Horror films to be more closely scrutinised under new certification guidelines.

The British Board of Film Classification is to pay more attention to the impact of gore and strong visuals in horror films under new certification guidelines revealed today.

Greater weight will be given to the theme and tone of a film or video, particularly around the 12A/12 and 15 level. Particular attention will be given to the psychological impact of horror, as well as strong visual detail such as gore.

However, a consultation that involved 10,000 members of the UK public revealed that while people want the BBFC to be stricter with the language allowed at U, they want it to be more flexible about allowing very strong language at 15. It revealed that context, not just frequency, is the most important factor in how language in films is perceived by the public.

A specific issue highlighted by the consultation is in relation to sexual content, where the public is particularly concerned about the sexualisation of girls, and pornography.  The content of music videos and the ease of accessibility of online porn are special worries.

Parents are also concerned about risks to vulnerable adolescents including self-harm, suicide, drug misuse and premature access to sexual content, including what some describe as the ‘normalisation’ in films and videos of behaviours which parents consider inappropriate.

David Cooke, director of the BBFC, said: “Our new Classification Guidelines reflect explicitly concerns raised by the public during the 2013 consultation and will, I believe, ensure that we continue to be in step with what the public wants and expects in order to make sensible and informed viewing decisions.

“There is also room for continued improvement. Although it is 12 years old this year, the 12A rating remains confusing for a significant minority, with up to 27% of consumers unable to describe accurately what 12A means. 

“We and the film industry will work during 2014 to improve understanding of this very important rating as well as raise awareness of BBFCinsight information, which is vital in helping parents decide if a 12A film is suitable for their child.”

The new Classification Guidelines will come into force in six weeks, on Feb 24.