So what’s next for the channel that has given us plenty of things that have gone bump in the night along with more CG monsters than anyone could possibly keep up with? Read on for details of Syfy’s “upfront” presentation.
As you’d expect from a network named Syfy, several of these projects are more sci-fi than horror, but we thought we’d pass on all the news anyway:
From the Press Release:
Coming off Syfy’s most watched first quarter ever in total viewers, Adults 18-34 and key women demos, Syfy and Chiller President Dave Howe today ignited the imagination of the advertising community by unveiling the next phase of the channel’s largest original programming slate in history. This will feature Syfy’s most original primetime hours ever, a record 28 scripted and reality development projects and the 2013 premiere of the highly-anticipated Defiance, the visionary transmedia experience that will unite television and Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) gaming for the very first time.
Said Howe: “Syfy’s Upfront celebrates the power of Igniters, our influential audience who has the highly coveted ability to move brands forward faster. This audience Imagines Greater and, as a result, we will be bringing them the most groundbreaking entertainment phenomenon in 2013. Nearly four years in the making, Defiance is the first ever, weekly scripted television and Massively Multiplayer Online game, converging to create a singular, interactive and epic story. Along with this unprecedented experience, we will be unveiling our most ambitious development slate ever of relevant and contemporary original programming.”
The diverse Syfy reality slate features six new series: School Sprits, Paranormal Highway, Collection Intervention, Viral Video Showdown, Ghost Mine and, from the producers of the smash hit series Face Off, Hot Set. Unscripted development projects include a chilling “found footage” paranormal experiment; an extreme concierge company; Destination Truth’s Josh Gates transforming awesome ideas into awesome reality and the unearthly challenges of selling haunted houses.
Among the scripted development projects are adaptations of popular works by best-selling novelists such as Stephen King (Eyes of the Dragon), John Christopher (The Lotus Caves) and Charlaine Harris (Grave Sight), as well as the hit movie The Adjustment Bureau and the DC Entertainment Comic Booster Gold. Syfy further announced shows about a Fifth Column of feuding aliens and a time-traveling elite military squad.
This record expansion, including eight scripted development projects from Universal Cable Productions, builds upon the channel’s powerhouse lineup of hit series such as Warehouse 13, Being Human, Alphas, Face Off and Ghost Hunters. These programs have transformed Syfy into a top 10 cable entertainment network among Adults 25-54 for 16 consecutive years.
Said Mark Stern, President Original Content, Syfy, and Co-Head Original Content, Universal Cable Productions: “Over its 20 year history, Syfy has always pushed the boundaries of our genre and the entertainment experience. This new crop of innovative, thought-provoking, emotionally-charged programming will propel us even farther as we imagine all the greater possibilities ahead for the powerful Syfy brand.”
For the gala, star-studded Upfront event at the American Museum of Natural History, Syfy created an opportunity for guests to live like an Igniter – highly imaginative people who move brands forward as showcased in the channel’s groundbreaking study with Simmons/PSFK — along with celebrity Igniters from the worlds of business innovation (Sir Richard Branson), music (Young the Giant, DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid) and the culinary arts (Marcus Samuelsson).
Syfy is also expanding its multi-platform growth. Syfy Ventures announced a partnership with Hasbro to develop the first online social game based on the iconic G.I. JOE franchise. G.I. Joe: Special Ops, published by Syfy Games, will debut in June on Facebook and Syfy Games.com, among other platforms worldwide.
Continuing its expansion of original video content, mobile reach to new platforms and commitment to cutting edge technology, Syfy Digital unveiled four new initiatives, from its first ever unscripted program, new apps for Windows Phone and Roku and the upcoming addition of sync-to-broadcast functionality to its successful Syfy app for iPads and Android tablets for season three of the hit series Face Off.
A global brand, Syfy is currently available in 75 countries, reaching nearly 150 million households.
NEW SCRIPTED SERIES
Defiance – 2013 – Defiance is in collaboration with Trion Worlds, with the Syfy series and Trion’s multi-platform shooter MMO poised to debut simultaneously. The series stars Grant Bowler, Julie Benz, Stephanie Leonidas, Tony Curran, Jaime Murray, Fionnula Flanagan, Mia Kirshner and Oscar-nominee Graham Greene. Set in the near future, Defiance introduces a completely transformed planet Earth, inhabited by the survivors of a universal war. Forced to co-habitate, the disparate group struggles to build a new society among the devastation. The dramatic tapestry of the series and the intense action of the game will exist in a single universe where their respective narratives will inform one another and evolve together into one overall story. Defiance is directed by Scott Stewart (Legion, Priest) and written/executive produced by Rockne O’Bannon (Farscape), Kevin Murphy (Desperate Housewives, Caprica, Hellcats) and Michael Taylor (Battlestar Galactica). Kevin Murphy serves as showrunner. Defiance is produced by Universal Cable Productions.
NEW REALITY SERIES
School Spirits – Premieres June 2012 – School Spirits will tell true ghost stories of hauntings that have happened at schools across the country. The stories will be told in first person narratives through the testimonials of real students, teachers, parents and staff that have encountered the paranormal activity, blended with bone-chilling cinematic reenactments to further bring the haunting experiences to life. Executive producers: Mark Burnett (Survivor, The Apprentice) and Seth Jarrett & Julie Insogna Jarrett (Celebrity Ghost Stories).
Paranormal Highway – Summer 2012 – Paranormal Highway puts the pedal to the metal as Jack Osbourne and Dana Workman investigate the most frightening claims of paranormal activity along America’s remote back roads. Fueled by eyewitness interviews and evidence collected by state-of-the-art equipment, Jack and Dana will travel alone, self-documenting their harrowing road trip while coming face-to-face with paranormal legends. Production company: BASE Productions. Executive producers: John Brenkus, Mickey Stern, Ron Ziskin.
Collection Intervention – Collection Intervention follows Elyse Luray, a sharp and to-the-point collectibles expert as she helps couples who are divided over what to do with an overwhelming collection of memorabilia. Whether it’s a husband’s collection of mint-condition G.I. JOE action figures worth thousands of dollars or a girlfriend’s treasure trove of Star Wars movie posters, Elyse helps couples decide what’s worth keeping and what they can sell. For each couple, their new cash windfall will make their dream come true, whether it’s an engagement ring, a down payment for a home, or the honeymoon they never had. Production company: High Noon Entertainment. Executive producers: Pam Healey, Elizabeth Grizzle Voorhees, Jim Berger.
Hot Set – From the producers of Syfy’s hit series Face Off, Hot Set is an extreme design challenge pitting two Hollywood production designers each week in a head-to-head battle to design, build, decorate and ultimately create an original and signature movie set that transports the viewer into an immersive world. Production company: Mission Control Media. Executive producers: Michael Agbabian and Dwight Smith.
Viral Video Showdown – The greatest viral video creators on the planet go head-to-head each week in an epic battle for bragging rights and a cash prize. Two teams will have to dig deep into their bag of viral tricks to create a video that best captures that week’s theme and impresses the expert panel of viral video judges. Production company: 495 Productions. Executive producers: SallyAnn Salsano, Kevin Pereira.
Ghost Mine – In the remote woods of Oregon lays one of the richest gold mines in the United States. For the last 100 years, it has remained abandoned — until now. Soon to be re-opened by a scraggly group of miners, these hardy souls will battle the elements to find their fortune. But with a rich history of paranormal activity surrounding the mine, they may just find something else. Production company: 51 Minds. Executive producer: Mark Cronin.
Rewind – Rewind revolves around a team of military field operatives and civilian scientists who must use untested technology to travel back in time to alter events and change the future — and avoid a devastating terrorist attack. Shane McRae stars as Sean Knox, ex-Special Forces who ranks as a field operative in a special division of the Department of Homeland Security. The pilot also stars Jennifer Ferrin, Academy Award nominee Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider), Robbie Jones and Keon Mohajeri, and is currently in production in Toronto. Jack Bender (Lost, Alphas) is directing the pilot, written by Justin Marks (Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li), who will also executive produce with Tom Spezialy, Gail Berman, Lloyd Braun and Gene Stein. A production of BermanBraun and Universal Cable Productions.
The Adjustment Bureau – In this drama, based on the hit movie starring Matt Damon, guardian angel-type agents work to keep the world according to The Plan. They create everything from plane crashes to coffee spills in order to steer people to realize their true destiny. But there is one thing the operatives and their Chairman can’t control — free will. Writers: Todd Slavkin & Darren Swimmer (Melrose Place, Smallville). Executive producers: George Nolfi (The Adjustment Bureau, The Bourne Ultimatum), MRC, Slavkin and Swimmer. A production of Universal Cable Productions.
High Moon – Based on the novel, The Lotus Caves, by John Christopher, this imaginative, out-of-this-world series explores a world where the countries of Earth have established colonies to mine the Moon’s resources. When a new life form is discovered, chaos erupts as various factions race to uncover its powerful secrets. Executive producer: Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, Pushing Daisies). Co-executive producer: Jim Danger Gray (Pushing Daisies). Writers: Bryan Fuller and Jim Danger Gray. Executive producer: Granat Entertainment. A production of Universal Cable Productions.
Untitled Booster Gold Project – Based on the best-selling DC Entertainment Comic, this is the story of a washed-up athlete from the future who travels back to the present in hopes of becoming the greatest superhero of all time. But instead of chasing criminals, his main priority is chasing fame and money. Booster Gold discovers that being a hero takes more than just a megawatt smile. Writer: Andrew Kreisberg (Arrow, Warehouse 13). Executive producers: Greg Berlanti (Green Lantern, Arrow) and Andrew Kreisberg. Producers: Greg Berlanti Productions in association with Warner Horizon Television. The Booster Gold comic book series is published by DC Entertainment, which will also act as an executive producer.
Grave Sight – From the best-selling author of True Blood, this Charlaine Harris book series follows Harper Connelly – a young woman with a unique gift. After being struck by lightning as a teenager, Harper can sense the location and last memories of dead people. She teams up with her protective stepbrother, Tolliver Lang, to help find a missing teenage girl — only to uncover a network of lies and murders throughout a small town in the Ozarks. Writer: Kam Miller (Law and Order: SVU). A production of Universal Cable Productions.
Seeing Things – Based on the comic Grey Legion from Platinum Studios, after a cop meets his violent demise, he returns as a ghost to close his last case. But the only person who can help him is a socially awkward man who is realizing for the first time that his hallucinations may not be all in his head. Writers: David Slack (Person of Interest, Lie To Me) and Gabrielle Stanton (Haven, The Vampire Diaries). Executive producers: David Slack, Robert Cort and Scott Mitchell Rosenberg. A production of Fox Television Studios.
Defender – In the aftermath of an intergalactic war between humans and transhumans, the starship Defender, populated by a combustible mix of former enemies, is sent on a seemingly simple goodwill mission, which turns into a fight for their lives and for the safety of the Universe at large. Executive producer/writer: Robert Hewitt Wolfe (Alphas). A production of Universal Cable Productions.
The Family – For generations, an alien family has hid amongst humans in plain sight using their advanced intellect to carve out a life for themselves as their family grew. But when the family patriarch that kept peace amongst the factions dies, a war begins to brew with some members believing the time has come to reveal themselves, and their superior power, to the inferior human race. Writer: Dan Harris (Superman Returns, X2). Executive producers: Neal Moritz (21 Jump Street, Total Recall), Mark Verheiden (Falling Skies, Battlestar Galactica). A production of Sony Pictures TV.
LONGFORM SCRIPTED DEVELOPMENT
Eyes of the Dragon – Based on Stephen King’s best-selling novel. A kingdom is in turmoil as the old king dies and his successor must battle for the throne. Pitted against an evil wizard and a would-be rival, Prince Peter makes a daring escape and rallies the forces of good to fight for what is rightfully his. Writers: Michael Taylor (Defiance, Battlestar Galactica) and Jeff Vintar (I, Robot). Executive producers: Michael Taylor and Bill Haber. A production of Universal Cable Productions and Ostar Productions.
Darkfall – When, without warning, modern forms of power and technology become a thing of the past, Los Angeles, and the world at large, becomes a place where magic rules and life as we know it is turned upside down. Writers: Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris (Kung Fu Panda, Sleeper Cell). A production of The Jim Henson Company and Universal Cable Productions.
One Mile Straight Down – When a powerful earthquake hits California and opens up a chasm bigger than the Grand Canyon, it reveals an enormous hidden ocean lying deep beneath the earth’s crust. Billionaire adventurer James Exeter works with the government to take an advanced nuclear submarine down to explore it and discovers more than he ever could have imagined. Writers: Skip Woods (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), Naren Shankar (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation) and Deran Sarafian (CSI: NY). Executive producers: Skip Woods, Naren Shankar and Deran Sarafian. A production of Universal Cable Productions.
The Genie – The Genie follows Steve Sims and his extreme concierge company, Blue Fish, as they make outlandish experiences and imaginative adventures come to life for their clients. Whether it’s rebuilding the chocolate river from Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory or experiencing life as a Hobbit, making the impossible possible is the job of “The Genie.” Production company: Smart Dog Media. Executive producer: Craig Plestis.
Stranded – In each episode of this frightening paranormal social experiment, a family or group of friends moves into an infamously haunted location, self-documenting their experience in total isolation. Production company: Ping Pong Productions. Executive producers: Brad Kuhlman, Casey Brummels, Josh Gates.
Awesome Foundation – In this new project starring Destination Truth’s Josh Gates, each week inventors, artists and regular people from all over the country pitch their amazing and imaginative ideas to the Awesome Foundation, a group dedicated to turning awesome ideas into awesome reality. The members grant their own money to the lucky three people with the best ideas, leading to a race to complete the projects in the given time and budget. Production company: Idiot Box Productions. Executive producer: Dan Taberski.
Exit – Based on the hit Japanese format, Exit is a nail-biting game show where two teams of contestants battle to escape three diabolical rooms. To do so, they must beat the clock while solving rapid-fire brain games and navigating booby-traps and bottomless pits. Production company: Zig Zag Productions. Executive producer: Danny Fenton.
Buyer Beware – What does someone do when they need to sell their house — but it’s haunted? They call in a real estate professional who specializes in matching haunted properties with eager buyers. In each episode, viewers will see what it takes to sell a home — still occupied by the spirits — and what kind of buyers have the guts to take it off the market. Production company: Zodiak USA. Executive producers: Natalka Znak, Claire O’Donohue.
Untitled Mark Burnett Project (wt) – From acclaimed producer Mark Burnett comes a competition show where fans of science fiction/fantasy books and movies compete to create the most flavorful and inspired dishes from the foods featured in the imaginary worlds that they love. Production company: Mark Burnett Productions. Executive producer: Mark Burnett.
Deadfinder – When the morgue drawer closes on a Jane or John Doe, rarely is it reopened. Deadfinder follows a group of mediums as they search through the vaults of cold cases using their paranormal skills to bring the mysteries of the murdered back to life. Production company: NorthSouth. Executive producers: Charlie DeBevoise, Mark Hickman.
Ghost Town, USA – Settled in 1677, Mount Holly, New Jersey, is a town teeming with reports of paranormal activity. And for the residents of this town, that’s just the way they like it. Ghost Town, USA follows the colorful characters and real drama that plays out among the town’s living residents, from renovating a haunted house to organizing the annual Witches Ball. Production company: Cream Productions. Executive producers: David Brady, Christopher Rowley.
The Wrights – Joe and Chris Wright are relatives of the famous Wright Brothers, but instead of building airplanes, this father-and-son-duo build paranormal contraptions to communicate with the dead. Each week the show follows the Wrights as they use their inventing ability to gain answers from the “other side.” Production company: Jarrett Creative Group. Executive producers: Julie Insogna Jarrett, Seth Jarrett.
Chris Cox Project – Young and charming, Chris Cox is the mind reader who can’t read minds. Cox has the mind-manipulating abilities of Derren Brown, the mischief of Ferris Bueller and the comic eccentricity of Mr. Bean all wrapped in a style uniquely his own. In everyday situations and locations – at a coffee shop, the post office, or just walking down the street – Chris amazes and confounds real people. Production company: Mission Control Media. Executive producers: Dwight Smith, Michael Agbabian, Erich Recker.
Divas of Dress Up – This program follows the six hottest cos-play stars as they push the boundaries of creativity and costuming in this docu-series that takes viewers inside the amazingly creative world of cos-play competition. Each week, the top women competitors transform themselves into fictional characters with visually arresting costumes, pushing the boundary between fantasy and reality. Production company: Skip Films. Executive producers: Skip Chaisson, Brian Gallagher.
Fan Girl/Fan Boy Project – From the producer of Jersey Shore comes a docu-series that celebrates the incredibly unique, often misunderstood and infinitely fascinating fan girl and fan boy cultures. Production company: 495 Productions. Executive producer: SallyAnn Salsano.
Limitless – Limitless is a cutting-edge series that recounts firsthand, true-life tales of ordinary men and women who discovered hidden powers – that they never knew existed – when faced with extreme life and death circumstances. Every story will explore the often unexplainable potential of the human body and psyche, leaving viewers to wonder what hidden abilities humans might possess. Production company: Karga 7. Executive producers: Kelly McPherson, Miriam Leffert, Sarah Wetherbee, Emre Sahin.
Superhumans – Superhumans uncovers the secrets of unbelievable stunts, record-breaking abilities and exceptional feats of human power and skill by putting real people through physical on-location challenges and a series of tests in a high-tech lab to answer the question: “How did they do that?” Production company: BASE Productions. Executive producers: John Brenkus, Mickey Stern.
Toy Traveler – Shane Turgeon, the Indiana Jones of toy collectors, travels to remote corners of the world to find the rarest and most valuable toys and collectibles. Whether it’s in an old toy warehouse in a remote Guatemalan town or a small swap meet in the Ukraine, Shane will go to all lengths to find the most unique and collectible toys. Production company: Jarrett Creative Group. Executive producers: Seth Jarrett, Julie Insogna Jarrett.
Master Control – Master Control is a weekly competition that pits user-generated videos against each other in a battle for viewer popularity. Each week, self-submitted videos must entertain the host, celebrity panel and the entire viewing audience, who are all simultaneously rating the video and anointing a winner. Production company: The Gurin Co. Executive producers: Phil Gurin, Kevin Pereira.
Stranger than Fiction – Stranger than Fiction is the only viral video clip show where comedians compete for laughs while commenting on and arguing over the strangest clips from the web. Good jokes earn points, while lame jokes lose them. At the end of the show, one comedian is crowned the irreverent victor. Production company: BASE Productions. Executive producers: John Brenkus, Mickey Stern.
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Doug Jones Would Love to Return as Billy Butcherson in Hocus Pocus 2
One of my favorite horror movies as a kid was Hocus Pocus, co-written by Mick Garris (The Stand, Sleepwalkers). The film has only grown more precious in my eyes as I’ve grown up due to its utter love of all things Halloween.
If you haven’t seen it (for some reason) think of it as a combination of Rob Zombie’s Lords of Salem and Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat… but, you know, a kid’s Disney movie version.
However you choose to describe the awesomeness that is Hocus Pocus, you have to admit that the film is primed for a sequel. And recently we heard word that a TV sequel is on the way, but no one seems to be too happy about that.
Well, except Doug Jones.
For those who might not know, Doug Jones is – oh, whatever, all of you know who Doug Jones is – but you might not know that in addition to playing such iconic roles as The Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth, Abe Sapien in Hellboy, and the creature in The Shape of Water, Jones played Billy Butcherson in Hocus Pocus.
“There was talk about doing a ’20 years later’ sequel that I would have been involved with,” he told the site. “I was actually approached and asked about that. I would love to reprise Billy Butcherson.”
Sweet! So does this mean the that a “20 years later” official sequel might still happen?
“It’s not off the table,” he said. “The news article that I read about this TV movie sounds like… I’m not sure if it’s a reboot or if it is that ’20 years later’ sequel. It was grey about what the storyline was. So I’m just going to keep my knees bent and be ready in case they call.”
Nice! To finish it all up, Jones then went on to say this about the original film:
“It only grows in popularity every year,” said Jones. “I did not see that coming, that 24 years later it would be more popular now than it’s ever been! That’s crazy for a movie to do!”
I agree! Hocus Pocus is one of those rare movies that almost everyone I know enjoys. Sure some people are a little hesitant to share their love of the film, but those of us who don’t care about such things as digging a cool kid’s horror movie, we share the love when and where ever we can. Case in point, if you have never seen Hocus Pocus, do so tonight! Trust me, you’ll thank us.
After moving to Salem, Mass., teenager Max Dennison (Omri Katz) explores an abandoned house with his sister Dani (Thora Birch) and their new friend, Allison (Vinessa Shaw). After dismissing a story Allison tells as superstitious, Max accidentally frees a coven of evil witches (Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy) who used to live in the house. Now, with the help of a magical cat, the kids must steal the witches’ book of spells to stop them from becoming immortal.
Henry Rollins Will Be Back For More Cannibal Carnage in He Never Died 2
If you’ve somehow missed it there is a killer horror-comedy out there (streaming on Netflix) starring Henry Rollins called He Never Died.
The film is a big recommend from all of us here at Dread Central and it is with this in mind we are excited by today’s news.
While there is currently no word on additional casting, but we will let us know as soon as we hear more about the sequel.
Until then let us know what you think of the original film below!
He Never Died 2 will be written and directed by Jason Krawczyk and David Miller will produce along with Zach Hagen.
The film begins shooting in North Bay, Ontario this May.
After saving his estranged daughter from his criminal past in the original movie, Jack is now a vagabond attempting to keep his supernatural compulsion in check. Along the way, he confronts depraved sadists similar to his own long life of destruction and must defy his inner demons and strike a balance of revenge and responsibility.
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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