Many of these early shocks still stick with me now and are largely the reason that I still haven’t rewatched them since then. So in a bid to put to rest some of these childhood horrors, here are my top six films which it’s safe to say left a lasting impression on me for perhaps all the wrong reasons!
Needless to say there are spoilers ahead, as well as footage (were I could find it) of the scenes in question, so you can either dredge up those childhood memories all over again, or just enjoy freaking yourself out for the first time and maybe question how they could ever have been classed as movies suitable for kids.
The NeverEnding Story
Possibly the first of these films which I was exposed to, in which a bulled boy called Bastian escapes from his dreary life of being frequently tormented by school bullies, by reading a strange old story book, which allows him to escape to the fantastical world of Fantasia, which is under attack from a faceless enemy called “The Nothing” which threatens to consume the land, unless it can be stopped by the boy hero Atreyu.
Set in a land of colorful characters and imaginative storytelling, it’s unsurprising that this film would go on to spawn a sequel, which was equally as good as this original film, while the third film was sadly a lot more forgettable. Still it proves that just because it's a kids movie that it doesn't mean you can't be scary.
Most Shocking Moment: There is only the one here, even though it could be argued that the demonic wolf Gmork, might be a bit full on for some kids. The real shocker comes with the death of Atreyu’s horse Artax, who drowns in the “Swamps of Sadness” whose muddy waters pull down those unable to fight the feelings of sadness it evokes in those attempting to pass through, so technically it means that Artax died from depression which I’m sure is something that most kids movies can’t claim to have.
Les Maîtres du temps / The Masters of Time
This is more of an obscure title, especially as I’ve not seen it since I was traumatized by this films most shocking moment. A Franco-Hungarian animated sci-fi movie, it follows a young boy named Piel, who is stranded on the desert planet of Perdide were he now awaits rescue.
I’m not actually sure if this was originally intended for kids, but here in the UK it was dubbed by the BBC and certainly shown at a time which would give the impression is was meant for a younger audience.
Most Shocking Moment: Easily the scene in which Piel’s Alien friend Wah-Wah is eaten by strange predatory tentacles which hang from the ceiling of a cave they are passing through. Unsurprisingly this scene was cut from later broadcasts of this film, but it would be typical that the uncut version would be the one which I was exposed to and even now it’s non the less chilling to watch.
The Dark Crystal
Set in a world ruled by the grotesque Skeksis, a young Gelfling named Jen, sets out on a quest to find the missing shard of the Dark Crystal, the source of the Skesis’s power, which when fully assembled will once again restore the balance of the universe.
Perhaps it was the innocent fun of “Labyrinth” which suckered me into this film, let alone the fact it was a Jim Henson movie, I mean how dark a movie could it be when it features his familiar style of puppetry? After all this is the guy who created “The Muppets”!
Well it would seem that Henson also had a pretty dark side, as clearly on display here and something he would carry across to his underrated TV series “The Storyteller”, yet here he was with a film which had death, violence and even soul stealing as when Henderson goes dark he really doesn’t hold back.
Most Shocking Moment: Pretty much the whole thing, though if we are going to narrow it down to one key moment, it would probably be the death of the Landstriders during their battle with the Garthim, which is not overly helped by the fact that the Landstriders look like white bunnys! It’s also a scene which my media teacher would years later admit to getting choked up over and having to have a glass of wine to get over it, so darn my parents for frowning on child alcoholism if that’s all it took to get over such a traumatic scene.
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
In perhaps a slightly misguided attempt, to bring back to family period dramas, this film is a classic Dickensian mock-Gothic tale of resourceful children, an evil governesses, forged wills, cruel orphanages and goodness triumphant set against an isolated country house and the dark Satanic mills of the industrial revolution, while feral wolves over run the grounds of the titular house. Set in an alternative 19th century during the reign of James III and were wolves have made their way through the Channel Tunnel, completed in this reality 160 years ahead of schedule.
Although based on a popular children’s book this film clearly marks the change in censorship attitudes as death is commonplace in this film, with several characters being killed by the wolves and a haunting drowning sequence all making it past the censors sheers, while these days even the slightest drop of blood has to usually be edited out, as seen by the recent cuts given to “The Hunger Games”, which I’ve a feeling is going to be a lot less violent than the book.
Most Shocking Moment: Without a doubt the death of Percy, who gets crushed between two rollers, a scene which is none the less disturbing now, thanks to some well placed orchestral score.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
The first of the Indiana Jones films and the one which launched a true screen icon, while also capturing the spirit of Saturday morning serials, which had inspired George Lucas to craft his character in the first place. There is a lot to appeal to kids about Indiana Jones, especially as he has a bad ass look, he uses a bullwhip, explores booby trapped tombs in search of lost treasures and beats up Nazi’s, while more bizarrely has also been responsible for more than a few Archaeologists getting into the field in the first place.
The series on the whole has also been responsible for several shocking moments of screen violence, with this original film being the one possibly responsible for causing the most childhood distress, as not only to we have a man trying to stop an airplane propeller with his face but also some freaky looking spirits morphing from beautiful maidens to horrific skull faced creations.
Most Shocking Moment: Obviously it has to be the face melting sequence, as the real power of the Ark of Covenant is unleashed upon the Nazi’s, which really puts the term “Wrath of God” in perspective, while giving the audience a meltdown sequence to rival finale of “The Evil Dead” and this is a film that most parents happily let their kids watch and regularly marketed as a family film!
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
A noir crime movie but you know for kids as it’s set in a world in which humans and cartoon co-habit. When the manic cartoon rabbit Roger, hires the cartoon hating private detective Eddie Valiant to snoop on his wife Jessica, sure that she is playing pattycake with someone else (Seemingly it’s the toon version of sex). However when studio boss Marvin Acme is found dead Roger is named the prime suspect and his only hope of redemption is now with Eddie.
What kid could not be drawn in by the prospect of seeing their favorite Disney and Warner Bros characters finally together in the same movie, especially with every Disney special at the time of it's release seemingly promoting the hell out of it. Guess they forgot to mention that it is a film with some wickedly dark moments, which would make it one of the most ballesy movies ever made by Disney, especially as it features a cigar smoking baby called Herman, who is the sort of character I’d really like to see them try and get past modern censors seemingly intent on saving the youth of today from being exposed to such things.
The dark moments in this film are largely at the hands of Judge Doom, embodied here with a real creepy relish by Christopher Lloyd. Having long realised that Toons can’t be injured by any form of physical attack, he has created a chemical called “Dip”, a demonstration of it’s effects on an childlike cartoon shoe, proving the first warning sign here of some of the darkness to come, especially during it’s finale were Doom’s weasel henchmen are dispatched by making them laugh themselves to death.
Most Shocking Moment: Without the doubt the warehouse showdown against Judge Doom, who not only gets run over by a steam roller, but inflates himself causing his eyeballs to pop out as he revels himself to be a maniacal toon! I did mention that this was a Disney movie right!?!
So there you have it, the films which are no doubt responsible for screwing me up from an early age and what will no doubt do the same for my son, once he starts raiding my DVD collection, but compared to some of the rubbish which is churned out for kids today I would say that these films are whole alot less harmful in comparison.
So why not post in the comments section below, the films which traumatized you as a child?