I apologize for the delay in posting, I purchased Dragon Age: Origins and it’s been consuming my soul. More on that later.
I don’t know what it was about the 80’s, but for some reason, this was the decade of madness. And not only because this was the first era of the boy bands, as shown by the popularity of New Kids on the Block. Apparently, people decided that children needed to have the shit scared out of them in order for them to function in normal society, and this needed to be done through the use of cartoon animals, furniture, and things voiced by PeeWee Herman.
Granted, I may have a differing opinion on what having the shit scared out of a person is, and I’m not saying the entirety of these movies was frightening. But these each had a few bits that were creepy, dark, and/or disturbing. Kids these days would be fine with watching them, I’m sure, since parents find the need to take kids to R rated movies like Silent Hill (Which happened when I saw it in the theatre. What the FUCK, parents.), but I was part of a more innocent era.
I don’t know who came up with the premise for this one, but they must have had some horrible drug experience in which their appliances came to life. This movie is like “The Incredible Journey” with kitchen gadgets: a toaster, lamp, radio, electric blanket, and vacuum are left abandoned in some cabin in the woods and await their Master (the clichéd only child who grew up assigning personalities to all of his possessions) to come visit them for the summer. Unfortunately, the family is too terrified of talking furniture to return, and the cabin goes up for sale. The appliances decide to venture out on their own and find him.
This movie is terrifying for a number of reasons. First off, even before the appliances leave the cabin, they’re met with an air conditioner voiced by Phil Hartman, who advises them that their trip is futile and that suicide is the best answer.
Later on, the appliances all get captured by a shady second hand dealer and imprisoned in his thrift store, where they’re surrounded by Frankenstein electronics that have witnessed their friends get torn to pieces, and are all insane now because of it. It’s like Saw, except with singing. And appliances, instead of people.
When they finally get to their Master’s apartment (surprise, the kid’s grown up and going to college. Appliances have no concept of time, evidently), they discover that he’s upgraded to newer models, and the new fancy appliances mock them for being outdated and throw them in the trash.
They get taken to the dump, where they try and escape being crushed into rubble by the evil compactor. There’s an awesome song during this part with terrified scrap cars singing about how they’re worthless and it’s not worth it to resist the sweet embrace of death. In the end, the Brave Little Toaster throws himself into the gears to save his friends from being pulverized.
Oh, but there’s a happy ending, since the Master decides to take the crappy appliances (including broken and now retarded Toaster) to college with him, despite his girlfriend’s protests. You thought a football obsession was bad, ladies; this guy loves a soiled electric blanket and it’s other obsolete friends more than you. It’s not even a teddy bear or something cuddly. I don’t know about you, but if I had to choose between the cassette player I had as a kid or an iPod, I know who’s getting turned into scrap.
Don Bluth is an asshole. He’s got two mentions on this list, but I could devote an entire post to his brand of movies that totally destroyed my childhood. The main character is a lovable Apatosaurus named Littefoot. This heartwarming adventure is about a family of dinosaurs that have to flee their homeland due to a massive drought and search for the mythical “Great Valley,” where food and water are abundant. He gets separated from his heard by an earthquake and has to fend for himself. Oh, and Littlefoot’s mother dies protecting him from Sharptooth (a giant T-Rex), therefore reasserting the fact that tragic death always occurred in 90% of children’s movies in the 1980’s. It builds character.
Non-historically-accurate reenactment courtesy of Dinosaur Comics.
Littlefoot meets up with a cast of other orphaned herbivore dinosaur children, and make their way to the Great Valley while slowing starving to death and getting chased by Sharptooth. The misfit group eventually lures Sharptooth into a volcano, their combined walnut sized brainpower being too much for him. This movie also makes the first usage of the “Mufasa Effect,” where Littlefoot’s mother appears as a cloud in the sky and leads them to the Great Valley.
Don Bluth puts together this cartoon with all the warmth of impending armageddon during the time likely right before the K-T event. Never has the threat of extinction been so family friendly. There’s been 13 movies in this series and it’s spanned 20 years. I’m sure the original apocalyptic creepiness has abated over time, and now I’m just waiting for the Creationists to get on top of these and start throwing cavemen children in there as new playmates for Littlefoot and his friends. That would actually be a lot more frightening, come to think of it.
Don Bluth’s first foray into mainstream depressing cartoons, based off of a mostly harmless children’s book called Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIHM. This book differed from the movie for a variety of reasons, the most important one being that the rats did not use magic. The rats used science and their increased intelligence to build their own society away from humans.
I guess this wasn’t frightening enough for Bluth, who decided, “Hey, it’s a much more entertaining story if the rats are wizards and live inside of a terrifying cavern of dark magic. Science is for lames.”
This lighthearted romp starts off with a widowed mouse named Mrs Brisby (see what they did there?) who’s son is sick with pneumonia. Because “Moving Day” is drawing near (the time when the farmer’s tractor starts and kicks everyone out of the field), Mrs Brisby needs to find a way to move her son without him dying. This leads her on an adventure through a skeleton infested owl lair to the underground cavern of the rats, where she learns that her husband mouse saved the rats from the evil scientists who were mindlessly injecting them with superpowers, and he died after being eaten by the farmer’s cat.
The rat version of Dumbledore.
They give her a magic medallion and have her give the cat sleeping powder, so they can move the rock her family lives in. During this, the evil rat Jenner crushes the rat master Nicodemus and the block sinks into mud, with the terrified mouse children inside drowning in sludge. Jenner gets knifed in the back, complete with blood (totally unheard of these days, animals bleed rainbows when they get hurt). The children sink into the swamp, and Mrs Brisby, in a fit of grief, somehow unlocks the super-mouse power in the amulet and lifts the block out of the mud. The movie ends with the family happy and secure in their new spot.
Christ on a bicycle.
I will readily admit that it’s been at least 15 years since I’ve seen this movie. Going off of memory and clips from YouTube, I can determine that the primary terrifying factor of this film was the giant floating lamp eye voiced by Paul Reubens. That and the whole thing about being abducted by aliens, moving inexplicably forward in time 8 years without aging and finding out your family thinks you’re dead, and having scientists pick your brain apart to determine what the hell happened to you. All while being 8 years old.
I’ll let the Wikipedia page speak for the plot of the movie:
Max informs David that his mission was to travel the galaxy, collect biological specimens and take them back to his home planet of Phaelon for analysis before returning them to the place and time from which they were taken. Max’s sensors had discovered that humans only use 10% of their brain and as an experiment, David’s brain was filled with information. During this procedure, David’s brain inexplicably “leaked”. Max then returned David to Earth, but did not take him back to his proper time, fearing that humans were too delicate to survive time travel. When trying to leave Earth and return to Phaelon, Max accidentally crashed the ship into a power line, erasing all the star charts and data necessary for returning home from the ship’s computer. Max needs the information placed in David’s brain to complete his mission and return to Phaelon.
Completely implausible situation with advanced alien technology failing and only an Earth kid can save it? Welcome to the 80’s.
I was curious to see what happened with the child actor that played David. Here’s the extent of his Wikipedia entry. It’s actually kind of depressing:
Joey Cramer (born August 23, 1973 in Vancouver, British Columbia) was a child actor in the United States during the mid 1980s, most notable for his role in Flight of the Navigator. He appeared in the television movie Stone Fox with Buddy Ebsen and Gordon Tootoosis in 1987. Today, Cramer lives in his hometown of Sechelt, and he is employed at a “Source For Sports” store.
I wonder how often he gets “See you later, Navigator”? I’d punch a bitch.
First point of fact: This is based off of a Ray Bradbury short story/Twilight Zone episode called “I Sing the Body Electric.” Second point of fact: This movie did more to traumatize the life out of me that any others combined.
It was a TV movie about a man and his three kids who have just lost their mother. Thinking that insanity os the only real cure for grief, the man goes to a factory to purchase an Electric Grandmother (designed by Paul Benedict) where the kids design their ideal grandmother. She then arrives at their house, and proceeds to care for them by shooting orange juice out of her finger for breakfast. She also has to be plugged in every evening, where she rocks in a creaky rocking chair in “sleep” mode.
YouTube actually has the entire movie, but the second part is the stuff with the actual factory. Not only is it dark and eerily filled with smoke, the concept of choosing a grandmother based on her shadow and to “pick one fast before they fly away” really fucked my head up. Innocent old ladies with robotic souls. I don’t care if she saves the little girl at the end, it’s freaking weird.
I hope this list brought back some frightening childhood memories. I may get around to listing all of hte Don Bluth movies in their own special category, but every waking hour is being spent right now playing Dragon Age: Origins,
so signs point to “not damn likely.”