch a horror movie called "Fisherman 4", which naturally leaves them terrified. Squidward decides to have some fun by dressing up as said Fisherman and scaring them late at night.
- A comic parodies this: The duo sneak into a pirate-only movie rated "Arggh!". Patrick thinks the movie was so violent, it made him blind, but it turns out the movie screen had been blank the whole time.
- The Tiny Toon Adventures episode "Duck in the Dark", where Plucky watches a marathon of Eddie Cougar horror movies, including one that has him attacking a screaming Bambi. It ends up giving Plucky horrible nightmares.
Plucky: Only a total idiot would be afraid of these movies!
Buster: I rest my case.
- The VeggieTales episode "Where's God When I'm S-scared" starts with Junior Asparagus watching "Frankencelery," and becoming frightened by everything in the house after that. Somewhat subverted when the Aesop is "God will protect you so you don't need to be scared," not "You shouldn't have watched that movie."
- The infamous "elevator of blood" trailer for The Shining was shown in front of E.T. in some theaters. Yikes.
- Many, many parents have brought their children to see The Passion of the Christ due to its religious content, even though the film is very violent and brutal. For instance, it was rated for all audiences in Bolivia, in spite of all international recommendations, and all screenings were full of children (and a few adults) bursting in crying, vomit, or both.
- Rob Zombie:
- He once said that the first time he and his brother were left alone in the house they decided to watch The Exorcist and deeply regretted it.
- He also has mentioned that, for years, he had a fear of going into water due to having watched Jaws.
- Roger Ebert noted that many kids went to see Night of the Living Dead (1968) thinking it was a family-friendly horror film - and ended up leaving in tears. This was because the MPAA system hadn't really been established yet.