I’ve seen a lot of videos on Youtube lately about childhood traumas – the movies or tv shows which gave people nightmares when they were children. It’s a real eye opener into what people found scary when they are children, compared to when they’re adults. There are a lot of things you’d expect children to fear which they don’t find frightening at all. I was never scared by Goosebumps or Are You Afraid of the Dark. But there are a lot of things which end up frightening children when they’re not supposed to, even when they’re intended to be cute and harmless. These are my top childhood traumas which freaked me out when I was younger, and still do a little bit today:
Muppet Christmas Carol
Muppet Christmas Carol is now amongst my favourite Christmas films, and the season doesn’t feel complete without watching it at least once. But the reason why it is one of the best adaptations of A Christmas Carol is because the filmmakers knew that it was primarily a ghost story, and the addition of Muppets somehow only makes it scarier. The parts which always freaked me out when I was young where when the doorknocker turns into the face of Jacob Marley, the entire scene right before the ghosts first appear, and of course the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, who literally has the face of death.
I’ve only seen this film once when it first came out, but it terrified me so much that I can’t bring myself to watch it again, or even the reboot. I genuinely don’t know why they thought this would be an ideal film for children, just because they cast Robin Williams in it. It was made in the early days of CGI when it was still incredibly uncanny, and having all of them coming straight at the camera only makes it worse.
The burglars from Home Alone
How could the most popular family comedy of the 90’s possibly traumatise me? Because it prays on the primal childhood fear of burglars breaking into your house and trying to hurt you. The burglars were genuinely terrifying until Kevin set all of his death traps, and even a little bit afterwards. The video game was even worse. I always felt a lot of anxiety for the burglars capturing my character and hanging him on a hook. I think that’s part of the reason why I can’t stand playing video games today.
The junk yard from The Brave Little Toaster
Have you ever noticed what an incredible work of art The Brave Little Toaster is? On first glance, it seems like just another animated children’s film about talking objects. Instead, it’s a painfully poignant tale about what becomes of your life when you can no longer meet your purpose.
The junk yard scene is one of the most frightening scenes in any children’s film, when you think about it. As the cars sing upbeat tune which sounds like it could have come from Rocky Horror, they reminisce about their lives as one by one they are picked up by the omnipotent magnet and dropped onto a conveyer belt to be crushed to death. The magnet is a sort-of metaphor for the Grim Reaper – It picks up the cars and other pieces of junk seemingly at random with no mercy to meet their demise. The cars know that their deaths are inevitable, they just don’t know when it is coming.
I think I need to go and watch My Little Pony for a while…
Return to Oz
Because I’m one of those ‘edgy’ kids, I much prefer Return to Oz to the original The Wizard of Oz, but again, it took me several years of therapy to come to fully appreciate it. First, Dorothy’s aunt and uncle send her to an asylum for electric shock therapy treatment. Next, when she’s back in Oz, she’s stalked by these terrifying wheeler things. Then she’s imprisoned by a woman who has a whole collection of interchangeable heads. When Dorothy tries to steal from her, they all start screaming while the headless body comes after her. Even the uncanny stop motion on the mountain thing was nothing after that horror.
Now that I think of it, couldn’t you escape the wheelers just by climbing some stairs?
Chernobog from Fantasia
Say, here’s a good idea; Let’s raise children as innocent little Christians, instil a fear of hell and demons inside of them to keep them away from bad things like gay thoughts, and then let’s put FUCKING THIS into a Disney film:
Seriously, Walt Disney did know that he had to include a little darkness in his films (Have you ever actually watched Pinocchio? It’s fucked up.), but why did he think it would be a good idea to put the literal, actual devil into the same film as prancing hippos, dancing flowers, and pretty centaurs?
Nowadays, I can appreciate the sequence for its artistry, and actually admire that they managed to get away with something so intense in the 1940s (this was the same decade when you couldn’t even say the word ‘virgin’ on screen).
But as a sheltered Christian child, I was so scared whenever the Night on Bald Mountain segment started that I fled to the other room. It hadn’t occurred to me yet that I could just turn off the VHS. And I didn’t know that if I had kept watching, I would’ve found out that Chernobog is a complete pussy who is scared off by just a bit of light and choral music. But six-year-old me just didn’t know any better.
What were your childhood traumas from film and television which scared you when you were younger? Were my fears justified, or was I a complete baby? Tell me in the comments below!
The wicked stepmother in Snow White and Maleficent turning into a dragon in Sleeping Beauty were both terrifying to me when as a kid I saw them in the cinema for the first time.
Staying in the cinema, the original episodes of The Three Stooges were too close to the Theatre of Cruelty when I saw them on a Saturday morning — ‘pain’ depicted in live action films is always more terrifying than, say, in Tom & Jerry cartoons — and must be akin to your fears in Home Alone.
And, oddly enough, as an oh-so-sensitive adult I still find the Torture Machine sequence in the otherwise delightful The Princess Bride distressing, and that’s despite it being on DVD!