As great and as wonderful children’s shows and movies are, they can have some pretty intense and creepy moments. Even though I’m an adult, there are some moments from recent kids shows that make me go “well that’s messed up” (Adventure Time’s episode “No One Can Hear You” is why I feel uncomfortable when hooved animals are drawn with hands). Whenever something weird or creepy happens in a recent movie or episode, I always think back to the time when I was a kid and what creeped me out. Since it’s the month of October, here are some movies and shows that scared me as a kid.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
Although it’s technically not a family film, many a person watched this movie when they were a kid so I’m giving it leniency. This film taught me the concept of the “uncanny valley.”
Somehow when I watched it as a kid, I didn’t catch the scene where Judge Doom dips that poor animated shoe in the dip (THAT SHOE DID NOTHING WRONG). Perhaps if I caught that scene, maybe it could’ve given me a warning of Judge Doom’s true nature.
Judge Doom revealing that he was a cartoon character definitely shook me. The build-up alone was creepy. After he gets flattened by a steamroller, his flattened self gets up and reflates himself. A person casually peeling himself off the floor after getting steamrolled is a huge warning sign that something’s wrong. Then his fake eyes pop out to reveal his red animated eyes. Cartoon eyes on a live-action man’s face doesn’t look right, at all. This coupled with Doom’s voice turning into its original high-pitchiness made for a good scary moment. Needless to say, it took until I was a teen to give that movie a rewatch.
“Abracadaver” from The Powerpuff Girls
This episode, and a movie I’m going to touch on later, are reasons why I can’t watch anything zombie-related, unless it’s a comedy. The zombie’s backstory was child-unfriendly: he was a magician named Al Lusion who, after a mishap, slipped and fell into a spiked coffin. When the awoken Lusion attacks Townsville, of course, the Powerpuff Girls try to stop him.
For a kids show, the design for the zombie version of Lusion is creepy. The part of the episode that really stuck with me is how, for a moment, it really looked like the girls weren’t going to bounce back from the Lusion’s clutches, especially Blossom. Having Buttercup getting sawed in half while Bubbles tied up in a bag in a box filled with water, he basically yo-yos her into the same spike coffin that killed him decades earlier. Thankfully, it turned out Lusion was Blossom in disguise and it was all a magic act (still not sure how that happened).
“Naimina Enkiyio” from The Wild Thornberrys
In this episode, Eliza and her family are in eastern Africa, and she learns of a legend about a forest where a little girl was lost and never returned to her village. Even though they never talked about the girl’s life or even say her name, a kid will immediately connect with her because she was a child that got lost in the woods. Being separated from one’s family only to never see them again is high on the list of a child’s worst nightmare.
Due to a young Maasai teen boasting about being brave, Eliza enters the forest to prove her bravery. It was this episode that taught my younger self an important horror movie lesson: people in horror movies make stupid decisions. The idea of being lost in a forest is creepy enough. Being lost in a haunted forest cranks the fears up to eleven.
What stands out to me is when Eliza is stuck in a swamp. Right after she chastises her chimp companion Darwin for believing in the legend, she looks down and next to her reflection is the lost girl. Eliza is understandably spooked by that. After that part, I turned on my lights for the rest of the episode.
To add on to the fun, I learned a year or so ago that the forest in question does exist and the legend is a tale locals tell to warn kids. The closest I shall ever check out that forest is by looking up pictures in Google images, thanks.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Just because a film is from the late 30s doesn’t mean it can’t still leave a mark. For the most part, I found Snow White to be fine. I’m sure I was at least bothered by the scenes of Snow White running in the forest (trees should never have eyes).
However, the wicked queen’s transformation into the old hag scared seven-year-old me. That movie’s production didn’t hold back in portraying that: the music and animation really sell the atmosphere.
I think the fact the wicked queen looked visibly pained as she was transforming was also another selling point. If the big bad of the movie is disturbed, it’s not a good time. Her hands shriveling and turning old especially creeped me out. This moment scared me so much that I distinctly remember rotating the sofa chair I was in so that I was facing the wall during the rest of her transformation.
Even though I still have a bit of a soft spot for the movie, Casper isn’t a completely good film. While the set design for Casper’s home is creative, some of the acting and line delivery can be a little hokey, or just down right awkward (someone really should’ve rewritten Casper’s line “Can I keep you?”).
However, a moment from the movie that had me running out of my room was Kat’s father looking at his reflection in the mirror. Due to Casper’s uncles’ shenanigans, they begin to change Dr. Harvey’s reflection. It starts off normal enough: his reflection changes from Clint Eastwood, to Rodney Dangerfield, then to Mel Gibson (in hindsight that was the real scary part).
Then we get to the final change: his reflection turns to the Crypt Keeper from Tales From the Crypt. At that time (and now) I found the Crypt Keeper to be really scary-looking. Whenever Tales would come on, I would quickly change the channel before you would see Crypt Keeper. Plus, Crypt Keeper appearing came out of nowhere — up to that moment, the scene was comical.
In hindsight, that scene could be a kid’s introduction to a jump scare. I thought watching a kids movie such as Casper would protect me from seeing that guy’s face. I was sadly proven wrong.
Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island (1998)
Something that I recently learned is that, when Zombie Island was released, the Scooby-Doo franchise was going through a rough time. A Pup Named Scooby-Doo finished its series a few years prior to Zombie Island, and the franchise was on shaky ground for a time.
The movie’s premise is simple enough: Scooby and the gang hear about some haunts in an old Louisiana plantation and check it out (as much as I love this movie, I would’ve picked a less awkward setting for the haunting). Once there, they learn that pirates and Confederate soldiers haunt the land (again, we could change that last one). Soon, they learn that these ghosts and zombies aren’t someone in a mask: they’re real.
Just like the “Abracadaver” episode of The Powerpuff Girls, one of the reasons it causes some scares is because our heroes are shown in grave peril. There are moments where they’re even close to death. A moment that personally sticks out to me is when their former hostesses (in a scary cat form) drain Scooby and Shaggy of their life force, making them weak and noticeably shriveled.
Those were my personal scares I had as a kid. Since Halloween will approach us later this month, here’s my question to you, the reader: what movies or shows gave you the willies when you were a kid?