I was 11 years old when Raiders of the Lost Ark premiered in 1981. Loved it, including the famous melting face scene near the end. I don't think I had seen Alien yet, but I had a photo book of the movie and knew it nearly by heart, including the infamous chest-burster. In short, to me the gross stuff in those movies, and others, was cool, and didn't freak me out too much.
I also liked watching those '70s-era boogie-man shows like In Search Of, and I still recall waking up late at night during a sleepover in the basement at my friend Sean's house to watch a Ray Harryhausen stop-motion monster wreak havoc on TV. It scared me, and I liked it.
That doesn't seem to be the case for my daughters, aged 8 and 10. They asked me to tell them when to hide their eyes during scary parts of Raiders on DVD the other day, so neither of them actually saw the melting face, or a few other things. Based on that, we skipped Temple of Doom entirely. Tonight we watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, which has even fewer freaky bits than Raiders, but the rapid aging and decomposition of the Donovan character when he drinks from the wrong Holy Grail was also more than they wanted to see. Our youngest hid her eyes, while our oldest didn't, but had trouble getting to sleep.
On the other hand, two and a half years ago our oldest was okay with King Kong, especially after a day or two to process it. But I still don't know whether we should take them to see the new Indiana Jones movie. I'm sure their friend Clive will love it as I did (he's 9, and watches action movies all the time), while after two Indy movies at home our daughters might not even want to go.
Fiction has always been a way for children to face scary things, and learn to live with them. That's what most fairy tales are about. So I don't want to shelter our girls too much. We're not going to force them to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but if after a bit of time they want to go, I'm not sure—should we take them or not?