Hallowe'en, the one night of the year you can dress up as a crazy person, and no one will be able to tell it's the truth...
In the spirit of the scares, our staff writers have decided to share with you the films that scared them as wee bairns. Read on at your PERIL! (cue evil laugh)
When I was eleven I first saw Jaws. My sister really wanted to watch it, so I was forced to sit there whilst a giant (fake, rubber) animatronic shark chewed its way through the population of Amity Island. I even remember trying to hide behind my copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to try and make it go away. Alas it didn’t, and I remember having nightmares for almost two weeks following the viewing. The most disturbing thing is the psychological effect that still haunts me to this day, I’d rather not swim in the sea unless the water only comes up to my waist, and even worse, I’m never entirely comfortable swimming in the deep end of my local pool, just in case a shark has managed to infiltrate the filtration systems, and is just poised to cause carnage in the deep end. I blame my imagination for that last part.
I'm not really scared by much. Some things scare the... and pardon my language... shit out of me. I can count on one hand the amount of times something has frightened me. The Exorcist is probably the one film which terrifies me the most. Now I know these sounds cheesy and all since it is one of the scariest films out there in cinema but this is no joke. Not so much because of the movie or the effects, mind you they don't help me in feeling safe but it is the idea that I do believe in God and the Devil. I believe in a lot of things such as ghost and spirits but trust me I don't ever want to see or meet one. Some stuff is better left alone, sort of that careful what you wish for. I won't watch The Exorcist today, couldn't pay me enough. Last time I saw it was the re-release in theaters with the extra footage. Something about that movie is just... wrong. It feels like something heavy and dark looms over it as you watch it. It encroaches on a topic I don't ever want to have to ever experience.
The "Pink Elephants on Parade" sequence, in which Dumbo gets drunk and hallucinates a singing troupe of malevolent elephants with no eyes, had a profound effect on me as a child. I would frequently have nightmares about that exact sequence, would have to leave the room lest I start crying, and just someone humming the song would have me trembling. In the interests of science, I rewatched the scene on Youtube before writing this article, and yes, my fingers are trembling as I type. As the song progresses, I feel a creeping sense of dread, but then the one moment that haunted my childhood dreams the most appears: the figure of one giant elephant made up of the evil, eyeless, disembodied heads of other elephants, gradually edging closer to the screen. How this scene was deemed suitable for children is beyond me.
I've always been the kid who searched for his limit in the horror movie genre. Looking for that one film that will scare the crap out of me, give me nightmares even. In 1990 a horror comedy known as Arachnophobia came out and a young Max found his temporary limit. The first time I saw the film I spent the night after tossing and turning having nightmares of spiders eating my family. I can't say its the movie, but I haven't been too keen on spiders since then. Looking back at the movie as an adult I see how silly the film is, but as a child it terrified me.
Mowgli is raised with wolf cubs somewhere in India. Plausible? No. Scary? Not really, unless you’re a realist and think they might suddenly eat him. Perhaps it’s the murderous hypnotic python that does it. Or at least that’s where it starts. The insane dancing orangutan King Louie doesn’t help either, and there’s something off-putting about the dialogue and general atmosphere concerning “Man-Village”.
The point is, I have no idea. I don’t know what’s so disturbing about his film, but it’s something. Something malignant and unidentifiable, like an unseen presence in your bedroom at night. No thanks.
Pretty much all of the things that scared me when I was a kid came as a result of catching brief snippets of movies that I was too young to see. Even then, I wasn't scared at the moment I saw them. I was, however, unable to escape the images I saw as they repeated over and over in my head at night. And since I had no context for these images (like I said, I only saw brief moments), they would swim in my head as horrible and disturbing pieces of imagery that would creep up on me with no real warning. And the stuff I saw...
Honestly, how exactly is an 8-year old supposed to process seeing the last ten minutes of The Fly? Or the moment Jack Nicholson visits room 237 in The Shining? These are things that gave grown ups the serious creeps, so I clearly didn't have a chance. That I was perhaps too young to fully comprehend the full weight of their meaning was probably the only thing that saved me from full on night terrors, haunted by decomposing old women or a mutated Jeff Goldblum dismembering people... shudder.
[Editor's Note - Stephen King's IT remains the scariest thing I've ever seen, too! - William John].