Hey, so I hope y’all had a good Halloweekend. Once again acknowledging what time of year it is, I’m going to go ahead and get into the spirit of things. This week, in the spirit of horror, I will put aside references to Predator 2 and talk about movies that scared the ever-loving bejeepers out of me upon the first viewing. Why scary movies? Allow me to explain. At Christmas time, characters on TV hold long, pointless debates about what Christmas is really about even though the answer is painfully obvious. People don’t argue about what Halloween is really about. Candy? Costumes? Pagan Horror Rituals? STDs? All four? Guys, it’s about pagan horror rituals. Halloween is a time for terror, and that’s why I’m going to talk about movies that scared the ever-loving bejeepers out of me. I have gotten to use that phrase three times now. I am fulfilled.
The Day of the Triffids (1951)
When I was a wee little sprog, I loved monster movies from the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s. Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Wolf Man, Creature from the Black Lagoon, etc. The Day of the Triffids is a cheesy 1951 sci-fi/horror movie about man-eating plants from space. Sounds like the kind of thing that six-year-old Chris would love, yeah? No. No x 10^16. No so much I made a reference to math.
A bunch of man-eating plants from space, the titular triffids, fall to earth one night on the backs of meteors and start eating people. Ok, fine. That’s not so scary. People can take care of plants, right? Not if they’re blind. What made The Day of the Triffids so terrifying for me is that the meteor shower is so bright it makes everyone blind. Movie science. Only a few isolated groups can still see. For the most part, the audience is left watching in unadulterated terror as innocent, blind people (including all forms of men, women, children, elderly, probably dogs, etc.) wander into their own demises, unable to defend themselves because they can’t see. That is so awful. That stuff sticks to a young mind.
Them! is a musical, right? It has an exclamation point in the title. Only musicals and ’50s horror movies have exclamation points. Oh, right. Yeah, the ’50s were not kind to young Chris. To be fair, though, Them! wasn’t nearly as bad as The Day of the Triffids. I’ve rewatched Them!
Them! is about giant ants, mutated by radiation (as all good things were in the ’50s) and hellbent on chowing down on some humans. Let x equal regular sized animals (two math reference in one post!). The thing that was so scary about this movie for me was that, at the time, it was the first portrayal of giant x that I had seen. Interestingly, since I’m on a math kick, if you multiply x by giant you end up with 0x. Math is zany, isn’t it? Anyway, giant ants terrorize a small town in the American southwest, eat a bunch of people, endanger some children (but not too much), and then get destroyed with flamethrowers. I distinctly remember having a nightmare about this one after watching it, but subconsciously comforted myself when, in my dream, I was rescued from the ants by Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca the Wookie, Princess Leia, and Alec Guinness.
Watership Down (1978)
In a Lynchian fever dream, a group of animated bunnies flee from a skin-melting sunset and the sound that the toilet makes when it flushes.
I have a confession. I’m being super unprofessional. I haven’t rewatched The Day of the Triffids or Watership Down. They scared me too much when I was a child. As a result, my memory, especially of the latter, is somewhat hazy, and my brief plot synopses may not be entirely accurate. One thing I said, though, was entirely accurate beyond any possible doubt: David Lynch got incredibly sick, hallucinated about rabbits, and then watched in horror as those hallucinations physically manifested in his bowel and he vomited them on a little kid in a Piglet costume. That is the best metaphor I can come up with for what Watership Down does to all forms of childhood innocence everywhere. I must have seen this movie when I was four or five. Something about it made me believe that when I flushed the toilet, I would conjure up a blood red star that would sear the skin from my bones. I wonder if I should maybe try watching Watership Down again… wait, screw that. I don’t want to be afraid of the toilet again.
Honorary Mention: Wait Until Dark (1967)
A scary Audrey Hepburn movie. My world was shattered.