While we may have a ratings board that seems to obsess over horror and sex, it wasn’t always like this. They used to be more well-known for letting stuff fly, believe it or not. I speak of a time BEFORE PG-13. A time when films often fell on either side of the fence. PG or R rated, the two extremes. There was no middle ground before “Poltergeist,” and for that reason, the ratings board had some issues with certain films.

R-rated horror were known for being full of boobs and gore, so to give a horror film without either of these traits an R rating wasn’t a fair or accurate assessment. Yet, some of the subject matter at hand was rather heady, so some say R ratings would have been justified for a few of the films on this list. Thing is, the polarity of the subject often forced the ratings board to give PG ratings to some horror films that clearly should not have been given PG’s. Movies that would go on to scar whole generations who saw the ratings for these films and had no ideas the places they were about to go.  Here are three “horror” films that clearly should not have gotten PG ratings, but I am glad they did in hindsight, because I could still convince my mother to rent them for me because they were PG. Ah, logistics.

3. JAWS

Yes, that’s right. “Jaws” is rated PG. This seems to be the movie fact I spring on people that surprises them the most. The reality is that most people who sit down to watch “Jaws” assume the film is rated R, and with good reason. You have kids being eaten, incredibly realistic severed legs, sea captains being devoured alive, and a shark being blown up.  To think that a movie with this many kills could garner a PG-13 is foreign to me. How? Why? And mostly, thank you! You ruined the ocean for most Generation X’ers. That is a pretty epic move.
Truth be told, Stephen Spielberg is at the center of this ratings issue, believe it or not. I will explain more in the following entry, which just happens to be Spielberg as well. You may think of him as a family director, but you should have known when he melted the face of a Nazi in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” that he pulls no punches.

2. POLTERGEIST

The rumor surrounding “Poltergeist” is that Tobe Hooper was only given directorial credit because of how dark the movie was, and how well received “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” had been a few years earlier. People think Spielberg was scared to negatively affect his reputation as a family director and decided to bring Hooper in to take some of the heat off of him. A fact that even Hooper denies, still, to this day. Thing is, some messed up shit was done on the set of “Poltergeist,” and that seemed to follow some of the cast members long after filming was done.

First and most interesting of these things was the fact that the first “Poltergeist” used REAL SKELETONS because they were cheaper to purchase than the fake ones. So the skeletons you see in the pool scene? Yes, real. Add that to killer clowns, killer closets, killer trees, and hallucinogenic sequences of guys ripping off their own skin, and you can see why some families BUGGED OUT that they had brought their children to see such a twisted film. And what happens when the public freaks out? Things get changed. Thus, PG-13 was born, and horror was forever redefined (and watered down) as the result of it.
Yup, the above scene was given a PG rating. How times have changed.

1. SALEM’S LOT

I know, I know, this wasn’t even a real movie. This was a TV movie! Somehow, this movie got the go-signal to air on TV. What?!

When we think of shows like “American Horror Story” and “Walking Dead,” it may not seem shocking. But when the movie aired in 1979, on prime time television, it fucked the world up. No really, it did. People were so disturbed and unsettled by it, they wrote letters to the network, asking them what the hell they were thinking. Unlike today, writing a letter back in 1979 actually involved paper, and writing, and spending money on a stamp, and then mailing it. So writing a letter back then was actual work. And the outrage people felt was perfectly justified. “Salem’s Lot” was terrifying, and still is to this day. I mean, is there a scarier scene in all of vampire-dom, than this one? 
 



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