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#How to Make a Family-Friendly Horror Film That’s Still Gory

How to Make a Family-Friendly Horror Film That’s Still Gory

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  • May 29, 2020

Here’s a video essay about how the Hong Kong action-horror classic ‘Mr Vampire’ manages to stay family-friendly without sacrificing its scares.

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There is a media divide between children and adults that is especially pronounced in horror. Which makes sense. Horror is a genre predicated on confronting taboo subjects. Including, of course, the greatest taboo of all: the fact that we’re all going to die someday. Such confrontations are rarely undertaken with kids in mind. So when a family-friendly horror film manages to appeal not just to kids but to adults as well, you know you have something special on your hands.

Mr. Vampire is a Hong Kong action-horror comedy from 1985 about jiangshi (Chinese zombie-vampires). In the film, the planned reburial of a village elder goes awry thanks to a series of gaffes. When the corpse resurrects into a bloodthirsty monster, a Taoist priest and his two disciples rise to the occasion and set out to stop the creature.

As argued in the Accented Cinema video essay “Mr. Vampire: How to Write Family Horror,” the key to what makes Mr. Vampire such an excellent example of family-friendly horror is its positive attitude towards frightening situations. Unlike most adults in horror media, who are defined by incompetence or cynicism, the characters in Mr. Vampire always manage to find solutions when the going gets tough. While most horror is predicated on exploiting a sense of helplessness, even when things are gory, tense, or frightening, Mr. Vampire never loses hope in its own characters and it never wavers on its core message: death isn’t evil, evil is evil.

You can watch “Mr. Vampire: How to Write Family Horror” here:

Who made this?

This video was created by Accented Cinema, a Canadian-based YouTube video essay series with a focus on foreign cinema. You can subscribe to Accented on Cinema for bi-weekly uploads here. You can follow them on Twitter here.

More Videos Like This

  • Another sample of Accented Cinema’s work: “Why Chinese Swords Are Not As Famous“
  • And here’s Accented Cinema on how Stephen Chow tells a joke, and how his films defined Hong Kong humor
  • There’s family-friendly horror and then there’s family horror. Here’s why Hereditary broke video essayist Ryan Hollinger
  • Here’s an English-language trailer for Mr. Vampire
  • In the West, family-friendly horror often meant Goosebumps, here’s PushingUpRoses with her take on the series’ scariest episode
  • On that note, here’s In Praise of Shadows with a look at how horror for kids dominated the ’90s in the West
  • Here’s Accented Cinema on Hong Kong’s most iconic contemporary horror film: The Eye


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