The Ninjabot

Top 13 Scariest Moments in Family Films

Posted on June 12, 2013 at 4:47 pm by Nathan Tolle

ghostbusters library

For my first of what will hopefully be many lists on the House of Horror, I will be talking about the thirteen scariest moments from films that were targeted to children.  The first rung on the ladder of horror fandom evolution is represented by trippy, psychedelic spectacles like the “Pink Elephants on Parade” in Dumbo or dreamy, haunting plunges into the underworld like in “Night on Bald Mountain” from Fantasia, which hopefully prepared children for the following scenes. These scenes would either traumatize the kiddies or make them eager to take off the training wheels and venture towards legitimate horror films like Bride of Frankenstein, Watcher in the Woods, The Gate, Paperhouse, Poltergeist, and Jaws.

13. The Witches: “You May Remove Your Faces”

Many people would consider Bruno’s mouse transformation to be the film’s creepiest moment, but to me it’s always been the scene in which Angelica Huston instructs her fellow witches to remove their shoes and wigs, and then ever-so-slowly peels off her face to reveal something shockingly hideous underneath. The scene is made creepier with extreme close-ups, quick cuts, and a pounding score that grows louder and louder.

12. Brave Little Toaster: “Toasters Can Dream Too”

What gets me about this scene is how it starts off with a perfect demonstration of silly childhood innocence, and then suddenly panic sets in, opening the doors for unrelenting psychotic terror in the form of fires, black clouds of smoke that literally choke you, and a menacing clown that mocks you as you run for dear life.

11. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: “The Haunted Forest”

After narrowly escaping death, Snow White runs through the ultimate haunted forest and is greeted by owls, howling winds, hungry crocodiles, swarms of dead leaves and bats, illuminated ghastly faces, and the kinds of perverted trees you associate with Evil Dead films. Even in a month like June, this scene is enough to get you in the Halloween spirit.

10. The Peanut Butter Solution: “The Whole F***ing Movie”

Even though I had already seen plenty of horror movies, this seemingly harmless PG rated kids’ movie is the one that really disturbed me as a child to the point where I’d never watch it again–just thinking about it made me uncomfortable. It wasn’t until I looked it up on the IMDb a few years ago when I realized that I was not alone. The majority of threads came from people who claimed this movie frightened them as children and are still affected by it; this made the message boards seem more like a support group. I have no idea what the writer and director of The Peanut Butter Solution were thinking, and if they had any idea just how disturbing this material would be for children. Like many movies, there’s a good chance this wouldn’t scare me as an adult but I am absolutely unwilling to find out.

9. Pinocchio: “I Don’t Want to be a Jackass”

While Pinocchio is enjoying some beer and a cigar in a tavern, his buddy undergoes a transformation reminiscent of An American Werewolf in London or The Fly. It starts out fairly silly with some big ears and a tail, but once he looks in the mirror, he goes into full panic mode as he screams for help and fights against his rapidly-changing body. Pinocchio can only look on in horror as waits for his own cruel metamorphosis to commence.

8. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: “The Child Snatcher”

The fear of abandonment, imprisonment, and big scary adults was exploited so powerfully when the jester-costumed man who promised free ice cream and chocolate to the “kiddie winkies” slams the door shut and laughs maniacally as all the cute decorations suddenly come crashing down to reveal a cage.

7. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory: “The Fires of Hell Are A-Glowing”

Roald Dahl wrote some extremely morbid stories so it’s appropriate that his work would inspire one of the most famous freak-out scenes in film history. I love how nothing prepares you for what happens once the river boat sails down the chocolate tunnel, and before you know it you’re trapped in the scariest bad acid trip imaginable, abound with dizzying psychedelic lighting, random shots of creepy crawlies, and the ramblings of a lunatic.

6. The NeverEnding Story: “I Will Rip You to Shreds”

This childhood favorite is loaded with creepy moments but if I had to single one out, I’d go with that damn Gmork and its humungous fangs. Accompanying this wolf creature’s introduction are deep growls and piercing strings, and then when it starts talking, it becomes even scarier.

5. Gremlins: “Do You Hear What I Hear?”

Once I saw this truly special film—one of the first to ever receive a PG-13 rating—I was never able to hear “Do You Hear What I Hear” without feeling a sense of dread and impending doom. The film is for the most part very playful and goofy, but this Christmas tree attack offers a refreshing slice of pure animalistic viciousness to your holiday season year after year.

4. Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: “Tell ‘Em Large Marge Sent Ya”

I recently saw this film in a movie theater, and the crowd, consisting of mostly people in their 20’s and 30’s, started giggling the moment those insanely bright headlights shone on a hitchhiking Pee Wee. They knew what was coming and the excitement in the theater kept growing until that one moment. This scene reminds me of many tales in the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark trilogy, where a short story gets increasingly ominous and suspenseful until the narrator screams, prompting the listeners to shriek and then giggle.

3. Return to Oz: “Flying Monkeys Have Nothing on These Heads”

There is no shortage of shocking moments in this movie that was inexplicably marketed to children. The scenes involving Dorothy receiving electric shock therapy or being chased by those cackling wheeler monsters undoubtedly gave children all over the world nightmares, but to me the most horrifying moment was when she disturbed the slumber of a bunch of severed heads.

2. Ghostbusters: “The Library Ghost”

This is still my all-time favorite opening scene in a movie and each time I see it, I notice new details to appreciate. The New York Public Library serves as such an idyllic horror setting with its labyrinthine rows of dusty books and where just a mere footstep or whisper packs a powerful punch. It’s still a spellbinding moment for me when that floating library apparition first appears, and when she looks over and shushes Ray, the severe chills I felt as a child seeing it for the first time return to me immediately.

1. Something Wicked This Way Comes: “Nighttime Tarantula Invasion”

Fortunately for me, this scene has not been uploaded on Youtube so I don’t have to suffer through just a slight glimpse of one of the scariest, most intense arachnid scenes of all time. The film is mostly faithful to Ray Bradbury’s brilliant novel about a spooky carnival barker preying on people’s lost youth and deepest regrets, but this scene was added to obviously provide another top-notch scare.

    • Jennifer

      Hahaha RAD. Your titles are freaking perfect! You pretty much nailed it.

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