Sweet (Bloody) Dreams, Children

by Glenn Lovell

Here’s one for the books. I think a child shrink would have a field day with this scenario.

This weekend at an AMC showing of the gruesome new horror film “Smiley,” I spied a mother and four children down front. One of the kids appeared to be as young as 7 or 8. The others were about 12 and 14.

When the titular urban legend, who sports a mask with stitched eyes and mouth, plunged a knife into the heroine (Caitlin Gerard) during one of several nightmare sequences, the youngest child could clearly be heard to sob in fright.

When I reminded an usher that this film was unrated ‒ usually signifying NC-17 material ‒ and totally inappropriate viewing matter for children, he just threw up his hands. Not surprising. The AMC chain brokered a deal with the film’s producers and is releasing and promoting “Smiley” in its major markets. (MPAA alert: Isn’t this a conflict of interest?)

The mother, on the way out, explained: “Oh, we’re friends of Shane (Dawson, who plays the dorky boyfriend). We’re huge fans. We went to Comic-Com to see him. To prepare the girls, we looked at scenes from the film on the Internet. They know it’s all pretend … all in fun.”

At this, the mother shook her head and laughed, as if to say, “Sheesh, buddy, get a life!”

Dawson, of course, has a cult following from his YouTube channel and clever video spoofs. So it’s understandable that kids would anticipate his next big career move, just as an earlier generation flocked to Pee-wee Herman’s first film.

But does that translate into “Hey, grab the little ones, we’re spending the afternoon watching Uncle Shane and others get their throats cut”?

You be the judge.

What would you have done when confronted with children at a slasher film?

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