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Creepiest Kids' Movies


I grew up in one of those houses where the TV was always on. We had one of those gigantic floor TVs that would have required three people to lift, the kind with faux-wood paneling on the sides and chunky knobs that could instantly change the channel to static. Often left unattended to bask in the glow of the bulbous screen, my childhood was largely shaped by the movies and TV shows of the time (the ‘70s and ‘80s, mostly). Of course, it was inevitable that I would eventually witness narratives beyond my level of comprehension. The movies I’m about to write about are not outright kids’ horror such as Poltergeist, but they have always stuck with me for one reason or another. (And I should mention, I’m not mentioning the obvious choices like Watership Down or the tunnel scene from Willy Wonka.) Lastly, I want to warn everyone that the paragraphs below contain SPOILERS. You have been warned.



MAC AND ME (1988)

One of the more bizarre films to ever be made, Mac and Me was both a shameless E.T. ripoff and extended infomercial for McDonald’s and Coca-Cola. Of course, I was too young to pick up on either of these cynical marketing tactics and instead would often get it confused with E.T. to the point where years later I was still convinced Spielberg filmed a scene featuring his lovable alien in a bear suit dancing around a McDonald’s. The most frightening scenes include: a small handicapped child in a wheelchair losing control and hurling off of a cliff, a family of malnourished aliens wandering around a desert and basically dying, and a kid getting shot by a police officer in cold blood. You know, kid stuff.



THE BRAVE LITTLE TOASTER (1987)

As we all probably already know, this movie revolves around a bunch of inanimate objects coming to life (a la Toy Story) in a search for their “master” (aka appliance owner). What they don’t tell you on the back of the VHS clamshell is that it also features a nightmare sequence in which an evil clown tries to kill the main character (a toaster) by dropping him in a bathtub. It also has a scene where an air conditioner with a face basically commits suicide by blowing a circuit out of pure rage. And let’s not forget about the car crusher that puts old cars out of their end-of-life misery. All of that aside, the most disturbing aspect of the film is likely the abandonment issues that will likely arise out of repeated childhood viewings.



SPACE CAMP (1986)

I’m pretty sure this was once advertised as a whimsical kids-go-to-space-camp-but-end-up-in-space kind of movie but the timing couldn’t have been worse. In a very bizarre and unfortunate twist of fate, the movie was slated to release the very same month of the Challenger explosion. Needless to say, America wasn’t ready for this one yet (especially with its overriding theme of literally everything going wrong at NASA). This time, sadly, life imitated art.



THE PEANUT BUTTER SOLUTION (1985)

I barely know how to describe this film. Those who have seen it will instantly know where I’m coming from when I write that. It feels almost like a nightmare you can barely remember that has been repressed by the passing of time. The fact that it was made in Quebec and was only seen by kids with HBO in their homes (or independent video stores nearby) only adds to the mystique, and explains why you don’t see it appear on many listicles. Everything from its score to its atmosphere is dreamlike and disturbing. It involves a boy who sneaks into an old house and sees something so scary that he loses his hair. Luckily(?) he is visited by ghosts that give him a solution that involves rubbing peanut butter all over his head to regrow his hair. This backfires when his hair grows out of control, leading to his kidnapping by a deranged painter who sedates the boy and harvests his hair to make magical paint brushes. As weird as this may sound, I promise you, it’s much more bizarre to watch.  I cannot even begin to do it justice.



SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES (1983)

This is one of those films I haven’t revisited since childhood, so I only remember a series of bizarre images from it, such as tarantulas crawling all over a kid’s bedroom and an eerie carousel spinning out of control in the middle of the night. It's one of those mostly lost movies from the creepy era of Disney, back when they weren't afraid to scare kids. The basic premise is: a haunted carnival comes to town and dark things begin happening shortly thereafter. However, there was always one scene that stuck with me the most. It involved an evil man (who I presume ran the carnival) shaking hands with a boy’s grandfather and squeezing his hand so hard that it started bleeding. Something about this image was both surreal and very visceral for a kid’s movie. It’s one of those images that has stayed with me for a very long time.


So tell me... what children’s films have remained buried deep in your subconscious throughout the years? 

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Toad64 Posted on Aug 27, 2018 at 12:23 PM

OH MY GOD. The Peanut Butter Solution! I don't think I've ever met anyone else who has seen this movie, and I don't think I've ever seen it mentioned online either!!! Why did I watch this movie so much as a kid?? It is so. Weird. I get this movie mixed in my head with another crazy one, I think it was called My Science Project or something... But wow, someone else has seen this weird-ass movie.

Also, I loved Space Camp and would watch it all the time as a kid.

OldSchool80s Posted on May 31, 2018 at 02:11 AM

Gremlins is one that is far creepier than one would expect. Going back to watch it again as an adult made me amazed that I wasn't more traumatized by it as a kid. These cute little monsters are pretty sadistic and Joe Dante's film is far darker than expected for such a mainstream blockbuster.

NLogan Posted on May 30, 2018 at 09:18 PM

Ones that scared me as a kid definitely included, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Watcher in the Woods, and the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Vaporman87 Posted on May 26, 2018 at 06:02 AM

This was a varied and unique list. Very interesting stuff!

I too was always a bit disturbed by Something Wicked This Way Comes. Though it's been so long since I last watched it that I don't recall anything specific that bothered me most.

I have heard of The Peanut Butter Solution but never had the opportunity to watch it. Nor have I seen The Brave Little Toaster, Mac and Me, or Space Camp.

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