Though there are films that are just scary enough to scar us for life, there are others made specifically for children that create that same effect.
Some days ago I went to the cinema with my nieces. While we were in the line to buy popcorn, we were talking about the movie posters of the films the theatre was showing. Among them was obviously the new version of It and the eldest asked me if I had already seen it. She’s about to turn 9 and told me she wanted to see the film but that her parents had told her she was still too young for it. I agreed, but then I started thinking that I was younger than her when I watched the original version and many other classic horror films. Although they did traumatize me for life, I really enjoyed watching them. I just told her it was probably for the best to watch the animated film we were there to watch. If not, she would have screamed out of fear when seeing the movie. This made me think of all those movies that really scarred me, and I was surprised to see that not all of them were actually horror films. So, with that in mind, here are 10 of those movies that took me so long to re-watch out of fear of opening a box of trauma I had buried deep in my mind.
It (1990) - Dir. Tommy Lee Wallace
Well, we had to start with this movie about the clown who was probably the protagonist of millions of nightmares. Now, to be honest, I preferred the latest version in almost all aspects (except for the actor who plays Pennywise; I mean Tim Curry is the best) but I still remember how traumatized I was after watching what was presented as a two-part TV series at the time. His hideous costume, bright red hair, and his fearsome pointy teeth got stuck in my mind for many years.
Child’s Play (1988) - Dir. Tom Holland
On the same page, Chucky basically did the same. What was wrong with me? I watched this one and the many sequels it has years after, and I still felt those goosebumps and irrational fears I had when I was a kid. I still don’t understand why I kept watching these films when they clearly didn't leave a positive mark in my psyche. Every time I see a picture of this diabolical doll, I can’t help but cringe and look away out of fear of it coming to live… and no, I’m not kidding.
Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971) - Dir. Mel Stuart
Now, this isn’t even close to being a horror film, but it was definitely a nightmare fuel. Let aside the creepy Oompa Loompas with their orange skin and their weird green hair and brows, no offense to dearly beloved Gene Wilder, but his rendition of Willy Wonka shouts "pervert" out loud. Now, if that wasn’t enough, with all those psychedelic effects and disturbing songs, the only thing I could think about is how lucky I was for not getting a golden ticket.
The Exorcist (1973) - Dir. William Friedkin
And thus we arrive at my worst nightmare. When they released the remastered version of the film my cousin sneaked me to the movie theatre… Worst idea ever! I remembered I had to watch The Rugrats for weeks to fall asleep. It wasn’t really the fact that the girl was possessed that really scare me, but those flashy images of the devil gave me months of sleepless nights.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) - Dir. Wes Craven
And speaking of nightmares, that bastard pizza-like-faced dude with knives for hands, and a stripped shirt was definitely a recurrent protagonist of those bad dreams. Though it was nice to find out years later that Johnny Depp was in the film, it took me a lot of years to be able to watch not the entire film, but just some scenes. The funny thing about these classic horror films is that, now that I’ve been able to watch them recently, I just laugh about the special effects of the time, but the memory of how scared I was still makes me shiver.
Dumbo (1941) - Dir. Ben Sharpsteen
In a completely opposite type of films, let’s talk about this particularly traumatizing movie. I bet most of you can agree with me in that more than being a heartfelt children’s film, it’s one of the scariest pieces ever made. I mean, the scene with the pink elephants is creepy enough to scar a child for life. Add that heartbreaking scene where they lock Dumbo’s mom, and you get a guaranteed season in therapy.
Carrie (1976) - Dir. Brian De Palma
Without any doubt, Stephen King has crowned himself as the master of horror, and it that's well-deserved if you ask me. Among his many classic stories, it’s probably Carrie the one that freaked me out the most. Don’t get me wrong, I actually liked that movie. The casting was so good that the actress really delivered some creepy faces, but what struck me the most was the disturbing and mad mother with her religious fanaticism. To be honest, it still gets me everytime I watch it.
The Gremlins (1984) - Dir. Joe Dante
Oh, those lovely, and not at all scary, Furby-like creatures (well, probably the inspiration was the other way around) that change form when fed after midnight and reproduce with the touch of a single drop of water. Well, I guess I now understand why I found Furby’s so disturbing.
The Mask (1994) - Dir. Charles Russell
I know some of you might be wondering, what’s wrong with this movie and why I included it on the list? But let me be honest with you, I never enjoyed what many consider one of Jim Carrey’s best performances. On the contrary, I had to strengthen myself whenever my tedious cousin wanted to watch it almost every freaking weekend because I just couldn’t stand looking at this crazy character. Don’t make me go to the part where the dog accidentally puts the mask on…. Seriously, I have goosebumps right now.
Jaws (1975) - Dir. Steven Spielberg
Well, now let’s go to one that many can include on their personal list. Raise your hand if you were scared of even getting into the tub after watching Jaws. I know it’s not very likely that such a gigantic creature would swim that close to the seaside, but it really took me quite long to be able to get into the water, and I must say that swimming in the ocean is one of my favorite activities in life.
Jurassic Park (1993) - Dir. Steven Spielberg
In a similar kind fear, but more irrational and kind of stupid, I remember how panicked I was anytime I saw some random amber jewelry because I thought it might have dinosaur DNA on it, and if that it ended in the wrong hands (in my mind, an evil scientist that had watched the film and wanted to copy the idea), it could bring back those mighty and destructive beings. Don't laugh at me. I was three when it was released, and I was probably five when I first watched it. Well, but I also have a very serious and irrational fear of gorillas, so yes, you’re entitled to laugh at me.
As a normal kid in the nineties, you can probably relate to me with some of these movies, and with others, it’s probably just me and my irrational fears. Still, you can’t deny that there are films that might not really belong to the horror genre that will always haunt you (and I didn’t even mention Mufasa’s death or when Bambi’s mother is killed by a hunter). But going back to what I mentioned about my niece, it's not only those classic films that can produce those scars. Perhaps in a couple of years, her generation will remember Toy Story 3 as one of those traumatizing films ever made. We all have a personal list that will always remind us of that gullible and innocent time of our lives.
Here are other movies that will take you back on a trip to the past: