What happens when an impressionable child who has been fed a steady diet of divine wrath stumbles upon a simple 70s horror movie innocuous enough to be broadcast in its entirety on daytime television? Why Kindertrauma of course!!!
My Kindertrauma didnâ€™t come from one of the brilliant horror movies of the 70s. There are a lot of elements to this story that make me cringe, but the fact that it only took a low budget shocker to fry my electronics is one of the biggest. It would make more sense if my meltdown came at the hands of The Exorcist. Instead I have to admit that I was wound up so tightly that it only took exposure to Children Shouldnâ€™t Play with Dead Things to make me snap. I must have been a fun kid.
To understand how Children Shouldnâ€™t Play With Dead Things kicked the box of bees in my brain I need to get into how the box got there in the first place. So if the subject of organized and disorganized religion makes you squeamish, best stop now. Thereâ€™s no pro or con bullshit in here though, just an individual story of a kid muddling up cosmic concepts because his mind was better suited for Legos and breakfast cereal.
And muddle I did. By age eight I was already crammed with misunderstandings and contradictions that needed to be addressed, but Children Shouldnâ€™t Play With Dead Things ensured I wouldnâ€™t get to gradually sort through my metaphysical junk drawer at my own pace. That movie found me at just the right time to wreak the most havoc on my psyche and when it was done I was literally left standing in an empty field afraid of what was left of the universe. That last bit is going to require some explaining, soâ€¦Kindertrauma ahoy! -Avayander
UNK SEZ: Avayander sent us an awesome traumafession but it’s a bit long so we will continue it in the comment section! Come join us!
Avayander’s post continued….
(1) IN THE BEGINNING, THERE WAS A BIG SLICE OF WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT
My family was practicing Roman Catholic, no meat Friday, confession Saturday, mass Sunday kind of Catholic. Religion was a part of our life, but not an overbearing one. There were responsibilities to meet
and the day went on.
With the best of intentions my parents started my religious education early and I was way too young to grasp most of it. What I did understand, as all kids do, was punishment. Eternal damnation was the only part of the whole thing I had any sort of a handle on. I can give an example of how this was playing out in my brain: around this time I confessed to committing adultery. Nobody could explain to me what adultery was but I figured I probably did it and didnâ€™t realize it and I didnâ€™t want to end up in hell for it.
I may not have understood why I was doing what I was told, but I was sure the people telling me did.The structure and order of it all made sense. And if I was carrying an oversized fear of the netherworld it
wasnâ€™t readily apparent.
Then for reasons unknown to me my parents went through a revivalist-type phase. We still did the regular stuff but now we were meeting other parishioners outside of the church too. It was never explained to me what prompted the change or why some of our friends didnâ€™t come. My parents probably thought the answers were too complicated, but to me it felt like they were keeping secrets. An
itchy feeling that we were breaking some rule I wasnâ€™t being told about stubbornly lingered.
Faith took on unfamiliar urgency and everything became louder and dramatic. The new gatherings were unlike anything I had seen. With nothing to compare it to the intensity seemed like panic and made
danger feel very close. And to complicate matters further this newly embraced zeal came with a heavy emphasis on evil being all around us, lifting my anxiety to a whole new level. I doubt my parents ever
understood how the changes were being translated into my world.
Eventually I did what every kid surrounded by insidious forces that can only be defeated through a set of confusing and conflicting rules with the price of failure being eternal punishment does. Go watch TV!
(2) CHILDREN SHOULDNâ€™T PLAY WITH â€˜CHILDREN SHOULDNâ€™T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGSâ€™
There are two movies that I think are made creepier by their low budget production, Evil Dead and Children Shouldnâ€™t Play With Dead Things. Evil Deadâ€™s amazing visuals are only briefly interrupted by
Shempy bits, adding to the surreal aspect of the film without being totally distracting. More of a â€œWhat was that?â€ and less of a â€œAw câ€™mon what the hell was that?!?â€ kind of thing.
Children Shouldnâ€™t Play With Dead Things works for a different reason. It just slathers gloom all over the screen. Unrelenting, depressing gloom. There isnâ€™t a single warmly lit scene to break the mood.
What light there is is harsh and unflattering with distracting shadows. The colors are off, maybe from the lighting or film or both. Throw in the inconsistent audio and the whole thing feels unnatural. All in all
itâ€™s great for the story. Everything about this movie is ugly, and it sustains that ugliness from opening shot to end credits.
I saw the movie on a bright Sunday afternoon. The dialogue was unclear so I moved closer to the speaker and sat right in front of the screen and that, no doubt, contributed to me becoming immersed
in the film. Prior to this the horror movies I had seen were mostly Hammer films where the visuals didnâ€™t do much more than give the story a place in time. I didnâ€™t know then, but this was the first horror film I watched where the intangibles and atmosphere contributed so strongly. That ugly made everything around me feel ugly! The sunny day outside was forgotten. The movie was creeping me out and there
was nothing scary happening whatsoever.
(3) THAT SINKING FEELING ARRIVES ON A BOAT
And those characters. Ostensibly a professional drama troupe, itâ€™s hard to imagine this bunch working together well enough to crew the boat they came on, let alone put on a play or survive the zombie apocalypse. They start off annoying and become downright unlikable within minutes. They antagonize each other relentlessly. Theyâ€™re petty, sarcastic, and spiteful. You could picture playhouse rivalries and jealousy in their backstories if you werenâ€™t already busy picturing putting them back on the boat and sinking it. But the shitty way they treat each other introduces a different type of darkness to the film. While I find the whole thing campy now, the constant sniping and bickering was more distressing to me as a young child than the crappy zombies.
Behind the monster movie I was watching I was unwittingly absorbing a grinding family meltdown. I didnâ€™t see it then. The fact that I couldnâ€™t place why I felt so tense only creeped me out more. If this movie is freaking me out this much now and nothing is going on, what sort of horror is next?
(4) START OF DARKNESS
The set up had worked and I was properly spooked. It convinced me that something truly terrifying was coming. But the plot was barely moving. With little to no action to distract me I had plenty of time to let my imagination run wild. I was becoming afraid of what I hadnâ€™t seen yet, something familiar to any horror movie fan.
Now if you remember it had been pointed out to me that the world was filled with evil a while back. As a result I had a good head start at envisioning monstrosities and the gruesome things they planned to do to me if I fell into their clutches. I used pieces of those to make the abominations that could be waiting when the movie decided to start doing something. And the more monsters I built the more I had to think about the â€˜realâ€™ monsters. It didnâ€™t take long before I was scaring myself in a broader sense beyond the film. The movie became less like a pilot taking me somewhere and more like a fellow passenger whispering increasingly upsetting things in my ear during bouts of turbulence.
Itâ€™s a horror movie staple to build up unseen scares into something too big to fit on any screen. Unfortunately my surrogate fright was being pulled from the mess of guilt and fear my religious misconceptions had made. I couldnâ€™t reach in to get the one without exposing myself to the other. Children Shouldnâ€™t Play With Dead Things had just opened Pandoraâ€™s Box and I didnâ€™t even know it yet.
(5) THE CLOSER IT TO HOME IT GETS, THE FURTHER OUT I GO
And I noticed something. The characters dressed like people from the admittedly hippie-ish meetings we went to. There were plaids and stripes in abundance for sure, but it was the womenâ€™s outfits that
couldâ€™ve easily been worn by specific people I knew. I donâ€™t know why that detail seemed so powerful at the time. [Side note: we were undoubtably behind the couture curve back in the sticks but really, wow.]
The familiarity imparted a sense of relevance to the film that wasnâ€™t there before. And then there was this lady, who was at every meetingâ€¦.
â€¦not this particular actor of course, but the off-putting over the top emotional supplicant archetype. I had seen people do this and watching it done on TV placed me right back there in that uncomfortable place. And there was of course my personal connection to the character of Anya, but weâ€™ll get to that.
I was sitting about a foot and a half away from the tv and these connections brought the movie closer to me. I mistook shared superficial details for relatability. The people on screen were one big sweatsock stuffed with awful, destined to suffer and die horribly while I watched, and I had begun identifying with them.
And though I never confused what we did with Satanism it still hit meâ€¦. Beseeching higher powers in the woods, wait a minute! We may not have been digging up Orvilles but werenâ€™t we doing the same thing? Were we bad too? The fact that I couldnâ€™t wrap my mind around any question larger than that made the things I didnâ€™t understand seem positively gargantuan. I was starting to feel my insides twist, like I broke one of my grandmotherâ€™s porcelainish used-to-belong-to-so-and-so dust collectors while doing something she explicitly told me not to do and she was due home any minute.
I had lumped our story in with the story of the horrible people I was watching. And the lesson I was choosing to take from the movie was the one I was most afraid of: religion outside of church is wrong, make amends or suffer the consequences.
Of course itâ€™s only in retrospect that I put any of this in these terms. There was no philosophizing at that age, just feeling. And it felt wrong. I felt like I had done something bad. I felt like I was still doing something bad. Seeing a sliver of us in the stuff portrayed onscreen compounded everything; the movie was folding into real events and real events were folding into the movie all of it was taking me places I didnâ€™t want to be. I recall the sinking feeling that hit my stomach during the gravesite scene when their ceremony seemed to correlate with things Iâ€™d seen. None of the very blatant differences that separated us were registering with me at all.
(6) BUT REALLY THERE WAS ONLY EVER ANYA
There are surely people who find the Shatnerrific portrayal of Anya one of the campiest aspects in the film. For young me she was the most frightening.
Looking back this woman did such a good job with the role. Older me loves everything about this performance. Itâ€™s above and beyond and really disturbing.
Full disclosure my discomfort started on a base level. You know as kids weâ€™re not often sensitive to other peopleâ€™s appearances and I was no exception. In my mind there was something clearly wrong with this 70lb adult, so much so that I found her hard to look at. And that skeletal form combined with her expressions and delivery was something positively terrifying.
But her behavior was particularly disturbing to me because I saw the same hysteria in one of the â€˜faithfulâ€™ in our group. Very freaky. Even us kids could recognize there was something off with this person and tried to avoid getting cornered by her. Like Anya she had a disconnect that made interacting with her, well, frightening. Her moods jumped unpredictably, she had disproportionate emotional responses to things, she would laugh uncomfortably loud and long, stuff like that. In worship the other adults sometimes caught her outrageous fervor, which could be alarming, but most of the time they simply treated it as nothing out of the ordinary and that rang its own set of warning bells. As kids we watch our parents for cues on acceptable behavior and then along comes whatever the hell HER whole deal was.
So as Anya spent more time on screen I began to feel like the real life scary lady was in my house and I couldnâ€™t get away. A very real fear of a very real person was being triggered and made everything Anya did seem more substantive.
She was the nightmare fuel of the film for me, well beyond anything the zombies could muster. And then came her big speech.
I was already overwhelmed before it began. The movie had never stopped finding new buttons to push on me and I couldnâ€™t keep up. And then she started raving with those spastic movements accentuating her deathlike physique. It was a steadily intensifying barrage of desperation and panic in a voice I personally recognized. I had heard that kind of pleading before from the scary lady and it was gut wrenching. It was heartbreaking. And as it poured out of Anya I was swept along, carried in the emotion of it all until I felt it too and it was too much. I didnâ€™t know what to do in the world. I didnâ€™t know why I was bad. I didnâ€™t know why I was going to burn. I didnâ€™t understand anything so I couldnâ€™t fix anything. It all was just hopeless. I couldnâ€™t shake the all-pervasive feeling of wrong. I felt sick to my stomach. I remember that my ears went uncomfortably hot when she finally screamed heâ€™s not going to forgive us. And when she said it, I knew she was right. It crushed me but I knew somewhere deep down in my twisting insides she was right. Heâ€™s not going to forgive us. I truly felt lost. And despair.
For me that was the end of the movie. But it wasnâ€™t. I know I finished the film because I never forgot the last kick in the ass, the betrayal followed by â€˜the lookâ€™:
Shame personified. We look at you, little boy in 1970s upstate New York. Not much else of what happened between the speech and credits stuck. I was toast.
(7) AND THEN IT ENDED
The details of what happened next that afternoon have always stayed with me; the colors, the path I walked, all of it. After the movie ended I still felt sick. I felt dirty. The house was claustrophobic and I wanted sunlight. But it was freezing cold outside and the sun just hung there, useless. I walked into a large clearing, stood in the center of an open snow plain in broad daylight, and I was afraid.
There was no place to run to to escape the fear either. I didnâ€™t want to go back home. Everything that weird zealousness touched was tainted. I couldnâ€™t go to a friendâ€™s house because my friendsâ€™ parents
were all part of the same damn thing. At the time I didnâ€™t consider going to the church but a big part of the dread was that I believed there was no longer any church for me to go to. I had convinced myself that I was cast out; for the first time in my life I felt like no one was listening. The powers that be had closed up shop and left.
I didnâ€™t know who Lovecraft was yet, but I was having one hell of a Lovecraftian moment. The trees,buildings, sky, everything looked exactly as it always had but now was different. Menacing. Empty. The
empty had weight and the weight made it hard to breathe and the empty was everything and everything all together added up to absolutely nothing at all. That was really it. I was utterly alone.
AND THEN THE ENDING ENDED
So how did it all wrap up?
I stood knee deep in snow unmoving for about 2 hours. Yep that long. I cried a little but really quietly, because even though I was alone I didnâ€™t want any of the other kids seeing me if they were looking out a
window or whatever. Theyâ€™d never let me live it down. And that was the first step back to reality. There were still neighborhood kids. And it gets really frigginâ€™ cold not moving out there for a couple hours. And I needed to be back by suppertime. One by one little details like these pushed the existential crisis away until it was gone. By the time I was doing homework that night it was like it barely happened. I was
mostly worried about what to say if anyone asked what I was doing out there. Itâ€™s tough to find a better example of the resilience and goldfish-esque magic kids can have.
With no prompting that I ever saw my parents walked away from their â€˜callingâ€™ shortly thereafter. It hadnâ€™t lasted very long and they didnâ€™t talk about it afterwards. Everything returned to the normal
dysfunction I was familiar with and could comfortably navigate. If higher powers have forsaken me, favored me or just plain forgotten about me they never let me know about it one way or the other.
Havenâ€™t spent hours standing around in a field since then so thereâ€™s that too.
I started trying to understand my meltdown years later, picking apart what I now think of as a form of panic attack. There was no incident like it at any other time in my childhood. That fear was out of
control. If someone asked me what happened back then I doubt I couldâ€™ve mustered anything more than â€œthe movie scared me.â€ It took a while to find words for the sometimes nebulous feelings I remembered having while watching it. Took even longer before I thought to look at the movie in context. Thatâ€™s when things started to make more sense.
Because I mean, câ€™mon. That kind of terror? From THIS MOVIE?
In the end the whole thing amounted to an inconsequential bump on the long road to wherever the hell this is. It might have even disappeared entirely if not for the images and sounds lodged in my brain from that damn movie. The twisted trip Children Shouldnâ€™t Play With Dead Things and I took together immediately sprung to mind the first time I saw the word â€œKindertraumaâ€!
Thanks Avayander for the epic traumafession!
Hope this didnâ€™t confuse too many people and you all realize why I HAD to post the entire thing but couldnâ€™t possibly in one piece!
Avayander also included images with his text and Iâ€™m sorry I could not include them.I also realize these paragraphs are a bit wonky because my computer wouldnâ€™t copy them rproperly and now it wonâ€™t let me fix them- Iâ€™ll try again later!
I also need to admit that movie freaked me out as a kid too. I mostly saw it late at night but the bizarre music and end of the world atmosphere truly did a number on me! – UNK
Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things is a great film in my opinion. Bob Clark and Alan Ormsby created four great films in the 70’s; Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, Deathdream, Black Christmas and Deranged. They all create an eerie oneiric atmosphere and the grittiness only enhances the effect. When a film can do that it is something special. To say they don’t make’em like that anymore is an understatement and a sad commentary.
Wow you found a way U.! Sorry so long, I just didn’t know how to get it across any shorter. It was 3 pages longer before I sent it. That’s Kindertrauma! Hope everyone gets a chuckle out of it like I do now, and thanks for KinderT for giving us all a space to share stories like these!
Beyond epic and eerily comforting <3 The happy ending of the ending gave me chills. Now I just have to watch the damn movie again, wish me luck!