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'Where the Wild Things Are' brain trust Spike Jonze, David Eggers, and Maurice Sendak don't care if their movie scares kids

While the chatter about this Friday’s release of Where the Wild Things Are hasn’t exactly reached wild rumpus-like proportions, the filmmakers did their best to spark a little brushfire of controversy in Newsweek today. Jonze, Eggers, and Sendak gathered in Sendak’s living room for what was supposed to be a free-flowing conversation about what it was like for three geniuses to harmonically converge on one project. But at eighty years old, Sendak had no interest in spoon-feeding platitudes to the press. Instead, he and Jonze and Eggers lamented how vanilla childhood in America has become. Worrywart parents aren’t doing their kids any favors by depriving them of their right to get scared out of their minds watching movies or reading books. Scarytales are character building and virtually guarantees a stormy artistic temperament if not a legit career as an artist. This rant made me stop and think about how I spent most of my childhood watching wildly inappropriate movies like the deeply-creepy futuristic cannibalism-tinged Soylent Green. I still can’t forget the image of the big bulldozers rolling through city streets and scooping up fleeing crowds of people to turn them into nutritious biscuits. Nothing that happened to me in real life came close to keeping me up at night the way that and other movies did. But now I wonder if my mom didn’t do me a favor by setting me up for that kind of terror. If these guys are to be believed, the only thing we have to fear for our children is the lack of fear itself. I gotta say, I kind of agree that we’re short changing kids by letting them fill their minds with Disney schmaltz instead of quality filmmaking.

What are the movies that scared the crap out of you as a kid and/or the ones that depressed you with heavy emotional turmoil? Do you think that experience had a net positive or negative effect on you? And do you think we need to relax the parental guidance standards a little to allow for challenging material like Pan’s Labyrinth or even Harold and Maude? And are you, as an adult, interested in seeing the children’s book-based Where the Wild Things Are?

Originally posted October 13 2009 — 7:20 PM EDT

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