Movies That Seemed Scary When You Were Little

Like Cujo. What was ever scary about this movie? A rabid dog that terrorizes a family locked in a tiny car, its bloody paws streaking the windshield red? Come on, Stephen King. You could have done better than that. Although maybe not, considering you also gave us a vehicle possessed by demons.

 

I’m sure many of you have noticed that the impressions made upon you as a child somehow maintain their weight into adulthood, even if they’re absolutely absurd. Like how you still speak of The Never Ending Story as a fantastic movie, even though you haven’t seen it since the third grade. Or how you still read Garfield every day in the comics section, even though it stopped being funny to you 15 years ago. It’s the same way with movies that scared the piss out of you when you were little. Fortunately with these, you do realize when you get older how nonsensical it was to have ever been afraid.

It’s sort of like when my mom was growing up, and there was a legend circulating in her neighborhood that a one-legged man lived in the woods down the road. This became a family joke years later, once my mom and uncle realized that the one-legged man was never really much of a threat—they could have outrun him, after all. Every time I hear my mom talk about the one-legged man now, I think of every stupid horror movie I watched as a kid and how not a single one was even remotely scary.

Like Cujo. What was ever scary about this movie? A rabid dog that terrorizes a family locked in a tiny car, its bloody paws streaking the windshield red? Come on, Stephen King. You could have done better than that. Although maybe not, considering you also gave us a vehicle possessed by demons.

Or remember Ben, the one horror movie that was actually rated G? If ever I asked for a scary movie when I was home sick from school, my mom inevitably came home from the video store with Ben. Jesus. Killer sewer rats seemed a little creepy at the time, but the movie must have been pretty bad if its horror quotient paled in comparison to Cujo’s in my mind. What Ben did have going for it was that it featured Michael Jackson on its soundtrack. The “Thriller” video, on the other hand, was so terrifying to me that I couldn’t even listen to the song on our record player without screaming. I’d play it cool and even try to dance a little whenever the song came on in our house, but once Vincent Price’s rasping monologue boomed forth from the stereo, my hands would shoot to my ears and I’d start screaming. This is, of course, the same song that my parents put on our answering machine every Halloween once I grew up and realized how benign it was.

Cartoons weren’t safe either, unfortunately. An American Tail seemed friendly enough until huge, voracious cats entered the scene. Today they don’t seem any more menacing than my cat Peanut, but at the time I know I looked at him with a guarded eye. Or how about The Secret of NIMH? Rats with glowing, red eyes? Please. Child’s play, but not when you’re five.

But the most terrifying movie of my childhood, hands down, was The Peanut Butter Solution. My friend Lisa and I used to rent it every time I spent the night at her house, and we usually never finished it, it was so goddamn creepy. I’m still trying to figure out why. Ooh, peanut butter is so eerie! How ghostly it is that slathering it on one’s head makes the hair grow out the window and down the side of the house? Is this really what the director wanted us to think? But I guess it worked, as evidenced by the blanket forts I built over my bed after watching it. Ah, yes! If only my face peeks out of the covers, hobgoblins won’t know I’m here!

But I guess even if you know a movie is stupid, you still remember it as it was when you first saw it. If I stayed in this Saturday night and rented all of the scary movies of my childhood, I’d probably scoff at the screen but I’d still remember what it felt like to be afraid. And that memory might provoke me to check behind all the doors and pull the covers over my head before falling asleep, just in case. Because yes, I do still think The Never Ending Story is wonderful, and I still read Garfield every day in the paper, even though Jon Arbuckle’s love life is just as pitiful as it was two decades ago.

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