The internet is ablaze with lists of movie suggestions. Unfortunately, those lists tend to include either the blatantly obvious or the extraordinarily obscure. With this one, I’ll try to bridge the gap. These are titles you may have flipped past in your younger years, which would’ve been a mistake. Others are on the slightly rare side, but are on this list because I can’t help but suggest they’re added to one’s collection, especially if there are kids around to watch. Here we go!
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show (1997-2000)
This one invariably completes my childhood, because every episode I saw stuck in my memory for decades to come. As a child, I stayed up to see episodes of Tales from the Crypt, and even those failed to make the impact this series did. In this show, the Szalinksy family undergoes a gauntlet of perils as a result of the father’s half-baked inventions. These involve physical modification machines in a parody of The Fly, another machine that brings items on pages into real life (in this case all urban legends), and the father being possessed by the ghost of a mobster. The hilarity is hardly anyone ever comes to lasting harm in the end, but that doesn’t negate the dark content. One episode features Bryan Cranston acquiring a touch that turns people in to cheese, and he goes around doing it to those he’s spiteful against. For all he – or we – knew, he was killing them. I’ll leave the end to that one a mystery.
Undoubtedly, if you’re iffy on the show and only want to see the high points, you should go with episode 17: Honey, the Bear is Bad News. In summary, a high-tech toy bear is taken over by a computer virus and becomes bent on destroying humanity. Modifications include gattling guns, flamethrowers and rockets. He also makes jokes about alcoholism and cops being pigs.
Jim Henson’s The Stoyteller (1988)
Though older, this show isn’t hard to come by. Frankly, it needs little description. In each episode, the storyteller goes through a fable, the most common of which is Stone Soup. Others, such as The Soldier and Death take on the darkest of tones and the creepiest of puppets. Show this to your 6-year-old and get ready for the nightmares to start.
Bone Chillers (1996) cta
Back in the day, Betsy Haynes decided to write a series of horror books for kids, something like Goosebumps. The 13-episode TV show was written with obvious humorous intent, but the darkness prevails over all, largely due to the way it was filmed. The color tone is dark, the school it takes place at would’ve been shut down for a few hundred safety violations before episode one and the camera angles are oppressive in every shot. Every. Single. Shot. It’s like Tim Burton did LSD and had the worst trip ever. Monsters drawn in a pad come to life, a teacher becomes a mutant frog who eats people and kids (in theme at least) are turned into cafeteria food. Regretfully, YouTube is one of the few places this warped gem can be found.
Watch Bone Chillers on YouTube by clicking HERE
Okay, so this may not be targeted to the youngest of kids, but it sure doesn’t look meant for adults at a glance. Given how it’s Bryan Fuller, things are bound to be crass and bizarre. I’d avoided this one a while, because it seemed so light. The main character lives by Niagara Falls and sees inanimate objects with animal faces talk to her. They give her directions she must follow in order to get through tough situations. These orders, however, become more disquieting and risky. The content reaches far beyond its TV-PG rating with dialogue so blunt (though “clean”) it’d make a grown man blush. Under the guise of a comedy, horrific scenes play out, including one with a nun tying down the main character and threatening to cut the evil out of her with a knife. By the by, Fox only aired four episodes of it, but the whole first season is available on DVD.
Nightmare Ned (1997)
This TV show didn’t last long for budgetary reasons. Somehow, it was expensive to make compared to other shows. Based on a game of the same title, released the same year, Nightmare Ned is about a 10-year-old learning life lessons and overcoming fears by enduring horrifying dreams. However, the imagery seems to do more to bring fears to life than explain them away. Showing a fawn that eats human flesh and a headless guy putting a child through a saw aren’t the kinds of images that’ll help much. It usually all ends with it all being a nightmare, as is the theme, which does nothing to make the fears seem less possible.
Are there any important ones I'm missing?
Matthew Scott’s personal blog and bookstore is at http://matthewscottauthor.wordpress.com/