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Trauma Scene:: Burnt Offerings (1976)

October 23rd, 2019 · 5 Comments

I’ve got a new odd obsession. I was able to purchase one of those small TV sets with a VCR built inside from my local thrift store ($3!) and attached a converter to it so that it could pick up broadcast television. Not only does it get COMET TV, it gets it on two different channels! So now I’m recording movies just like in the old days complete with commercials (I know that’s a minus now but in the future, it will be a plus). It’s so darn delicious that it feels illegal but nope, this is what VCRs were made for! It’s all on the up and up! Of course, I’ve run out of blank tapes so I’m just picking up any second-hand VHS I can find that’s over two hours long and recording over them! So thanks, RON HOWARD for making such long movies! I have no problem covering up CINDERELLA MAN with GHOULIES!

Anyway, the other night I recorded the classic BURNT OFFERINGS, which was a big late-night TV favorite from my youth (as was PHANTASM which utilizes the same abode).  Even though I naturally own it on DVD, I couldn’t help desiring a VHS version that I can play as I go to sleep and will rewind and turn itself off and not leave me with a repeating DVD menu screen. BURNT OFFERINGS has a plethora of memorable trauma scenes and when I was younger, I might have said the scariest bits involved the last-blast falling chimney, KAREN BLACK’s white eyes or that skeezy, smiling chauffer that pops up from time to time. Today though, I’m leaning toward the swimming pool scene for really delivering the uncomfortable creeps.

You must remember it; OLIVER REED as Ben Rolf is swimming in the pool with his young son David (the underrated LEE MONTGOMERY of BEN, DEAD OF NIGHT, MUTANT, THE MIDNIGHT HOUR, etc.). At some point, he discovers a pair of broken glasses on the pool’s floor that triggers him into becoming a wild-eyed abusive nutcase. One moment he’s playfully tossing his kid under the water but soon he’s dunking him viciously as if he means to drown him. The dubious horseplay becomes so savage that BETTE DAVIS, of all people, is forced to be the voice of sanity in the situation. It’s at this point too that you can’t deny BURNT OFFERINGS influence on THE SHINING. I seem to recall Stephen King complimenting ROBERT MORASCO’s novel in his book DANSE MACABRE and I think that affection must have bled into the Torrance family’s drama. There’s something innately scary about losing your sense of safety around someone you love and especially so when you’re a child and that person is your parent. It doesn’t hurt that OLIVER REED is such a gifted and intense actor whose whiplash flip from kind to clobber-y is pitch-perfect in its harsh abruptness. KING famously lamented that JACK NICHOLSON’s performance in THE SHINING was too one-note for his liking and I can’t help but wonder if what he desired to see was closer to what REED delivers here. In any case, it took me off guard just how unsettling this scene remains and it reminded me how great of a movie BURNT OFFERINGS is, even all these years later.

Do you have a horror scene that sticks out in your head as particularly traumatic? Why not right it down and send it to so we can share it with others?

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Tags: Trauma-Scene

Trauma Scene:: Alligator (1980)

October 15th, 2019 · 6 Comments

I was watching ALLIGATOR the other night in honor of the late great Robert Forster when a particular scene popped out at me as exceptionally kindertraumatic. It’s kinda crazy it never struck me as such before and I wondered why I hadn’t noticed it the last time I watched ALLIGATOR (which strangely enough was about a month ago). First off, ALLIGATOR is a great movie. It’s written by John Sayles (PIRAHNA) and directed by Lewis Teague (CUJO) and it’s an action-packed, super sly send-up of fifties-era giant creature flicks as much as it is an inevitable cash-in on JAWS. Forster is brilliant in it and always a good sport when the subject of male pattern baldness arises. I also have to give a shout out to the charming and underrated ROBIN RIKER who we come to find out is the little girl from the film’s opening whose thoughtless parents flushed her tiny pet alligator down the toilet. There’s a very good chance that her long lost pet is the mutated monster eating so many people who actively deserve it (the creature’s attack on an upscale wedding and his subsequent chomping of the film’s various villains in the climax is so gratifying).

The vignette I feel obliged to spotlight occurs well within the movie when the alligator is in full rampage mode clobbering anyone unlucky enough to get in his path. In a suburban backyard, three little boys are playing pirates with the two older kids bullying the youngest (who is blindfolded) toward the end of a diving board (pretending it’s a pirate’s plank) and into the deep end of the pool. Unbeknownst to the trio, the titular alligator is (understandably) taking a much-needed dip in the pool! Now, where every other film known to man would utilize this scenario for suspense only to have the kids realize their blunder and escape at the last minute, this flick has the kid fall in. Not only does he fall in, shortly thereafter he is shown colliding with the scaled abomination and not long after that, the pool is turning blood red signaling that his and the alligator’s encounter didn’t work out so good for at least one of them. I guess considering ALLIGATOR’s debt to JAWS it shouldn’t be that shocking that a tyke might end up on the wrong side of an animal encounter but something about this scene feels extra vicious (and perhaps darkly humorous).

Mostly though, I can’t help feel sorry for the two older kids who have to live forever knowing they are responsible for their sibling’s death. Plus I can’t help empathizing with the blindfolded kid who became alligator dinner because the initial prank seems like something my older brothers would have done to me without pause. Anyway, I’m not sure if this macabre scene would float in this day and age but it sure has bite.

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Tags: Trauma-Scene · Trauma-Shots · Traumatots

Trauma-Scene :: The Wiz’s Subway Horrors

March 26th, 2011 · 7 Comments

If you’re going to create a work inspired by L. FRANK BAUM‘s THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ chances are you are going to end up with something kindertraumatic. The classic 1939 movie has its witch and flying monkeys. The 1985 sequel RETURN TO OZ has its Wheelers and decapitated heads and THE WIZ wields a truly alarming subway scene. Get a load of a masked puppeteer whose puppet offspring transform into giant slinky ghouls, trashcans that develop sharp teeth and tiled columns bent on crushing anyone hapless enough to walk by. It’s whacked-out, weird, gaudy and nightmarish and so very OZ-some…

UNK SEZ: Subway scene, YOU are truly insane but lest we forget, there are many freaky images to withstand in THE WIZ. Here are some other slices of WTF? from the 1978 musical free of charge!

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Tags: Trauma-Scene

Happy New Year! Love, Kindertrauma

January 1st, 2011 · 4 Comments

Hope everyone has a great 2011! We’ll miss you Mr. Nielsen!

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Tags: Caution: I break for geniuses! · Holidays · New Year's Evil · Trauma-Scene

Trauma-Scene :: Fire In The Sky

August 25th, 2009 · 3 Comments

When a group of good ol’ boy loggers return from the woods missing one of their group, foul play is suspected. Nobody wants to believe their tale of watching their buddy get abducted by an alien space ship. Days later the missing man reappears naked and injured and eventually recounts his experience through a vivid flashback. FIRE IN THE SKY (1993) which is based on actual accounts (!), is more of an investigative thriller than anything else. Its small scale, dialogue driven nature though, may mislead you into thinking that it doesn’t also house one of the most trauma inducing scenes ever filmed (don’t believe me, check out these unsolicited testimonials HERE.)

If you are an adult it’s scary, if you are a kid it’s super scary and if you are a survivor of alien abduction, well, then it’s just plain unwatchable….

NOTE: More scary aliens HERE!

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Tags: Trauma-Scene

Trauma-Scene :: THE BEST LITTLE GIRL IN THE WORLD Gets a Check-Up

June 30th, 2009 · 8 Comments

the best little girl in the world

In the hazy, gimlet-soaked recesses of your Aunt John’s mind, the year 1983 holds two distinct memories:

  1. ‘70s pop superstar KAREN CARPENTER succumbed to anorexia nervosa
  2. My middle school health class teacher, in an attempt to educate her students about the death of Ms. CARPENTER, traumatized a room of sixth graders by making us watch her taped-from-the-T.V. VHS copy of the 1981 telepicture THE BEST LITTLE GIRL IN THE WORLD

The movie, despite its stellar cast of JENNIFER JASON LEIGH, CHARLES DURNING, and JASON MILLER, did little to hold the attention of our rambunctious class. Collectively, we groaned at the JONI MITCHELL title track (“Songs to Aging Children Come”) and I remember we were more interested in watching the commercial breaks than the movie itself.

Fearing a mutiny, our teacher stopped the film and struck a deal with us along the lines of if we still hated it after the doctor’s office scene, she would gladly put the film away and we could go back to reading about hygiene, acne, or whatever the usual lesson plan entailed. Foolishly, we called her bluff, agreed to keep watching and this is what we saw:

With the simple drop of a medical gown, a pre-teen chorus of thirty or so horrified gasps reverberated around the room. Needless to say, we watched the rest of the movie in disturbed silence waiting for another peek at JENNIFER JASON LEIGH’s emaciated ribcage. Instead we only got the death of a spunky, pre-THIRTYSOMETHING MELANIE MAYRON.

the best little girl in the world

Long out of print, THE BEST LITTLE GIRL IN THE WORLD is currently available on YouTube starting HERE. Did anyone else have to watch this in junior high health class?

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Tags: Telenasties · Trauma-Scene

Trauma-Scene :: Teresa’s Fateful Excursion in THE LEOPARD MAN

April 23rd, 2009 · 2 Comments

The three collaborations of producer VAL LEWTON and director JACQUES TURNER are glorious testimonies to the power of restraint. I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE and CAT PEOPLE are undeniable horror classics and THE LEOPARD MAN from 1943 contains a segment which I think may be the duo’s most successful stab at cinematic tension. In my opinion, it’s downright kindertraumatic…

As the scene begins the audience is well aware that a black panther has escaped captivity and is roaming around the outskirts of a small New Mexico village. Inside a humble abode a young girl named Teresa is goaded by her mother to go out into the night and fetch some corn meal to make tortillas. Teresa pleads with her mother to allow her to skip the chore until morning or until such time as when a leopard is not stalking their village. The battle axe mother insists and soon Teresa is out in the velvet black night on a completely unnecessary (it’s not like ma ran out of smokes) corn meal run.

When Teresa finally gets to the store she finds that it is closed and that the shopkeeper has a similar temperament as her won’t-budge-an-inch mother. The shopkeeper tells Teresa it is too much of a hassle for her to open her door and hand over some corn meal. This means poor Teresa has got to go to the late night joint farther away and also has to cross under a super creepy bridge. After a tense paranoid trek she does make it to the larger store with the more reasonable operating hours. Inside she gets her goods, tells the shopkeeper to stick it on her tab and then whiles away a couple of moments staring at some mechanical birds in a cage that once fascinated her in her youth. Whatever future plans that Teresa imagines while glancing at these birds will never come to fruition. Dare I say that if she had not stopped to daydream she may have made it home alive? Seconds really do count in situations like these!

Now with bag of corn meal in hand, it’s back on the road for our gal and yet another psychologically strenuous confrontation with that creepy bridge in order to return safe. Thanks to the magic of you-tube you can watch what happens to poor Teresa next….

Can you believe that went down? Besides this scene being seriously suspenseful, I think I also love it because it reminds me of the fantasies I would have in my twisted youth. You know the ones, your parents or a teacher forces you to do some menial crap or punishes you for something and then you start thinking about what if this or that happened and then they’d be sorry! You imagine them all crying at your funeral! Boy, that would show them! Sorta like in A CHRISTMAS STORY when poor little Ralphie daydreams about going blind from all that soap his mouth got washed out with! Oh how his parents would wail in regret!

Besides that personal revenge fantasy element I’m sure Teresa’s journey resonates with anyone who has had to walk home late at night by themselves. THE LEOPARD MAN has several other scenes that utilize this universal fear almost as well. (Worse still, one hapless victim finds herself locked in a graveyard!) As it turns out, that kitty you saw in the clip (feline movie star “Dynamite” who also starred in CAT PEOPLE) is really just a scapegoat for a far more sinister threat. The title may have you expecting a B monster movie but as is the case with most LEWTON flicks, it’s merely a lure. THE LEOPARD MAN certainly has its fair share of horrific moments but expect thriller, noir, mystery and quirkily written romance elements as well. In other words kiddies, my advice to you is, never judge a LEWTON film by its title, never wash your kid’s mouth out with soap and never ever get conned into going out on a late night corn meal run!

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Tags: Trauma-Scene

Trauma-Scene :: Ghost Ship’s Opening Dance Number

October 3rd, 2008 · 11 Comments

I am unabashedly partial to waterlogged horror, stick a bunch of idiots on a boat, preferably an abandoned one, and I’m so there. If the folks on the boat are battling a soul stealing demon then I’m so there; I’ve already left and come back again. It all stems from my original trauma experience watching SATAN’S TRIANGLE back in the olden days when I still had a soul to steal. That bad boy might as well have branded my forehead because it left me searching for a movie watching experience that can never be equaled. The only mini sub-genre that gives me a comparable amount of pleasure is the ski comedy, particularly if it concerns a lodge that is being threatened with closure by spoiled rich snobs who are begging for their comeuppance. Don’t worry folks, I’m not going to tell you that GHOST SHIP is as good as your standard ski comedy because it’s not. It has all the ingredients, a great cast, awesome looking sets and admirable cinematography. Why, it even has a cool, mid-movie music video insert where you can watch a giant hook impale a woman’s face to the sounds of a jaunty mid-nineties (GHOST SHIP is actually from 2002) sounding trip-hop tune. But alas GHOST SHIP suffers from DARK CASTLE disease, which means as far as the script goes it is just a random sewing together of brainstormed ideas with little concern for good storytelling. I’m just warning you, don’t let GHOST SHIP break your heart. You’re better off with a less flashy movie that really cares about you than GHOST SHIP, which at the end of the day is only using you and will never return your calls.

It should be admitted that even though the film as a whole is a dirty, lying, wallet-snatching scabby-faced hooker that it has one of the greatest kindertraumatic opening scenes (sans the crappy ironic title fonts) in recent memory. Have you seen it? You have to see it! The opening scene involves a tragedy that befalls a bunch of dancing fools and a very tight cable that splits them all into pieces like they’re Wile E. Coyote or something. A lone little girl is so short that the cable misses her, so she must watch as the crowd around her is spliced apart like sliced Velveeta. It is disturbing as all get out, and it makes promises that GHOST SHIP has no intent on delivering on. If the rest of the film was even half as successful as this opening bit, I would have have fallen head over heals for it. Instead this barnacle barge just sinks. (Don’t even get me started on the epilogue that had me scratching my head so hard it left permanent scars.) Oh, If only this ship could have docked at a ski lodge!

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Tags: Trauma-Scene

Trauma-Scene :: Garfield: His Nine Lives

August 6th, 2008 · 10 Comments

Et tu Garfield? In the 1988 television special based on the popular 1984 book GARFIELD: HIS NINE LIVES, we are, for the most part, delivered what we have come to expect from the ornery orange feline: wise-cracky humor that’s about as deep as a lasagna tray. It’s important to note that before becoming a corporate tool, the bug-eyed Garfield was snarky and sarcastic way before it was considered hip. Back then it was called being “a jerk” and most kids felt a fondness for the guy for voicing (through telepathy) his unwarranted repulsion toward his loving owner and caretaker. As in the book, the television show reveals Garfield’s previous lives throughout the centuries and it actually goes so far to suggest that he was not only once a caveman, but also a jazz playing court musician.

As if this propagation of disinformation was not enough, the seventh life of Garfield seems to have been created solely to traumatize any straggler children who were smart enough to pass up seeing PLAGUE DOGS. The story opens with the cat being given experimental shots in a government science research facility.  Apparently the sight of the obnoxious Garfield as we know him being dissected is not traumatic enough, so through the magic of animation he is transformed into a Disney-esque kitten. We never do get to see his innards though because the about to be mutilated kitty smashes through a glass window and escapes (a feat that my own beloved cat Gato Malo can tell you (telepathically) is impossible after many failed attempts!) After hitching a ride on a helicopter and swimming across a stream, the plague cat suddenly suffers every cat’s worse nightmare of indignity; due to the experimental drug in his body, he morphs AMERICAN WEREWOLF-style into a dog!!! Not just any dog mind you, but a dog with glowing eyes! This would be a perfect time for the filmmakers to stage a cathartic bloody revenge scenario, but satisfying the viewer is the last thing on their minds. Hapless kiddie viewers are left with the image of a likely possessed dog, a bounty of lingering questions, and a severe case of the creeps.
Watch the horror HERE.

P.S. The ultimate blasphemy is yet to come. By this show’s conclusion it is revealed that God himself is a feline when Garfield finally kicks the bucket! It is also outrageously suggested that our lord and savior is gullible enough to be fooled into not only giving Garfield an additional unearned nine lives but also awarding Garfield’s tag along non-cat friend Odie nine lives as well. How this got on the air, I will never know. I am lighting up a torch and forming a mob as we speak…

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Tags: Trauma-Scene

Trauma-Scene :: Plague Dog “Snitter” Shoots Man in Face!

August 1st, 2008 · 9 Comments

plague dogs

Thanks to trauma-picture over achiever WATERSHIP DOWN many kiddies learned the hard way that not every animated movie is appropriate for all ages and psyches. But what about PLAGUE DOGS which is based on a book by the same author, RICHARD ADAMS and directed by the same director, MARTIN ROSEN? It can’t be as bad… just look at the theatrical poster that sports two adorable pooches frolicking with a happy helicopter! PLAGUE DOGS is sure to bring the fun, right? Well I hate to break it to you, but those doggies are not so much frolicking as they are running for their very lives. And that helicopter? It’s filled with evil experimenting scientists who want to squash man’s best friends as if they were bugs. Sure, the animation is gorgeous and the storytelling is intense and meaningful, but I really wouldn’t recommend it to anyone unless they were seriously prepared to crawl through the most depressing of trenches or had an extra box of Kleenex they simply had to plow through. Of all the hope shattering scenes supplied within, one stands out as being extra horrific and I mean King Kong sitting on Santa Claus horrific. In it a pleasant looking hunter calls to one of the dogs, the cute small one named Snitter. Will the hunter be a new friend? Will he take Snitter home and feed him? The dog runs to him with high hopes and expectations, but as he leaps to give the traditional doggie slobber greeting, he accidently steps on the hunter’s rifle’s trigger and oops….SHOOTS HIM IN THE FACE! I don’t know if you have ever shot someone in the face before but, take it from me, it can destroy a friendship! The poor doggie runs away confused and, I can say from experience, probably feeling a bit guilty as well. Don’t worry, there are more horrible atrocities waiting for him and his doggie pal around the corner. If you have a dog I think you should sit him down and force him to watch this movie, not only will he become extra grateful for his pampered lifestyle but he also just might learn a little thing about gun safety. Check out the devastation HERE.

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Tags: Trauma-Scene