Ma, Get Me a Night Light!: Movies That Scared Little Me

I am one of those people who can’t pick just one favorite movie, especially when you start talking about the classics. I loved so many movies as a little girl. Some made me cry (My Girl), some made me want a baseball playing boyfriend (The Sandlot), some made me wish I lived in a mansion (Richie Rich) and some totally scared the little girl crap out of me. Since October is the scariest of all of the months, I have been reflecting lately on some scenes and characters from children’s movies that were the reason behind my Little Mermaid night light. Do you remember…??

The Fratellis from The Goonies

The Goonies definitely had some scary moments. Sure, there were dead pirates, a crazy looking monster, booby traps and deleted scenes of a crazy octopus, but even as a little girl I knew where the real danger lay: with the Fratellis. This cutthroat mama and her two sons, with obvious ties to the mob, were willing to stop at nothing to get their hands on One Eyed Willy’s treasure, not to mention cover their tracks from previous murders and make sure no one found out about their third brother (cue the crazy looking monster) Sloth, who turns out to be a good guy. A lot of twists and turns in this movie.

Large Marge from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure

I loved Pee Wee. I never missed an episode of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, and was pumped for the movie. The thing about Pee Wee, as I came to know as I got older, was that he liked to throw a little something for the adults into his work. And so maybe that’s why a few scenes from his movie freaked me out, primarily the part where he gets picked up by a ghost truck driver who famously instructs Pee Wee to tell everyone “Large Marge sent him.” I also got scared when those creepy clowns were operating on his bike in his dream.

Zeke the Plumber from Salute Your Shorts

This was a show, not a movie, but it still made a lasting impression. On a campfire episode of the Nickelodeon show, punky camper Budnick tells his campmates the story of Zeke the Plumber. Similar to Freddie Krueger, Zeke was said to have been burned to death and was now haunting Camp Anawanna by exploiting campers fears in their sleep, while eternally searching for his cursed plunger. I found this episode of what was supposed to be a comedy show scarier than any episode of Nickelodeon’s “horror” show Are You Afraid of the Dark?, which I had no problem watching by myself at night. The Zeke the Plumber episode of Salute Your Shorts, on the other hand, made me turn on some lights.

The Dark Overlord in Howard the Duck

As a child in 1986, my mom let me watch the seemingly harmless movie Howard the Duck. What could be so scary about a talking duck who comes to earth from another planet (besides the acting)? I’ll tell you what – The Dark Overlord when he takes over Dr. Walter Jenning’s body. The scene where he’s flipping tables at the diner at the end of the film is still something I can’t watch at night by myself. (P.S. Dr. Jennings was played by Jeffrey Jones, who also freaked me out as Spike in the ‘90s movie Stay Tuned.)

Darkness in Legend

If you’ve ever seen this ‘80s flick starring a young, long-haired Tom Cruise about fantasy and fairies, you’ll remember one of the scariest creatures to pop up in a kid’s film. Played by Tim Curry, (who I just found also played Pennywise the Clown in Stephen King’s IT, and is more recognizable as the transvestivillain Dr. Frank-N-Furter in Rocky Horror Picture Show), Darkness was a deep-voiced, big-horned, hoofed devil looking thing, whose mission was to eliminate all light from the universe by killing the last unicorn. So yeah, I was disturbed by him. And when I watched the film in my later years, this guy still kinda freaked me out. But is it weird that now he also kinda turns me on…? Must be all that universe power…

Jareth, the Goblin King in Labyrinth

Speaking of sexy monsters, I remember watching Labyrinth at sleepover parties and loving/fearing the villain in this film, portrayed by David Bowie. (It took me a few years to make the connection that this androgonous bad guy was also the singer of Life on Mars, my favorite song as a little girl.) I actually had to fast forward the beginning part when he presents himself in owl form while Sarah is home babysitting Toby, after she wishes the Goblin King would come and take him away. Cute characters like little British worms kept the movie PG.

The Afterlife in Beetlejuice

Ironically, the movie about death and a poltergeist is the one that scared me the least growing up. While I found Beetlejuice himself to be more funny than scary, there were a few parts of that movie that did make me cover my eyes. The scenes that always got me were when the recently deceased Adam and Barbara visit the afterlife. As I watch those scenes now I’m not particularly scared anymore, but the part where the scary janitor man shows them the “lost souls room” still gets me.

Of course, these are just a few. I could’ve also mentioned the crazy looking wolf in The Neverending Story, Boy and Snik in my one of my all time favorites, Little Monsters, or that freaky boat scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. And don’t even get me started on Return to Oz. Or Thriller. Maybe some of these things didn’t scare you, but that’s okay. I’m sure you have your own list. Fear is a very personal thing. I don’t know why we are afraid of the things we are afraid of. But I do know this, and I’m not afraid to admit it – I still have that Little Mermaid night light, and it’s glowing as I speak.

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