I adore horror but this was not always the case, in fact when I look back to a certain part of my life when I was very young the limited exposure I had to mildly frightening things scared me silly. I remember 5 things scaring me stupid all of which I adore now but at the time seemed terrifying, I will let the cat out of the bag a little now and tell you what they were. One was the War of the Worlds musical, the martians screaming Ulaaaaaaaa used to send me diving under my pillows terrified and one of my brothers would insist on playing it when I had gone to bed loudly enough for me to hear. Two of the others were the little bits of Little Shop of Horrors and Critters that I accidentaly saw while walking in on adults watching them, and sods law I walked in at the very worst points in the films I could have, neither film when watched from start to end are that scary but seeing the wrong little snippet and beng left to try and find some form of meaning in these brief moments absolutly terrified me, I had an active imagination which spun far worse nightmares out of these pieces than it should have. The end of the film Gremlins terrified me, I was happy to watch the film to see the creatures, but the suggestion at the end that if the lights go out there could be a gremlin in your house coupled with the power cut we had about a week latter sprinkled with one of my brothers deciding that this was the prime time to make gremlin noises was enough to turn my blood to ice and scare me to the bone. Last but by no means least the thing that terrified me arguably the most was Michael Jacksons Thriller or to be precise it was Vincent Prices voice over speach/rap. There was something about how he deliverd the words the terms he used but also how he said them, when he talked about grizzly ghouls leaving there tombs in search of blood it painted a real picture in my mind one which terrified me to the core. It scared me but I couldnt seem to leave it alone there was something so special about his delivery.
I remember going through a process as a child where my mother would decide what I could and could not watch, a lot of the time she would do this by watching things first and deciding if she felt I could deal with the content. Then there were general rules she decided on like there came a day when she decided that despite me being younger than 15 I was mature enough to watch anything that was a 15 certificate and that I would just have to get permision when it came to 18's. The honest truth is I was watching quiet a few 18's from a young age, my mum essentially worked as a mini certifications board putting her own thoughts and feelings into both how mature and mentally devloped I was and into what she felt about a films contents and I think she was far better at it than the actual BBFC (British Board of Film Classification). I watched Bruce Lee films at a young age because my mum didnt think a bit of martial arts fighting really warranted an 18, and I am quick to agree after all a few years latter most kids would be watching the Power Rangers which was just about as violent (yes there was no blood and you didnt really see death but I would argue that just makes it less realistic not less violent). This is a process I have led my own daughter through, I watch what she wants to watch, I read about it and I make an informed decision on wether I think she should or should not watch something yet. I think the BBFC might be qualified to give films an average rating (although I would argue they get this wrong a lot of the time) but I think no one is more qualified to know what a young person should and should not watch and have access to than there own parent(s).
I started by watching a lot of older horror films and 80's 15 certificate stuff we had a rental shop near us that used to charge 50pence a night per rental and on weekends I would go and rent 4 typically B movie 80's horror films, this was combined with recording a lot of hammer horror films of the TV and other older films. The more I watched the more I learned what I enjoyed, I found that for example I had a thing for zombies and vampires. I think the Zombies came from a lot of 80's films and then the Vampires was very much the influence of the universal and hammer films (although The Lost Boys helped too). I would find names of actors that I liked, I had enjoyed them in one film so I would look for other films with them in, for example Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee. Latter I would progress into looking up the names of writers and Directors. So I would say if you are new to horror then try a small sampling of diffrent types of film with diffrent levels of budget from diffrent decades and try to find the things that appeal to you. the same applies for if you are trying to get someone else into horror or allowing your children to get into horror, try lots of diffrent things start soft with the tame ones and work from there.
I would recomend if your letting a youngster your responsible for watch horror then to start with let them watch some with you, watch some tame stuff that you have deemed appropriate try to enjoy it with them but pay attention to the reactions they display. Make sure that your always available to discuss anything in any form of media that has botherd them and dont pressure them in any way, always remember what bores one person will terrify another we all have our own thresholds for certain things horror/fear being one of them. I would say dont feel pressured to let your kids watch anything because of what there friends are allowed to watch. The simple truth is there is always going to be kids who are allowed to watch more, this could be because they are more mature or simply because there parents dont care about there children enough to say no. It is also important to remember that a lot of the time a lot of kids absolutly talk crap. I remember my daughter telling me that a whole bunch of kids at school were claiming to have watched NightMare on Elm street at a pretty young age, now this turned out to be untrue. They were all talking about the rhym in the film and they were all getting it tottally wrong, along with the plot of the film, they were also trying to claim that anyone who hadnt seen it was a pussy ecetera. So what did I do, well I gave my daughter a verbal account of the film that was in no way as intense as the real film but told her enough of what happend that she could tell them they were wrong and it didnt happen like that, this is what happend. Ultimatly I think the moral is that as a parent you should be the gate keeper to what your children do and do not watch, the BBFC and other such guides are there to help you but overall you need to take control and responsability yourself but you need to do it in a respectful way in which you work in partnership with your children in order to help them watch the things they want to watch when they are mature enough and adequatly prepared for them.