Rogues Rants is a monthly forum for various members of the Rogue Cinema staff to express their feelings about a certain topic. This month’s topic is:
What are your feelings about the trend of watering down horror and other genre films so they can get a PG-13 rating instead of an R?
I think that giving PG-13 ratings to horror is a bad idea. The quest for a PG-13 rating (motivated by reaching a larger target audience) is
turning potentially good movies, that would have merited an “R” rating, into a morass of homogenized, sterile films that all lack the one
characteristic that draws people to them in the first place: Horor.
Watching a horror movie should scare me, make me feel uncomfortable, even disturb me. The ability to scare a viewer (especially a modern
viewer whom is quite jaded by the time they reach adult-hood) requires scenes that are neccessarily adult in nature. You simply can not
scare / horrify adult viewers with scenes that are considered safe for 14 year olds!
So now we have wound up with a slew of PG-13 “horror” movies that have no redeeming characteristics what-so-ever. Horror movies have become
safe and sterile, and worst of all, they have become boring.
Most sci-fi movies will rather try to include enough material to get a PG-13 rating rather than just PG. The last PG rated Star Trek movie was Star Trek Generations in 1994. Afterwards, they got darker to be given PG-13 ratings. George Lucas has been reviled a lot
for the Star Wars prequels. However, the prequels are the only PG sci-fi movies I remember to be released in the past few years. G
has become so reviled; most cartoons are becoming PG fare.
Movies now seem to want to push the rating higher so they seem more “adult”. Summer blockbuster movies seem to all edge towards PG-13.
However, a number of R movies are being watered down enough to get PG-13 to get a wider audience. An R-rating will make teens want to see it
rather than the PG-13 “date” movie. Sporadically, a movie will be cut down to PG-13. It doesn’t seem there any real guidelines for a
difference between R and PG-13. 10 years ago, a definite line was drawn between R and PG-13. Certain things were out of bounds to receive a
PG-13 rating. As the line between them blurs, it gets harder to see what is out of bounds.
How do you go from the fairly gory sci-fi horror of Pitch Black to a watered down action movie like Chronicles of Riddick? If
a little gore is trimmed out, anything can be included to a PG-13 standard. PG-13 seems to have become lite-R. If some cuss words are
knocked out and some blood isn’t showed, it can be marketed to a wider audience. The movie will then get an unrated or at least an R-rated
version on DVD for additional money thrown in the coffers of the film studios. Alien Vs Predator really shows how a movie can be
crippled with it being cut to given a lower rating.
Another problem is the last minute changing of ratings. Alien Vs Predator was understood to be an R-rated movie until the last minute
being edited down. Hellblazer, I mean Constantine was known to be given a PG-13 rating until the last couple of weeks before
it was released. Lo and behold, it magically had been given the R as it should have been given all along.
Not to seem old here, but let’s face it…I am! I look back on my largely misspent youth and think about all the horror movies that I saw at
the drive-in and I honestly couldn’t tell you what the rating on one of them was. Now, I understand the use and, even, in some cases, need
for a rating system, after all, an un-rated Deep Throat would be filled with giggling 15 year old boys, making all the trench-coated perverts
uncomfortable…or, worse… COMFORTABLE! But, that aside, in my opinion, in order for a horror movie to attain any real ‘horror’ the gloves
have to come off. There has to be the ability to do anything to get the scare. If, as a film maker, I’m more worried about what rating my
movie is going to get, instead of how good I can make my movie, then the movie isn’t going to be as good as it could be. The rating should
be the last thing on the mind of the writer, director, producer or anyone involved with the movie.
This may not be the politically correct opinion, but it’s mine that if you make a movie it should be judged by the movie, not by the rating.
Why would anyone take their small children to see anything called ‘Dawn Of The Dead’ or ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ anyway? Even though some
moronic parents probably did anyway…but that’s another topic for another time. In summation (that’s my big word of the day) this trend
towards making horror movies PG-13 to get more audience and make more money only waters down the genre and it leads down that road that the
whole country is traveling, something that I call the ‘Wussy-fying Of America’. But…that’s just my opinion.
In a society where the FOX network takes The Best Damn Sports Show Period and renames it The Best Darn Super Bowl Road Show
Period to appease affiliates and furrowed-browed commissions, it’s not surprising our horror films are being watered down, as well. The
entertainment industry seems to be moving toward the middle, afraid of the old mentality that allowed Rambo to gun down every person within a
twelve foot radius. Films must now be watered down, must reach as many demographics as possible, and as a result Hollywood is becoming
There are exceptions to the rule, films bold enough to be truly graphic and not worry about a family values group breathing down
their neck. Dawn of the Dead, for example, though the recipient of mixed reviews truly deserved its R rating. It was bloody,
disgusting, and sometimes offensive in its need to push the envelope, but no one can say it didn’t have guts. Why can’t the film industry
throw caution to the wind and realize they have a right to make the movies they want audiences to see? How many films must we as an audience
sit through before we get tired of cheap scares, hollow-eyed child actors, and off-camera horror?
Now I’m not saying every horror film needs to be chock full of entrails to be successful. No amount of gore can make up for a
listless story or deadpan acting, but I’m just tired of these generic, tired horror films that don’t take chances. Darkness, White
Noise, Hide & Seek, Boogeyman…audiences deserve variety, even if they don’t realize it themselves. These movies may bring
in the dough, but they’re making the industry creatively bankrupt.
On PG-13 rated films;
I think it is both good and bad. Good in the sense that it compels filmmakers to work harder to achieve atmopshere and a sense of fear in
their projects without relying too much on gore or extreme make-up FX. I think it’s bad because most filmmakers have not proven to be up to
the challenge and we the public get one watered down movie film after another that plays more a music video than a horror film.
PG-13 rated horror films are distressing, but not surprising. You may think horror movies are made to scare you. They’re not. They are
made to make people in Hollywood money.
Right now, the people in Hollywood who make the money off of horror films have decided that the PG-13 rating is more cost effective than an
R. This is because an R rating keeps out teenagers (at least the paying kind; a customer who sneaks in doesn’t give you a
dime), and teenagers have a lot of disposable income and less refined tastes. They’re willing to pay $10 to see Alien Vs. Predator. The
movie would be cooler, in their minds, if it was R. But they wouldn’t be able to see it.
This is how it works. The theaters get a PG-13 rated version. That keeps the grosses high, or so it is assumed. Then the after market,
which is increasingly as or more important than theatrical release, gets an unrated “director’s cut” which is nearly all cases is not
anything the director has approved but rather is the theatrical release plus a few gratuitous seconds, and is only unrated because the studio
chooses not to get it rated because unrated director’s cuts are good selling points.
You’ve sold two different markets essentially the same product, with slight, easily-made modifications. Mass appeal with limited cost. That
is how it works now. All it will take to change it is one movie that bucks this trend. If an R-rated horror movie comes out tomorrow and
makes $500 million, there will be more R-rated horror movies. Until that happens, get used to PG-13 rated scares and the PG-13 rated
revenues they generate.
Hmm, let’s see, PG-13 and horror… can I find anything that goes as terrible together as that little blend? How about cheetos and stereo-speaker wire for an early Brunch? I mean really, it’s just wrong. On some plane of existence far beyond ours, aliens are laughing at us,
because they see the futile attempts made by Hollywood and realize what puny weaklings we are. In the future, I’m sure when these alien
beings finally launch their assault on earth and vanquish all living beings, they will be laughing. Laughing at the burning wreckage of our
planet, and laughing at our feeble children’s horror. Making a kid friendly horror film is like drawing bathing suits on a playboy, it
only hurts us adults, and renders the genre useless. Those of us who have been around long enough know that
“gore” equals “good”, and if the kiddies are able to dig up enough old eighties-era slasher flicks, I’m sure they would agree – because just
like a porno-mag, a bloody horror film is best utilized in a group of pre-teen adolescence obsessed with blood and boobs. So, in conclusion,
Hollywood, for all that is good and decent on this planet; think of the kids…and think of the alien warships.
Duane L. Martin:
I’ve been against the MPAA rating system for a long time for this very reason. By it’s very nature it causes censorship and an alteration of
the filmmaker’s original vision. When I go see a horror movie, or in fact any movie, I don’t want to see the film that some ratings board or
some corporate entity wanted me to see. I want to see the movie that the filmmaker wanted me to see. Why the hell should I go to some
overpriced theater, spend at least sixteen bucks for me and my wife to see a movie that’s been hacked down to get a PG-13 rating when I can
just wait a few months and get the unrated director’s cut when it comes out on DVD? The studios may think they’re reaching a larger audience
by doing this, but all they’re really doing is alienating the people the filmmaker created the movie for in the first place and driving the
adult audiences away from the theaters. If a movie should be rated R and I’m spending my hard earned money to see it, then I want to see
blood and guts and sex and everything else that goes into a good old fashioned R rated movie. I don’t deserve any less, and neither do
I think it’s absolutely terrible that most of the horror and science fiction films being released these days are rated PG-13. This disturbing
trend has caught on because the powers that be in Hollywood are seeking out America’s teenage audiences for cash. Because of this, films such
as “Alien vs. Predator” are released in a watered down and fairly bloodless theatrical cut. I use this film as my main example because each
franchise it borrows from was made up of R-Rated films with both horror and sci-fi elements. Unfortunately, when the filmmakers brought both
popular film monsters together into “AVP,” they decided that the film would probably do better with a lower rating! In my humble opinion, if
a film is supposed to have horrific elements, it should aim for an R-rating. Horror movies generally have explicit violence, sex, and/or gore
(or at least they used to), so why should it be toned down? Sadly, Hollywood will continue saturating the market this year with more
PG-13 horror and sci-fi including “War of the Worlds” (I’m willing to give this a chance though.), “The Cave,” “House of Wax” (Remade with
Paris Hilton?! Vincent Price is definitely rolling over in his grave right now!), “Dark Water” (yet another remake of a Japanese horror
film), and several others. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel because some R-Rated horror films are coming out this year as
well, including “Undead,” “Land of the Dead,” “The Amityville Horror,” and Rob Zombie’s “The Devil’s Rejects.” The only way to halt this wave
of PG-13 movies is to not see them, but that’s like asking a starving man to not eat a cracker that you’ve just placed in front of
him. No, we’ll just have to wait it out until hardcore horror makes a comeback.