Traumafession:: Julia D. on Pingu’s Nightmare

Hey guys!

I just happily discovered your blog and I think I’ve got just the right kindertrauma gem for you:

Many people on the internet will agree that there are a lot of traumatizing moments in the Swiss claymation show “Pingu“. And young me has been scarred by this show as well. The worst: The Pingu’s Nightmare episode. Just look up a picture of that disturbing walrus, it’s…. unsettling to say the least. I remember seeing this as a kid and feeling like I had some weird fever-induced hallucination.

Here’s a personal fun-fact: I forgot about this Pingu episode for a long time until someone handed me a christian flyer as a teenager. On that flyer was a crude picture of an alien with a moustache and without knowing why, I was overwhelmed with a very unsettling feeling. Then all the memories came back… f*cking Pingu. F*cking moustache walrus. Ugh.

And here’s another one, thou this one might be for the Name That Trauma!- section:

I remember seeing this weird episode of a Cartoon Network show as a kid. It might have been “Cow and Chicken” or “I am Weasel” because I can faintly remember the Red Guy being the antagonist. In that episode the two main characters visited a factory that, well, turns people into furniture.

Yep. You can see the people on a conveyor belt going INTO the factory and sofas, cabinets etc.comming out. I always loved the very absurd humor of many cartoons back then, but this episode was just a little too weird even for me. I tried to find this abomination of a kids show for a few times, but with no result. Even thou many people watched these shows, nobody knows what I am talking about when I’m trying to describe the plot to them. Maybe you guys can help!

Thank you and keep up the good work!


Traumafession:: Katie B. on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

I was recently thinking back on favorite movies from my childhood and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang came to mind. While The Child Catcher always gave me the heeby-jeebies, there was another character and scene in the film which particularly traumatized me to the point that I would always fast forward or leave the room. It was… Dick Van Dyke aka Caractacus Pott disguised as a life-sized clown doll. The box opened to his lifeless body coming to life and dancing around the room, performing silly antics. Then he would sing with the music box doll (Julie Scrumptious). The sudden change in his appearance and behavior scared me so badly. I was always terrified of clowns and seeing a character who otherwise was friendly and fatherly become temporarily unrecognizable was quite conflicting. At least the children made their grand escape in the next scene and Mr. Pott took off his wig.


In Memoriam:: Tobe Hooper

TOBE HOOPER is well known for creating one of the most frightening and influential horror films of all time. I personally found THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE so fiercely disturbing upon my first viewing that I was left feeling queasy for hours afterward. I’m not kidding; just ask my little brother who suffers from the same post-TCM-stress disorder. Years later when we were older we thought its sequel THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 would be a breeze but then our doorbell rang during the nightmare opening scene and we realized we were both too freaked out to answer it. HOOPER rightfully will always be strongly connected to his cherished masterpiece but I’m truly a huge fan of his entire creative output. Maybe there are a couple misfires but that can be said for any artist. He did things differently and I think his unexpected counter-intuitive viewpoint is exactly what made his work so fascinating and effective. He never took the obvious path. Here are some of my favorite TOBE HOOPER memories. Like many horror fans, I am forever indebted to the man for his incomparable contributions…

THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1979) As stated above, TCM rocked my world. It felt so chaotic and feral and purely unsafe and I think it slapped the idea that goodness will always prevail right out of my head. The house (at least on the outside) resembled my family’s earliest home and reminded me of my very first memories of the world. How could such things happen there? More importantly, why did I think it was a good idea to eat fried seafood out of a Styrofoam container on an aluminum TV tray while watching this rented VHS? I had to go lie down afterwards. It was like having a hangover at age 13.

SALEM’S LOT (1979) The TV film that launched a million kindertraumas. I’ll never forget having to go to bed after seeing that smiling demon float through the window. I couldn’t have been more terrified if it happened to me and it felt like it had. Those kids were my age. That looked like my room. This scene has lost exactly zero of its power. It remains one of the most purely eerie visions ever created. Chills.

THE FUNHOUSE (1981) I adore this movie and it’s one that I think gets better with every view. Amy Harper (the incredible ELIZABETH BERRIDGE) is so much deeper than your average final girl. She’s actually more like the usual cynical sidekick that goes looking for trouble and finds it. She wants to break free from her parental restraints and then feels completely lost and vulnerable when she does. It’s really a brilliant film about the horrors of growing up and leaving childhood behind. There’s one scene in which Amy looks out of the funhouse she’s trapped in and can see her parents looking for her but she can’t make contact and it’s heartbreakingly similar to Dorothy seeing Auntie Em in a crystal ball in THE WIZARD OF OZ. It’s one of my favorite moments in all of horror and it’s so brilliantly underplayed. I wrote a longer review way back HERE and it’s one of my favorite posts just because I remember how much fun I had writing it. And don’t get me started on just how delicious this movie is on a purely visual level; I could look at it all day.

POLTERGEIST (1982) I don’t care how much is SPIELBERG and how much is HOOPER. There’s nothing wrong with collaboration, all that matters is the end result. On the way back from the movie theater after seeing this perfect slice of cinema heaven my friends and I decided to cut through a graveyard. This was either the best or worst idea ever and I’m kind of surprised that I didn’t return home with a streak of grey on my 14-year-old head. This movie is as much fun as it is genuinely terrifying and that damn clown doll can haunt you at any age.

EATEN ALIVE (1977) I somehow didn’t get around to EATEN ALIVE until I was in college and maybe that’s good thing. I think its consistent weirdness would have thrown me off as a kid. As an adult I really admire how this film feels so much like a nightmare you can’t wake up from. Full gushing review HERE.

LIFEFORCE (1985) I saw this crazy sci-fi horror mash up when it first came out and it flew directly over my head. I had no idea what was going on. But later in life when I decided to check it out in HD it just opened up completely for me and I was in love. Check out my change of heart HERE.

THE TOOLBOX MURDERS (2004) Talk about underrated! This remake in name only is one of my favorite horror films of its time period and I think it’s nearly right up there with HOOPER’s finest. Full love letter HERE.

And let me say HOOPER was very reliable in delivering on the small screen as well. Besides gifting us with the aforementioned unforgettable miniseries SALEM’S LOT, he also handed over excellent episodic work to FREDDY’S NIGHTMARES (1988 “No More Mr. Nice Guy”), old pal SPIELERG’s TAKEN (2002 “Beyond the Sky”), buddy JOHN CARPENTER’s BODY BAGS (1993 “Eye”) and my personal favorite, THE OTHERS (2000 “Souls on Board”) just to name a few.

In closing, I love TOBE HOOPER. I will always love TOBE HOOPER. I wish I could properly explain how much. I think a lot of people very rudely wanted him to somehow repeat the watershed magic that was CHAINSAW and that’s just greedily asking for the impossible. CHAINSAW is a once in a lifetime perfect storm. I commend HOOPER for exploring uncharted territory no matter the result and I think as the years go on we all will more fully realize how fantastic his post TCM work actually is. I keep reading how HOOPER’s favorite drink was Dr. Pepper. How fitting that he would enjoy something known for it’s against the norm uniqueness.How fitting that he’d have no interest in the more popular conformist colas. Our man HOOPER was a Pepper! Wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper too?

Name That Trauma:: Chris B. on a Bizarre Family and a Desert Casino

These movies (most likely Italian) were played late night around 1989-1991 on cable TV usually around 1-3 am.

A very strange movie where a man is essentially lost and stumbles upon a family in a house where the family is a little weird. It’s a bizarre movie and during a dinner scene they converse with him about the subject of death, whereas one of the family members states that their guest is a young man and would probably rather talk about life instead of death.

That is all I have, although I found it strange that a foreign film was repeated played in the US.

Another film (and perhaps this may even be the same one) is a man is lost and trapped in a casino in the middle of the desert. He has no idea where he is or how he got there. At one point he tries to leave, but the heat of the desert exhausted him and strange people from the casino find him and bring him back to the casino where he cannot leave or escape.

That is all I have unfortunately and wish I could locate what in hell I saw.

Thanks and best,

Chris B.

Name That Trauma:: Emma D. on a Bothersome Bee


First off, I love your website! The Name That Trauma section is one of my favorites to browse in my down time. I was an easily traumatized child and searching the depths of the internet for the culprits of my fears has been a long term hobby. However, there’s one vague memory I have of what I believe to be an episode of a TV show (possibly even a show for kids or teens? Disney channel? I swear the intent wasn’t to scare) in which a giant insect, I think it was a bee, is roaming the halls of a high school.

Here’s where my memory gets hazy and weird. I believe it’s possible this trauma was truly a dream because I’ve never found anything online that sounds remotely like what I remember watching. In my memory, the insect was possibly a human who found the head of a costume (or school mascot?) of the bee/insect thrown in a trash can. When they picked it up and put it on, they became the insect and started to fly around the halls. I think the cause of the whole situation and center of the episode was a science experiment gone wrong.

That’s it. That’s all I remember. It deeply bothered me as a child. I always hated bodily transformations as well as costumes/masks changing people, so it really affected me. If anyone has an idea of what this could be, let me know. Even if it’s only slightly similar to my memory. I suppose it’s possible the giant insect was not a human to begin with, and that I’m combining multiple traumas in my head. Again, it’s hazy and could have been a dream, but I’ve been searching for this for years. For time period reference, I’m 20 now and I want to say I was between 5 and 10 when I saw this.

Thanks for your help,

Emma D.

Eclipse Special:: Ben Sher on The Watcher in the Woods (1980)

I was lying on my parents’ bed alone watching TV on a babysitter night. It’s funny how, especially when you’re young, you don’t know when a movie is suddenly going to emerge and weave itself forever into the fabric of your life. Of course there are direct parallels with falling in love. The scrolling TV listings on the Prevue Guide said that some channel—it must have been either channel 5 (TV38 out of Boston) or channel 9 (WWOR out of New York)–was showing The Watcher in the Woods with Bette Davis. “Oh,” I thought to myself, “that’s the actress I love from Wicked Stepmother.” The only time anybody has uttered those words.

I flipped the channel and saw Bette, looking surprisingly unglamorous without the blonde bob that she wore in her late ’80s swan song. She was showing a little girl a music box and saying “This belonged to my daughter. I gave it to her for her birthday.” Could there be a more perfect moment to suck a five or six year old boy into a movie and change his life forever? I love music boxes in movies, and I immediately fell in love with Bette’s character’s living room, with its old-fashioned furniture and gothic knick-knacks. Bette’s living room was emblematic of Watcher‘s tone, with which I also immediately fell in love: different from everything around me in my day-to-day life, comforting in its cozy darkness, eerie but relaxing. No other movie has ever made me feel the same particular brand of contentment, although the Disney TV movie Child of Glass from the same period tries.

Doesn’t everybody know the story of The Watcher in the Woods? Carroll Baker and her famous musician husband move their daughters Jan (Lynn-Holly Johnson, who must have made a deal with the devil to make sure that this and Ice Castles played on the same networks on a loop throughout the ’80s and early ’90s) and Ellie (Kyle “Lindsaaaaaaaay! I need a robe!” Richards, who I gather eventually appeared on some obscure TV show) into a giant creepy mansion surrounded by woods. Bette Davis plays Mrs. Aylwood, the no-nonsense caretaker who lives in a cottage on the land, and has a weird fascination with Jan. “Are you kind?” she asks her the minute after she meets her, which is both weird and a really good question to ask new people. She’s wise. Soon everything that I ever wanted to happen to me happens to Jan: She sees a mysterious light in the woods from her bedroom window while reading a paperback. She falls in love with a cute skinny ’70s British boy. She finds a scary church in the woods. She encounters the ghost of a blindfolded blonde girl in a carnival funhouse. Meanwhile, Ellie becomes obsessed with the word Nerak, going so far as to give the name to her dog. Then she starts having visions and showing signs of possession! Jan becomes Nancy Drew, as all teen girls of the period did at some point. She is determined to find out the identity of the ghost girl in the mirror, and figure out why the woods glow. After she falls in a lake and Mrs. Aylwood saves her, she discovers that the ghost might be Mrs. Aylwood’s daughter KA-REN. She went missing after a game gone wrong in said church, traumatizing all of her playmates who eventually grew up to be Jan’s friends’ parents. In 1980 doing something horrible to your childhood playmate and then getting punished by being in a horror movie when you grew up was very big.

It took me forever to see The Watcher in the Woods in its entirety because my TV viewings kept getting interrupted by issues like parents making me go to bed (I was lucky, I had a friend whose parents wouldn’t let her watch it at all because they were Christian!). For some reason it never occurred to me to rent it. It seemed like a magical talisman that you had to stumble upon on a local network affiliate. Luckily, that happened constantly. So I ended up watching 15 minutes here and 15 minutes there, out of order. This weirdly worked for The Watcher in the Woods. I received the gift of walking in Jan’s shoes, trying to solve the puzzle, beholden to chance. I remember once I was finally about to see the ending and find out what happened to KA-REN and my mother told me we had to go to her friend’s house. I was livid, and as soon as we got there I said “YOU MUST SHOW ME TO YOUR TV IMMEDIATELY I NEED TO FINISH WATCHING SOMETHING! HURRY!” The ending did not disappoint. I think that the theatrical ending—where Karen’s grown playmates can only bring Karen back by re-enacting their trauma and owning what they did during a total eclipse of the sun—is somehow more satisfying, evocative, and profound than the film’s notorious alternate endings, where we see a gigantic grasshopper creature carrying Jan to The Other Side to rescue Karen from permanent limbo (that’s still a kind of brilliant ending, too, and it’s interesting how much Watcher foresees Poltergeist). The opening credits of Watcher were the last part of it I ever saw, and it was a huge deal for me. Finally, I knew everything.

Disney (and Watcher‘s filmmakers, director John Hough, writer Brian Clemens, cinematographer Alan Hume, musician Stanley Myers, and art director Alan Cassie) did something so kind by showing kids that that which is mysterious and scary can also be fun. They did us a favor by suggesting that the unknown could be exciting. I saw this movie shortly before I learned that in life safety is not guaranteed. Since then, I have been consistently amazed at how scary the world can be, how it can surprise you in the worst ways, and how the fear that it generates has absolutely nothing to do with the joy of horror movies. I am frequently disappointed by how much the dread of life’s unknown future has nothing to do with the tantalizing possibilities of the supernatural. These days I often feel like Phyllis in Last House on the Left (one of the horror movies that most perfectly captures the feeling of real world, pleasure-less terror) running into Krug’s machete right before she escapes from very different woods onto the highway. Given the social context that Last House was responding to, perhaps it makes sense that it resonates so much now. In this moment more than ever, I’d much rather be in the woods with Jan and Ellie, experiencing Watcher‘s masterful ability to keep you scared and safe at the same time.

That said, there’s some seriously scary shit in The Watcher in the Woods. I consider Bette Davis to be a friend, guardian angel, and advisor in times of trouble, but damn that scene where the viewer takes on Lynn-Holly Johnson‘s point of view as she’s drowning in the lake and Bette starts pushing her further down with a giant stick is chilling. She’s trying to save her, but we don’t know that! For years I would sometimes see that image and get spooked when I closed my eyes before bed. And then there’s the narrative that you don’t see in the theatrical version of The Watcher in the Woods: What happened to Karen before she was saved. I realize now that Watcher‘s horror is only safe if you align yourself with Jan and Ellie, as the filmmakers intended. When I was young, and knew less, it never occurred to me to align myself with Karen. But now I think about her, trapped in some other dimension beyond the realm of where she ever thought it was possible to go, separated from her loved ones, forced to rely on strangers to save her yet barely able to communicate with them. I wonder if maybe Watcher‘s scares are more adult than I realized.

Ben Sher

Sunday Streaming:: Excision (2012) (Via Tubi TV)

Oy veh, sometimes I’ll be having a perfectly nice day and then out of nowhere the movie EXCISION pops into my head and re-haunts me. Have you guys witnessed this beautiful yet horrendously ugly dive into tragic madness yet? It may ruin your life but it does have TRACI LORDS in it (and she’s phenomenal). Please read my bewildered full review way back HERE to save me from repeating myself. Sorry this post is so brief but I must prepare for the eclipse/apocalypse tomorrow. In closing, I both highly recommend you do and highly recommend you don’t watch EXCISION on TUBI TV right HERE while you have a chance. This one cuts deep.

Name That Trauma:: Dennis A. on B&W Quintuplets

It was an old B&W horror about identical quint boys who are about 10yo. 4 of them were adopted out to good families. But at 10 they start getting terrorized and murdered. Turns out it was by the 5th baby. The grandmother comes forward and explains that #5 killed her young daughter so she threw the baby into the ocean to die.

Can you name this movie? My friend told me she has looked for the name for years!