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Wanna see something really scary?

Ray in Austin has an amusing tale of watching scary movies with his kids, something which began as a Halloween tradition a few years back. They called a temporary hiatus after both children were terrified by the 1936 Bela Lugosi classic Dracula, but recently his son wanted to get back in the saddle.

So I puzzled through a pile of movies at Blockbuster tonight. Almost all of them were either too gory, or rated R, or were black-and-white (I didn’t want anything too similar to the Lugosi debacle), so after much hemming and hawing and talking it over with Gina and with the film geek at the Blockbuster store (who I incidentally turned on to The Warriors, which he’s gonna watch tonight, heh heh), I finally settled on The Lost Boys and Killer Klowns from Outer Space. Lost Boys is rated R, and I knew there was one rather intense vampire feeding scene, but I was guessing the R must be just because of some bad words, so I figured “what the hell”. We can always stop it in the middle. And both of these movies are horror-comedies, not straight scary.

Right up until the feeding scene, Liam kept going “This isn’t scary. When is it gonna get scary?” And right after the feeding scene, half of which he didn’t see because my hands were over his eyes, he got up off my lap and went to sit with his mother.

And now he’s in my bed. Head of garlic on my nightstand. Celtic cross over my side of the bed, my grandmother’s crucifix over the TV, a little cross medallion hanging on the bedpost. Watching “That’s So Raven”. With all the lights on. I don’t think I’ll have to whip up any holy water, at least, which is good since I don’t really know how to bless anything that hasn’t sneezed.

On the way upstairs he said, “I think PG-13 should be my limit for a few more years.”

So, OK. Oops. My bad.

The good news is that Liam actually liked the movie, and will probably get over the feeding scene when he sees it again in the daytime. It’s when Ray mentioned the old Darrin McGavin series The Night Stalker, which was, hands down, the scariest thing I can recall watching as a kid, that I got to obsessing about what sort of psychic damage I may someday do to Olivia by accidentally exposing her to something too intense for her to handle. I don’t think The Night Stalker caused any lasting damage – heck, I’m a bit excited to hear that there’s a remake of it in the works – but I do know people who, years after seeing some Really Scary Movie as a kid, remain freaked out about it.

So I’m curious. What (if any) movie, or TV show, or book, or whatever, that you consumed as a kid still haunts you? What (if any) beloved children’s story should I keep Olivia away from if I want to minimize the therapy bills later on?

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  1. Mike Thomas says:

    The 1970s remake of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” scared the fool out of me. I was in junior high and I should have gone to see “Force Ten from Navarone” starring Harrison Ford, but noooo, I had to let my friends talk me into seeing the scary movie.
    Most disturbing scene: A pod gets busted next to a hobo sleeping with his dog and creates a creepy alien dog creature with a human head. That one still makes me shudder.

  2. duhnonymous says:

    I loved the Night Stalker too. I can barely remember Dark Shadows from when I was little but I thought that was pretty scary back then; not sure what I would think about it now. But the big one, and I still think about it when I go to the beach, is Jaws. We used to go to Galveston fairly regularly in the summer but after Jaws, we stayed in close to the shore and if anything brushed up against my leg it would spook me out of the water.

  3. TP says:

    Serpent and the Rainbow.

    The Exorcist.

    With me, it was a love/hate thing, b/c I’ve loved horror movies ever since I was 8.

    i suppose it’s a coincidence that i was an insomniac until i hit about 24.

  4. Matt says:

    When I was four, I stayed up late at a friend’s house watching TV, and saw an episode of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery, “The Caterpillar”:

    It features a bug crawling into someone’s ear and laying eggs. That image freaked me out for years.

    It’s apparently an urban legend:

  5. Red Dog says:

    Gremlins. Scary is hell, especially for a 9 year old.

  6. RL says:

    When I was in HS, I did a report on the witch trials of Salem and old Europe. The descriptions in some of the texts, not fiction, non-fiction scholarly type books, of the torture and executions of the accused witchs gave me nightmares and terrible flashbacks for years. I would steer her away from that type of research. Some true stories are more frightening, grotesque, and disturbing that fiction.

  7. Atrios says:

    For me it was the *advertisements* for The Shining when they ran it on network tv. I was probably 9. sure as hell didn’t watch the movie then.

    Later in life when I was in college and should’ve been immune to all things scary it was Pet Cemetery

  8. julia says:

    that ghastly cartoon movie about teenage dinosaurs as the world dries up.

    First they’re starving and dying of thirst. Then a TRex justdon’tquitegethim but takes a long time about it, with lots of dramatic nerve-jangling music. Then his mom fights the TRex and ends up falling off a cliff, breaking her back and drying. Then there’s an earthquake and he ends up on the other side of a dread chasm with all his friends on the other side.

    at which point HM said “Mom? Ew?” and we watched some Food TV instead.

  9. William Hughes says:

    I never was much of a horror film fan to begin with, so I really don’t get that type of night terror. I get random panic attacks, but that’s another story.

    There’s a show on public access here on SI called “Industrial Television”. It’s usually on at midnight on Saturdays, and it has provided me with two of the most disturbing images I have ever seen.

    First, many of you may remember the man who was giving a speech related to a scandal of some sort or another and decided to take a gun out, put it in his mouth, and commit suicide on live TV. This has been replayed a few times on TV, and is always edited.

    Not this time. I think that’s enough said about this one. (Side note: My father enjoyed the Faces of Death video series when he was still alive.)

    The second one involves something Olivia will be going through in the next couple of years. That’s right, potty training. Well, the fine folks at Industrial Television, decided to show a potty training film called “It’s Potty Time!” about the adventures of several small children how are learning how to use the potty. The most disturbing image was a man that looks like Steve Urkel’s father calling his daughter (and I am not making this up) “The Best Little Pooper I Know”. Of course, this is filled with rewritten public-domain potty related songs (you will never take “On Top of Old Smokey” / “On Top of Spaghetti” seriously again folks).

    Also, the original Grimm Fairy Tales are supposed to be quite disturbing for small children.

  10. RMG says:

    The Gremlins-knockoff ‘Critters’. I watched it over at a friend’s house on VHS and had nightmares for weeks.

    Speaking of the corrupting effects/awesomeness of popular culture, Mark Schmitt has an interesting article over at TPMCafe that tosses out the idea that it might not be a bad idea for Democrats to start attacking Hollywood for shoveling lousy and dangerous films, TV shows and music at America’s kids. From my political point-of-view it’s a tad infuriating, but as someone else on the site noted, better for Democrats to have the intra-party culture debate now than in the winter of 2006 (or 2008). Check it out here:

  11. For me it was the Exorcist. My father is one of those that loves horror flicks.

    It was on television at one point in the 70’s, and because my father couldn’t take my brother and I to see it in the theater, we had to watch it on television.

    Scared the crap out of me.

    There was another movie, I cannot remember the name, that took place on an oil drilling rig in the North Atlantic, where they pulled some parasite or something up from the well, and it proceeded to kill the entire crew, except for the hero.

  12. Jeb says:

    For me it was an alien invaders movie from the 50s whose name escapes me. It had the classic set up of the aliens coming to a New England town. What made it memorable was that the aliens captured humans, took them back to their ship, and then assumed the likenesses of the humans. At the climax, the good New Englanders find and board the alien ship. Inside they find their neighbors hanging along a dark hallway attached to these machines. As each human was taken down, they would cut to an alien in the town being revealed.

    As an adult, I can see that much of it was an allegory for Cold War fears about communism. When I saw it as a kid, it was a dark and very creepy film.

  13. Ellen says:

    That creepy book “Flowers in the Attic” scared me and led to awful nightmares for years and years. Why, oh why, was it passed around amongst pre-teen girls? Bad move.

  14. CrispyShot says:

    I think the movie was “1 million Years To Earth,” or somesuch. I must have been 7 or 8. Construction workers unearth a Martian (or something) spacecraft beneath London, and I guess it’s got some Super-8 reels in it, because someone figures out how to show the home movies of the aliens’ homeworld: millions of grasshopper-like creatures fighting, and suddenly one jumps right in front of the camera for a startling close up. And of course the spaceship is also (or is really?) a weapon, because it starts some kind of energy field thingy (in the shape of a grasshopper head, natch)that starts to destroy London, until the Brave Hero sacrifices himself and destroys it.

    In my youth, I was scared shiftless by grasshoppers; they still give me the willies.

  15. I remember being really freaked out by Westworld, the movie with Yul Brynner, when it showed on TV years and years ago. I was about 8.

    I was also pretty shaken by Poltergeist when I saw it in the theater at 13 or 14.