I will be the first to say I am a big coward when it comes to horror movies. Anything to do with ghosts, exorcisms or inspired by true events … no thank you. I distinctly remember the movie that scarred me forever but it is so tame in comparison to what horror aficionados go for, I am embarrassed to say the name (hint: something about a moth and Richard Gere).
Fear is a strange thing. When looking back at the movies or scenes that used to terrify me as a kid, I still remember them as the most horrific thing when in fact, they were quite ridiculous. Okay, maybe some still scare me but mostly these are the scariest movie scenes from my childhood that are pretty lame in retrospect.
Horror fans, please go easy on me…
1- The Gremlin from Twilight Zone
I was led to believe watching Twilight Zone: The Movie at the tender age of 10 would be a fantastic idea. It was mysterious and fun. That is one betrayal I haven’t been able to forgive.
It was all fine and dandy until I saw the airplane segment Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. A man suffering from severe aviatophobia claims to see a gremlin on the wing of the plane destroying the engine. The truth is ‘gremlin’ is a nice word for the ugliest scariest motherfu**ing thing I had ever seen at that age. If I started cursing at any moment, it was certainly after that.
Long story short: Guy sees gremlin. Gremlin is damaging the plane. Nobody believes the guy who has severe fear of flying because, why would you? The mysterious creature remains mainly a silhouette throughout the segment until the guy pulls a gun on him. He rushes to destroy the gun and after they both realize they are close to landing, the gremlin grabs the guy’s face then wags its finger to scold him in a No No manner.
That scene used to replay frequently in my nightmares. Cocky gremlin!
2- That face from Indiana Jones
This was uncalled for. I was in it for a great adventure with Harrison Ford, not to be emotionally scarred for the rest of my life. Why did nobody warn me? Where were my parents?
In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indy is on a quest to find the true Grail inside a secret temple. Some awesome fun with booby traps takes place and then an dozens of fake grails are displayed, all shapes and sizes. They must ‘choose wisely’ which grail was the one used by Jesus in the Last Supper. But if you choose poorly, this is what happens…
It was quite the dilemma you see, loving Indiana Jones but being terrified of the climax of the film. Even shutting my eyes and humming loudly wouldn’t work because I knew it was happening right in front of me. It took my Dad to play it several times while muted for me to realize, it was kind of funny and music is a big component to scary scenes. In retrospect, I can’t tell if he was torturing me or helping me.
3- Christopher Lloyd goes bananas in Roger Rabbit
Yet another climax with an unexpected gruesome death of the villain. I should have start seeing these patterns as a child, but I probably wasn’t so bright.
In Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Christopher Lloyd stopped being Doc through my eyes and became Judge Doom. This villain captures Roger and Jessica Rabbit and reveals his plan to kill them and destroy ACME. What happens next to Doom can only be described as karma, if karma were taken in the hands of crazy cartoonists who say Hey, just because it’s cartoons doesn’t mean we can’t the crap outta you.
And that was the last time I trusted cartoons movies.
4- The Closet Scene from The Sixth Sense
I remember feeling so brave going to see The Sixth Sense at the age of 11, without knowing that from then on feeling cold didn't mean I needed a sweater. It meant there were dead people all around me. Thanks Shyamalan.
The movie is filled with eerie moments, especially when the ghosts start appearing. But before Mischa Barton starts throwing up and creeping everyone out, Cole Sear is at a birthday party when he starts hearing a voice upstairs. The other boys, who already think of him as a freak, see he is scared of what just looks like a closet and decide to lock him up in the dark with whatever Cole knows to be inside.
The scene used to scare me because up until that point in the movie, it wasn't known the Cole could see dead people. You could suspect sure, but mainly he was just an awkward scared kid. The panic in the scene caused by being locked in a dark small closet with an unidentified violent voice was just the first taste of fear in this movie. What was to come was worse. Much, much worse.
You can’t make fun of me because of this one. This clown was scary. Even you thought it was scary. I don’t care if fabulous Tim Curry played Pennywise the Clown. I didn’t know it then.
I’m going to pat myself on the back (how?) for this one because It was pretty terrifying even for those without an innate fear of clowns. The lameness of it all doesn’t come from being scared of a Stephen King story. The reason why this entry is lame is because I wasn’t really scared of the movie. I was terrified of the trailer.
You heard me. I couldn’t make it through the trailer let alone actually watch that movie. At some point at the age of 12, a local network decided that showing It would be a fantastic idea. But you know what would make it even better? Playing the damn trailer about ten times a day! That ought get people to watch it.
I would always forget which sick channel was promoting it or even when the hell the movie would finally show. But it would always go something like this: cute cereal commercial cut by evil laughing clown with sharp teeth, me collapsing on the floor covering my ears and eyes simultaneously while humming a happy tune. I don’t know what was scarier, the trailer or my behavior. I’m sure my parents thought the latter.
6: The Bear Scene from The Shinning
There were so many moments to pick from The Shinning– blood flowing from the elevator, Tony, Redrum, Room 237. Yet when I think of this movie all I can think of is the 13 second Bear scene that I still don’t quite get.
The brief moment occurs when Wendy starts to see the same 1920’s Party that Jack has been seeing. Terrified she runs around the hotel and when she looks around the corner, she sees two shapes in the distance huddled over the edge of the bed. As she looks, they look back revealing to be two men- one dressed in a suit and the other dressed in an animal costume and quite possibly engaging in oral sex. That all was a lot for my pre-teen brain to take in.
The scene is pretty eerie in itself, with the distant and then zoomed shot of the two men accompanied by the terrifying score of Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind. Not to mention the shot is held for more than ten seconds, all of it lending it a scary effect. But the confusion of what the hell that was that all about made it even worse. What were they doing? What’s with the bear or doggy costume? Why are they looking straight into my soul?!
Thankfully the scene is not a strange Kubrick sexual fantasy he made the actors reenact. What I didn’t know then was that the scene is actually taken from King’s book. In one of the book’s scene set in that 1920’s party, Jack notices a young man behaving like a pet dog for the entertainment of a bald man. The man is Horace Derwent, a millionaire who poured his money into restoring the Overlook Hotel in the 20’s. Derwent knows the young man has a crush on him and tells him if he dresses and acts like a nice doggy he may be willing to sleep with him.
As it turns out, I was not the only burden with questions about this chilling scene. People are often asking in Kubrick forums what’s the deal with the bear in the hotel and if it’s even a bear. There is a whole article dedicated to the 13 Secrets of the Bear Man. I hope you enjoy it. I got through only half of it, for research purposes. It was enough.