Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Boo! Five things that idiosyncratically scared the crap out of me when I was little...and still kinda creep me out today.

Halloween is upon us and lost amidst the brisk fall haze of excused debauchery, sugary snacks, fake cobwebs, and slutty maid/nurse/policewoman/state senator costumes is, in my view, the true ethos of Halloween: fear. We all know the pagan back story (or saw "The Crow"), the one night of the year where the boundaries of the living and the dead come together and all that spooky shit. Not to get all Bauhaus on everyone but I think the most universally scary thing about Halloween is that it is one of the few (and definitely the most prominent) holidays that reminds us of our inescapable mortality. Aside from the association with the dead, the leaves have all fallen, it's getting colder, darker and I think we all just sort of try to reconcile and disarm that grim feeling by having an over the top celebration of it whether it be partying all night, trick or treating, watching Saw IV, etc.

The fear on Halloween is different though, it's not like the boring real fears that plague us all in our everyday lives like fear of loneliness or global warming, or losing your job, or your hair,etc. Halloween is about the sort of irrational personal fear that makes you unique, the constant reminder of mortality sort of reminds you of those crazy things that you wouldn't be thinking about in the middle of August. However, I think it's a good thing in the long run to be scared and face your fear. I don't even mean like stand up to it, you can take one look at it and run away like a coward but at least you took a peek at it rather than just suppressing it. I don't know, that's just my two candy corns on Halloween, I mean I still dig the fact that it's turn back the woman's lib movement clock night.

So in the grand tradition of Halloween fear, here are five things that legitimately frightened me personally growing up and that I still to this day sort of find creepy:

Every other element about Pee Wee's playhouse I found comfort and joy in. I know some of my friends found the whole thing a bit unsettling on its own, I even had a friend who's parents wouldn't let him watch it. I for one always found the universe of Pee Wee to be quite comforting, like a peaceful happy utopia where your biggest problem was trying to get someone to say the secret word. This is what made the random times when the Salesman would show up all the more disturbing. It would aways catch you off guard, Pee Wee would be making ice cream soup or playing with tape or talking to the chair when all of a sudden the doorbell would ring, and you'd expect a friendly visitor: Cowboy Curtis, Miss Yvonne, Reba the Mail Lady, or fi you're lucky even The King of Cartoons, then suddenly this monster appears! The worst part was the music, it was the soundtrack to my nightmares, this super intense horror style score that was totally alien from any other music on the show. The Salesman itself was also a little intense at first sight; this giant headed caricature flailing around. No wonder it would always send Pee Wee screaming.

Mac Tonight

If you haven't figured it out already, growing up, I watched a lot of TV and in my formative years I was exposed to a lot of questionable advertising content, including Mac Tonight. This guy was basically my boogie man. I was too young to understand fully what he was advertising, all I knew was he had a regular body and this completely deformed, monstrously large moon head. Also since he was apparently created to advertise McDonald's late night hours, he always appeared at night inexplicably wearing sunglasses! The thing that made Mac truly scary to me was that he was not a cartoon and almost real enough to possibly exist in reality. You couldn't imagine the fear I had staring up at the ceiling in the dead of night half expecting this gigantic crescent with it's demonic smile peering into my window, ready to drag me away into the darkness.

The Twizzlers Mouth

This is another case of Madison Avenue shaping my childhood fears. I always had a thing against claymation. I still find the whole process unsettling. They're moving around, but in that unnatural stop motion sort of way. When I imagine my nightmares coming to life, they are always in stop motion. It's really the only way these improbable things could exist and move around in reality. So here I am this pre-teen being spoken to by a floating disembodied mouth that appeared so large on the living room television that it could have literally bitten my head off as easily as strand of Twizzler. How could this mouth exist? Was it part of another unfortunate giant's face? Where do the Twizzlers go when he eats them?!? When I finally was able to forget enough about Mac Tonight to fall asleep, the Mouth was waiting for me in my dreams...with the Pee Wee song!

Emil from Robocop

Robocop is one of my all time favorite action movies, a film I can endlessly watch anytime. However, if I had a time machine I'd go back in time to tell my parents that it is an incredibly irresponsible move to expose your 8 year old to a rental copy of. The violence didn't really get to me, it was so over the top that it approached the realm of the cartoonish where it was so removed from reality that it couldn't have been a bad influence. The part that scarred me for life was towards the end when Emil, one of Boddicker's gang members crashes into a vat of toxic waste and comes out a half alive mess of former humanity. His skin, hair, fingernails, appendages, are all literally melting off him as he's crawling around desperately calling for help. This totally caught me off guard, I thought he'd die like the dozens of other people in the film when he crashed into the waste but then to show this walking horror living a fate worst then death, it blew my mind. I still cringe when I watch that scene and still feel the same wave of relief when he gets run over and put out of his misery. Considering how much this short scene of horror traumatized me, I'm forever grateful I didn't get to see the Jeff Goldblum "Fly" until I was much older.

Paul Verhoeven 2. My carefree childhood 0. "Total Recall" is definitely a top 10 all time desert island movie in my book. I might one of these days write my take on why it just may be the greatest action movie (possibly even just movie) ever made. However from a children's perspective you're better off showing hardcore pornography to your little child. At least with the porno your child would probably lose interest and forget about it in week. There are literally about a dozen deeply disturbing scenes in this movie that scared me to the point where I became wary of the VHS tape itself, knowing what kind of demented visions it held. Where do I begin, the big eyed Arnold struggling for air on Mars, that freaky fat woman disguise he wears, Kuato, that mutant cab driver, the three breasted hooker, all wildly inappropriate for little eyes. However, all the unsettling horrors of the film are synthesized by the Johnny Cab robot. There's just something so inexplicably creepy about his faux-human face, dead eyes, ominously cheery voice. There's also the element that once you get into one of these futuristic robot cabs, your life is in the nonexistent hands this evil head and torso. Then there's that final scene with it where the cab has crashed and his face is melting and he's still talking. It encapsulates all my fears about robots.


  1. Truly terrifying. Personally, I was always terrified by Judge Doom at the end of Roger Rabbit when he reveals himself to be the squeaky-voiced murderer of Eddie Valiant's brother. The blowing up with helium, the crazy eyes, all made me want to wet myself. For some reason though, I convinced myself that Doom was waiting for me in my bathroom at night, ready to pounce from outside the window or even from behind the dreaded closed shower curtain. Even if I pulled back the shower curtain, I couldn't be sure. This all lead to many a hastened (but usually bogus) toothbrushing, which would then lead to me being totally amazed after a dentist's visit and having no cavities. Thankfully, no other Christopher Lloyd roles have caused me such anxiety.

  2. How about that moment in Mario 3 when you're walking along through a relatively normal-looking world of pipes and clouds, when a GIANT GOOMBA rolls its Mario-stomping feet into the screen?

  3. Oh man, I totally forgot about Judge Doom, that was some seriously SCARY SHIT!! I knew he was pure evil when he put that poor shoe in the dip but when he got those crazy eyes out...scared the hell out of me. It blew my little adolescent mind when I later found out the same guy also played the warm, friendly, grandfatherly Doc Brown.

    What range!

  4. Giant goomba was pretty horrifying. Almost as scary as the music you get in Sonic when you're running out of air.