The eight horror movies most likely to wreck a childhood
We have officially entered the month of October, a time to bask in the joys of fall foliage, brisk autumnal days and stuff that scares the heck out of us.
Yes, this is the month of Halloween, perhaps Celebritology's favorite holiday. In keeping with the spirit of all things creepy, kooky and/or ooky, our October Friday lists will all have some sort of Halloween-ish theme. Starting today, with our list of eight horror movies most likely to wreck a childhood.
We're not necessarily talking about masterfully crafted, works of Hitchcockian art -- although "Psycho," among others, certainly qualifies as a childhood-wrecker. We're talking about movies that have proven their ability to imprint horrifying images on young minds, thereby forcing little boys and girls to stay up all night, staring at the ceiling and listening to Q107 on their clock radios because they know that if they dare to close their eyes, an evil clown doll will inevitably attack them. Not that, um, we know anything about that.
Liz and I have each singled out four childhood wrecking scare-athons, but we know there are many more. So we encourage you to share your choices in the comments section. We promise it will be therapeutic, and not at all terrifying.
"Poltergeist": Seeing "Poltergeist" because all the tickets for "E.T." were sold out -- this was a rite of passage for children growing up in the '80s, and one that spawned a generation of individuals who, to this day, still shudder when they hear the words: "They're here." Everyone has one scary movie that did the most psychological damage to his or her susceptible little mind, and for me, this one was it. No, I didn't sleep during non-daylight hours for the remainder of the summer of '82. Yes, I was convinced Robby's freakish clown doll was going to kill me. And yes, I did keep my eyes open all night long by listening to D.C.-based top 40 station Q107, which is why the songs "Hard to Say I'm Sorry" by Chicago and "Eye in the Sky" by the Alan Parsons Project still, also, creep me out.
"Trilogy of Terror": Okay, clearly I have issues with dolls coming to life. But so do plenty of other people, as evidenced by the number of friends who also say that "Terror" -- a 1975 ABC Movie of the Week -- scarred them as kids, primarily because of its third chapter, which features a feral Zuni warrior doll terrorizing an increasingly desperate Karen Black. It seems more than a little goofy now. But when you're in elementary school, this is straight-up, send-me-to-counseling scary.
"Nightmare on Elm Street": Yes, Freddy Krueger got campy pretty quickly. But any kid who saw the original story of the pockmarked killer who murders kids in their dreams can probably attest to this Wes Craven movie's status as an A1 childhood-wrecker. I mean, just try settling down for a pleasant night's rest when you've just watched Johnny Depp die in his sleep.
"The Exorcist": This one didn't destroy my youth, but I still think it stands as the all-time record holder for most childhoods wrecked by a single movie. What makes this one so terrifying -- that Linda Blair is a girl who gets possessed, which makes it seem likely that any child could get possessed by the devil? Blair's ability to spew vomit and curse like a deranged sailor? The fact that it's supposedly based on a true story? All of the above, but -- in my view -- the real reason it freaks us all out can be attributed to the make-up work of legendary artist Dick Smith. The sight of Linda Blair's ravaged, monstrous face is something that continues to wreck childhoods -- and for that matter, adulthoods -- nearly 40 years after the film's release.
"The Amityville Horror": This was the first scary movie I ever saw and it probably didn't help that I watched it alone in the very spooky basement of my house. Did I mention that this house was in Naples, Italy, and had both a sub-basement wine cellar and a jail cell in it? Okay -- now you get why a movie about a house in which all kinds of creepy events are going down thanks to the spirit of a mass-murderer -- many of them in the basement -- might traumatize an 8-year-old.
"The Shining": Jack Nicholson was plenty creepy before playing the lead in the Stanley Kubrick-directed adaptation of Stephen King's horror masterpiece, but watching Nicholson totally descend into madness and hunt a deserted haunted hotel for his wife and young son sent me over the edge. Not to mention "Red Rum," the image of the dessicated old woman in the bathtub or the twins who want to play with little Danny forever. (Note: The clip below isn't the original trailer, but gives a better sense of the film than the real one.)
"Village of the Damned": Not only was this British horror -- the original 1960 version -- about strangely telepathic and diabolical Aryan children with glowing eyes totally creeptastic (how can you go wrong with possessed kids?), but it had enough pop cultural cred to be spoofed by "The Simpsons." So it must be a childhood-wrecker, right?
"The Blair Witch Project": Okay, so I wasn't exactly a kid when this faux documentary about three college students searching for evidence of a malevolent force in the Maryland woods hit theaters, but I was still young enough (28) to be utterly terrified. For anyone who will protest that the scary factor was mitigated by the massive hype, I'd just like to say that I saw the movie before the hype machine really got rolling, so I didn't know what to expect walking in to the theater. I, of course, knew what to expect walking out -- something wicked hiding behind every tree and in every dark corner of my house. Which is why I couldn't sleep well for at least a week. I still won't go camping.
Jen Chaney and Liz Kelly
| October 1, 2010; 1:23 PM ET
Categories: Friday Lists, Movies, Pop Culture
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