A boy who can speak to the dead battles ghosts and zombies in order to save his town. No, that's not the premise for a new horror movie; that's the plot for "ParaNorman," the new claymation kids film whose co-director, Chris Butler, worked on the equally grim and twisted "Coraline."
Zombies and ghosts are definitely not typical kids' fare. Hollywood, however, does have a history of making terrifying, nightmare-inducing movies that can chill both children and adults to their bones. Here are five films supposedly for kids that filled children with terror and parents with regret.
"Jumanji," the 1995 Joe Johnston-helmed fantasy movie, is notorious in my household. When I was 5, my mother took my sister and I to see it at the movie theater, unaware of the terrifying adventures about to unfold. I wasn't able to sleep for almost two weeks after seeing it. To this day, she calls it the greatest mistake she's made as a parent.
Of course, "Jumanji" is awesome now. But as a kid, the opening sequence, featuring a boy getting literally sucked into the game and a girl getting chased by African bats, was utterly horrifying. It didn't let up much after either; houses turn into quicksand, a hunter keeps attempting to murder Robin Williams and giant spiders attack our main characters. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's responsible for my fear of spiders, as well as board games and Robin Williams.
"Who Framed Roger Rabbit?"
Christopher Lloyd may be awesome as Doc Brown in the "Back to the Future" movies. However, I will never forgive him for ruining my childhood sleep cycle for days after seeing his turn as Judge Doom in 1988's "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" He turned Toon Town into Terror Town for children viewers.
Most people remember the climactic finale, in which Doom's cartoon eyes bug out of his head and his voice turns into a horrible screeching shout. (It didn't help that he's yelling about murdering Bob Hoskins' brother.) I'd argue the most chilling scene is earlier, when Doom grabs an adorable cartoon shoe and slowly executes it while it squeaks and chirps in fear. Zemeckis doesn't cut away either; he shows the audience the shoe entering the murderous acid, squirming in agony. I haven't been able to look at a shoe the same way since.
"Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory"
"Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" is a childhood classic. We all love the whimsical music and images, as well as the entertaining and earnest performances. Yet if you ask anyone about scary movie moments as a child, the first four words you'll probably hear will be "Willy Wonka tunnel scene."
The scene, which comes out of nowhere, is two minutes of confusing, nightmare-inducing terror. The boat speeds through the psychedelic tunnel of flashing lights and horrible images, including millipedes crawling over mouths and a chicken getting beheaded. Providing the soundtrack to the terror cruise is Wonka, who sings a haunting little verse that eventually escalates into a horrifying scream. Mel Stuart, the film's director, said that he wanted to make a movie for adults and at no point is that more clear than during this scene. The only people who had worse nightmares as a result of the movie? Dentists.
"Return to Oz"
Between the flying monkeys and the wicked witch, "The Wizard of Oz" was probably the first time most people saw something frightening on a screen. "Return to Oz," the unofficial sequel made in 1985, must not have thought the original was scary enough, however, and decided to become one of the most notorious kids movies ever made.
The plot of the movie – involving Dorothy escaping electroshock therapy – is creepy enough, but Walter Murch's film proceeds to fill the story with terrifying characters. The flying monkeys, for instance, are replaced by Wheelers, demonic henchmen with wheels instead of hands and feet. The creepiness reaches its apex, though, when the evil witch's collection of severed female heads begins screaming at Dorothy. Did I mention that Dorothy is also being chased by the witch, who is headless in the scene? It's a moment that wouldn't be out of place in "The Shining" but somehow found its way into a film for kids.
"The Adventures of Mark Twain"
I never watched this 1985 claymation film when I was a kid, but I can tell you after watching its infamous "Mysterious Stranger" segment, I'm glad I was spared the horror. The movie, about Mark Twain and a bunch of kids flying to meet Halley's Comet, is pretty strange. It moves from strange to terrifying, though, when the kids run into Satan.
I kid you not.
Satan, who has a shape-shifting white mask for a head and hauntingly cold voice (imagine HAL but possessed by the devil), invites the kids onto his floating space island where they create an adorable clay village. Satan proceeds to squash two of the Gumby creatures (they reform as coffins) and then murder the rest of the clay people with an earthquake. It's frighteningly vivid, as the creations run around screaming as they fall to their death, get killed in landslides and cry for their lost loved ones. Also, some of the dead bodies are covered with clay blood. Kids love that.
I got chills watching the scene is an adult. If I saw this sequence as a kid, I'd probably never watch a movie again. Or play with clay.
1 comment about this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Matt Mueller
Published Aug. 2, 2015
Jake Gyllenhaal's impressive physical transformation from scrawny media parasite in "Nightcrawler" to pro boxer in "Southpaw" has snagged most of the movie's pre-release hubbub - partly because, well, there's not all that much to say about the cliche-ridden, predictable film housing that handsome new physique.
Published Aug. 1, 2015
Like a real-life version of the 2010 Greek film "Dogtooth," six boys and their little sister weren't allowed to leave their drab New York City apartment for almost all of their young lives thanks to their parents' rules. First-time director Crystal Moselle certainly stumbles onto a fascinating story for her doc "The Wolfpack," and she doesn't waste it either, absorbing the viewer into a bizarre and often unsettling psychological experiment playing out right in reality.
Published July 24, 2015
At first glance, Ellington Ratliff may seem like the odd man in the pop rock band R5. He's the only one who's not a member of the Lynch family. He's the only one with a first name that doesn't begin with R (Riker, Rocky, Ross and Rydel make up the rest), and he's the only bandmate not born and raised in Colorado. Instead, Ratliff was born out in Los Angeles and split time in Wisconsin, making the band's Riverside gig Friday night a return of sorts.
Published July 23, 2015
If the last two days have proven anything, it's that Milwaukee will freaking lose their mind over the mere idea of a lion. At least, local movie fans Stephen Milek and Christopher Kai House certainly hope that is the case, as the two film buffs attempt to bring the notoriously insane 1981 thriller/borderline snuff film "Roar" to town.
Published July 22, 2015
Bookended by AJ Bombers and Water Street Brewery, Water Street is famous for three Bs: bars, burgers and bros. The tightly packed combination of those things has made the area a popular nighttime hot spot. Yet amongst all of the bars and clubs is something unexpected: A. Werner Silversmith, a buried treasure - quite literally considering its glass cases and shelves containing shimmering, beautifully repaired silver pieces - hiding in plain sight.
Published July 20, 2015
Brooklyn-based indie band Lazyeyes guitarist and singer Jason Abrishami has never been to Milwaukee - let alone any part of the Midwest really. He admits he hasn't even heard that much about the Cream City, but he'll learn about the city firsthand Wednesday night when the band and its shoegaze-laced dream rock makes its maiden trip to the city via a gig at The Mad Planet.
Published July 19, 2015
Tarsem Singh is a man who spent about four years and much of his own money traveling the globe's most outrageously beautiful locales in order to make his magnum opus "The Fall." So how'd he end up standing behind the camera of "Self/Less," an utterly anonymous and impact-free immortality action-thriller that - much like the fresh if not quite new bodies being peddled in the film - seems "alive only in the most basic sense"?
Published July 18, 2015
What if? It's two simple words, not even adding up 10 letters, but that seemingly innocent question has likely haunted every single person that's walked this planet at some point or another. And it's a question that fascinates Milwaukee native Cynthia Swanson, so much so that she made that idea the cornerstone for her debut novel, "The Bookseller."
Published July 17, 2015
Every band has at least a small group of devoted fans cheering it on and supporting it on its way to the spotlight. The retro "nu-wop" family band The Bronx Wanderers, coming to Festa Italiana this weekend, is no different - except some of those devoted fans just happen to be entertainment icons from their hometown neighborhood, including Dion DiMucci, Tony Orlando and Oscar-nominated actors Chazz Palminteri and Danny Aiello.
Published July 15, 2015
When Festa Italiana starts up this Friday at Henry Maier Festival Park, many will flock down to the lakefront to gulp down some real authentic Italian food and wine. Yet some of the most revered tastes of Italian culture coming to town this weekend are wholly inedible: the lovingly crafted and almost identical replicas of the country's most famous sites - this year including a 50-foot duplicate of the iconic Trevi Fountain.