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Kids Shouldn't Watch Horror Films

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The good news was: The movie didn't affect me at all. I mean, other than the seventeen nightmares, never setting my bare tootsies on the floor again (they say body-stealing ghosts love hiding under beds.), never sticking my head out from under the covers for the next month...or two. Of course, there was the minor problem of breaking into hysterical screams every time I heard strange and mysterious sounds - like my chattering teeth, my knocking knees, or my whimpering between breaths. But other than that, everything was great.
The Incredible Worlds Of Wally Mc Doogle (following the eponymous character sneaking into an R-rated horror flick)

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, things can be a bit more complicated. Anecdotal evidence often is self-contradicting: pointing that lots of children enjoy a good horror movie, while others are badly scared by it. It also doesn't help that this trope is largely reliant on popular knowledge, with actual and trustworthy psychological studies backing (or denying) it being hard to come by.

If this trope pops up in a kids' sitcom, it will almost always overlap with Can't Get Away with Nuthin' and/or Fear Is Normal. In many cases, a thunderstorm will occur for atmospheric effect, often when the kids are terrified after watching the movie, complete with Dramatic Thunder. See also Scare 'Em Straight. When something like this happens in Real Life, see What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?. Compare and contrast Scary Fiction Is Fun, with the kids often putting in the horror movie thinking it will be thoroughly entertaining. 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. It can also be prone to Do Not Do This Cool Thing, if the audience thinks the in-universe movie looks fun, but the characters watching it are scared.

As the examples below will show, this trope is subverted or defied very frequently, and usually very pointedly. Sometimes the child character is scared, but is ultimately glad to have faced their fears, and watching their first scary movie is treated as a Rite of Passage. Other times the writers themselves are horror fans, and are sick of Moral Guardians using their favourite entertainment as a scapegoat.

Contrast with Unabashed B-Movie Fan, who watches monster movies all the time, generally without consequence, and Entertainment Above Their Age, when a kid is fine with adult fiction. Also see Defanged Horrors, for horror movies specifically targeted at kids.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • An early Crayon Shin-chan manga have the titular character watching a horror movie, despite his mother Misae telling him not to. Shin-Chan ignores her, and starts having trouble sleeping late at night because of what he just watched and suddenly feels the need to use the loo alone. Before eventually wetting himself when seeing Misae in a cucumber mask (and getting a scolding from his mother in the aftermath).

  • 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.

    Comic Strips 
  • 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:
      Calvin's Dad: Well, the house is still standing. Calvin must have gone to bed.
      Calvin's Mom: His light is still on. Calvin? Are you awake? [opens bedroom door, gets hit by Bucket Booby-Trap] EEP!
      Calvin's Mom (now looking uncannily like a Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl): DID YOU WATCH A SCARY MOVIE?!?
      Calvin: No. Don't come in. The rug is rigged too.
    • 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?"
    • There's also a minor running gag that he keeps asking his parents (or, occasionally, Rosalyn the babysitter) to let him watch violent exploitation movies with titles like Cannibal Stewardess Vixens Unchained and Attack of the Co-Ed Cannibals. Averted in that he never actually gets to see these movies.
    • In another strip, Calvin watches a kaiju movie (implied to be Godzilla vs. Megalon) and imagines he is Godzilla. This is a variation on the trope because he's not scared so much as he is inspired to cause trouble and make a mess.
  • In Zits, Jeremy watches Scream, 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 bat 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.
  • Subverted twice in a Hi and Lois strip. Lois says Chip shouldn't watch a horror movie with his baby sister Trixie in the room. Chip says that she's too young to understand what's happening, and offers the fact she's smiling as evidence. Trixie then thinks that she's smiling because she likes the horror movie.
  • Crabgrass: This comic, Kevin brings a horror movie to his sleepover with Miles. The boys secretly watch it while Miles' parents are already asleep, and it ends up terrifying them.
  • Kid Paddle: Kid keeps trying to get into gorefest horror movies (using countless variations on a Totem Pole Trench) but never makes it past the cashier.

    Fan Works 
  • Calvin & Hobbes: The Series: The basic plot of "Home UnAlone" is this, though it takes an interesting twist when Calvin's resulting paranoia gets ramped up by Hobbes taking advantage of it to prank him.
  • Discord's New Business: The CMC became adults mainly because they wanted to watch a play that's an Expy of Marble Hornets. After watching the play, they're scared out of their minds.
  • Double Subverted with the Cerise children in the Blossomverse. Despite Chloe and Parker being 10 and 5 respectively, they regularly indulge in horror content like Silent Hill and aren't particularly traumatized by it... problem is, the fact that they can handle it gives them an unrealistic idea of how well everyone else can handle it. This becomes a serious problem when Parker gets the ability to make his scary stories a reality, and thinks re-enacting his favorite Cryptkeeper episodes on everyone else is the fastest way to fix everything.
  • Lucy's Secret: Discussed — Maggie is leery about playing Night of the Living Dead (1968) at the sleepover, because some of the girls there are quite young (the youngest, Lucy, is only eight). However, due to most of the partygoers being goths, the only one who gets scared is Luan, a teen.
  • 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.

    Films — Animation 
  • 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • At the beginning of Home Alone, Kevin is told he's not allowed to watch a certain movie when "the big kids can". When he's later left, ahem, home alone, one of the first things he does to celebrate his newfound freedom is to watch what we can assume is the very movie previously forbidden to him, Angels With Filthy Souls, an old (and sadly, fictitious) gangster movie in black-and-white. 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). Much like facing his fears in the house's Creepy Basement, watching the violent mob movie is treated as a moment of growth in the movie's Coming of Age Story.
  • 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.
  • In the Framing Device of Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders, a little boy is watching such a movie (The Devil's Gift, from the same director) with his grandfather, played by Ernest Borgnine. When the power goes out, Grandpa Borgnine says that it's just as well, since his parents probably wouldn't like him watching that kind of movie anyway. Subverted when the grandfather then spends the rest of the movie telling the kid about a screenplay he once wrote that is also really dark and disturbing (although Grandpa Borgnine doesn't seem to realize this), and is, ironically, mostly made from repurposed footage from the very movie they were watching earlier. The movie ends with the little boy falling asleep peacefully on the couch.
  • In The Monster Squad, Sean asks his dad for money to go see a very violent slasher called Groundhog Day (note that the actual Groundhog Day, which is not a slasher movie, wasn't out yet). Dad's concern comes across as too little, too late; Sean is already obsessed with horror movies, and it's actually implied that this gives him the emotional training he'll need later on in the movie when the monsters show up for real.
  • Discussed and defied in The Deadly Spawn with Charles, another Kid Hero obsessed with monster movies (mostly older ones from the '50s). Charles' uncle, a psychologist, asks to interview him as research for an upcoming conference, trying to determine the impact these movies have on him, whether they cause nightmares, and how he relates to the characters in the movies. All of Charles' answers make it clear that he's a pretty ordinary, healthy kid, and that these movies are not - despite the moral panic of the day - warping him. Similiar to the Monster Squad example above, Charles is by far the most level-headed and capable character once the real monsters show up.
  • In Matinee, the main character's little brother is terrified by the trailer for a monster movie called Mant! but decides he really wants to see it anyway. What we see of Mant! is an intentionally cheesy Affectionate Parody of the creature features of the '50s and '60s. The main character himself does have a bad dream, but it's not inspired by the horror movies he likes to watch so much as the constant threat of nuclear annihilation (the movie is set during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the kids' dad is part of the US naval blockade). The real message of Matinee is that horror movies help us process the world around us, which is often much scarier.
  • In The Babadook, the protagonist's son is reduced to screaming tears after she reads him a very scary pop-up book. She herself is even more disturbed, partly because she has no idea how the book got into his bedroom in the first place.
  • In the Framing Story of Creepshow, Tom Atkins' character berates and even slaps his son for reading a horror comic. It's played as abuse by a Knight Templar Parent, rather than legitimate concern.
  • Masquerade (2021): The post-credits scene shows two terrified adults in the woods. This is later revealed to be a movie, with Casey and Sofia watching. Sofia comments that it's too scary for kids, not long before Casey has a real-life nightmare to deal with.

  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid:
    • In 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 story of a little girl who accidentally overheard the story her aunt was telling to her older cousins. 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 week's 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.
  • One of S. J. Perelman's "Cloudland Revisited" essays had young Sidney having this reaction to the original Fu Manchu novel to the point of barricading his bedroom door, setting boobytraps, and sleeping under his bed to avoid surprise attacks. He's gotten over it as an adult. Maybe.
    ... I see now how phlegmatic I have become with advancing age. Apart from causing me to cry out occasionally in my sleep and populating my pillow with a swarm of non-existent spiders, Rohmer's thriller was as abrasive to the nerves as a cup of warm Ovaltine.
  • The picture book The Mouse Twins and the Scary Night features a couple of young mice who beg their teenage groundhog babysitter to watch Super Mouse and the Jungle Monster, despite him saying it's too scary for them. He gives in and during the film, there's a power outage from the storm outside. Then, the babysitter falls asleep and the mouse twins become convinced the big and scary monster from the movie is outside, but the "monster" is only a combination of their returning mother, Andy Mouse's kite blowing in the wind, and a broken tree branch scratching on the window glass.
  • Roys Bedoys: In “Don’t Watch Grown-Up Movies, Roys Bedoys!”, Roys and Maker get scared after watching a scary “grown-up movie”.
  • In The October Child, eight-year-old Adrienne is banned from watching horror movies after she starts thinking that flying foxes are vampire bats. She still watches them in secret, though.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show: Subverted in "When a Bowling Pin Talks, Listen". Ritchie begs Rob to read him The Raven or The Tell-Tale Heart. Rob refuses because he doesn't want any more nightmares. It turns out he meant himself, not Ritchie.
  • Ghosts (UK): Alison sets the TV up for Kitty to watch Grease, only for Julian to change it to A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) midway through. Kitty spends the night wide-awake in abject terror.
  • The Suite Life of Zack & 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?
    Justin: I was up all night watching The Exorcist. I will never go to church or sleep again.
    Hope: Charlie, how could you let him watch that? He still has nightmares from Elmo In Grouch Land.
  • 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.
  • The first-season Boy Meets World episode "It's a Wonderful Night" had a variation, where Cory and Shawn smuggle a VHS of an R-rated slasher film called I'm Blowing Up Your Head Part 6: Stumpy's Revenge into the house to watch while the parents are out. The problem is, Eric called in Mr. Feeny as a last-minute babysitter after the original one canceled, so Cory and Shawn keep trying to hide it from Mr. Feeny. Rather than be terrified, Cory and Shawn enjoy the movie, until Mr. Feeny catches a glimpse of a violent scene and goes to take the tape out of the VCR, but he ends up breaking the tape in the process...
    Mr. Feeny: This is rated "R!"
    Shawn: Yeah, R for "wRecked!"
  • 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.
  • The Goldbergs:
    • In 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, 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 (Night of the Blood Freaks, part four in a series that has included Dawn of the Blood Freaks, Day of the Blood Freaks, and, most recently, Twilight of the Blood Freaks), 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.
  • Game On (2015): In "Scary Movie", Toby and Seth watch a scary movie right before bed with predictable results.

  • 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

    Pro Wrestling 
  • 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.

    Puppet Shows 
  • 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...!

    Video Games 
  • Growing Up: While the protagonist's parents forbid them from watching R-rated horror movies, Wendy often gets grounded for sneaking out to them in middle school. Not that she's complaining since she likes those kinds of movies and is inspired by them to become a horror makeup artist.
  • I Was a Teenage Exocolonist: In Tammy's three-heart event, she cries because she got nightmares after watching the 2085 remake of Mothra vs. Godzilla at the lounge. If her father dies, she also laments that he made her feel safe from the "monsters" and that she misses him.
  • Subverted in Max: An Autistic Journey. Max mentions that his father doesn't want him playing Five Nights at Freddy's (a horror game with frequent jumpscares and disturbing imagery), but Max isn't bothered by the game at all, and even loves Freddy Fazbear, the game's animatronic star, enough to have a plushie of him.

    Web Animation 
  • In Turnabout Jackpot, this trope is part of a character's backstory: as a child, one of the case's witnesses, Flint Rockwell, was looking forward to watching cartoons on Easter Sunday, but the TV station accidentally aired a horror movie called Killer Bunnies from Beyond the Moon, traumatizing him and leaving him with a crippling case of leporophobianote  that lasts well into his adulthood.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • 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 that 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...
  • In The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Spoiler", Gumball wants to watch The Screamening and Anais wants to tag along, but Gumball insists that as a 4-year-old, she'd be traumatized by it. He ends up being right when she watches the ending and is left catatonic, while he and Darwin experience no such effects.
  • Arthur:
    • Subverted in "The Scare-Your-Pants-Off Club" where Arthur and his friends are fans of the titular Scare-Your-Pants-Off Club books (which are an expy of the Goosebumps series), but Muffy's parents start a movement to ban them after she has nightmares from reading one. It turns out that she reads them all the time, and her nightmares were really caused by her sneaking ice cream before bed.
    • Played straighter in "The Squirrels" when Arthur and Buster watch the titular movie, which is a squirrel-themed parody of The Birds. Mrs. Baxter mentioned how the movie scared her as a kid, but she thinks the boys can handle it. Naturally, the movie terrifies Arthur and Buster, and they 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 for Binky. Later, Arthur and Buster tend to an injured squirrel and realize their fears were unfounded after learning how squirrels aren't really that dangerous, but then Binky rents the movie and is now scared of squirrels.
    • Also played straighter in "Tales of Grotesquely Grim Bunny", where the new owner of the local comic book shop stocks most of the store with horror comics. The teenage customers are shown to love them, but Arthur and his friends find them too scary (with the only exception being Fern).
  • 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.
  • Subverted on an episode of Big City Greens. Cricket attempts to see a PG-13 movie called Kiss of Death, which the poster depicts a demonic skeletal biker. In the end, he is disturbed by what he sees, but not because of the violence and gore he was expecting, but because it's a Paranormal Romance film with lots of kissing, both onscreen and in the theater.
    • In "Sleepover Sisters", Tilly and her friend Andromeda try to stay up all night during a sleepover. As a "nuclear option", Andromeda puts a scary movie on the DVD player, thinking it will make them too scared to sleep. It works, but it also makes them so jumpy that when Cricket crashes the party, they think he's the monster from the movie and attack him.
  • 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. Amusingly, when he officially becomes a "Big Boy" a few minutes later and watches the same movie again, he finds that he is now able to watch it just fine and finds it enjoyable instead of terrifying.
  • Dexter's Laboratory: The season 3 episode "Scare Tactics" 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 Nickelodeon and Disney versions of the show, but was done twice in the Nickelodeon era.
    • In the Nickelodeon episode "Doug on His Own", Doug and Porkchop watch "The Evil House on the Prairie", a scary movie where a cursed house and all the inanimate objects in it come alive and eat every living thing that enters it, including its owners. Probably not a good film to watch when home alone for the first time, especially when a thunderstorm is brewing and since the movie's characters, a boy around Doug's age and his pet dog, are also home alone. Doug and Porkchop end up zapping themselves into the TV set to warn the owners of the house they will be eaten next after the house ate a bandit who tried to rob it, but it's already too late, until Porkchop zaps them out with the TV remote. Doug's decision to watch that movie soon comes back to haunt him when the power goes out and he and Porkchop go down into basement to fix it.
    • Another Nickelodeon episode, "Doug's Nightmare on Jumbo Street", had Doug going to watch a monster movie known as "The Abnormal", 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 episode "Doug's Movie Madness", Doug is forbidden from seeing "Targetman", 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.
  • The kids on Gravity Falls watch terrible horror movies reasonably often with no ill effect. This may partly be because the horror movies in question are cheesy B-movies rather than outright horror films. The one exception comes in the segment from the Halloween Episode "Little Gift Shop of Horrors", appropriately titled "Clay Day", whose plot is kicked off by Mabel's extreme reaction to a fantasy movie called The Voyages of Loinclothiclese, a spoof of Ray Harryhausen's films (especially The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts)... specifically the Cyclops in the movie who is animated in Stop Motion. Mabel, it turns out, has a terrible fear of Old-Timey Stop Motion Animation.
  • 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 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.
  • "Franklin and the Creepy Clock" from the Franklin spinoff Franklin and Friends has Franklin reading his little sister Harriet the scary story, Tobias Turtle and the Mysterious Clock after she begs him to do so. She is badly spooked by it and becomes frightened of Aunt T's grandfather clock until they all paint it together with soothing designs and ladybugs to make it not be scary.
  • 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.
  • Happens in the Jellystone! episode "Mr. Flabby Dabby Wabby Jabby" where child trio Augie Doggy, Yakky Doodle, and Shag Rugg disguise themselves as an adult in order to see a violent R-rated movie but get swept up in a series of escalating events around town. They eventually get to see the movie in the last scene but ultimately regret it.
  • 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 keeps 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:
    • In "The Price of Admission", Lincoln sneaks 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.
    • In "The Last Loud on Earth", Lincoln and Clyde are in the middle of a sleepover watching a zombie movie marathon and, having anticipated their parents wanting them in bed by 11:00 PM, sneak out of the house to watch the rest of the marathon in Lisa's bunker. While the boys are watching the marathon, a major storm hits Royal Woods that forces everyone to evacuate to the mall to wait it out, which then leads up to the Louds and McBrides to suspect the boys got lost in the storm. By the time the boys had finished watching the marathon, the storm passes and they find the house, let alone the entire city, deserted, leading them to suspect it's a Zombie Apocalypse. The boys are supposedly attacked by zombies on the way to the mall, but the zombies turn out to be their own fathers!
    • In "The Boss Maybe", he and Clyde watch "The Disemboweling", which Lucy says is the scariest movie of all time. They're so scared out of their wits it takes Leni reading them a more comfortable story to put them at ease.
  • 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 devise 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 (1991): "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 The Redeadening, 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 "Colonel Homer", Bart and Lisa watch Space Mutants VI. Lisa, scared, shuts her eyes and asks Bart to tell her when the scary part's over, prompting this classic line from Bart:
      If you don't watch the violence, you'll never get desensitived to it!
    • 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.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • The episode "Don't Look Now" has SpongeBob and Patrick (who are technically adults but act very childish) 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.
    • In "Krab-Borg", SpongeBob watches a late-night horror movie about a robot invasion called Night of the Robot, despite Gary's objections. SpongeBob tells Gary that he doesn't get scared watching movies like those, and in the very next scene, he becomes paranoid that people he knows might be robots. The next day at work, through a series of contrived coincidences, he starts to believe that Mr. Krabs is a robot.
    • 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.
  • 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." Junior also learns that while Frankencelery might be scary, the actor who plays him is a regular guy.

    Real Life 
  • 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.
  • Dan Avidan, of Ninja Sex Party and Game Grumps fame, has also spoken a few times about seeing Jaws at a young age, and getting a lifelong phobia of the ocean and any type of big swimming thing as a result.
  • 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.
  • Back when Disney Studios strongly limited video releases of their films, the 1983 theatrical re-release of Fantasia had Michael Jackson's Thriller screened before it (maybe as some kind of deal for Captain Eo?) Hilarity did not ensue for most of the young audience members.
  • In the early 1950s, the dominant genre of comic book was horror, with EC Comics at the forefront with titles like The Vault of Horror, The Haunt of Fear, and, of course, Tales from the Crypt. This lead to an entire moral panic about the comics being too scary and/or politically subversive for children (their primary audience) to read, and the US Senate even held hearings on the subject. Eventually, to prevent the government from stepping in and censoring the entire comic book industry, the publishers promised to self-regulate and passed The Comics Code, effectively killing the horror comic for decades.


Video Example(s):


Horror Movie Viewing

The Belcher kids have a movie viewing of "Again with the Living Dead" with their friends and most of them are too scared to leave after watching it.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / KidsShouldntWatchHorrorFilms

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