Growing up in the '90s, I lived in an era where films and TV shows weren't timid about what they showed children. We witnessed everything from Simba's father dying (The Lion King) to a demonic mask possessing a little girl (Goosebumps). However, perturbing kids' precious little minds with unsettling imagery wasn't anything new. Oh no, Hollywood has a notorious history of terrifying children for decades and decades. As a child, there were more than enough moments to fire my nightmares' furnace, and these below happen to be the top nine scenes that I found the most disturbing.
9. Lab Testing - 'Secret Of NIMH'
The Secret of Nimh was about Mrs. Frisby, a widow and mother of three who's determined to relocate her family before a farmer repairs his tractor and destroys their home. Mrs. Frisby later on finds out that her husband helped rescue the Rats of NIMH, a population of intelligent rodents whose I.Q. was increased by lab testing. The animals were injected with a mysterious serum in their stomachs that caused them to seize in excruciating pain.
8. Haunted Forest - 'Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs'
Based on the classic Grimm fairy tale, Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs captures the story of a Queen's envy over her step-daughter Snow White's superior fairness. Desiring to be the fairest in the land the Queen sends her huntsman to kill Snow, but he can't bring himself to do it, so he sends her off into the forest. From there, it's a ride from hell as Snow's mind plays tricks on her and she imagines trees making creepy expressions and logs turning into fearsome beasts.
7. Max's Dream - 'A Goofy Movie'
A Goofy Movie is a mellow and endearing film about a father and son reconnecting on a cross-country road trip. However, there was single scene that went into horror movie mode and scared the hell out of me. While Max was sleeping he was transported to an obscure location where he and Roxanne share a romantic moment. However, this ends when Max starts graphically shift-shaping into his father and wakes up from this nightmare. I found this moment jarring because it was unexpected and it was unsettling seeing Max flipping out while this happened.
6. Beheaded - 'Scooby-Doo On Zombie Island'
In this film, the Scooby gang travel down south to help Daphne film her new TV segment 'Haunted America.' They eventually come across Moonscar Island, an area in Louisiana that had an infamous reputation for weird disappearances and paranormal phenomenons. While outside late at night, Fred, Daphne, Scooby, and Shaggy encounter a zombie. However, Fred isn't convinced it is one, so he tries to 'unmask' it. Despite tugging with all of his strength nothing seemed to budge, until its head was finally ripped off and Fred was astounded.
5. Large Marge - 'Pee-Wee's Big Adventure'
While on a journey to retrieve his stolen bike, Pee-Wee was picked up a by a cryptic truck driver named Marge. On the way, she told him a haunting story about a grisly car accident that'd happened years ago and ended it by describing how the victim looked after being pulled from the "twisted, burning wreck." She then turned to Pee-Wee and contorted her face in a nightmare-inducing way. While I had a certain sense of what was going to happen, it still startled me to see her hideous, monstrous face.
4. Tunnel of Terror - 'Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory'
The story of five children winning the prize of a lifetime by getting to tour Willy Wonka's renowned chocolate factory was filled with 'oodles' of surprises. Mr. Wonka's tunnel was undoubtedly one of the biggest ones. While sailing down the factory's chocolate river, Wonka and his guests are heading towards a dark tunnel and everyone but Wonka starts panicking. Once they enter the tunnel, the boat picks up speed and the guests get bombarded with terrifying sounds and images. Suddenly, the walls project unsettling scenes and people; we see a chicken being decapitated, snakes slithering across a person's face, and a man wearing a bowler (AHH!). Meanwhile, Wonka sings a haunting melody and relishes in everyone's fear before stopping the ride.
3. Mice! - 'The Witches'
In The Witches, a group of witches planned to turn all of England's children into mice, so they could exterminate them. During a meeting they manage to lure a boy named Bruno in with promises of chocolate bars. Once there, they perform a chant to bewitch him into a mouse. Despite the scene's tone being mostly wacky and nonsensical, as the camera jumping back and forth between the witches and Bruno during his transformation became more and more ghastly.
2. Donkey Transformation - 'Pinocchio'
Disney's second animated feature, Pinocchio, was about a marionette who's brought to life and must prove he's worthy to become a 'real boy.' Well, his priorities get muddled when he and several misbehaved boys go to Pleasure Island, a land where they can do whatever they please. Eventually, some of the kids started vanishing and it is later discovered that they were being turned into donkeys and sold off. Meanwhile, Pinocchio and his pal Lampwick (yes, that's his name) were playing pool when Lampwick started changing into a donkey. It was disturbing to watch his physical and mental state recede into that of a mindless animal, and see him begging for his mother. The overall pacing, music, acting, lighting, animation, and tension in this scene were orchestrated beautifully.
1. Beetlesnake - 'Beetlejuice'
Newlyweds Barbara and Adam become ghosts after being maimed in a car accident. Their new tenants, the Deetzes, were irritating them to no end and they decided to enlist a bio-exorcist named Beetlejuice to get rid of them. One night, Beetlejuice antagonizes the Deetzes by changing into a giant, mutant snake and scaring them. The creature itself was chilling from its monstrous mug, protruding fangs, and long, scaly, tail. What I find impressive and funny about beetlesnake was its effects appeared unbelievably authentic, but director Tim Burton meant to have the snake's effects appear cheap (in his words, akin to a B-horror movie).
While these scenes didn't do my dreams any favors, I'm still glad I watched them. In a way, I felt they bucked me up and made me less sensitive. Granted, I don't have the bravery of 1,000 knights just because I saw an anthropomorphic dog have a werewolf-like transformation when changing into his father. However, instead of cowering in fear I've now come to enjoy these and other similar scenes' morbid and bone-chilling content.