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Home Blog Features Jack the Giant Slayer - too scary for kids?
Jack the Giant Slayer - too scary for kids? Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Friday, 22 March 2013 17:17


“Are you ok?”

“My eye hurts.”

“What happened?”

“The glasses poked me in the eye.”

That was my nephew to me during a screening of Jack the Giant Slayer. We left the cinema and continued our conversation/impromptu medical examination in the foyer.

“How did they poke you in the eye?”

“The film made me scared, so I covered my face and knocked the glasses, which then hit me in the eye.”

“So you were scared – and you hit yourself in the face?”

(Laughs) “Yes,”

“Do you want to go back in and see the rest of the film?”


“Is it because it’s scary?”


“You’re sure?”


And so we left the cinema after 45 minutes because Jack the Giant Slayer was too scary.

My nephew has a chequered past when it comes to scary things. An average seven and a half year old boy, he likes swords, guns and Star Wars but doesn’t like the dark, ghosts or not having any pudding.

The result? An awesome young person who likes Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones, can recognise the similarity between John Williams soundtracks, and last year watched the documentary Chasing Ice, a film about the destruction of our planet at the hands of climate change – in some ways, the scariest thing a child could ever see. Since then, he has written a review of the film and even asked to see it again multiple times.

Jack the Giant the Slayer, then, didn’t seem like too much of a leap for him.

The problem, though, is that more and more films are 12As these days. With Beautiful Creatures, Les Miserables, The Hobbit, Safe Haven and Taken 2 all falling under the banner in recent months, studio attempts to water down their products and sell them to everyone makes it harder to tell what’s suitable for children and what isn’t.

Studios, it seems, don’t much care – they just need bums on seats (preferably in groups), chopping down Die Hard 5 so that any five year old with an inattentive adult can wander in.

But after working in a cinema for a couple of years, I’ve realised a lot of parents don’t care either.

There are many out there who simply go by the poster. If it’s colourful and their offspring gets excited (see: every film poster made in the last five years), parents will agree to take them as an easy way to pass the afternoon.

Oz the Great and Powerful reportedly featured mildly scary scenes involving the Wicked Witch. That was a PG, according to the BBFC. So was Coraline, an animated film which spooked a lot of young kids at the multiplex where I worked, prompting multiple refunds.

Jack the Giant Slayer is clearly a step up from both. So I did the thing that all responsible adults should do: I went to the BBFC.

They warned that “although there are occasional jokes to lighten the mood, the sense of danger [in Jack the Giant Slayer] persists for long periods of time”.

I then asked my nephew about it. He had already seen the trailer a few times and decided he was happy to try and see the film – and that he didn’t think he would be too scared.

So we tried. And he hit himself in the face.

For me as a (semi) mature adult, the scariest thing about Jack the Giant Slayer was how mediocre the first half was. Despite Brian Singer’s name above the title, the CGI looked crappy, the plot set-up felt laboured and only good old Stanley Tucci stood out in the performance stakes. I could feel myself being disappointed, but was hopeful for an entertaining second half to carry the audience along.

Judging by the reviews from those who have seen the whole thing, though – it stands at an uneven 52% on Rotten Tomatoes – we had a lucky escape.

Still, the question bugs me: is it too scary for children? Should I have taken him to see it at all? Does advertising need to be refocused away from the most influential target market out there?

My nephew is obviously at the low end of the audience the campaign is aiming for, but swords, monsters and fairy tale adventure? He’s in there, all right. So who is the film made for? Teenagers? Adults? Who knows? The film’s even been renamed from “Giant Killer” by the distributor to make it more appealing to family audiences.

The bottom line: if you’re planning to take your littluns to the cinema this Easter holiday, think twice. Or at least think “BBFC”.

If you decide Jack the Giant Slayer is too scary and the only other major new release is Dreamworks’ The Croods, which is apparently fairly naff anyway, maybe you’re better off playing a board game or going to the museum.

If you do end up choosing to take your child to see Jack, let me know how they get on. But remember to do one thing first: teach them not to hit themselves in the face.