Unlike the ‘Barney‘ and ‘Teletubby‘-inspired 90s, the 80s clearly fixated on scaring the crap out of its kids. All I remember is a series of films that freaked me out more than crimped hair and Reaganomics. The 80s cartoons proved that most Baby Boomer adults HATED their children and their children’s friends. Why else create such frightening psychedelic plots bordering on torture, BDSM, and solitude? This is definitely not the “I love you/You love me” Barney love-fest of the 'Power Rangers' generation. I think half of today’s post-Generation X bloggers use kid flick lists as public therapy for overcoming our horrifying childhood films. No doubt, today’s 2013 children will write about their fear of Lindsay Lohan, Chris Brown, Justin Bieber and Amanda Bynes in tomorrow’s next communication wave. So, below find my top five scary-ass kid flicks for the 1980s.
In 1982, the Rankin/Bass cartoon based on Peter Beagle’s novel scared the crappola and the canola outta me. Starring Mia Farrow, Jeff Bridges and Alan Arkin’s voice talents, the ‘Last Unicorn‘ follows the final remaining unicorn hunted by the evil King Haggard and his demonic Red Bull sidekick, while a scullery wench and a failed magician struggle to protect her. No matter how frequently it scared me, I found it beautifully melancholy. I have to wonder why my mother took me to such a hideous cartoon featuring species genocide, a devil-like character, a creepy old pedo-man, a drunken possessed skeleton and some weird transformed-unicorn-with-human-lover-bestial sideplot. Then, I remember ... it was the 80s. It was either that or watch Mr. T in ‘D.C. Cab‘.
If you’re interested in getting the childhood crap scared out of you as an adult, Peter Beagle’s currently overseeing a nation-wide ‘Last Unicorn‘ tour.
I don’t remember much of the ‘Dark Crystal‘. But what I remember scarred AND scared the ever living shit out of me. The ‘Dark Crystal‘ follows a young boy saving his world from the evil Skeksis. Even as an ADULT, I’m afraid to re-watch that creepy ass piece of creepiness. This includes YouTube clips. Seriously, watch the movie trailer. If the first ten-fifteen seconds don’t creep you out (that includes the voiceover), then you are made of sterner stuff than I. And, am I the only one who sees the crystal as phallic? All I remember is bondage, beating, and weird ass caverns. On second thought, maybe I’ve found something scarier than today’s reality stars. Give me a ‘Real Housewives of Atlanta’ episode any day. Why is the memory of the Skeksis beating the heck out of a half-naked Jen burned into my memory? Did that EVEN happen? Or was I on the same drugs as the writers? Either way, this film clearly affected and continues to affect me.
1982 is obviously the year of creepy ass animated kid film fuckery. ‘Secret of NIMH‘ surroundshyper-intelligent National Institute of Mental Health experimental rat survivors who live underground and assist a widowed field mouse. Because it’s an 80s kid flick, the film takes a Shakespearean turn for the worse with a series of horrific murders/deaths that makes me wonder WTH the 80s were smoking. This movie, especially the cages in NIMH headquarters, affected me YEARS later. When my college sent NIMH-sponsored survey request forms to track student life, needless to say I burned my forms in the backyard and created an effigy to head rat Nicodemus.
After ‘Return to Oz, ‘ I have to wonder why my generation isn’t even MORE screwed up. While the adult in me wishes ‘Wicked,‘ the broadway musical, were as dark as Daniel Gregoire’s original novel, I understand why the producers didn’t want to terrify ANOTHER generation of kids. Seriously. Electric shock therapy for Dorothy Gale? A headless queen? Children driven insane by psychiatric treatment? Who the HELL thought they should market ANY OF THAT to seven-year-olds? I don’t think I ever woke up and said, “wouldn’t it be AWESOME if someone electrocuted the hell out of my childhood hero?”!!!
Fun fact. Did you know the writer for ‘Return to Oz’ (Gill Denis) married Elizabeth Hartman who voiced Mrs. Brisby in ‘Secret of Nimh’? Coincidence, thy name is the 80s.
I found this the saddest and loneliest animated film ever. Maybe it wasn’t Jack Pumpkinhead scary, but the idea of a young boy (OK, two young boys) isolated in a foreign country in a rainy stable, scared the pre-adolescence out of me. In fact, I typically found most 'Charlie Brown' specials lonely as a kid. But, come on, a kid and his bud go to France for a school trip and are ABANDONED in a farm shed?! The only adult in a five mile radius would rather let a couple eight-year-olds sleep in the rain than in his spacious empty house?! WHAT. THE. HELL?!! And, no one NOTICED?! The chaperones didn’t do host family check-ups?! The parents never called the house?!! I know, I know, it’s a children’s cartoon. But, even at my then tender age, I felt that couldn’t/shouldn’t happen.
Honorable Mention: ‘Black Cauldron’
Like the ‘Dark Crystal,’ it’s one of those films I barely remember but walked away scared as crap thinking “I do NOT want to see that again!” And, I don’t. Enough said.
So, how about you? Do you have any utterly paralyzing memories of childhood films? Considering the 80s were the age of ‘Mommie Dearest’ (1981) featuring Faye “No more wire hangers” Dunaway beating the heck out of a young Diana Scarwid (‘Pushing Daisies’, ‘Wonderfalls’), I understand why parents also abused their kids with bad cartoons. Obviously, I look forward to carrying on the tradition.