Want personalized picks that fit your family?
Set preferences to see our top age-appropriate picks for your kids.
13: Fear Is Real
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this creepy reality show recreates the look and feel of a horror film. The 13 contestants participate in a series of challenges that are intentionally designed to scare both them and the audience -- such as burying people alive or tying them up and abandoning them outdoors at night. The action is guided by an unseen host, The Mastermind, who often uses language that evokes death; the segment of the show in which contestants are kicked out is even referred to as the Execution Ceremony. There's little actual violence, but the overall effect is very spooky and could easily scare young viewers.
What's the story?
Thirteen people, stranded in the middle of the woods, seek refuge in an abandoned old shack, where their every move is secretly filmed by an unseen fiend. Yes, it sounds like the set-up for any number of horror films -- but it's also the premise for 13: FEAR IS REAL, a reality show that goes to great lengths to emulate the horror genre. The participants must take part in challenges designed to scare them, such as being tied up and deserted outdoors at night. As in a horror film, the players are gradually whittled down as they're ejected from the show in the Execution Ceremony -- with the sole "survivor" winning $66,666.
Is it any good?
Veteran horror film director Sam Raimi is one of the executive producers on 13, and his expertise shows. The series looks and feels like a real horror movie, which doesn't go unnoticed by the media-savvy contestants. The unseen host, known as The Mastermind, intentionally uses language that evokes death and murder, making the already spooky challenges seem even eerier. The participants are often visibly shaken
Though it's obviously a reality show, the situations seem so much like a movie that the players -- and the viewers -- can't help but wonder where the line will be drawn between reality and fiction, or if there's a line at all. When players are tied up and blindfolded in the woods, alone at night, The Mastermind says some will face a terrible fate. And when two contestants are nailed into coffins and actually buried alive, terrified, it's clear that he wasn't exaggerating. Even for a reality show, some of these situations seem less like a TV show and perhaps more real than necessary. 13 will likely appeal to horror fans, but anyone who finds such movies off-putting will probably have the same reaction to this series.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about horror films. Why are they so popular? How do many recent horror movies, like the Saw series -- which seem to focus on violence and torture -- differ from earlier films? What's appealing about watching people be subjected to such unpleasant fates? Does this show seem similar to a horror film? Many of the contestants seem uncomfortable, and some even confess to being terrified. Why would they be willing to participate in the show? Is it just for a chance to win the prize, or do you think some of them enjoy being scared? Do you like to be scared? Would you participate in a show like this? (Parents: Check out our Scary Movies Tips for more information.)