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.
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?