The Hole in the Ground arrives in cinemas this week – the latest horror to explore the terrifying realities of raising children. The stress, the lack of sleep, and the anxiety of bringing up these little monsters to be well-rounded human beings. Which is all the more complicated if they turn out to be actual monsters, of course, as often happens in horror films.

And horror can teach us a lot more about parenting that you might think – the dos, don’ts, and how not tos – when it comes to good, wholesome parent-child relationship. Here are nine essential lessons on parenting from horror movies.

#1: Lock The Doors

As Seen In: The Hole In The Ground

Kids wander – they’re adventurous, investigative little tykes. Which is all fine if you live in a secure environment with all the right safety measures in place: stair gate, play pen, garlic hanging in the door to ward off evil spirits… that kind of thing. But if you move to an isolated cottage in the Irish wilderness, surrounded by spooky woods, like Sarah (Seána Kerslake) in The Hole in the Ground, you never know where the kids will get to. How long before they wander into the woods and return with super-strength and a strangely sinister demeanour?

#2: Don’t Take The Wrong Baby Home

As Seen In: The Omen

Leaving the hospital with the correct baby is parenting 101 – a kind of “fallen at the first hurdle or absolutely bossed it” test for brand-new parents. If you do happen to walk out of hospital with the wrong little ‘un, at best it will create a socially awkward faux pas when you have to take the baby back. At worst, you could discover you’re accidentally raising the son of Satan himself, whose arrival in the mortal realm spells destruction for all mankind. The little devil.

#3: Choose Bedtime Stories Carefully

As Seen In: The Babadook

Reading to your kids before bedtime is one of the most treasured parent-child activities. Or at least, that’s the way it’s supposed to be – a serene moment of parent-child bonding. That won’t be the case though if you read a haunted book that unleashes a dark top-hatted spirit, which terrorises you by relentlessly knocking on the door and jumping out the shadows. Stick to reading something a bit less obviously evil, like The Gruffalo. T

#4: Forget The Baby Shower

If you’re a new parent, the last thing you need is to organise a baby shower – you’re tired, exhausted, and overwhelmed with the experience of looking after this tiny human being. And while most baby showers will be all about the pressies and glowy vibes, there’s always the chance your friends and neighbours will reveal themselves as a coven of occultists who want to raise your baby as the antichrist. Best to play it safe and not bother with the organisational faff/otherworldly evil.

#5: Have A Bath-Time Routine

As Seen In: Ghostbusters II

A nice bath should help any child sleep well. Be careful of the water temperature though, as babies can have very sensitive skin. Also, some children will be endlessly pursued by a plague of evil spirits, in which case the bathroom taps may produce ectoplasmic slime instead of water. Be sure to dip your elbow in first to double-check.

#6: Teach Them To Use Inside Voices

As Seen In: The Quiet Place

If your kid is shouting at a head-rattling volume or screaming the place down, the “inside voice” is one of the most important tools in a parent’s arsenal. Not all kids grasp the concept so easily however, but nothing will terrify them into shutting up like the threat of alien monsters that gobble people up at the slightest noise. Chuck out the old Father Christmas and Tooth Fairy stories in favour of this one and you’ll have non-stop peace and quiet.

#7: Don’t Let Them Fall In With The Wrong Crowd

As Seen In: The Shining

Every child needs friends. Without a playmate, your kid will go round and round and round (on a tricycle through the corridors of a haunted hotel, most likely) bored out their tiny mind. But it’s a parent’s duty to make sure they make good friends – not the kind of ne’er-do-well who’s going to lead your kid astray. In other words, if they come home with two ghoul-like identical twins saying, “Come with play with us… forever and ever and ever” slam the door in their faces and never let your child out of your sight again.

#8: Encourage Creativity

As Seen In: The Omen

Creativity is key to any child’s development, so you should try and harness it. Activities can include painting, building toys, or make-believe play. Some children, especially those called Damien (which is asking for trouble), may even show an aptitude for murdering your friends and family and then making it look like an accident – such as random hangings or skewering the vicar with the church steeple.

#9: Get A Reliable Child Minder

As Seen In: Hereditary

When you need the kids looking after, who do you turn to? An older sibling could be option – which is all good and well until they accidentally decapitate the little ‘un. A grandparent is perhaps a more responsible choice perhaps. Although they might turn out to be the leader of an evil cult that’s using your kids as a vessel for the spirit of a centuries-old demon. Do yourself – and the soul of your child – a favour and get professional babysitter in.

The Hole In The Ground opens in cinemas across the UK and Ireland on 1st March 2019 from Vertigo Releasing and Wildcard Distribution

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