With the Evil Dead remake being granted an NC-17 rating (which is a kiss of death for horror), horror ratings have never been more of a hot button topic than they are right now. And while we may have a ratings board that seems to obsess over horror and sex, it wasn’t always like this. They used to be more well known for letting stuff fly, believe it or not. I speak of a time BEFORE PG-13. A time when films often fell on either side of the fence. PG or R rated, the two extremes. There was no middle ground before Poltergeist (which I will address in depth in a forthcoming article), and for that reason, the ratings board had some issues with certain films.
R-rated horror were known for being full of boobs and gore, so to give a horror film without either of these traits an R rating wasn’t a fair or accurate assessment. Yet, some of the subject matter at hand was rather heady, so some say R ratings would have been justified for a few of the films on this list. Thing is, the polarity of the subject often forced the ratings board to give PG ratings to some horror films that clearly should not have been given PG’s. Movies that would go on to scar whole generations who saw the ratings for these films and had no ideas the places they were about to go. Here are five “horror” films that clearly should not have gotten PG ratings, but I am glad they did in hindsight, because I could still convince my Mom to rent them for me because they were PG. Ah, logistics.
Who can argue that the Jaws poster is one of the best in cinematic history.
Yes, that’s right. Jaws is rated PG. This seems to be the movie fact I spring on people that surprises them the most. The reality is that most people who sit down to watch Jaws, assume the film is rated R, and with good reason. You have kids being eaten, incredibly realistic severed legs, sea captains being devoured alive, and a shark being blown up. To think that a movie with this many kills could garner a PG-13 is foreign to me. How? Why? And mostly, thank you! You ruined the ocean for most generation X’ers. That is a pretty epic move.
Truth be told, Stephen Spielberg is at the center of this ratings issue, believe it or not. I will explain more in the following entry, which just happens to be Spielberg as well. You may think of him as a family director, but you should have known when he melted the face of a nazi in another PG film, that he pulls no punches.
You are looking at a real dead body here. How fucked up is that?
Fun fact: I saw this movie at a drive-in, and can still clearly recall my Mom’s face, looking down at me during the clown scene. Her eyes were saying sorry, even though she wasn’t.
Never in my life has an argument toward something being cursed held more weight. While the rumor of cursed films seems to be aplenty, has any other film been as plagued by problems as Poltergeist? Not only that, what about the fine print? The rumor surrounding Poltergeist is that Tobe Hooper was only given directorial credit because of how dark the movie was, and how well received Texas Chainsaw had been a few years earlier. People think Spielberg was scared to negatively affect his reputation as a family director and decided to bring Hooper in to take some of the heat off of him. A fact that even Hooper denies, still, to this day. Thing is, some messed up shit was done on the set of Poltergeist, and that seemed to follow some of the cast members long after filming was done.
First and most interesting of these things was the fact that the first Poltergeist used REAL SKELETONS because they were cheaper to purchase than the fake ones. So the skeletons you see in the pool scene? Yes, real. Add that to killer clowns, killer closets, killer trees, and hallucinogenic sequences of guys ripping off their own skin, and you can see why some families BUGGED OUT that they had brought their children to see such a twisted film. And what happens when the public freaks out? Things get changed. This, PG-13 was born, and horror was forever redefined (and watered down) as the result of it.
” Man, this LSD is awesome, but I am not a big fan of my facial skin right now, so gonna fix that.”
Yup, the above scene was given a PG rating. How times have changed. Illuminati, yo!
The Bad Seed
” Look into my eyes, Mother. You WILL let me have a Snickers for dinner, won’t you, Mother?”
I realize that there was no alternative to PG in 1956, when this movie came out. I also realize a great deal of you have not seen it, which is exactly why it is here.
You know that Macaulay Culkin movie, The Good Son? Yes, that is this, with genders switched up, and some slight story changes. And the little girl in this film is palpably evil, to the point where her very-sunny disposition becomes something you begin to dread the movie goes on, knowing it is her overcompensating for just how terrible she is. And for people who want to say that this film is mild and doesn’t tread on any R-rated material, she lights a special needs guy on fire.
Again, to reiterate, she lights a fucking special needs guy on fire. Rumor is Eli Roth is remaking this film, so expect lots of penis mutilations, for whatever reason.
Do you understand that even this picture fills me with a crippling sense of fear?
As the recently released Mama proves, PG-13 horror can still be effective and chilling. But if there is one “Mommie” you go to when speaking of horror, it is Mommie Dearest.
While not so much an in-your-face gore horror, Mommie Dearest is more a slow-burn about what it is like to be the focus of one person’s rage and madness. And for the scope of the real-life horror here, it should have been rated R. If for no other reason than now, anyone who’s seen this movie cringes when they use a wire hanger.
She makes me, as a grown man, want to cower in terror from this scene.
The one thing that claws at me here is that this is a true story, by Christina Crawford, about what it was like to be raised by her mother, famous actress Joan Crawford. So all the horror you see in this movie, though perhaps embellished for story telling, all actually happened, which makes this even more unsettling. Faye Dunaway’s performance in this movie is one of the best ever. Still, though, for how traumatized it left me, it should have been R.
Wow, I sound old. What is happening to me?
I have to say, I think this was a precursor to Nicki Minaj’s look.
I know, I know, this wasn’t even PG. This was a TV movie! Somehow, this movie got okay’d to air on TV. What!??
When we think of shows like American Horror and Walking Dead, it may not seem shocking. But when the movie aired, in 1979, on prime time television, it fucked the world up. No really, it did. People were so disturbed and unsettled by it, they wrote letters to the network, asking them what the hell they were thinking. Unlike today, writing a letter back in 1979 actually involved paper, and writing, and spending money on a stamp, and then mailing it. so writing a letter back then was actual work. And the outrage people felt was perfectly justified. Salem’s Lot was terrifying, and still is to this day. I mean, is there a scarier scene in all of vampire-dom, than this one?
The scene is scary enough out of context, but when you realize the kid at the window is his little brother he had abandoned earlier in the woods, it is even more unsettling.
Funny side-note: My Mom was one of the people who wrote an angry letter. The sound you just heard was the POP of your own mind being blown.
An Honorable PG-13
The Grudge (and J-Horror, in General)
Playing “got your face” with blind people always ends awkwardly.
I will say, in the most recent flock of horror, it was The Grudge that awed me most with its rating. Say what you want about the J horror scene now, but when The Grudge dropped, this sub-genre of films was brand new, so all the cliche you see in place now when you watch these films, were not cliches back then. The Grudge was original, and on top of that, scary. Yes, that’s right. I found The Grudge to be a scary film. Almost went with The Ring, but Grudge did it first, and set the tone for all that followed it. So why is The Grudge’s Pg-13 rating shocking to me?
The Grudge is about a man who goes insane as the result of his wife’s infidelities, and goes on to kill his wife, his son, and drowns the cat because, you know, the cat was such a whore. The family then goes on to haunt the house where they were killed, killing anyone who comes in to the home. Get it, a grudge? But when you think of PG-13 horror, you don’t often think you will be scared, and honestly, I still think The Grudge is one of the best “haunted house” movies ever made, shitting on the far inferior Paranormal Activity series.
Okay, now go read this. I promise it will summon a chuckle. And yes, “summon a chuckle” was supposed to sound sexual.