Originally Published: January 8, 2008 12:26 p.m.
A number of years ago my wife and I took our children to a theme park in Florida. We found an attraction called Alien Encounter. After reading the warning signs about the frightening nature of the attraction, I decided to only take my two older boys inside. The experience featured a man-eating alien who breaks out of a holding cell and walks around the audience members, all of whom are strapped into their seats unable to escape.
Each seat was equipped with a device that dispensed hot air down your neck as the monster breathed behind you, or a splatter of warm liquid on your face when an actor in front of you was being eaten. It was frightening, even to me.
As we walked out of the attraction there was a large group of Asian tourists lining up to take their young children inside. I saw what must have been 4- and 5-year-old children being led into a nightmare.
I decided the language barrier was the reason they disregarded the warning signs. But for the majority of us, there are no language barriers at Prescott area theaters.
No doubt if you have gone to the theater lately you have noticed parents taking their small children to see movies like "Sweeney Todd," a film about a man who kills his victims, slitting their throats at his barber's chair, and then his companion cooks them into her pies, thus disposing of the bodies. The movie is rated R, which leaves it up to parents to decide if they feel their children are mature enough to handle the violent and distorted nature of the film. Because the movie stars the whimsical Johnny Depp of Pirates of the Caribbean fame, some parents may think is OK to take their young children along. Even if parents can't afford a babysitter, they can see the movie when it's released on video and watch it when their children are asleep.
In our home my wife and I have an agreement with our children about R-rated movies - if they shouldn't see it, we shouldn't see it, and we don't.
I'm grateful when employees at our area theaters take the rating system seriously and enforce the age restrictions. I recently observed a group of underage boys being turned away from an R-rated movie because their parents were not with them.
But when the parents are attending with their children, I hope they will use good judgment with such R-rated movies as Sweeney Todd. There are enough frightening things in this world without the worst nightmares of Hollywood being burned into the memories of our young children.