Accidental Nightmare Fuel

21 Jul

Today I’m going to talk about movies that traumatized me as a child. And I don’t mean horror movies either. My folks were pretty strict about what we were allowed to watch, so this isn’t going to be about a little kid that watches The Thing.  But thanks for the inspiration, Caulle!

No, this is a post about movies that were intended to be funny/appropriate for childhood viewing but wound up becoming accidental nightmare fuel for me (warning: that is a TV Tropes link. I cannot be responsible for your lost productivity if you fall into the TV Tropes wormhole.)

1. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

An 80s classic, everyone I grew up with saw this movie. I couldn’t wait to see it. It was supposed to be cute and funny and inspiring.

It scared the crap out of me. I have since discovered that people seem to either love this movie or despise it. I remain in the ‘despise’ camp though I will admit some of the scenes are cute or funny or touching.

So what was so scary? How about mysterious grown-ups with authority marching in wearing big puffy de-humanizing suits and throwing Elliot and E.T. into a quarantine tent? I was taught to respect people with authority. So here was this kid, who did nothing wrong, and suddenly a swarm of government dudes appear at his house and basically kidnap him and his alien friend and throw them into a scary hospital tent.

Ho-leeeee shit.

And then? Whatever they do in there KILLS the alien. He DIES. Meanwhile the kid and the alien are hooked up to tubes and wires and medical equipment, there are a bunch of doctors standing around in faceshields doing CPR. Poor E.T. goes all white and chalky and looks even creepier. This is a children’s movie? Are you kidding me?

I can’t find the “lots of scary dudes are kidnapping us” scene on YouTube, but here’s the one where E.T. is dying and Elliot is losing his ever-loving mind:

2. Young Frankenstein

This one was an accident. I wasn’t supposed to be watching Young Frankenstein as a tiny tot. My parents put us to bed, turned out all the lights in the house, and put on a movie they enjoyed. I was around four or five years old. Occasionally I would wake up in the middle of the night and seek out my parents. I was a very quiet child, I frequently startled my parents by seemingly appearing from the ether and just hovering nearby, waiting for them to notice me. I didn’t want to bother them, you see. So sometimes I’d wake up and creep downstairs, but if they were watching tv I didn’t want to interrupt them so I’d just sit on the little staircase that led down to the living room and hope one of them would get up and find me on the way to the kitchen.  I could see the tv from the steps too, so I’d watch in silence.

And so I have a very vivid memory of sitting on those steps in the dark, watching the flickering tv. I didn’t know what they were watching. It was in black and white. And then, this happened:

Igor didn’t scare me. The lightning didn’t scare me. It was the smashed brain. I was so freaked out that I got up and went right back to bed and lay there, terrified, in the dark. Years and years later my folks decided we were old enough to watch Young Frankenstein and I had an “Aha!” moment.

“Why didn’t you tell us? Why didn’t you come down the steps?” my mom asked, horrified. I still don’t know the answer to that question.

3. The Princess Bride

This one is all the fault of the Ray boys down the street. In my family there were three girls, in that family were three boys of almost the exact same ages. We’d go down the block and play together often. Occasionally we’d go there after school if my mom had an appointment. Which is how I wound up watching The Princess Bride before I was quite ready. I think I was seven or eight?

Danny insisted it was a funny movie. I wasn’t convinced. I tried to ignore it and read or do my homework or something, but their tv was the focal point of the room.

There were two parts of the movie that terrified me and actually gave me nightmares. Although I enjoy the movie for its many merits as an adult, I still think both of these scenes are creepy.

Fire Swamp! Let’s see, we’ve got giant gouts of flame that burst out of the ground randomly. We’ve got huge, creepy Rodents of Unusual Size (I don’t believe they exist). And then, the cherry on top? Quicksand. Which very nearly kills our dynamic duo, as evidenced by them desperately gasping for breath when Wesley pulls them out. TOTALLY FUN MOVIE FOR KIDS, AMIRITE?

You saw this one coming, right? Jesus H. Christ on a pogo stick. A machine that sucks the life out of you, that attaches to your head and your nipples (?!) A machine that is so painful it makes a strong pirate-man writhe and arch off the table and then weep like a baby. And that’s on the lowest setting. I had actual nightmares about this thing for years. Between this and the E.T. hospital scene I had a weird fascination with medical equipment and death and being injured.

I watched The Princess Bride last week and the machine still gives me the heebie-jeebies.

So those are my inadvertently traumatizing movie clips from childhood. What are yours? What seemingly innocuous show or movie became nightmare fuel for you?

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6 Responses to “Accidental Nightmare Fuel”

  1. Caulle July 21, 2011 at 3:35 pm #

    Actually, the one movie that did freak me out? Spaceballs. At the end with the “Alien” scene where the guy orders the lunch special? I remember going to bed that night and just super freaked over the whole thing. A piece of paper I had taped to the wall decided that night of all nights was the night it was going to fall and I pretty much screamed and bolted out of bed and into my mom’s room. There were many tears.

    • Fallah July 21, 2011 at 4:06 pm #

      Oh man, yeah that would do it. It’s a pretty accurate re-creation of the scene from Alien, so that definitely would have been a nightmare fuel for me as a kid. Didn’t see that one until I was much older though.

      Random fact, I remember my parents going to see it in the theater and leaving us with a sitter because I thought it was a hilarious name for a movie.

  2. Bika July 21, 2011 at 3:52 pm #

    I didn’t have a problem with the Princess Bride; I found my nightmare fodder when I was around 5 or 6. I was staying overnight at my aunt’s place and SUPPOSED to be in bed, but I was being a little shit… I kept sneaking in to watch TV, where she was watching the Twilight Zone, and asking her to change it to cartoons. (I can’t for the life of me find out what episode she was watching at first–or whether it was even tTZ–but it had sentient fruit and a woman with her mouth sewn shut. That’s not the scenery that scared me, though.)

    Well, my aunt got tired of changing the channel every time I wandered into the room, so she left it on partway through Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (if you don’t know, it was based on a story about a man who is piss-pants afraid of flying who discovers a gremlin outside the plane), starring William Shatner. She just happened to click back to the show just before the gremlin pops its ugly head up in the window, and it scared the CRAP outta me. Aunt Sherry felt terrible about traumatizing me, but it could’ve been a lot worse.

    Though I have to say, to this day I still don’t have any appreciation for shock-based horror. Keep the jumping ghouls and crashing ominous music away from me, man.

    • Fallah July 21, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

      Oooh! Yeah, that gremlin is creeeeeepy in that one. I don’t remember a TTZ about sentient fruit but I’ve only seen a few episodes.

      I don’t like “surprise!” -type scares either. When that rash of troll websites was going around years ago I stopped clicking on random links. They were the ones like “find the kitten in this picture!” and you stare and it and 10 seconds later a scary face appears and a sound plays? Gah. Awful. Hate.

      • Bika July 21, 2011 at 4:38 pm #

        Yeah. I punched someone once for sending me one of those.

  3. falconesse July 21, 2011 at 8:31 pm #

    ET freaked me the fuck out, too, for most of the same reasons you mentioned.

    However, right around the time it came out, my dad was also reading Cujo. I was the kind of kid who would read the back of a cereal box if there wasn’t anything else around. In this case, my dad ran into the convenience store while my mom and I waited in the car. Little ol’ me snaked my hand into the center console, took the book from it, and read the back. There was some line about “red eyes glowing in the darkness.”

    I free-associated to ET’s finger and BAM. Scared to goddamned death of ET… But not Cujo.

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