Halloween II is more than just a follow-up to the original film as it is very much a companion piece. It does what very few sequels do by picking up exactly where the previous installment ends continuing “The Night HE Came Home!”
Related Story: Part 1: The Original
Because of its predecessor’s ambiguous ending, this is exactly what it gives us – we get to see more of this night of terror with a definitive end that give us closure. While the climax to John Carpenter’s original is already the perfect ending to the story, admittedly, this features a more satisfying conclusion that would have been an effective coda for the Michael Myers/Laurie Strode/Samuel Loomis storyline. However, it could have also been a seamless continuation if were not for the stylistic differences and the narrative confusion of the siblings revelation.
The latter of which is made only slightly more cohesive by the extended TV cut of the first movie, but is almost rendered ineffectual by its “Boogeyman” aspect that this installment neglects in favor of explaining Michael’s backstory that ruins the mystique of the character. While it is flawed and is not the sequel Carpenter’s original deserved, this is the next best thing as the stylistic differences actually work well for a solid entry in the early 80’s Golden Age of the slasher sub-genre. Its predecessor was the template for this. In 1980, Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th added the gore factor that opened the blood gates for a flood of more explicit slice n’ dice flicks. This does though reproduce some key elements…
The film opens with the sound of “Mr Sandman” by The Chordettes playing. While this might seem a strange choice for the soundtrack, this cheerfully innocent little song is turned into something extremely creepy here, especially when used over the last two shots in the closing moments. It is significant as it is relative to Myers’ stalking of Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) while she is heavily sedated in Haddonfield Memorial Hospital. This plot device works to make her more vulnerable as a woozy sitting duck to the present danger of the malevolent The Shape, as he bumps off the residents of the hospital one by one as he works his way towards her, while she drifts in and out of consciousness struggling to stay awake. Unfortunately, this gives Curtis little to do until the thrilling third act; her character is stuck in bed for the first hour with her cracked ankle from the previous events while she is doped up.
Back to the opening sequence. When “Mr Sandman” fades out, there is a recap of the original’s climax when Loomis (Donald Pleasence) shoots Michael Myers six times and he falls off the balcony of the Doyle’s house. Loomis then goes down to investigate the disappearance of Michael, and then the Doyle’s next-door neighbor comes out to see what the disturbance is. Here we are treated to some immensely quotable dialogue in a very cool scene…
Doyle’s Neighbor: What’s going on out here?
Loomis: Call the police! Tell the sheriff I shot him!
Doyle’s Neighbor: Who?
Loomis: Tell him he’s still on the loose!
Doyle’s Neighbor: Is this some kind of joke? I’ve been trick-or-treated to death tonight.
Loomis: You don’t know what death is!
Then Loomis runs off and it segues smoothly into the title sequence with the musical cue of John Carpenter’s famous theme. The familiar piano melody is upped in tempo, now played on a synthesizer that is backed by the loud blasts of the heavily enhanced organ parts. This is an exhilarating take on the classic theme with a darker Gothic-esque version. It remains one of the most underrated compositions by its filmmaker/musician.
This title sequence shows director Rick Rosenthal’s partial dedication to carrying over elements from the first movie. In that previous title sequence, featuring a jack o’ lantern against a black backdrop, through the entirety of the credits, the camera slowly zooms in on it while accompanied by Carpenter’s haunting theme music. As the camera closes in on its left eye, we see an image of a skull and then the lit candle inside starts to go dim until it goes out. Here the camera slowly moves in on the jack o’ lantern as a whole, the candle light starts flickering, and it rips apart to show a skull’s full visage. The camera continues to close in on the skull’s right eye socket until it goes right inside, and we see the first post-title shot from Myers’ perspective. Much like the opening of the original, this POV shot lasts a long time but just a fair bit less clocking in at 1:43 seconds, as opposed to the previous stonking 4-minutes.
The Shape creeps around the back-alleys. He sees Loomis picked up by Sherriff Brackett in his patrol car as Loomis shouts at him “I shot him six times!” He then comes across the back of a house where the kitchen is situated. He sees through the kitchen’s window, an elderly woman preparing a sandwich for her husband who is in the front room watching TV. The camera then moves away from the voyeurism to the interior of the house as she walks away from the kitchen into the front room to see why her other half, who is sleeping in his armchair, is not answering her. We see on their TV, they are watching the channel showing the Halloween horror marathon carried over from the last film. Instead of Howard Hawks’ The Thing from Another World (1951), the channel is now showing George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968).
The camera then goes back to Michael Myers’ perspective for 24-seconds, as we hear a breaking news bulletin on the TV about the three murders committed in the Wallace’s house. He enters the back of the house through the kitchen and picks up the knife the old woman was using to make the sandwich. This shot looks just like the shot in the opening of the original, when a young Michael takes out a butcher knife from the kitchen draw.
It is from here we start to see the stylistic differences. Myers makes his way to a neighboring house where inside is a young woman. This first killing with a knife through her chest is the first bit of blood we have seen since the very beginning of the first movie, which depicted the stabbing of Judith Myers. This is the first of eight gruesomely graphic set-pieces here.
Although, this was not Rosenthal’s decision and he had nothing to do with the filming of these sequences. He wanted to make something closer to the spirit of John Carpenter’s original work, relying mostly on deliberate pacing, suspense and tension. When he delivered his cut though, Carpenter knew it was not what the audience wanted in this new era of prolific bloodletting. They had to compete with bloody offerings released in the same year – My Bloody Valentine, Friday the 13th Part 2, The Burning, Nightmares in a Damaged Brain, The Prowler, etc. The irony is the original Halloween spawned this sub-genre, but was now out of place in it. Forced to deliver the gory goods for the gorehounds with its sequel, the producer now acting as a director, shot this additional material to give the film the shocks it needed to draw its target audience.
There are other reasons why Rick Rosenthal’s original cut was not up to scratch. Here is what John Carpenter had to say about it all in the book Prince of Darkness –
Having seen the dull as dishwater TV version that is essentially Rosenthal’s original cut, I think Carpenter did the right thing here, as his cut is easily superior being for more entertaining. If they had released the director’s originally intended vision, then the movie’s release would have been a disaster.
John Carpenter made a couple of mistakes though cutting his version. There is the almighty timeline gaffe concerning the placing of the aforementioned breaking TV news bulletin. It reports the dead bodies at the Wallace’s house literally just minutes after Loomis shot The Shape. The filmmaker created another continuity error by cutting a scene in which Michael Myers cuts the hospital’s power and the emergency generator starts up. This explains the building’s dark setting from the film’s halfway mark onwards.
It is so strange the hospital is near empty. There is only a handful of staff and there are zero patients except for Laurie, even though there is a nursery full of newborn babies. Every time I watch the movie, this bugs me a bit but it does serve a purpose. While this setting is not visually rewarding as the original’s large open spaces of the suburbs of small town Haddonfield, this is a standard remote setting for a slasher, providing an overwhelming feeling of isolation. In addition, the confinements of the building’s dark hallways and rooms, Rick Rosenthal’s utilization of long shots of Michael making his way through the corridors, and of the monitors as the security cameras capture Myers’ moments – make for a claustrophobic and creepy atmosphere.
We do though revisit the suburbs throughout the course of the proceedings as Loomis continues his pursuit of The Shape. Another key element of the original is reproduced here, as Pleasence repeats the same beats with monologues about how Michael Myers is pure evil. We also see here another nod to the siblings revelation when Loomis and Deputy Sheriff Hunt (Hunter von Leer), investigate a break in at the local elementary school. Michael has left a knife in a little child’s drawing of their family with the sister being the target. One of these scenes outside the hospital, which takes place at the Myers’ house, shows the effect these tragic killings have had on the residents of Haddonfield – a backdrop of a community in panic. Laurie’s High School crush, Bennett Tramer, also plays a part in the tragedy with his death providing a short-lived red herring.
The other big stylistic difference is The Shape himself. Dick Warlock moves much more slowly and his body movements are far more stiffer than Nick Castle’s performance in the last film, making this killing machine more robotic-like here. Warlock is utterly convincing though as a devil incarnate. The mask looks a lot different as well, but actually, it is the same original William Shatner prop. During the time between the filming of both installments, it just deteriorated.
Rosenthal has returning cinematographer, Dean Cundey, shoot Michael Myers in a way that brings him right out into the light, employing none of the previous camera trickery. To be fair, we already know from the first movie’s conclusion, which answered the questions set up over the course of the proceedings that Michael must be something other than just human and is near indestructible. We can let this slide, as the same aesthetic did not need to be used again; the “Boogeyman” element can remain intact, as we still do not know what Myers really is.
The needless revelation takes the edge off this though. We did not need an explanation giving The Shape a motivation for his killings. Not only does it contradict the previously told narrative, but rewriting the mythology by making Michael Myers and Laurie Strode brother and sister, explaining something that should not have been even partially explained, is a misunderstanding of what was originally conceived. Part of the brilliance of Carpenter’s first film is the lack of back-story and exposition of Michael, as he is simply pure evil – he kills because that is what he does. Doing away with this ambiguity by making up explanations in reasoning for Myers’ actions – helps to demystify this enigmatic malevolent evil being. If this were not worked into the mythos, there would have been even more of an aura of mystery surrounding the character.
CONCLUSION: A Worthy Companion Piece to the Original or Not?
Well, yes and no. Obviously, it is not in the same league of filmmaking as the original, as it loses certain key elements that made that so unique in its craftsmanship, and watching these two movies as a double bill, the narrative and stylistic differences become clearly noticeable. However, the stylistic differences work very well for a strong entry in the slasher sub-genre that its predecessor innovated. Granted, if John Carpenter’s heart was in it, if he actually wanted to make a sequel with him in the director’s chair, it could have been an even better one. It is though ultimately satisfying, and would have ended the series in a literally explosive way sending out the beloved horror icon Michael Myers on a memorable high note.
Zena’s Period Blood: The Lure of it All
It can be difficult finding horror films of quality, so allow me to welcome you to your salvation from frustration. “Zena’s Period Blood” is here to guide you to the horror films that will make you say, “This is a good horror. Point blank. PERIOD.”
“Zena’s Period Blood” focuses on under-appreciated and hidden horror films.
All right, guys. Sorry that this review will get personal, but this is ultimately my love letter to director Agnieszka Smoczynska for her expert filmmaking. You may come across verbiage that is inappropriate and may get me fired, but I know no other way to write about this film. The Lure is a freaking horror musical with way too much good bait not to be caught by it. See what I did there? Well, expect more of my fangirling because that’s all you will get.
Even the beginning credits, hovering ghostly over an illustrated intro, uncover a glimpse of the enchantment of mermaids in a lagoon crowded with their leftovers, which we witness are human skeletons. At the end of this magnificent, almost museum-like exhibition, you see the hands and kiss of a mermaid luring another human into the water. Here, you understand your uselessness in warning future humans of this alluring peril.
The live action begins at night with three members of a cabaret band singing on a beach. Instantly, you see what dilemmas will occur as soon as two pairs of eyes emerge from under the sea. Silver (Marta Mazurek) appears first, a blonde mermaid with eyes of astonishment and love for the form and voice of the shore-fixed human boy Mietek (Jakub Gierszal). Golden (Michalina Olsanska) emerges second, eyes of animalistic hunger that she uses to lure her victims before feeding. At this point, you could pause the film and deduce the conflict you will endure: Silver wants to be with Boy; Golden wants to eat humans; Boy sees new, hot girl. But trust me… play the movie and never pause it again.
The Lure excels at giving you its own history, anatomy, and peculiarities of a mermaid. It does it in such a stylish way through camera movement, reasonable curiosity, and attractive scores. Even at the moment we discovered that mermaids in human form don’t have vaginas or buttholes, I felt that I was in the room with everyone else with an interested but let’s move on look. All of these delightful oddities happened under splashes of effervescent colors reminiscent of Dario Argento’s 1980 classic Inferno. Smoczynska seamlessly blends the old and the new.
And it’s all horror. I specifically remember when Zygmunt, the nightclub manager, asked the mermaids where they learned to speak Polish. They answered, “The beaches of Bulgaria.” Okay. Here, I would’ve asked, “Well, why aren’t you in Bulgaria anymore? What happened to the person who taught you guys Polish?” But Zygmunt only noticed their sex appeal inflating his cash flow. The mermaids were hot and could sing. I’d probably be in the I’m-totally-winning-and-nothing-can-stop-me mood as well. He already had a profitable band called the Figs n’ Dates. Adding these mermaids to the mix just multiplied the moola.
Matter of fact, the mermaids were such stars that they formed their own band, The Lure. The Lure should be a band in real life. If they were, my dream would change from taking over the universe in a Ric Flair speedo to just being the band’s only background dancer. At that point, just call me The Twerk Sage or Headmistress Twerk, because I’d be the master of the art of twerking. I actually thought about this. Check it out. I’d grow my underarm hair long enough to braid it to the hair from my scalp. Then I would connect the red lipstick from the corners of my lips to the corners of my bloodshot eyes. Yes, you’d be disgusted. But I’d do all this to prove that my twerking is so mesmerizing that you can’t help but stay in the club and stare at me. And guess what? I’m staring back at you—just you, my armpits sweating and all. But I stop only when the music stops. I’d be mind-blowing. I’d have to be. I refuse to be the only one in the band (or the cast) that lacks talent. Hopefully, this is a testament to the great acting, music, and overall production you will witness when you see this movie. Don’t worry. I’m not in it.
The standout performances were often encapsulated in handheld camerawork that triggered intimacy between you and the story, which you wanted when you were first seduced by these characters and this world but ultimately despised with the realization that everyone would suffer in the end. Some things happened so seamlessly in this movie that I didn’t even realize the movie magic I had just witnessed. For example, I actually thought I had viewed the transformation of a human-shaped figure into a mermaid; but after exploring closer, I realize that Smoczynska simply understood my brain and chose to David Blaine the crap out of it. Like, how am I writing her this love letter when I’m already married? See? She’s good.
Another detail that stood out was that the girls passed out when they were away from a body water for too long (e.g., a pool or a bathtub). The only thing I can compare it to is me with a new purse. My husband often finds me in a tactless, unconscious position throughout the world if a new bag hasn’t entered my life in a specific amount of time. As a lesson to everyone, find somebody who knows how to water you properly so you can stay alive. Now, back to the review. Actually, back to marriage. Communication is important. Sometimes I wonder why my husband can’t just read my mind. Perhaps it’s for the same reason I can’t read his. I have better things to do. But it would be great to communicate in some other way than just talking. For example, Golden and Silver communicate using what I gathered was sonar. You will hear it throughout the movie as metallic, oceanic vibrations. How convenient would that be, communicating with my husband in a posh dining restaurant, letting him know that that skank in the window booth needs to stop looking over here before I add more blush to her cheek with my elbow? See why I need the Ric Flair speedo?
Speaking of clothing, I applaud the costume design, led by Katarzyna Lewinska. Although the costumes were straightforward, they were unforgettable and fit expertly in the world. I saw costumes that I called instant wears. Zena’s English Dictionary (which I am making into a real thing) defines “instant wears” as any outfit that an individual sees, screams at, Instagrams immediately with caption #fashiongoals, searches Amazon for, finds (of course), places into shopping cart (of course), and verifies delivery date so that unworthy members of the household know that he or she is expecting a package. Speaking of instant wears, I would wear this movie if it was an outfit. That’s how much I loved it. You’re wearing The Lure. Well, why yes, I am. That sounds spicy.
The Lure left me with opposing emotions of fulfillment and deficiency. On one hand, I had just experienced a great musical with great visuals; on the other, I had been ripped apart by Silver’s final decision, almost solidifying that I could never endure this journey again. I usually keep movies like this on my shelf. This allows me to relive particular scenes mentally without being lured into the entire excursion that leads to the inevitable heartbreak.
Check out The Lure as soon as you can. Yes, it is named after the band in the film. However, there is so much that will lure you in. There is so much that lures characters to each other—the lure of the unknown, love, money, hunger, and so much more. You, too, will ask yourself: What did I just watch? Why did I just watch it? And how have I not seen anything like it before? This is a great horror. Point blank. PERIOD.
Zena from Zena’s Period Blood
In addition to contributing to Dread Central, Zena Dixon has been writing about all things creepy and horrific for over six years at RealQueenofHorror.com. She has always loved horror films and will soon be known directing her own feature-length horror. Feel free to follow her on Twitter @LovelyZena.
Bobby Joe vs Evil Dead: The Female-Driven Evil Dead Spin-Off That Should Have Been
Whatever Happened to Bobby Joe?
That is a question that has plagued me since the first time I saw Evil Dead 2 at a party in high school. There might be a comic book that explains her final fate, but I don’t know about it, so I’m writing this up all the same.
This is my pitch for not only what happened to her after she was drug out into the middle of the woods by killer trees but also what could have happened after to our badass backwoods beauty queen (BBBQ).
Let’s call it: Bobby Joe vs Evil Dead
To begin, let’s start with the last time we saw little ol’ Bobby Joe. The poor girl got a mouthfulla eyeball and a hair fulla Ash’s hand and ran off into the woods alone, only to be taken by the trees. Dead, right? I call BS. After all, we have seen numerous people attacked by the Evil Trees (Cheryl, Scotty, and Mia spring to mind) and guess what? All of them survived, to varying degrees.
The point is the Evil Trees tend to, you know, molest and mutilate, but they aren’t known for their life-taking skills. Therefore it makes total sense that Bobby Joe survived her encounter with the trees out there. But that begs the question, “What happened to her?”
One of the coolest aspects to remember about her character is that she is (to my memory) the only character in the Evil Dead series that is “killed” and doesn’t come back as a Deadite. Strange huh? Almost seems like Raimi and co. were setting her up for an eventual return and then just kinda, I guess, forgot about her. But let’s not make the same mistake over and over, Bobby Joe needs her redemption and she needs her revenge. Bobby Joe needs to reemerge as the series’ badass female hero. But how?
Let’s get into it now. Bobby Joe is pulled off by the trees and, duh, fights back. Or maybe gets Mia and Cheryl’d but still walks/limps away from the ordeal. Now she’s pissed. That could work, but I have one better. She is pulled off by the trees and just as things are about to get really bad, she is rescued.
Rescued? Yes! By who? We’ll get to that. First I want to make sure to point out that just because she recused doesn’t mean she is a weak character. After all, Ash is about the weakest of all characters for most, if not debatably all, of the Evil Dead films, so this isn’t a damsel-in-distress situation. It’s a means of introducing a very interesting side spin-off to this spin-off.
So, Bobby Joe is being taken by trees when a shadowy male saves her at the last minute. They fight off the trees and then turn to each other… but don’t recognize one other. “Who are you,” she askes the man in the shadows with bitchin’ hair. And out steps, you guessed it, Scotty from the original The Evil Dead.
We’re now in an alternate timeline because the cabin sure as hell could pull off that kind of thing and now we live in a world where all of the events from all of the Evil Dead films – including the remake – can co-exist.
But back to the Scotty thing at hand. What happened was Scotty walked off from the original film and was going to be beaten by the trees but then happened upon Bobby Joe. The two then head back to the cabin where they find Ash fighting with Linda’s Deadite. They accidentally distract Ash and Linda whacks off HIS head with the shovel. Ash is dead!? This is getting crazy now. Yes, with Ash dead, Scotty and Bobby Joe fight off the remaining evil in the original film, with only Bobby Joe making it to morning.
This time around she is the one to lose her hand. This time around she takes up the chainsaw appendage. This time she is the victor. But just as the sun is rising and she moves out of the cabin in the woods – the Applehead Demon attacks! She reads from the book of the dead and the portal opens bringing us up to speed with the end of Evil Dead 2. Bobby Joe is sucked through the portal and lands, yep, in Army of Darkness.
We’re not through yet. Bobby Joe lands just where Ash did but this time she isn’t surrounded by knights played by Sam Raimi’s siblings. This time she is all alone. But wait… there is a cave a ways off… she enters to find Ash sleeping from too much of the sauce – and wakes him up.
Now it’s Ash & Bobby Joe vs Army of Darkness II: Dead by Modern-Day.
That’s a working title, by the way. But yes, Bobby Joe has now found her way into the original Evil Dead timeline and will join forces with newly awoken Ash (following his adventures in Army of Darkness). The story continues from there with the alternate heroes of the two Evil Dead universes going back-and-forth on who’s more badass, and their general shenanigans as they fighting their way through history (courtesy of fun and ironic random time-jumps via the main evil force).
Will the two chainsaw-handed warriors take to each other like soulmates and quickly join forces or will they see each other as arch-enemies? After all, Ash did shoot Bobby Joe accidentally in Evil Dead 2, and I highly doubt she’s just going to let that go. The mind reels with possibilities.
In closing, yes, all of this is a bit silly, but what have the Evil Dead films become other than sillier and sillier. Plus, I don’t know about you, but I would love to know the origin story of Bobby Joe. What must it have been like to grow up as a BBBQ? How did she end up with such a catch as Jake? These questions intrigue the hell out of me and I would love to see them explored in a possible comic series.
The Evil Dead series needs a strong female lead. In the years since the original trilogy, both the remake and the STARZ series have tried to give us strong “Female Ash” characters with Jane Levy’s Mia and Lucy Lawless’ Ruby. While both were arguably successful attempts (I love Mia especially), I still think the best candidate was always Bobby Joe from Evil Dead 2.
That’s my pitch. What do you think? Let us know!
10 Terrifying Moments from Kids’ Movies That Haunted Our Childhoods
When the trailer for Solo: A Star Wars Story dropped a couple weeks ago, I watched it with a tinge of dread. See, Han Solo traumatized me as a child. I was 7-years-old when I saw The Empire Strikes Back in theaters, and the scene where Harrison Ford gets tortured at Cloud City gave me my first bona fide panic attack. It was dark, intense, and completely out of left field in an otherwise fantastic franchise where no one ever bleeds (or screams).
I might be the only one who had such an adverse reaction to Solo’s torture (which happens, primarily, off-screen), but those of us who came of age in the 1980s can probably relate to encountering terrifying moments in otherwise kid-friendly films. For the most part, these were the days before PG-13, meaning there was a ton of leeway for movies that fell in between the extremes of Cinderella and The Shining.
In retrospect, 1980s kids were subjected to a litany of scares that would be considered highly inappropriate by today’s standards—perhaps explaining our generations’ intense love of horror! Return with me now to those terrifying days of yesteryear with 10 terrifying moments from kids’ movies that haunted our childhoods!
The Tunnel of Terror in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
The only film on this list that wasn’t produced and released in the 1980s (and the only one I didn’t see in theaters) is nonetheless one every child of the era has seen: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory from 1971. I remember my parents telling me that I was in for a treat when they sat me down in front of the TV at the tender age of 6.
I was already unnerved by the tall man in the trench coat and the bizarre antics of Gene Wilder’s Wonka, but that boat-ride scene completely destroyed my childhood. It wasn’t even the chicken decapitation or the centipedes that rattled me; it was Wonka’s unhinged shrieking! To this day, the scene gives me the willies (pun intended!); Wilder truly channels the dangerous intensity of a lunatic.
Gmork attacks Atreyu in The NeverEnding Story (1984)
The NeverEnding Story was an exciting alternative in the Disney-dominated landscape of kids’ movies in the 1980s—exciting and dark! But a kid trapped in an attic, a horse drowning in a swamp, a nihilistic turtle, and a devastating void all paled in comparison to Atreyu’s confrontation with the insidious Gmork.
Those green eyes staring out from the cave froze my blood. The fact that it could speak made it infinitely more terrifying; this wasn’t some primal beast, this agent of The Great Nothing was a cunning and merciless villain. The matter-of-fact way it informed Atreyu that he would be his last “victim” was beyond bleak. When the monster attacked as thunder roared and lightning struck, I screamed.
Though many aspects of The NeverEnding Story show their age, this moment remains, objectively, as scary as any horror movie werewolf attack.
The Wheelers Descend in Return to Oz (1985)
When Dorothy (played by Judy Garland) first arrived in Oz back in 1939, she was greeted by a community of cheerful Munchkins. When Dorothy (reprised by Fairuza Balk) returned to Oz in 1985, her reception was much colder.
The eerie silence of a seemingly abandoned wasteland was broken by an assault by Wheelers: colorful, mechanically enhanced cousins of the Wicked Witch’s flying monkeys. As adults, we can laugh at the impracticality of villains who can’t even maneuver stairs, but we weren’t laughing as kids, I can promise you that!
While the hall of heads, an unintentionally terrifying Jack Pumpkinhead, and a truly demonic Gnome King are perhaps the scariest moments of Return to Oz, the sudden and unexpected arrival of the Wheelers was a truly devastating moment. It obliterated all our happy memories of Oz in an instant, transforming the land of enchantment into a labyrinth of evil.
Large Marge Tells her Tale in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Many of the films on this list are dark from start to finish, containing multiple terrifying moments. But part of what makes the tale of Large Marge so impactful is that it appears in an otherwise completely lighthearted film. Sure, man-child Pee-wee Herman has always been subversive in ways that only become apparent as we get older, but he never dabbled in ghost stories or jump scares.
Luckily, the scary face of Large Marge was as funny as it was shocking, so even though kids like me hit the ceiling, our fears quickly dissolved into fits of hysterical laughter. Today, I remember practically nothing about Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, but I’ll have fond memories of Large Marge until the day I die.
The Emperor Turns to Ash in The Dark Crystal (1982)
Over 35 years after it’s release, The Dark Crystal remains a unique and beautiful anomaly. Jim Henson’s G-rated Muppets were left in the workshop! This film was populated by fascinating and terrifying characters, conveying a tale that wasn’t dumbed down for its audience. These factors give the film profound resonance and contribute to its status as an enduring classic
Like the title warns, this film is dark. The Skeksis are demonic, Augrah is arresting, and the Garthim are pure nightmare fuel. The process of draining Pod People of the essence and the stabbing death of Kira are horrifying. But it was the death of the Skeksis Emperor that really hit me like a ton of bricks.
There was something metaphysically terrifying about this moment; not only is the idea of a creature crumbling into ash creepy as hell but the effect was gasp-inducing. As a child, it was something I’d never seen before, a concept I’d never imagined, and it floored me. Death had never been conveyed with such shocking profundity.
The Lab Rats are Injected in The Secret of NIMH (1982)
When I sat in the theater in 1982, I don’t think I realized that The Secret of NIMH wasn’t a Disney movie, but I realized soon enough Mickey and Minnie weren’t hangin’ with these rodents! The Great Owl was petrifying and the finale was as harrowing as anything my young psyche had yet experienced, but it was the flashback of experiments conducted on lab rats that stuck with me and haunted my childhood.
It wasn’t just the brilliant animation that powerfully conveyed the rats’ pain as syringes were plunged into their bellies, it was a brutal moment of education they don’t teach kids in school. It was my first introduction to the realities of animal experimentation, and the fact that grown-ups would perpetrate such atrocities felt like a betrayal
The Ending of Time Bandits (1981)
In retrospect, it was irresponsible for any of our parents to think that Time Bandits was a kids’ movie just because the main character was an 11-year-old boy. In 1981, the only other film Terry Gilliam had directed was Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Yes, Time Bandits is funny and exciting with motifs common to kid-friendly time-travel fiction, but the film is nearly hopelessly bleak from start to finish.
Kevin (played by Craig Warnock) is completely neglected by his parents and essentially kidnapped by a troop of interdimensional robbers. He’s made complicit in a series of crimes throughout many dangerous eras, forced to endure wars and even the sinking of the Titanic. Eventually, Kevin is dragged into a realm of ultimate darkness. Though triumphing over Evil personified, he’s abandoned by God before returning home—only to find his home engulfed in a blazing inferno.
Though rescued by firemen, Kevin’s parents didn’t even realize he was missing and are soon reduced to piles of ash by a stray bit of concentrated evil. The friendly firemen take little notice, leaving our young protagonist utterly alone.
Faces Melt in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
A lot of my peers will count the human sacrifice scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as one of the most terrifying moments of their childhood. Not me. After what I’d endured in Raiders of the Lost Ark, I was ready for anything.
Since it gets less attention than its predecessor (bonus fact: Temple of Doom is a prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark), I think people forget just how scary Raiders really is. It’s worlds darker and grittier than Doom, which has a colorful, comic book pallet by comparison, not to mention a clear emphasis on comedy. The spiders, the snakes, the boobytraps: they all put monkey brains and extracted hearts to shame.
But the climax of Raiders of the Lost Ark is more intense than most horror movies, past and present. The face-melting evoked Cold War Era fears of nuclear annihilation and the idea of a vengeful God was devastating.
The Death of Shoe in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)
I wasn’t always the jaded gorehound I am today; I was young and sensitive once. And even though I was well into puberty by 1988 (or maybe because of it) I was especially traumatized by a moment in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The hard-boiled plot loaded with barely veiled sexual innuendo was, for the most part, completely buried beneath a cacophony of cameos from just about every cartoon character ever penned.
But it wasn’t the fever-nightmare of Roger’s mania or even the emergence of Judge Doom’s true form that devastated me; it was the execution of poor Shoe, a paradigm of animated innocence unceremoniously dropped into a barrel of “dip” (a toxic concoction made from turpentine, acetone, and benzene).
Most kids in their early teens couldn’t stop thinking about Jessica Rabbit; I was haunted by the death of Shoe.
Supercomputer Makes a Human Cyborg in Superman III (1983)
There’s an evil streak that runs throughout Superman III, the third film to feature Christopher Reeves as the titular Man of Steel. While Superman II had its dark spots (specifically the devastation caused by Zod and his companions) there’s an undercurrent in Richard Lester’s follow-up that’s absolutely wicked—containing a scene that contributed to the destruction of my childhood.
A makeshift batch of Kryptonite turns Superman into an immoral, selfish thug before he participates in a troubling fight to the death with himself. But as unsettling as the concept of an evil Superman may be, the scene where the supercomputer turns Vera into a cyborg was some next level shit for 10-year-old me.
I re-watched the scene in preparation for this article and was shocked at its similarities to the moment in Hellraiser II when Dr. Channard is transformed into a Cenobite—especially the wires! No wonder it scared the hell out of me!
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