It’s October. That means movie theaters are overflowing with blood and sharp objects, zombies are taking over shopping malls, and the total number of Kit-Kats you can cram into your mouth at once is what’s truly frightening. Whether it’s the spookiness already in the air or the recent release of the Where the Wild Things Are film, my mind’s been running back in time lately. Mainly back to my childhood and it’s one frightening little trip. Okay, so I had a fairly normal upbringing and never really wanted for anything (other than that $44 Star Wars AT-AT toy that my mom would never buy me for the holidays). Even so, just like any other kid, I had my fair share of scares.
Now, you may think growing up in the Bubble Gum Decade of the ’80s was all big hair, hot pink and laugh tracks, but you’d be wrong. There was plenty of scare to go around. Thanks to TV, movies and even music videos, I spent many a sleepless night as a Geekling. So in honor of this spooky month, and because I apparently want to freak myself out, I’ve compiled a list of The 10 Scariest Things I Watched as A Kid:
10. The Trial By Treebeast ceremony in 1980′s Flash Gordon movie
Puberty today has it easy. All you need is an active Facebook account and an Xbox Live Gold Membership, and you’re in. But try living with the forest folks of Arboria. Their coming of age ceremony involves sticking your arm deep into one of a dozen or so holes in a treestump and praying you don’t pick the hole with the Treebeast in it. If you do, the beast is sure to bite you, with its venom causing madness and eventually death.
9. Gollum’s voice in the animated movie The Hobbit
Yes, I know there was a Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. And it was quite good. As was Gollum. But this animated movie by Bass and Rankin in the late ’70s so perfectly nailed Gollum that it’s beyond eerie. The combination of real pale skin tones and giant saucer eyes made Gollum look so unnerving… but that’s not what got me. That just put me on edge. When Bilbo discovers Gollum’s cave and we hear those two words, “my preccccccioussss,” I still want to dive for cover under my desk. That voice just chills you right to the bone, and then some.
8. Scott Carey battles a giant spider in The Incredible Shrinking Man
You wouldn’t think seeing a man shrunk down to a mere few inches in size would be that scary. Especially if it’s from a movie that’s over 50 years old and in black and white. But the scene where our main character is trapped in his basement, armed with nothing more than a nail, is surprisingly suspenseful. Spiders always creep me out. Giant spiders in movies are spooky, but nothing is more stomach churning than a normal sized spider trying to eat a tiny little human. Thanks for letting me watch that one so many times as a kid, dad!
7. Calibos loses his hand in Clash of the Titans
I must’ve seen this classic film a few dozen times as a kid and still can’t turn it off it if I stumble upon it on cable these days. While it’s really not a scary movie, the character of Calibos (the slimy goat-like outcast) always creeped me out. Maybe it was those hateful eyes beneath the nasty makeup. Whatever the case, the freak-out-factor jumped above 11 when Perseus takes on the goat boy in battle and severs his hand… which is then presented to the gods. Bleargh.
6. “The Purple Smurfs” episode of The Smurfs
As a kid, you never realized it, but the Smurfs were almost eradicated by zombies. Yeah, Zombie Smurfs. This was the episode where a purple fly bit a Smurf, who in turn changed to a shade of purple, became super angry (you could tell, because his teeth were all gritty and stuff) and hopped around saying nothing more than, “Gnap!” If a purple Smurf bit you on the tail, you were infected and the disease kept going. Angry Smurfs don’t make you feel safe. A giant Civil Smurf War, with normal Smurfs holed up in their mushroom house trying to ward off infected purple Smurfs, is downright unsettling.
5. Diana chowing down on a live guinea pig in the original V mini-series
Sure, seeing the human flesh peel off the aliens’ lizard skin would be enough to send an elementary school kid to therapy. So imagine what was going through that kid’s mind when Diana, the leader of the alien race, grabs a live (and rather large) guinea pig and proceeds to swallow it. Whole. The effects may not hold up today, but the memory shudders sure do.
4. The cake-eating part of Tom Petty’s “Don’t Come Around Here No More” music video
Stop laughing. I know it’s Tom Petty. A fairly homespun American singer. He’s also the man responsible for one of the sickest music videos I can remember. Mostly a trippy take on “Alice in Wonderland,” the video takes an alarming turn near the end when Alice (in her familiar blue and white dress) is laying down on a checkerboard table. Suddenly Tom Petty (as the Mad Hatter of course), takes out a huge knife and proceeds to cut up slices of sheet cake from Alice’s body and serve them to the party guests. I don’t think I’ve ever looked at a birthday cake the same way since.
3. The Ceti Eel larvae put in the ears of Captain Terrell and Commander Chekov in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Maybe it was the cool, calculated style that Khan did it. Maybe it was the description of immense pain and impending madness the eels would cause. Or maybe it’s the fact that these nasty, squirming baby eels were put inside somebody’s ear that did it! Yeah, that’s probably it.
2. Jeff Goldblum’s arm-wrestling scene in The Fly
Crazy scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldlum) is starting to show signs of some odd new abilities. Huge amounts of energy. Increased strength. Giant coarse hairs growing on his back. So what’s he do but go to a bar where he arm wrestles some big trucker and literally breaks the guys arm. We’re talking bone ripping right through the skin. It was like watching someone peel a human banana.
1. Any episode of Small Wonder
As frightening as the Teletubbies are today, Small Wonder was twice as horrifying. Vicki, the robot who looked like a girl, would somehow hypnotize me with that monotone voice and those deadpan lines of hers, somehow keeping my trembling hand from grabbing the remote to mercifully change the channel. Truly frightening.