Horror Films and Fantasy Children`s Books – How does that fit together?

Many of my friends give me strange looks when I tell them that I am into creating children`s books. Just in case you are new to this blog and are wondering now: The last short film I did was The Cellar.

And the children´s book I mentioned is Below the Floor.

fairytale children's book illustration by John E. Brito

Two eightlings

We like to put things and people into categories. That is how our mind works, we like to sort things, because it helps us to navigate through our life: We see something, recognise it and decide whether it is edible or poisonous, if it is prey or something we should run away from, if the stranger across the street, at midnight, is a threat or if he is harmless.

The book publishing industry works the same way: A guy (or a girl) who always writes romance will be marketed as the-romace-writing-guy. And if he likes to switch to western adventures he might have a hard time convincing his publisher or agent that this is a good idea. Mainly because the publisher knows that people rather read further romance stories written by him. Because the majority of his readers will associate his name with  – you get it, romance. That`s why authors use pseudonyms. They also might use them because they would not want their real life names associated with their guilty pleasures. Think about the teacher or the laboratory assistant who loves to write steamy love stories, like Emily Bold.

romance author Emily Bold

image source: romanticbookfan.blogspot.co.at

So if my friends tell me that it is not very clever to do two different things that are so far away from each other – like horror short films and children`s books – they are right. From a publisher`s point of view.

But for me, fantasy children`s books and horror stories are not that far away from each other. For me, horror films are fairy tales for adults. I do not write (or shoot short films) because I want to talk about myself, but because I want to give others a playground. Only that this playground is not one you can walk into, but dream yourself into. As a kid, I would have spent hours sitting near the abandoned cable factory dreaming about all the things that could happen inside there – after World War III had wiped out civilisation (I grew up in the 80s. In school, we were taught to take shelter below our desks if we heard a certain siren, and got capsules that should protect us from nuclear radiation; no kidding). When you get older, you see things differently, but as a kid, these were my adventure daydreams.

So if fantasy tales are meant to entertain children and teach them something about life and at the same time socialize them as human beings, horror stories are to entertain adults and tell us about what it means to be human.

And I believe that what entices kids to enter the cave where the dragon lives and what lurks adults into stepping down into the dark cellar comes from the same need: The need to escape our world, the need to experience a life you will never have (and would not want to either), the need to rehearse our fear.

What do you think? Do horror films and children’s books have something in common, or are they totally different? Feel free to leave a comment below. 🙂

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16 responses to “Horror Films and Fantasy Children`s Books – How does that fit together?

  1. Great short film there, a very spooky tale. I agree, I feel the horror genre, fantasy, and children’s fiction are all closer than we think. So long as its not too scary, I think kids love reading a spooky story, its fun!

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  2. Tomi Ungerer is a great example of colliding worlds in the 60’s- darker children’s stories and surprising adult content. His documentary is great. Anyone who’s watched Pan’s Labyrinth knows there’s a connection between fairytales of youth and horror when we’re adults:)

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  3. Interesting article and good points. I love the works of Tim Burton and Guillermo del Toro. Kids especially these days are exposed to much ‘darker’ (and therefore more fun!) material. Even Harry Potter when I think about it. And Roald Dahl. Recently I watched Steven Spielberg’s The BFG. I found that beautiful too.

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    • That´s true, children`s movies are darker now. 🙂 And I meant in the post, that I believe that horror can be for adults what fairy tales is for children. Children´s stories do not have to be scary, but I think it can work, as long as you don´t cross a certain line. Oh, and Pan`s Labyrinth was awesome, as well as BFG, saw them both in the theatre. 🙂

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  4. “Horror stories are to entertain adults and tell us what it means to be human.” I love this line. I’ve viewed the genre from a lot of lenses and that statement definitely adds dimension to my considerations. As for using pseudonyms when switching genres, thanks for that info; now I know why Stephen King writes his science fiction as Richard Bachmann.

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    • Funny, when I wrote this post I was thinking about Stephen King/Richard Bachman, too. 🙂
      And you are right, horror can also serve for different needs, like “letting off steam” (in a catharsis way) after a hard days work, or experience and rehearse our fears.

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  5. As many others have stated, children of this century are already exposed to alot of ‘dark elements’ within fantasy that adds more character to story telling.
    I also grew up in the 80’s and I loved reading dark folklore stories such as Hansel and Gretel and still do to this day. I own a big collection of short stories by the Brothers Grimm that I read from time to time. It’s far more interesting than a full story with just flowers and sunshine.

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    • That´s true. Most of the original Bother Grimms stories are quite dark, or cruel. I guess that the times and how people raised their children back then were different. 🙂

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  6. As many readers have stated, horror is already exposed to children of today as it adds more depth to a story.

    I also grew up in the 80’s and much preferred stories like Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding good that had that darkness to them. Even to this day i love reading the short collection of stories by the Brothers Grimm.

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