Sunday, November 11, 2007

Discussion: What Movies Freaked You Out as a Kid?

While surfing Aint It Cool News tonight, I came across this amusing interview between Quint and actor Jason Schwartzman where they rhapsodize about films they watched as kids, and talk about pretty much nothing else. At times, Jason reverses the roles and becomes interviewer in a neat conversation about their equal love of movies. Schwartzman mentions a film called "The Peanut Butter Solution" that gave him nightmares when he saw it as a child. In the comments section of the article, someone points out that at the IMDB link of the film, one can find over 50 people so happy to find this film listed on IMDB after years of searching that their relief feels contagious. If you skim through the comments, this appears to be a film that freaked out alot of 5-10 year olds kids in the late 80's, and virtually every one of them could not remembered the film's title nor convince anyone close to them of this film's existence. The common reaction from friends or spouses was "that sounds too weird, you probably just dreamed it."

This discussion (both between Quint and Jason as well as the host of twenty-somethings on IMDB) is a great microcosm of the weird images and feelings that imbed themselves in us as children- primarily through our early introduction to sound, images and ideas via film, television, books, comics and cartoons. Though I can't say I ever watched "The Peanut Butter Solution" and allowed its eerie charm to burrow inside my pre-cognitive mind, there were several other films that still haunt me to this day. Now, I'm not talking about horror films because that's, basically, their purpose and an easy dart to throw. What kid wouldn't be freaked out by their first forays into that genre? I'm looking for unintentional films that disturbed one due to their subject matter, images or lack of understanding the film's ideas. I don't usually do this, but this topic really interests me so I'd love as many comments as possible and spread the word!

1. Pete's Dragon- I still can't watch this film because of the unbearable sadness it caused me as a child. I guess this is my "Bambi", a film that's meant to be cute and adorable in its animation yet introduced me to the horrors of the real world waaaay too early.
2. Something Wicked This Way Comes- For the life of me, I can't understand how Disney marketed this so gleefully to kids (which seems to be a common theme among these films as evident in the IMDB chat board, as so many films people list as nightmarish were observed on the Disney channel). The dread and blackness in this film confused me as a child, and upon a later viewing when older, it was only then did I understand how hellish the scenario was. This was hell coming to town. Nice work, Disney.
3. Time Bandits- As if midg.... uhh vertically challenged people weren't freaky enough for children, you throw in the bizarre fetishes of director Terry Gilliam and this film is utterly disturbing. The only parts I remember now include that deep, demonic voice and the whirlwhind portal that opens up and sucks everyone in. I'm sure there were more disturbing images, but I've blocked them out.
4. The NeverEnding Story- Besides being tragically sad, alot of this film's mystical narrative flew right over my head and made me feel like ANY place that could exist in my imagination would ultimately end as dark, scary and unreturnable. I loved reading the C.S. Lewis Chronicles of Narnia as a young boy, and while those were slightly more uplifting, this film combined with those stories made me very afraid of things not grounded in reality.
5. Escape To Witch Mountain- There was something very frightening and incomprehensible to me about these children who could control things with their mind. I vividly remember going to school after seeing this movie and wondering if any classmates had this ability, and that really scared me.
6. Return To Oz- Words can barely describe the terror this film instilled in me. Whether it was the idea of a girl being in a mental institution (which I had no gravity as to the sadness of this predicament) or the sinister other creatures, I'm thinking about re-watching this film on a more level headed playing field to see how screwed up it is for children.
7. Nightmares- Ok, so why was a ten year old watching a film called "Nightmares"? No idea. Blame my parents for leaving me alone with a full subscription to HBO. The one part of this film I remember was the bit with a guy (who I just discovered was Emilio Estevez, wow) playing a video game and then the giant floating head coming to life and chasing him. As a kid who would blow his $3 allowance each Friday night at the mall arcade, this shook me up.
8. Invaders From Mars- This was probably my first introduction to the Body Snatcher phenomenon, but certain images are so vivid- a teacher eating frog legs, the non plussed look on the parents faces etc. I was pretty worrisome as a child anyways, so the thought of my parents turning into something non-responsive and uncaring pushed me over the edge.

Ok.. give me time and more will come to me. Now it's your turn.....


Adam Ross said...

I'm one of the Peanut Butter Solution Lost Youths. It's a truly strange kids movie that used to be on HBO a lot, something to do with a kid who gets so scared his hair falls out, then he wanders into a painting and finds a solution to grow hair, then he gets kidnapped ...

I ranked Invaders from Mars in my 31 horror flicks last month, it really preys on a kid's mistrust of adults. Another late 80s kids movie on HBO that scared me was called The Quest, though it's apparently known more as Frog Dreaming, about a kid in Australia investigating a local sea monster legend. Never seen it anywhere, even at oddity video shops.

PIPER said...

Great post.

Three words for you. Trilogy Of Terror.

And then there was another movie that I saw in Santa Fe, NM. I don't know what it was called but it was about this guy that every time he looked though this big telescope, he saw this freaky looking creature waving its arms and moving around. That's all I remember, but it terrified me.

And the trailer for the horror movie (don't know what it was called) but there is a doll in the middle of the road. A guy comes upon it, stops his car and goes to see it. When he does it grabs ahold of him. And that was just the trailer.

Evan Waters said...

THE LAST STARFIGHTER- there's a subplot where David gets a robot/clone thingy put on Earth to replace him while he's gone, and there's one scene where we see the thing "forming"- it's humanoid, but bald with wet pulsing skin and big staring eyes. Scary as ****.

E.T., the guys in spacesuits of course. It's just so instantly surreal.

The frogleg scene was pretty yikes-inducing to me. At the same time I LOVED the aliens in that movie. Especially the "leader".

Joe Baker said...

Adam, "The Peanut Butter Solution" has actually been posted in full on Yahoo Videos. I started watching part of it the other day but stopped. I think I'll continue watching it later this week.

I've never heard of "Frog Dreamin'", although your link to IMDB does stir some memories about that VHS cover.

Joe Baker said...


I didn't see "Trilogy of Terror" until later in life, so no comment on that one. As for your other movie description, you should check out If you click on movies and then cult film, they seem to find the answer to any plot description with enough clues.


I remember exactly the scene you're talking about in "Last Starfighter". I watched that quite a few times as a young 'un.

Chris Gaubatz said...

Great topic. "Something Wicked This Way Comes" was the first thing I thought of when I read the title of your entry. "Dark Crystal" rated high on the creep scale when I was a kid, too. I remember a scene in "Legend" that gave me nightmares for a while- when that demon is whipping someone in that dungeon. I try not to watch movies that I loved when I was a kid, because it would ruin the memory for me. "Karate Kid" and "Never Ending Story" come to mind in that regard. I loved those movies growing up, but I haven't seen them since I was eight or so, and I'm going to keep it that way. Cool stuff man!

Joe Baker said...


I know I've seen "Dark Crystal", but it didn't spring to mind when thinking about this topic. I think my brother initially saw "Legend" before I did, so my parents were aware it featured a huge red devil with horns and that was pretty much restricted for my young eyes!

Powerpoint Templates said...

All the movies that have been listed are real freaky ones.
I get chills every time I watch them.