How ‘Tales For A HalloweeNight’ Writer James Ninness Introduced His Kids to the Horror Genre

James Ninness and his daughters

Last week, I kicked off a special series of posts with my take on how to introduce your kids to horror movies. As part of the series, which will run every Monday through Father’s Day, I’ve tapped some other parents from the horror and Halloween world to get their take on how they introduced their kids to the horror genre. This week I’m featuring writer and friend, James Ninness.

James is a writer who’s likely most known for his contributions to John Carpenter’s award-winning “Tales For A HalloweeNight” anthology comics. He had stories featured in the first three volumes of the series and most recently released the comic series “Vault,” which was part of Carpenter’s “Tales of Science Fiction.”

As a lover of stories, James has a passion for books, games, and movies that have an engaging narrative, a trait he says he’s passed on to his three children, daughter Tala, age 9, daughter Ori, age 7, and his two-year-old son Nix who James says is, “down for whatever as long as he can sit on my lap or his mother’s.”

Unlike some parents, James has had no qualms with introducing his kids to horror at a young age, noting that Tala and Ori’s first horror film was The Frighteners. At the time the two were ages 7 and 5 and James described the film as “a movie where Marty McFly tricked people with his ghost pals, including Gomez Addams.” But James admittedly messed up and didn’t rewatch the material, noting the film was a lot more violent than he remembered. After watching the film he checked its rating and discovered that The Frighteners was rated R and not PG-13 like he thought.

Despite the film’s violent ending, James found that the film actually sparked some important conversations around the film’s subject matter. “When we watched The Frighteners, both girls asked me about serial killers,” explained James. “That’s a stressful talk to have, but it was a good one for us. It started with why do people kill? Which led to why do people hurt other people? And ended us at how can we help people who seem hurt? There are (usually) lessons to be learned in horror if you can get beyond the superficial.”

A bumpy start to horror didn’t spoil the horror viewing experience for James or his kids, in fact, that same year, his daughter Ori fell in love with the 2015 film Krampus. “She’s always had a dark itch,” said James. “Her first love was probably Krampus…Couldn’t get enough. But she’s also the daughter that is into unicorns and the color pink, so it gets interesting… For Christmas 2016 she asked Santa for a Krampus doll with dresses.”

To this day Ori continues to be the main horror fan among James’ kids, with James noting that Tala would “much rather watch John Wick than Halloween.”

Regardless of who’s watching, James and his wife have put some guidelines on the kids’ horror viewing. “Extreme gore (Saw, Evil Dead), religious terror (The Exorcist, The Conjuring), and sex (Bram Stoker’s Dracula, It Follows) are off limits,” says James. But James recognizes this will change as time goes on and as his kids get older. “I don’t see them watching Saw any time soon, but I could see Tala getting into It follows sooner than later.”

“It’s up to them to a certain degree,” added James. “I recommend films I think they might be ready for and they get to decide if they actually want to watch it.”

In fact its that element of choice that James feels is key when it comes to introducing kids to the horror genre. “Make it about the child,” says James. “If they’re not into it, don’t push horror onto them. Let the kids be into what they’re into. Find common ground, but don’t force it.”

If you’re considering introducing your own child to horror, James recommends movies with “horror elements” such as Goosebumps, or the classic Universal films and stresses the importance of experiencing these films with your child. This can help you gauge your child’s interest in the genre and determine what your kids can and can’t handle.

As mentioned in my previous post, every child is going to be different, but hopefully these thoughts from a fellow horror-loving parent will help you navigate introducing your own children to horror and make the experience as enjoyable as possible for both you and your child.

James will be a returning author for the fifth volume of “Tales for a HalloweeNight” from Storm King Comics, which is due out this October. “If you like witches, love the earth, and think gruesome puns are funny, you’ll probably dig it,” says James. To learn more about James check out this past interview, or learn more about his work at jamesninness.com

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