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Name That Trauma:: Drew P. on a Sherlock Holmes Robot

December 5th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 3 Comments

Last time I submitted A Name That Trauma, it was identified within 24-hours. Let’s see if folks can beat that!

Okay – so there was this TV show on daytime PBS during the early 90s. Probably between 1990 and 1994. I watched this on either Vermont Public Television or New Hampshire Public Television. I don’t think this was a regionally-produced show because the local stations were always pretty strapped for cash. The show was all about mathematics. We’re talking weapons-grade math: geometry and algebra. Stuff that was way too complex for my puny child mind to comprehend. (Stuff that’s way too complex for my puny adult mind too, but I digress…) The bulk of each episode consisted of a bland, polo-shirt-and-moustache, middle-aged-dad sorta guy interviewing teachers and mathematicians. 

Here’s where the trauma comes in: each episode also featured prologue and epilogue segments with robotic versions of Sherlock Holmes and Watson attempting to thwart Professor Moriarty. These segments were rendered in very primitive, early 90s computer animation, and Holmes and Watson looked like blocks on wheels with spindly ball-and-socket limbs. The Holmes robot had a pipe and a deerstalker cap. The Watson robot had a moustache. Moriarty had a black fedora, a dracula-esque cape, and sharp claws. I found the claws to be a particularly frightening detail.

Every episode had a pattern. Moriarty would lure Holmes and Watson into a math-inspired trap and Holmes would apply the concepts taught in the episode’s mathematics lesson towards a solution. Piece of cake. Done in one. But then, during the epilogue, Moriarty would spring a SECOND trap, leaving Holmes and Watson in LETHAL DANGER. And then the show would end. It would just END.

I can’t emphasize this enough. Every. Single. Episode. Ended with Holmes and Watson utterly trapped and about to die. One episode ended with Holmes and Watson at the mercy of snarling sphinxes with glowing red eyes. Another episode ended with Holmes and Watson getting chased by howling yetis. They were trapped in claustrophobic mazes, collapsing tombs, avalanches, and rising floods. It was nightmarish. The whiplash between middle-aged-math-dad boredom and the inevitability of death was extremely upsetting. The fact that Holmes and Watson would reappear in the next episode didn’t give me any comfort. It was as if they were reborn just to die all over again. Cruel, infinite deaths.

Hope some fellow PBS kid is able to identify this! 

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Kindertrauma Funhouse

December 4th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 11 Comments

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Traumafesssions:: Unk on The Omen (1976)

December 2nd, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 2 Comments

Yep, I’ve been moderating this site about media that scared us all as children for (over) thirteen years and I’ve still got a few of my own trauma tales to tell. I was somewhere less than ten years old when I first encountered Richard Donner’s 1976 demonic kid flick THE OMEN and a recent re-watch really got the memories of fear a’ flowing again.

My family was living in California at the time and my best pal was a tomboy named Karen who lived at the opposite corner of my block. Interestingly, we started out as enemies with both our families engaging in a rock throwing rumble but soon we were joined at the hip and spending entire days together discussing important matters like Welcome Back Kotter.

For unknown reasons on this particular day my mother came to pick me up from Karen’s house and walk me home. She needed to talk to Karen’s mother about grown-up business in the kitchen so we were meant to hang out in the den and watch TV while they gabbed. Karen’s family had just gotten something very new called “cable,” which meant that we could watch any movie that happened to be on (this was way before on-demand was possible). As it turned out HBO (or whatever station it was) happened to be showing THE OMEN.

We had missed the beginning of the film and jumped in mid way as a frazzled priest was informing Gregory Peck that his son was actually the spawn of Satan and the best idea would be to kill him as soon as possible. Peck didn’t buy what the priest was selling and walked away in a huff leaving the priest alone. Suddenly the weather began to change for the worse. Insane, howling winds popped out of nowhere, thunder bellowed.

It becomes pretty clear the priest knows what’s up. He has said too much. Evil forces appear to have his number! He sees a church in the distance- surely he’ll be safe there! What evil force would dare come at him there? So now it’s a race against time; will he get there before he’s struck down? The church doors are closed! He can’t get in! He looks up to the sky as if to ask God himself for help. Instead, a lightening bolt blasts a large pole from the top of the church roof that falls like a thrown sword and spears the priest right through his body in the middle of the graveyard! Wha!?!!

Where the hell was God during all of this? Was he doing his nails? It was time to go. I wasn’t to witness another scene but I’d seen enough. I was terrified by what I had viewed (and from what I’d heard; Jerry Goldsmith’s score is incredibly persuasive) but I was also profoundly betrayed by the inaction of God during a time of obvious crisis. If God didn’t protect people when they needed him then exactly what was he good for? Looking back, so many of my media based traumas from childhood, involved religion, which probably has more to do with when I was raised (the seventies) then how. But I think there was a scarier, larger truth hitting home that went beyond dubious Bible stories. On some level I understood that the forces I relied on to protect me were unreliable and that simply being a “good” person like a priest wouldn’t shield me from life’s calamities.

Watching THE OMEN once again, this unholy set piece still feels so dark and jarring to me. The ambiguous danger is inescapable and you get a dreadful sense of the enormity of mortality and the minuscule, ant-like nature of human life (an unnerving fatalistic vibe much like the FINAL DESTINATION films would later accomplish). Death is everywhere and there’s no way to switch the channel.

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Name That Trauma:: Rob M. on a Faked Home Invasion

November 28th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 4 Comments

Reaching out again because my mind isn’t what it used to be.  I’m trying to recall a movie that was released in the last 20 years.  I don’t know what year.  I don’t know any actors in the movie, but I feel like I would know the name if I saw it. 

It’s set in the late 50’s or 60’s.  It was a major release… had a lot of word of mouth buzz (maybe because the director or producer had a murder style blockbuster similar).  It was set in the midwest or the south.  I think midwest…. maybe Kansas.  So let’s say Kansas in the late ’50s or ’60s.  The movie begins with a home invasion.  The family is living in a mid-century modern style home.  The family consists of Husband, Wife and maybe one or two kids. During that home invasion the wife is killed and the criminals flee.  This is a ruse.  This was set up by the husband and his wife’s sister (whom he is really in love with). They would get away with it, if not for a nosy insurance claims adjuster who is very suspicious.  There is an attempt to poison his coffee.  It’s all very much like Fargo.  These people aren’t killers.  They make horrible choices and pile more horrible choices on top of them.

There is one more element to the film.  Racial tension perhaps?  I say this because at one point an angry mob surrounds their house for days on end.  I’m not sure I remember why.
Thanks again, Rob M.

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Kindertrauma Funhouse

November 27th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 11 Comments

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Name That Trauma:: Lena on a Clock That Strikes 13

November 23rd, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 1 Comment

Hello! I hope
You can help me.
I have never actually seen this movie it’s one of those movies that one of my childhood friends told me about.
Never forgot her telling me, but have never been able to find it.
I don’t have much to go on.
I’m going to guess it’s a 70’s movie. Whether it was made for TV or not I’m unsure.
It has a nurse living or working in someone’s home. Her last name might be Green??
I believe there is a child in the house.
A clock strikes 13 times instead of 12 at midnight.
I know it’s not much to go on?
Thanks, Lena

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Traumafession:: James on Sleepaway Camp (1983)

November 22nd, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 1 Comment

Sleepaway Camp. No other movie has psychologically scared me as extremely as this movie has. I actually watched it for the first time while CAMPING with my Dad and Uncle in a small Evil Dead-type cabin deep in the woods of Pennsylvania!

The movie has a series of things that made me uncomfortable. These kids weren’t just mean to each other, they were emasculating and castrating. Watching the cook blister and writhe in agony over for what seemed like an eternity, the snake emerging out of the open mouth of the most visually disturbing drowned corpse I had ever seen, and the curling iron up the genitals with brute force and sizzle. It all brought me down to a very vulnerable place. Then the ending put me in the truest form of shock one can experience. I retreated inside the safety of my mind and everything went numb as the guttural growling and hissing of the very embodiment of a critical psychological breaking point manifested itself onscreen. I don’t think I talked much afterward. It took years for me to watch it again. Now it’s a favorite.

I didn’t revisit Sleepaway Camp until watching Unhappy Campers. Renting the sequel was very therapeutic for me. Its lighter comedic tone eased me out of the trauma. It’s not without its own sort of brutality. I think the outhouse murder and the incredible monologue Angela delivers as she commits the act is very powerful and has become one of my favorite movie scenes. I’ve read that it was taken straight from Robert Hiltzik’s original script for the sequel, before changes were made and infused with comedy. I can only imagine watching that scene played out with the grim, dead serious tone it was intended to have, more like the original, and having no comedy before or after to alleviate its morbidness. Imagine that.

-James of The Esoteric Interpreter

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Kindertrauma Funhouse

November 20th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 13 Comments

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Traumafession:: PopcornMonster on Laffun Heads

November 19th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · 5 Comments

When I was a kid I remember these super creepy novelty heads that when the tie was pulled down would spit water, blink their eyes, and laugh while their tongues moved in and out. My aunt had the clown variety and it spooked me out but pretty much every version was high on the uncanny valley scale. To this day I often think about them again and have considered picking up a vintage head from eBay but as of yet I haven’t pulled the trigger due to the prices and the fact that even if I did buy one I doubt I would even display the thing anywhere and for fear of mentally scaring my daughter in the same way I was.

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Kindertrauma Rewind:: Carnival of Souls (1962)

November 18th, 2020 by unkle lancifer · No Comments

UNK SEZ: No submissions this week and come to think of it, I don’t feel like writing myself as that may require the use of my brain. So why not let’s utilize our time traveling machine and go check out Kindertrauma TEN long years ago back in 2010 when I was shamelessly shrieking the praises of the forever haunting CARNIVAL OF SOULS!? Simply skip right on over HERE!

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