My soul has become calloused over the years due to over-exposure to a wide variety of horror movies, and I can watch just about anything with equanimity. However, ’twas not ever thus. I spent my fair share of sleepless nights as a child due to something I’d watched, despite my mother’s best efforts to not expose me to anything traumatic (my father was another story). Here are a few cinematic moments that scarred my innocent little brain.
1. The Witches
Hoooooly shit. I know I mentioned this film in my last post, but I cannot emphasise how much it terrified me. To the point where I had to sleep with the light on for months after seeing it. And it wasn’t just the horrific reveal of the witches – I can also remember being really scared by the part where a little girl gets sucked into a painting. After being traumatised by this, my dad thought it would be a good idea to take me to a live stage adaption that was being performed. I remember the actress playing the Grand High Witch had glowing red lights over her eyes. I spent most of the play hiding under my seat. Nice one, Dad.
2. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
To be honest, all the Indie films had parts that scared the hell out of me when I was little, but the worst was definitely this part in Raiders where the ark is opened and causes all the Nazis’ faces to melt off. Not that they didn’t deserve it. These days I can watch it and think how cool the effects are, but when I was little I had no idea how it was done and all I knew was that there was a screaming man whose face had just turned to goo.
3. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
When I was very young, the BBC aired adaptations of C S Lewis’s Narnia tales. I loved The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but there was always one scene I had to leave the room for. Aslan goes to be sacrified by the White Witch, and they bind him to a rock, cut his fur off then stabbed him. Many of the creatures were made with 2D animation and I really don’t know why it was so upsetting, but it was. IT WAS.
4. Are You Afraid of the Dark?
Specifically this episode featuring a malevolent ghost clown who really likes cigars. I loved this series and I remember this one as the one that freaked me out the most. I think the scariest bit for me was when the kid is in bed and the clown is outside his door, and all you can see is this really bright light and a vague shadow of feet.
5. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
So actually this whole film was pretty creepy. Don’t tell me Gene Wilder wasn’t playing Wonka as a complete psychopath. However, what the hell was up with that tunnel scene? The creepy song, the flashing lights, the short clips of things like crawling centipedes and a chicken having its head chopped off.
Okay, so I didn’t see the actual film until I was about 13 and able to handle it, but when I was seven I saw a trailer for it on the television. I’d never thought of clowns as scary before, but this made me spend many a sleepless night convinced that at any moment Pennywise would appear at the end of my bed.
No, not the Night on Bald Mountain part. That was the section I loved the most – I used to rewind the video so I could watch it again. I’m surprised my mum wasn’t more worried about me. No, the bit that freaked me out was the dinosaur section. I used to be a huge dinosaur nerd so I spent most of the segment thinking how inaccurate it was. But then came the end. Id didn’t matter that it wasn’t accurate – the sight of the dinosaurs trudging off into the desert in search of water they will never find, dropping dead one by one, was seriously traumatic.
8. Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Judge Doom was horrifying. Not just the part where he tortures and kills the poor little cartoon shoe. There’s also his death scene were he gets crushed by a steam-roller, reveals that he was a cartoon all along, then goes terrifyingly batshit insane before getting hit with a blast of his toon-destroying formula and melts. Guh.
9. Return to Oz
While the wheelers were scary, the part that Dorothy goes into Princess Mombi’s hall of heads, and wakes the original head was really terrifying to me. The head starts screaming which wakes the other heads who also start screaming. Then the headless body of Mombi wakes up and starts blundering around trying to catch Dorothy.
10. Watership Down
Seriously, WHY WAS THIS EVER SHOWN TO CHILDREN? When I was a kid, we were shown a film as a treat on the last day of term. They were usually children’s’ classics – movies like The Secret Garden or The Railway Children. I don’t know why it was that, one day before school broke up for Easter, our sadistic teachers decided to play this. The person who made the video above set their compilation to the theme from The Omen and it’s very appropriate. Even now I couldn’t watch Watership Down. I just get the image of all of us shuffling back to our classrooms with thousand yard stares.