For as long as there have been scary stories, there have been kids who couldn't get enough of them. In the modern era this has translated to a wealth of horror themed entertainment geared toward children. It wasn't always this way, in the early days of filmmaking the movies were not made with children in mind, but it was children who saw them anyway. In the classic era of the Universal horror films, these tales of terror were all atmosphere and very little of the red stuff. However, in the years since, especially since HG Lewis introduced the concept of the gore film in 1963, films have become more and more extreme visually, leaving little to the imagination and replacing a sense of dread with viscera splattered all over the place.
As a big fan of horror films and a parent of a young child, I've faced dilemma after dilemma since we brought our little boy into this world. How far is too far? To what can we expose him? I know that there are hundreds of parents out there like me, clutching our A Nightmare on Elm Street DVDs to our chest and counting the days until we think our children are ready to accept our passions as their own. Is this selfish? Of course it is. I have every intention of molding my son into a person who is appreciative of the finer things in life, which, in our case, includes the classic monster stories and the best of the slasher films. My little one is only seven years old, though, and I remember what it was like to be that age. I remember how deeply some of the more horrifying images buried themselves in my subconscious only to reemerge in the middle of the night to claw me from my slumber and propel my tiny crying body into my Dad's bed every night for weeks. So what do we do?
Well, in our case, my wife and I are both horror fans and we share the dream of imbuing our son with our passions. The best way I can think of to help him along is what I like to think of as priming the pump, we introduce him to horror themed children's entertainment a little at a time, and monitor his progress. That might sound a bit creepy, but keeping a close eye on his reactions is more for his safety than for our gratification. My son is like me, he gets nightmares sometimes, and often from being exposed to material that we thought would be pretty innocuous.
Thank god for the recent spate of genre based children's films, they've really given us something to share with him of which he never tires. From Mad Monster Party to The Nightmare Before Christmas, to Monsters Vs. Aliens; there are plenty of options to choose from. Sure, showing my son Godzilla films from the time he was old enough to read subtitles, which was fortunately around the age of 5, has made him a bit of an outsider at school, but so far he seems to be weathering it well. He has a little friend who also has cool parents and who also loves Big G, which is a godsend for both of them. However, I do still struggle a little bit with raising my son against the grain at such a young age.
At his age there is little more that is as important as fitting in and making friends. As an only child, it's hard enough, but as an only child who spends his off hours drawing Godzilla comics and making stop motion animated videos with his iPod, it gets even tougher. He doesn't play sports, he doesn't listen to cool kid music, he doesn't really play video games, and he doesn't watch much TV. These are the things that get you accepted by your peers at the tender age of 7. Am I priming him to be a pariah? I genuinely worry about that, the thought scares me.
All of the things that I enjoy and that I want him to enjoy I found on my own. My parents were not like I am now, they weren't cinephiles or horror fans. They were squares to the nth degree. It wasn't until I was in junior high that I started to become curious about what I was missing by following the beaten path. I scoured the video shelves on my own, I snuck into the R rated films on my own, and I learned about these passions of mine through my own research, perhaps that is why they are so dear to me. Is my enabling of my son a hindrance in his discovery of himself? My son is a cool kid, I have no doubt about that, and I would never want him to be like some of the other 7-year old jack-offs I see in his class, but maybe he wants to fit in, and sometimes I wonder if I get in the way of that.
I discovered my "other"ness later in life, and as a more fully developed person I am able to embrace it and accept it as my identity. I don't think that I'm forcing that same "other"ness on my son, but by exposing him to things I enjoy so selectively, am I denying him the opportunity to find out what he really likes? Of course I not-so-secretly hope that the things he likes are the things to which I've spent so much time introducing him. I genuinely hope that he like Iron Maiden because he likes Iron Maiden and not because Daddy likes Iron Maiden. But sometimes I can't help but wonder.
Once in a while he shows me who he really is and how eclectic that can be, and I appreciate him all the more. For every classic metal track he downloads to his iPod, he also downloads some Black Eyed Peas. For every Mad Monster Party, there is a Phineas & Ferb. He's a kid, after all, and being a kid is all about exploring the world in which you live, and not just the one in which your parents want you to live. Honestly, at this point, my biggest fear is him rebelling against his punk rock, horror loving parents by turning preppy (though he'd have to buy his own clothes if he did that because I'm not supporting that shit), but even if he does, that doesn't make him any less my son.
As it stands, I hope that he does continue exploring his world and letting me show him something new every once in a while. I don't want to raise a little me, I want to raise him. I want to guide him and keep him safe. I want him to feel secure as he discovers who he is, and if he likes the same stuff I like, I'll be happy as a pig in shit; if he doesn't, I'll never love him any less. I'll keep throwing them up there to see what sticks, and hopefully someday he'll come to me and ask about A Nightmare on Elm Street, and when he's ready, I'll say "yes, son, let's watch it together", and hopefully I can be the first one to see that spark in his eyes as he discovers something wonderful and new.
Mad Monster Party appears on Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate, who recently released a nearly identical DVD special edition. Unfortunately, the negatives of the film were, at some point, so badly damaged that they were rendered unusable for transfer purposes. As such, this edition of the film was transferred from a 35mm print, which doesn't yield ideal results, but nonetheless gives us a pretty solid HD experience. The colors are quite muted throughout, but there is a significant increase in fine detail over the image on the included DVD. The textures of Rankin/Bass's stop motion "Animagic" characters really comes through on this DVD in a way I didn't expect. The original Mono track is split into a Stereo track for this disc, and sounds pretty darned good, especially during the numerous musical sequences. Overall this was a very satisfying A/V experience from a film that you wouldn't expect to look or sound this good.
There are four main extras on the disc, all ported over from the previous DVD special edition (I believe). There is a making of featurette with interview from some of the primary crew, there is a featurette that covers the writing and performance of the iconic music that lends so much to the atmosphere of the film and other Rankin/Bass features, there is a short piece on the stop motion process, and finally, there is a sing along monster karaoke extra complete with bouncing skull to help you keep time.
Mad Monster Party is an absolute classic of the kiddy creepy genre. This Blu-ray edition is easily the best way to experience it, and I can already tell by his reaction that my son feels the same. Definitely recommended.
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