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

Here’s a video essay about how the Hong Kong action-horror classic ‘Mr Vampire’ manages to stay family-friendly without sacrificing its scares.
Mr Vampire
By  · Published on May 29th, 2020

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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.

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Based in the Pacific North West, Meg enjoys long scrambles on cliff faces and cozying up with a good piece of 1960s eurotrash. As a senior contributor at FSR, Meg's objective is to spread the good word about the best of sleaze, genre, and practical effects.