Childhood fears can be the fears that stay with us for life. We’ve all got those films that send us cowering, those TV programmes that give us the shivers. The Impact Film & TV team delve into their childhoods and explain which childhood fears still gives them the creeps. The results may surprise you…
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
I’m not a big fan of horror movies as it is, so when I sat down for the Sixth Form Movie Night and was told what the film was, I almost left immediately. Instead, I sat through an hour and a half of gratuitous and supposedly comedic violence and very vivid gore. Highlights include various deaths by long nails through the head, running fast and impaling oneself on a sharp broken branch, and falling into a wood chipper (followed by two people dragging the lower half of the body out, displaying the end of a mangled torso, and dragging it through the woods). Alongside this, there was the cheesy story of a bromance and an unexpected love, better fitting a rom-com than a horror film. The merging of the comedy and horror genres is a strange concept, and I suppose if you like that sort of thing, you’d probably enjoy Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, but personally I don’t do well with gore and found a lot of the time I was having to look away, either because of what was on the screen, or in the expectation of violence. If you do decide to try it, good luck!
The summer of 2002. Seven year old me agreed joyously and my own summer was going swell. Rather swell, that is, until my cousins decided to sneak me into what Empire claimed to be ‘one of the best [horror films] of all time, period’: The Eye. As part of a Singaporean production, great and boisterous patriotism rippled through the midnight showings all over the land. Finally, a legitimate suspenseful piece of art that was not born out of irony or self-aware gentle comedy. So legitimate, in fact, the great gargoyles of Hollywood plundered the idea to resurrect the dying embers of Jessica Alba’s career circa 2008. Before all that though, the citizens of Asia were to be spookified first, and spookified we were.
The film, helmed by the Pang brothers, told the tale of a 20-year-old violinist receiving new eyes, via corneal transplants, which plague her with visions of ghosts re-enacting their demise before her like a seriously off-brand talent show spinoff ala Underworld’s Got Talent. This film terrified me so much so that I cried at the prospect of contact lenses a few years later. It also thoroughly ruined my summer, a feat all the more impressive when you consider that was around the time ‘NSYNC went on a ‘temporary hiatus’.
Don’t make me re-watch this. Ever.
Usually breaking the fourth wall is reserved to comedy films, action films or even a combination of the two. But a horror film breaking the fourth wall? That is truly terrifying.However, to know anything about the history surrounding The Exorcist, watching that film becomes an even more daunting experience. Here are just a few of those facts.
First is that many theatres screening the film actually had to call paramedics to treat people who fainted and others who went into hysterics whilst watching the film. Further behind the scenes, the production was littered with tragedy. Nine people died on the set, whilst one of the leads of the film, Ellen Burstyn, received a permanent spine injury. The set was even burnt down due to a mysterious fire breaking out one weekend. Someone or something didn’t want this film to be made.
Then of course there is the claim from a Christian Evangelist that there is an actual demon living in the celluloid reels of the movie. The Exorcist is surrounded by infamy and controversy, and being at the top of the IMDB most frightening films of all time list, this is not for the faint hearted.
Doctor Who: The Empty Child
At first you might look at the episode title and wonder which episode this actually is. Luckily, three words sum up the entire story…GAS MASK ZOMBIES. The writer, Steven Moffat, is known for his darker storylines; however this was his first story of the revived Doctor Who in 2005. It is utterly terrifying and will change the way you see a gas mask, forever!
The plot revolves around a small boy with a gas mask trying to find his “mummy”. His body has been taken over by nano sized aliens leaving him empty inside, like a zombie, and if he touches you – you become like him too. The story follows the horror-template genre of chase and investigation. To make matters worse, the story takes place during the Blitz in London. It’s very dark, with bombs dropping from the skies; and this backdrop adds to the horror of the plot. One particular moment makes me jump every time. This is where we see the shadow of the child behind a door and suddenly his hand appears through the letterbox! Then we hear are the following words, “Are you my mummy?” Truly chilling.
Shaun of the Dead
At the ripe old age of seven, I was probably too young to appreciate the genius of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t finish Shaun of the Dead, which follows two run-of-the-mill blokes as they try to protect their loved ones from a zombie apocalypse. Despite this being the fantastic opening to the Cornetto Trilogy, as a child all I knew was that something was amiss in this world of snap montages and dry humour – especially when Shaun (Pegg) and Ed (Nick Frost) sing along with a rather asymmetric zombie figure in the background.
My fear was confirmed when ‘Mary’ – perhaps a sweet, middle-aged woman in her past life – was impaled by a pipe. However, it was neither of these occasions that sent me running from the room screaming. Oh no. That was caused by the terrifying spectacle of Dylan Moran being split open by the hands of blood-thirsty zombies. I have only started questioning the factual accuracy behind this biology now, over ten years later.
Many children are scared of ghosts or monsters on their television screens. Many are afraid of supernatural horrors or dreadful special effects. Unlike many children, I was fine with Doctor Who – the one television programme I absolutely hated was ChuckleVision. Don’t get me wrong, the ‘to me, to you’ jollity of the brother’s camaraderie was at times endearing, but most of the time, I couldn’t bear to watch their clownish antics, and ended up leaving the room or switching channel to CITV. Sorry CBBC! It may have been the moustaches, it may have been the annoying catchphrases, it may have been the strange plotlines, but I found the series oddly creepy.
A prime example of this is the episode in which Barry was evidently hallucinating, and could see an invisible leprechaun which Paul couldn’t. Case in point. The final blow to my already doubtful attitude came when it was revealed to me by a schoolmate, that the so-called ‘Chuckle Brothers’ last name was actually Elliot. The sense of betrayal was immense and I found myself unable to watch the show ever again. If I hear the theme tune to this day, I still have the urge to run and hide.
Courage the Cowardly Dog
As a child, I spent a questionable and frankly, unhealthy, number of hours watching mind-numbing TV shows. This was partly due to not understanding my long division homework, but also my wholehearted devotion to Cartoon Network. However, it was through this cartoon captivity that I was exposed to a show that terrifies me to this day: Courage the Cowardly Dog. Apparently it’s supposed to be a ‘horror-comedy’. The horror I understand, but comedy? There was nothing comical about this show at all. What’s funny about demonic violinists, zombie rivals and the whispering voice of an undead king?
The episode that haunts me most is season one’s’ ‘Freaky Fred’. Fred firsts appear as an institutionalized ex-barber, but can be effectively summed up as a terrifying creep. With his eerie wide mouthed grimace and ominous green eyes, he narrates the entire episode from the ‘inside of his head’ in a creepy and chilling version of verse. Every line was ended with a drawn out and blood-curling groan of ‘nauuuughty’. This has left me so traumatized I am now unable to discipline my dog. The worst and most memorable part was when his background music suddenly changes to a completely unnecessary and downright sinister version of children singing. Shudder.
If you were someone who said: ‘but it’s a “kids film,” it can’t be that scary’ you’d probably find yourself eating your own words. Henry Selick’s Coraline is perhaps one of the most downright creepy films to be released in the last 10 years.
From the opening scene with the floating doll being caught by mysterious hands made of needles, the eerie score, and transformation of said doll to resemble the protagonist, one starts to realize what the next ninety minutes has in store. Although dolls are a staple of horror, by far the thing that will haunt you the most is the buttons. You know, those buttons your ‘other mother’ wants you to sew into your eyes…
As someone who is rarely affected by horror films, this stop-motion film just makes my blood curdle. The scene where the ‘other mother’ forces the ‘other Wybie’ to smile, the transformation of the ‘other mother’ into a boney spider and buttons for eyes is enough to certify Coraline as nightmare fuel. It may only be a PG, but it’s ok to be scared, I am too.
Men in Black
Men in Black (1997) is a classic, and looking back, it was a completely new and brilliant film for its time. But growing up (I was only two on its initial release) I was terrified of Men in Black because of the creatively weird and wonderful aliens in the film (wonderful only in hindsight). Although adults may think that Men in Black is a simple family friendly film about aliens with Will Smith cast as the most bad-ass secret Earth protector ever, but I beg to differ. What terrified me specifically was the antagonist of the story ‘Edgar the Bug’- the 11 ft. bug that has taken on a farmer’s body (actually his skin). The result? A terrifying farmer man that combines both a zombie and a crazed murderer, as well as the fact there is actually a slimy big-teethed huge bug hiding under it. This is enough to scare any child, and so revealing Men in Black if not as innocently fun as it seems, and I still can’t watch it, even now.