5 Movies from Your Childhood That Were Unintentionally Terrifying
"PG" seems to have changed somewhat over the last 30 years.
When we were kids, life seemed so much simpler... Basically all you had to worry about was keeping on the up and up with Saturday morning cartoons and brushing your teeth after your third bowl of Crunch Berries so your parents wouldn’t ride your ass about it. The adults were in charge of keeping you alive and the rest was just good livin.' Income taxes, tampons, cholesterol, and whiskey dick were still in the distant and unfathomable future.
There was one issue with your tiny, chill life: a lot of the shit you encountered on a regular basis, while perceived in perfectly innocent context by your naïve little mind, was secretly super duper adult (Bugs Bunny, anyone?) and sometimes (frequently) pretty jacked up. As a child of the late 80s, I'm among the scores of scarred adults who grew up on this weird fodder, and the film industry was among the weirdest. We never noticed how completely disturbing a lot of those movies were... until we grew up and rewatched them in abject horror as adults, that is.
1. 'Watership Down' (1978)
I remember being super stoked about this movie as a kid because, well, bunnies, hello! Anthropomorphic bunnies hopping around talking to each other and shit! And I made it through most of it with only mild concern for the brutally mutilated ones, too, because childhood.
Try to watch it now. I dare you, seriously. Everything looks awesome and cute, just like you remember, the bunnies are all happy chilling on their little bunny hill, oh look his name is Hazel, that’s so adorable... And then HOLY SHIT A HAWK TOOK ONE OF THEM. It’s okay, I mean it’s nature, right? At least the rest of the bunnies are still OH MY CHRIST THERE ARE CRAZY RABBITS THAT ARE SACRIFICED, WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL THERE’S A WATERFALL OF BLOOD, SWEET HAIRY JESUS. Good luck making it through that. I recommend Requiem For a Dream to cleanse your palate.
2. 'The Last Unicorn' (1982)
Every little girl loves unicorns. I don’t care how badass you think you are, little kids, if you spot a unicorn you’re going to lose 100 percent of your shit immediately. Such was the motivation for lots of deluded little tykes to sit through The Last Unicorn before the double digits hit. It’s got a terrific premise that would appeal to even the most stoic eight-year-old—a beautiful unicorn is basically in charge of a forest and spend a lot of her time strutting around hanging out with her forest buddies. The only issue is, it turns out she has dramarrhea about being the last unicorn alive (and then a hippie butterfly makes it worse by telling her she needs to bail), so she decides to set out and find the rest of them. Here’s where the problems start.
On her journey (and to the dulcet tones of America, in case you needed any more reason to love this shit) she encounters:
- A dorky wizard who eventually gets to motorboat a horny tree with tits like you wouldn’t believe.
- An evil old lady who is ultimately mauled and eaten by a vulture with boobs.
- An alcoholic dead guy.
- A creepy old King who gets to feel her up.
The best part is she’s totally getting the D from a dude who’s clearly into bestiality. You can’t make this shit up.
3. 'The Secret of Nimh' (1982)
(Again with the fuzzy cute animals theme, are you noticing a pattern here? Too bad my mom didn’t notice I was into R-rated cartoons as a seven year old or maybe I’d be a doctor now.)
The Secret of NIMH is punctuated by a constant and pretty metal thesis, and that is this: whenever you mow your lawn, you're probably uprooting families with sick children and violently murdering things (and unfortunately for us former children turned homeowners, this turned out to be more or less true). From there, we meander down a road of barbaric madness. Mrs. Brisby, the mom with the sick kid who you almost killed with your John Deere earlier, decides to venture into the world to find help for her little dude. On the way there, she encounters a murderous cat, an owl that channels Saruman, a blind prophet rat that will give you nightmares, and a lot of rodent-on-rodent murder in general. Meanwhile, the backstory is that there’s a government agency responsible for making all these rats smart enough to plot politically and kill each other. Good dreams will ensue.
4. 'The Brave Little Toaster' (1987)
Walter Chow calls this movie “Blade Runner for children” on Rotten Tomatoes, and let me tell you, he nailed it. If you’ve ever tripped acid and had conversations with your kitchen appliances, this movie will probably seem oddly familiar. It’s about a toaster, a vacuum, an electric blanket, and some more Sears-level household items that decide after being abandoned by their owner that they all need to go track him down. Imagine opening your front door and your Xbox is just sitting there waiting malevolently for your attention, obsessively in love with you. That's The Brave Little Toaster.
The trek is enough nightmare fuel to last you months: some clown torture, a lamp electrocuting itself to death, an almost conscious dissection, a troupe of electronics masquerading as a dead guy to freak people out, and eventually, a junkyard crusher that’s really into BDSM and killing things. Toaster, torn apart by his abandonment issues, tries and fails to commit suicide, too. Yeah, it really earned that PG rating for sure.
5. 'The Dark Crystal' (1982)
Ahh, the piece de resistance. There are a handful of movies that scarred even my innocent prepubescent self from the get-go. Alien Resurrection takes the cake (I still stay away from plane windows lest I get sucked out of them like Ripley‘s xenomorph baby), but The Dark Crystal is a close second. You don’t think of Jim Henson as being a mastermind of corrupting and mutating the nightmares of childhood and bringing them to the big screen, do you? Shows how much you know. Frank Oz isn’t off the hook, either.
The Dark Crystal is all about a Gelfling named Jen who’s trying to stop the Skeksis (evil vultures who spend their time walking around getting fat, eating rodents alive and making weird noises) from ruling the world by healing a crystal. He ends up in a world of shit because of it. The Skeksis send giant bugs after him, he gets a race of tiny people pretty much wiped out, and he gets to ride on a giraffe dog which does have some redemptive qualities, to be fair. The Skeksis are what really fucked me up as a kid. They like to squeak and hiss at each other and one of them is always going, “hmmmmm,” to the point where even the other Skeksis tell him to shut the hell up with that noise. I still have nightmares about Skeksis pretty frequently, almost as frequently as I get anxious about indigestion because it might be a face hugger.
Well, we’ve all learned a lot today. The moral of the story is, Don Bluth needs to chill the hell out. And also, maybe wait to watch any cartoon made before 1993 until you’re comfortably past the legal drinking age.