7 Incredibly Creepy Childrens’ Movies
We all remember certain movies we used to watch as kids that freaked us out. A lot of times, these movies weren’t horror films at all, but rather aimed specifically at kids. Sometimes kids movies can be downright frightening. whether this is because of the actors chosen, or certain story elements, these films can haunt the viewer well into adulthood. Here are seven creepy kids’ movies!
The Secret of Nimh
Kids love cartoons, and they really love talking animals. It therefore stands to reason that kids everywhere would probably love 1982’s The Secret of Nimh. But what looks like a run-of-the-mill kid’s cartoon is really a disturbing parable about brutal animal science testing, as well as social subjugation. Based on an early-seventies children’s novel, Secret follows the story of a rat named Mrs. Brisby as she tries to save her family from impending annihilation at the hands of evil farmers. To do this, she enlists the help of a bunch of hyper-intelligent rats who have harnessed the power of electricity, and also magic (yup, magic rats.) The creepiness of this flick is immediately apparent during the opening scene where the frame focuses on the grotesque sickly hands of an old wizard rat using a quill to write in a dusty tome about how his best friend just died. Gross. And maybe I’m old fashioned, but talking rats that plot murder, manipulate electrical current, and can levitate things through magic just scares the bejeezus out of me. Also, Dom DeLuise voices a crow, and that still haunts my nightmares.
My guess is that thousands of parents took their kids to see Toys thinking it was lighthearted fare, but quickly regretted the decision because Toys is creepy as Hell. Then again, I’m not surprised that a bunch of ten-year-olds didn’t appreciate a dark metaphor for the military industrial complex’s ever growing influence on the collective innocence of the public. Toys is creepy mainly because of Robin Williams, which can probably be said of most Robin Williams movies. But there is something particularly disturbing about his portrayal of a Wonka-esque toy magnate with arrested development. And then there’s Joan Cusack, who plays his sufficiently awkward sister/robot/golem. In the movie, a military general takes over a toy factory and uses brainwashed children to experiment with new lines of weapons. Family entertainment, right? Robin Williams’s character doesn’t like this, so he is thrown into a pit with a horrifying sea monster. YAAAAAY FUN! Despite the overall awfulness of Toys, it does get bonus points for featuring LL Cool J, who frequently disguises himself as household objects. I love Cool J.
The NeverEnding Story
Did you know that The NeverEnding Story is actually a foreign film? Its proper title is Die unendliche Geschichte, and it represents the finest in pre-unified German creepiness. I watched this movie dozens of times as a kid, and I was always deeply unsettled. The scene where Atreyu’s horse is consumed by the mud in The Swamps of Sadness is enough to make someone want to jump off a cliff. And the Gmork? Give me a break! That child-eating werewolf always scared the crap out of me. I’m not sure what it was about mid-80’s special effects, but a lot of the monsters from this movie look like they were designed by Bob Guccione on quaaludes. I even thought Falkor was terrifying, even though he was a good guy. A flying dog with reptile scales? EEEEWWWW. Not to mention the villain in the film is a giant black cloud called “The Nothing” that roams around consuming all the happy creatures in Fantasia. Essentially, it is the physical manifestation of profound sadness, which is what I often felt after watching The NeverEnding Story.
James and the Giant Peach
Where to begin with this gem? James and the Giant Peach [here on out referred to as JATGP] is a stop-motion animated movie that was riding the wave of Tim Burton quirkiness. Although not directed by Burton, he was a producer on the film, and his influence abounds. It’s also based on a book written by Roald Dahl, author of The Witches and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, so you know it’s gonna be creepy already. JATGP is the story of a little boy named James whose parents were killed when a large rhinoceros drops out of the sky and smashes them to death. Aaaaand we’re off to a great start. James then lives with his awful abusive aunts who treat him like garbage for no real reason. To make a long story short, Jame finds his way into a giant enchanted hollowed-out peach populated by anthropomorphic insects. From there they travel the world doing weird stuff. JATGP has all the macabre imagery of Nightmare Before Christmas without any of the humor, Halloween theme, or general charm. It also teaches kids that playing with strange bugs is okay. I mean, how many kids were poisoned by black widows as a result of this film? I’m guessing millions.
Dennis the Menace
Dennis the Menace may seem like the perfect kids’ movie, but in reality it is a disaster. It stars a shaggy haired blond kid that isn’t Macaulay Culkin, and it also features Walter Matthau, who really shows his acting range by playing a grumpy old guy. Things turn incredibly unsettling when the film’s villain is introduced. Christopher Lloyd plays the part of Switchblade Sam, an especially filthy drifter who goes on a crime spree in Dennis’s home town. Lloyd is really convincing in this role. I imagine this is what his character Iggy from Taxi would look like 20 years later. In fact, this movie would have been about 1,000% better if it really was a latter-day chronicle of Iggy and the gang. Too bad it wasn’t. Switchblade Sam is just a really creepy old dude who is only a couple lines away from being a full-blown pedophile. I’m really baffled about why the bad guy in this movie couldn’t just have been a schoolyard bully, or a large scary dog, or Jack Lemmon, or something.
Return to Oz
In 1985, Disney released a sequel to the timeless children’s classic The Wizard of Oz. That sounds just lovely, right? Return to Oz, however, kind of differed in tone from its predecessor…by being SUPER F’ING CREEPY. First of all, the role of Dorothy went to a young Fairuza Balk (you know, the evil teenage witch from The Craft.) Secondly, the film opens up with Dorothy receiving shock treatment in a mental health hospital because her aunt and uncle think she’s crazy. And she doesn’t even have Toto. She has a chicken…that can talk. The winged monkeys from the first Oz film are placed in Return by abnormally long-armed dudes called Wheelers with wheels for hands that would look perfectly at home in a child’s nightmare. And Dorothy’s new companions are a lanky pumpkin man and a disembodied moose head. There’s one scene in particular that used to freak me out whenever I watched it on my parents’ Betamax; at one point, Dorothy’s friends are transformed into tiny ornaments and placed in a giant hall of similar ornaments, and she is given only three guesses to figure out which ones are actually her friends. The tension of this scene is terribly palpable. I remember thinking “Don’t screw this up, Dorothy! God damn it, don’t screw this up! YOU’RE FRIENDS ARE COUNTING ON YOU, DOROTHY!” Come to think of it, that may have been the beginning of all my anxiety problems. I’m sobbing while writing this.
I’ll admit I love Labyrinth. It’s hard not to. I will argue, however, that it is detrimental for kids to watch it. For now, let’s just disregard the fact that the entire movie is about a girl trying to save her baby brother, who’s been kidnapped by an evil sorcerer who wants to turn the baby into a goblin. Let’s also forget about that one scene where the girl meets a group of creepy birds who can switch out their body parts, and then they sing a happy song while trying to tear the girl limb from limb, literally. Aside from all of that nonsense, Labyrinth is mostly terrifying because of David Bowie’s hair. Young children should not be exposed to such a messy spectacle. Imagine being a parent in the mid-eighties and having to explain to your child why a grown man looks like Tina Turner. David Bowie’s ‘do is an issue that only mature adults should encounter. Let kids be kids. The world is confusing enough without having to wonder why David Bowie looks like he runs around sticking his fingers in electrical sockets. To a child, there’s no way to explain why Bowie seems as if he’s a cartoon character that is perpetually being scared by a tiny mouse. I don’t have these answers, and neither do you. Let’s leave Labyrinth to the adults.Speak Your MindTell us what you're thinking... and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!