I grew up loving horror movies. I remember going to the Phar-Mor (it was like a churched-up Walgreens that rented movies too) and browsing the horror section endlessly for some fright-inducing film. This usually just meant picking the scariest looking movie art that didn’t have any mostly naked women on the front so my parents would let me rent it.
Violence and mayhem? Cool. Boobs? Nice try, mister.
Anyway, two things never happened. 1) I never grew out of loving horror movies and 2) I never learned not to be scared by horror movies. See, most people who like scary films aren’t really scared by them. Not me. To this day I hyperventilate and bury my eyes in my hoodie during scary parts. But, as strange as it sounds, I love that feeling. I don’t get a rush from roller coasters and skydiving sounds like it should be punishment for stealing or something. But a good scary movie gets my blood pumping.
This post was originally going to be Scariest Movies Moments From My Childhood and include things like Chucky crawling toward Andy without his legs and missing an arm in Child’s Play II or Zelda from Pet Sematary.
That shit still gives me chills.
What I found while planning the rest of the post was something interesting. Some of the scariest movie moments from my childhood weren’t from horror movies at all. In fact, some were from films that were downright family friendly.
Since that topic sounds way more interesting, I decided to go that route. And with that, I present to you my Scariest Moments from Non-Scary Movies.
David Goes Home in ‘Flight of the Navigator’
For those of you who haven’t seen Flight of the Navigator (I’m sorry, tell me who hurt you) the movie is about a kid who disappears for eight years without aging or any memory of what happened and discovers he was abducted by a friendly alien who mistakenly took him back to the wrong time.
The scene that terrified (terrifies?) me comes after David falls into a ravine and is knocked unconscious. He wakes up thinking it was still the same night in 1978, but when he goes home (and it is actually 1986) a different family is living in his house, and they have no idea who he is. The helplessness and confusion traumatized a young Dan even to the point that it made me forget that this movie opened with a full two and a half minutes of dogs catching frisbees. All movies should begin that way.
Judge Doom’s Demise in ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’
Hands down, one of the best films of all time is Who Framed Roger Rabbit? It is darkly funny, brilliantly acted and features Jessica Rabbit who was a very influential person in my journey to adulthood.
Hand down, one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever seen put to film is the villainous Judge Doom slowly run over by a steamroller as he makes inhumane sounds of immense suffering. It doesn’t stop until the damn steamroller gets to his head too! Even if he didn’t come back as a cartoon (also a terrifying scene), this gets a place in the Trauma Hall of Fame.
Madam Mim Cheats in the Wizard Duel in ‘The Sword in the Stone’
The rules were set and the two wizards decided they would battle. They could only turn into animals, no make believe things like pink dragons and no disappearing. Madam Mim, who only makes rules so she can break them, becomes a purple dragon since there was no rule against purple dragons.
Good lord! That moment she popped out of the water I made water myself. And I’m not talking about when I was a kid. I’m talking right now as I rewatched it. Madam Mim as a whole was not much to look at, but that dragon (which was defeated by Merlin turning into a germ) definitely is seared into my mind.
Bob Sykes Has No Chill in ‘Oliver!’
Oliver! (yes, with an !) is incredible. I have watched it at least once per year since I was in elementary school and could sing any song by heart if you ask and buy me a pitcher of beer.
But don’t let that fancy little exclamation point in the title fool you, there are some monsters in this film. Most notably is Bill Sykes whose ominous presence just eats up the movie whenever he is on screen. It's like someone saw Jaws and found the shark a little too charming. He is a threat the entire movie and his capacity for violence is often referenced, but when sweet Nancy finally has a change of heart and tries to reconnect Oliver with his estranged family, Bill straight up beats her to death while Oliver stands helplessly by.
I Woke Up Like This in ‘Witches'
OK, this is a Roald Dahl adaptation about witches, so saying it isn’t a scary movie is a bit of a stretch. But the scene where the witches show their true selves is .... let’s just go to the tape.
Charlie Goes to Hell in ‘All Dogs Go To Heaven’
As long as I have memories I have loved dogs. And as long as I could imagine the worst thing I could imagine was lovable, pettable, dopey dogs in pain. So when Charlie has a vision of hell in All Dogs Go To Heaven it messed with my little heart.
Who thought this was okay for kids!?
Note: I’m sure many of you dozen readers or so will ask where The Willy Wonka Tunnel Scene from or Large Marge from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure is. Good question. Well, I have never seen the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the full way through (shut up) and Large Marge didn’t scare me for some reason. Though Ernest Scared Stupid made me run home from my friend’s house across the street for years. I can’t explain what scares me and what doesn’t.
Also, I’m not ready to talk about Mufasa's death scene yet. Maybe next century.