Sure we could talk about movies that scared you most as an adult like everyone else. But I think the stuff that terrifies you as a kid has a big influence for you as an adult so let’s honor those scares of our childhood!
Honorable Mention: Cell’s Introduction- “Dragonball Z”
Can I say just how messed up this scene was? First of all, who expects when they tune into “Dragonball Z” to see something disturbing?! Well that’s just what happened! I’m watching an episode and it’s during the Android Saga where we know the heroes failed and were all killed in the future. Thanks to some time travel they’re getting a second chance. One of the heroes named Piccolo is heading somewhere when he senses some great power. He arrives in a town that is completely empty except for clothing of the citizens but no living people ANYWHERE. Piccolo walks through the town with creepy music playing. The music is particularly creepy since it sounds unlike any music we’ve heard before in the series. He finally finds one man scared and then from behind him comes this strange insectoid creature that looks unlike anything we’ve seen before. The man pleads with Piccolo to save him, offering him a big wad of cash but then the creature named Cell strikes its stinger at the end of his tail into the man’s back and he melts away… slowly. Piccolo, one of the more stoic heroes of the show is visibly disturbed by what he sees. At this moment we learn we have a much BIGGER problem than we thought with the killer androids. Again this was a show about crazy martial arts fighting but for one part of one episode it turned into a horror story and gave us one of the best villain introductions ever.
I didn’t have cable channels growing up so I didn’t grow up with “Are You Afraid of the Dark” but being a 90s kid I did grow up in the grip of the “Goosebumps” phenomenon and for awhile it was EVERYWHERE! We had a bunch of the books at my house, I only read a few. I wasn’t the strongest reader back then but I did watch the TV show quite a bit and the scariest episode was “Night of the Living Dummy” starring the most famous of “Goosebumps” villains, Slappy the dummy. I believe after this episode and just how scared I was it was decided that I wasn’t allowed to watch the show anymore. Honestly looking back as an adult it’s hard to remember what was it about him that scared me. The design in the show was a lot less creepy then what was on the covers of the books. If I had to guess, maybe it was the concept of some malevolent force that wants to do you harm but the adults around you, the people who are supposed to protect you, don’t believe you. So needless to say, it’s not a scare that holds up. In fact the whole show is like that. The acting is so cheesy that I’m not even sure how I took it seriously. But I do clearly remember the fear it instilled in me after all these years.
4. “Ernest Scared Stupid”
Again I think a big part of what made this so scary as a kid is because who expects a freaking Ernest film to scare you?! And yes, I did grow up watching Ernest movies and I’m not ashamed to admit that. I had actually been told about this movie for a couple years by my older brothers before finally catching it on TV, so I figured I was mentally prepared for this movie. After all who ever heard of trolls being terrifying? I think what made this so scary as a kid was how this was about kids being targeted by the troll and turned into wooden statues. However the movie was thrilling for a child. You had an evil scary troll but then all of the Ernest P. Worrell scenes (which again for a kid) were hilarious. I still wonder if “miak” is real or not. My older brothers and I still quote that scene.
3. “Return to Oz”
This movie has quite the reputation as one of the scariest children’s films ever and with good reason. However I think what I found so scary will be different then most other viewers. When you hear other people talking about this movie it tends to be about either the scenes with the Wheelers or that scene where Dorothy has to steal a key from the same cabinet where Princess Mombi keeps her original head. Oh ya, she stole a bunch of maiden’s heads and keeps them in cabinets and switches between them. And YES this is all from the books. “Return to Oz” is actually quite close to the books. It mixes together “The Marvelous Land of Oz” and “Ozma of Oz” and even more so than the famous classic “The Wizard of Oz,” this film truly captures the spirit of the books.
But for me what was the most terrifying was the climax of the movie. The villain, the Nome King, is reimagined in this film as a complete rock creature who wants to be human. At the end he looses his cool and turns into a giant rock monster and tries to eat Dorothy and her friends alive. Add to that an image of fire and brimstone engulfing the background so it looks like Hell and you got a terrifying scene. Most of the movie has a very quiet level of creepiness that pervades the rest of the film but then here it is full blown action. For me the scariest part of this scariest scene is when he tries to eat Jack Pumpkinhead; the most innocent and pure character in the film. I think this film still has an effect on me as I still find the idea of something giant snatching me up and slowly lowering me into its mouth terrifying. Luckily for me it doesn’t show up in a lot of films but when it does it legitimately freaks me out. But the film itself still holds up and I highly recommend it to everyone as a classic in its own right.
2. Rankin/Bass “The Hobbit”
The Rankin/Bass version of “The Hobbit” was my gateway drug for the world of J.R.R. Tolkien. Gollum is probably the first character I can remember being truly scared of; as in I had to leave the room during the “Thief! Thief! Baggins! We hates it! Hates it! FOREVER!” scene. It was also probably the longest I’ve ever been scared of something. I don’t remember when I first saw it, it was just something that always existed as far back as I could remember. But I remained scared of it all throughout elementary school. And this was a movie I re-watched again and again. I knew the movie backwards and forwards (and still to this day) but it didn’t help.
I mean no disrespect to Andy Serkis but when I think of Gollum from the books I still hear the voice of Brother Theodore when I read them. The man had a fantastic voice, one he apparently used in his stand-up… those wacky Germans. It’s a voice that can sound completely pathetic yet so deranged that at any moment you could say the wrong thing and he’ll attack and eat you. Combine that with what I always thought was an interesting (though very literal from the descriptions in the book) design. I love the look of this film. The highly Arthur Rackham inspired backgrounds, the highly detailed character models, and the music. I’m not just talking about the songs, though they are all very catchy. The score for this and the 1980 follow up “Return of the King” have fantastic scores. Particularly with the riddles in the dark scene the creepiness just oozes from the speakers along with tons of little details hiding in the background of the cave like the goblin skeleton.
But of course what made me have to leave the room was the climax of the scene where Gollum goes to head Bilbo off in the tunnels. Now in the book there’s a great little moment that the Jackson’s film perfectly captured where Bilbo has a chance to kill him but upon feeling sorry for him decides to spare his life. This film skips that moment instead going for a build up of dread. The music just builds and builds until Bilbo jumps over Gollum and he screams with all the hatred in his heart at Bilbo. You can imagine my shock and horror as a kid when I found out he returns in the sequel, Lord of the Rings. As an adult while it no longer scares me, I still see why I found it so scary. To the point I explained it to my little sister before showing it to her for the first time. But it was actually the spiders sequence that scared her more. Still for me the movie not only holds up but I think it unfairly gets a bad reputation and I hope anyone who does watch it can open their minds to a very different style from the book and Jackson films.
1. “The Real Ghostbusters”/”Extreme Ghostbusters”
The series was a fantastic continuation from the film and was run by J. Michael Straczynski (creator of “Babylon 5”). For the first 2 seasons that he was in charge, the series was practically perfect for its time. Then the network started making stupid demands (ex: more Slimer, different voice actors, less scary episodes) and just flat out zero understanding of the property itself (ex: Egon is the brains, Peter is the mouth, Ray is the heart, and Winston… is the driver) that Straczynski quit the show in protest and the quality of the rest of the series reflects this. What kinds of things happened in those earlier episodes? You had the Ghostbusters facing off against the physical embodiment of Halloween called Samhain, the 3 ghosts from “A Christmas Carol,” the Devil on a game show, the end of the world, and of course the episode where they fought the one and only Cthulhu. However what is often considered to be the best episode of the whole show by fans and myself would be the 6th episode of the 1st season, “The Boogieman Cometh.”
I suppose this shouldn’t be a big surprise given the premise of the franchise but it still freaked me out. Again I had heard about this infamous episode from my older brothers for years before I actually saw it but it didn’t quite prepare me. So if you’ve seen the image of the Boogieman in the show it may be hard to see why this was so scary, but something about it was just so unnerving. It may have helped that he rarely talked thus building up more suspense and when it did it was something chilling like when he first sees Egon he says, “I REMEMBER YOU!!” Plus being a creature that existed in another plane of existence and portals to our world were in kid’s closets. Then top it all off with the fact the Ghostbusters didn’t defeat him and they couldn’t trap him with the proton packs. The best they could do was just seal him in this own world, meaning he could come back. And that’s just what he did a few seasons later. Season 3 had a large dip in quality but it still managed to have a couple of good episodes and “The Bogeyman is Back” is one of them. Of course when it came on TV I had just begun to be able to sleep with my door closed again, Murphy’s law I suppose ha-ha.
However that wasn’t the end of Ghostbusters cartoons scaring me. So most people are aware of “The Real Ghostbusters,” some even know about Filmation’s “Ghostbusters,” but I have never come across someone in real life that knew of the sequel series to “Real Ghostbusters” known as “Extreme Ghostbusters.” It was from the late 90s and with a name containing the words “Extreme” you might think it was fad-ish but it was actually a pretty good show. In many ways it was more consistent than “The Real Ghostbusters” but that may be due to the fact it only lasted for 2 seasons. The story was set after all the other members left. Egon recruits a new team of college students to continue the business. The 9th episode “Killjoys” was about evil clowns that ate people whole and were attracted by laughter. I myself am not afraid of clowns but no joke, I was so scared by this episode I held in my laughter for a week before my family noticed something was wrong with me. I think my parents also tried to ban me from watching this show but like a lot of the great scary, things I couldn’t stay away from it.
So while none of these episodes scare me like they did back in the day I can still see why they were scary even if I can see the humor in them. But then there’s this other episode which now that I’m an adult I can fully appreciate how f@#%ed it was. Episode 5 of the 1st season, “Deadliners”. At first it’s a spoof of “Goosebumps” and R.L. Stine but quickly becomes Ghostbusters vs Hellraiser… again no joke. The monsters turn people into freaks like themselves through some unnecessary surgery. We open with a kid being kidnapped and strapped down on a surgery bed then when we see him next. Clearly they’ve removed multiple body parts… violently. Seriously now that I’m grown up and can fully appreciate the concept, all I can wonder is how did this get on the air?!