When you’re a kid, there are a lot of things that can leave an impression on you. From the youngest age I can always remember certain movies that would brand an image into my mind and scare the shit out of me. A perfect example would be when I was about 6 or 7 I sneaked in to my parents watching The Godfather and of course with my timing I walked in right on the iconic horse head scene, you can figure out what happened from there. When you’re so young like that there are so many things that you haven’t experienced in life, therefore you’re prone to having big reactions to unexpected things. Which brings us to today’s post. A while back I was talking to my friend and somehow Watership Down came up into the conversation. The second the name was brought up my mind took me back to vague memories of seeing it for the first time and being shocked and scared. That conversation led to thinking about plenty of other movies that fucked me up as a kid, hence the title of this post. So in some kind of clustered order that probably won’t make sense, here are some movies that for better or for worse left an impression on me.
10. Pinocchio (1940)
It shouldn’t be surprising that this is on my list because this is one of the oddest and darkest animated movies around. In my eyes, Disney has always been that safe brand for animated movies, especially now. But I often overlook the small collection of weirdly dark and sinister Disney flicks. The image of some kids at a theme park (oh sorry I mean “theme park”), smoking cigars, drinking beer and suddenly transforming into donkeys or jackasses (as they refer to them in the film to really add to the mood of the moment), will forever be etched into my brain. But really when looking at the source material that this is adapted from, it’s not that surprising where the tone comes from. We definitely owned this on VHS and for some reason I would watch it multiple times as a really small kid even though it gave me a weird and kind of nasty feeling whenever I watched it. At the end of the day it’s still a Disney movie so nothing gets too insane, just don’t watch the 2002 Roberto Benigni live action version and you’ll be fine.
9. Batman (1989)
Watching Batman again recently, I realized it’s not my favorite Batman movie and it’s pretty damn cheesy, but holy shit this movie got me as a kid. It didn’t scare me as much as some of the other movies on this list, but it still gave a pretty good fright. Particularly the first chunk of the movie involving the inception of Jack Nicholson’s The Joker. There was just something about Nicholson’s performance that really stuck with me and how each scene was lit with the use of shadows and just Nicholson’s voice. Like I said before, watching it now I don’t get the same type of scared feeling that I used to get, it just comes off as cheesy and over the top, but to it’s credit it still has some moments of greatness, mostly coming from Jack Nicholson and Michael Keaton, sorry Kim Basinger.
8. Bridge To Terabithia (2007)
Anyone who’s seen this movie or read the book knows exactly why this movie is on my list. In Bridge To Terabithia, somewhere around the third act a certain main character dies and let me just tell you, 11 year old me was crying his damn eyes out. I remember exactly how it felt when I saw it for the first time, it was like a bus of emotions had come and hit me right in the face. It didn’t help that it felt so out of nowhere in the context of the movie too and the fact that I hadn’t read the book it was adapted from. The only other movie I can think of that emotionally hit me like that when I was around that age was the death of Vesper in Casino Royale (guess the death of the female protagonist really brought out the emotions in me). When you’re at that age you’re already vulnerable as it is and still have so much to learn about everything in life that when you see or experience something like that in your own reality it really hits you and takes a toll on you. That’s exactly what happened to me with this movie, poor Leslie!
7. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)
When you think about it, this is just a really weird movie; you can thank Roald Dahl for that. I think there are a lot of bizarre moments that come to mind when people think of this movie but the tunnel scene is probably the most popular choice. It’s for a good reason, that is just such a strangely bonkers scene. I admire it now specifically for Gene Wilder’s out of this world performance, but seeing it back then with images of dying bugs being projected onto the tunnel was what nightmares were made of. But really there were more weird things that came out of this movie other than that scene, especially anything to come out of the first half hour. Slugworth used to make me feel uneasy and confused always, I could never understand what his deal was. This is a movie I still think about sometimes and just look back on it with strange thoughts.
6. Jurassic Park (1993)
Let me just say, I loved Jurassic Park and it’s sequels, but there’s no doubt that those dinosaurs were the freakiest. The scene that I could never watch involved Newman from Seinfeld and a certain hissing dinosaur that sprayed black goo. I actually still can’t watch that scene without flinching a little and having the urge to cover my eyes. Of course, the famous T-Rex scene is gloriously horrifying as well while also being fascinating. I guess it’s also worth mentioning that the scene in Jurassic Park 3 with the Pterodactyls used to scare me a good amount as well, but it never gave me the thrill that this one did. It’s crazy to think how big of a role Steven Spielberg’s movies were in my childhood, from this to Hook or any Indiana Jones movies. Jurassic Park always will hold a big place in my heart though, it’s an iconic movie with some of the best dinosaur practical effects and will forever be a staple of the 90s blockbuster catalogue.
5. Gremlins (1984)
I didn’t actually see this movie until a lot later in my life, probably due to the fact that the gremlins horrified me. The infamous green animatronic evil gremlins of course scared the daylights out of me but even Gismo, the main little white furry “cute” guy had something about him that freaked me out. Similarly to another movie that’s coming up later on this list, when I actually did sit down and watch Gremlins in it’s entirety I realized that it’s more funny than it is scary. It’s no secret that this was marketed towards kids (and maybe teenagers), but good god I did not see the appeal at all when I was a kid, I couldn’t even get myself to watch it I was so scared.
4. The Shining (1980)
If you were to ask me about The Shining today I would tell you it’s a suspense/thriller/horror masterpiece that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. But if you had asked me anything about it when I was a little kid, I would’ve most likely told you it’s that movie where they’re in a big hotel with that guys head going through the door. This was THAT movie that every kid talked about (other than something like It maybe), everyone declared it as the scariest movie they had ever seen, that is if they’d actually seen it. Come to think of it, if I had actually watched this full movie when I was in elementary school I probably would’ve been partially bored and partially creeped out. The way The Shining was talked about within the circle of 8 or 9 year old boys was as if it was the scariest horror movie around, when really it’s much more than just that. Look, this movie is iconic so I highly doubt I need to go into a deep discussion about the themes of the film (especially since there’s already a strange documentary about it out there called Room 237, although I wouldn’t recommend it), but it’s definitely not a movie for kids. I mean, as a 20 year adult in the present day, it’s one of my favorite movies and I find it to be so unique and interesting. But as a young kid it was more horrifying for the idea of it alone. I didn’t actually sit down and watch it until I was in middle school; before that I had seen certain scenes when it played on tv, specifically a very creepy scene set in a bathroom.
3. The Witches (1990)
It was hard not putting this at the very top of the list because seeing this for the first time is one of the most vivid memories for me. It was the scene where Anjelica Huston’s The High Witch decides to take off her human face and reveal her natural state that really sent chills down my spine. Truly if you want to scare any child for some reason, show them the performance that Anjelica Huston gives in this thing. It’s truly horrifying and magnificent to see what she does in this film, it just shows how great of an actress she is. I went back and watched this with a friend a few months back and we both agreed that it’s actually still horrifying, even when you’re an adult. Again, Anjelica Huston is the catalyst for this movie and she owns it, but I think it’s worth saying that Jim Henson’s practical effects in this are also wonderfully creepy and imaginative. Oddly I do think this is a great movie to show to kids, especially with ones that have big imaginations. There’s no doubt that that giant prosthetic nose and that hairy face of The High Witch will never leave my mind.
2. Beetlejuice (1988)
The funny thing about most of these movies is that they’re actually legitimately good movies. Beetlejuice is no exception though for being something that made me shit myself anytime it was being watched. I had a friend who owned a VHS copy of this and he would always bring the copy over and we’d attempt to watch it, but I was never able to make it all the way through. Maybe it was the whole strange Tim Burton-y vibe of the whole thing or just Michael Keaton that freaked me out. Hell, even the cover art freaked me out. The scene I would usually get to and turn off directly afterwards would be the scene involving Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin stepping out their kitchen door into a giant sand dessert and a giant snake thing decides to chase them, it was too much for me. This is another film that is a comedy but I took it as a complete horror show as a kid. It’s funny watching it now because I see those scenes that I found scary and kind of just laugh at them, shows what growing up can do.
1. Watership Down (1978)
Now let’s just talk about this cover art for a second. If you were a little kid and saw this you’d probably think it was some cute animated movie about rabbits and how they get along or something along that line, but oh no how misleading that DVD cover is. I probably saw this one when I was 7 or 8 and I’ve never been the same since. Sure that’s a little bit of an over exaggeration but truthfully, it fucked me up. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the movie all the way through or more than just that one time. Like with Bridge To Terabithia, I was completely shocked and taken aback when I saw bloody rabbits and complete animated carnage. There are images of foamy mouthed rabbits and bloody rabbits that are forever engraved into my mind that will probably never go away, so thank you 70s!
So I think we’ll end it there! Those were just 10 movies from my childhood that really fucked me up, I’m sure everyone has their own movies they could name, if you feel obligated to share don’t be afraid to list them in the comments! And on that note I’ll leave you with this horrifying image from the beautiful Watership Down …