Non-horror movies: What haunts you?


Not surprisingly, Halloween

week gets people talking about horror movies. Dorothy Snarker recounted the horror background of various actresses this week. And

recently, Jamie Lynn got hoards of you reminiscing about the horror films of yesteryear.

I’m not a big horror aficionado — I blame a babysitter who, in an ill-advised

move, allowed me to watch Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things.

However, I stumbled across a horror movie “best of” list this week

that intrigued me. counted the 25 Best Horror Movies from 1896 to the present. I was surprised

to note that I had seen 10 of the movies. I was even more surprised

to note that Bambi was one of them. Not Bambi Meets Godzilla. Bambi. You know, “You can

call me Flower if you want to.”

I’m pretty sure Bambi’s inclusion

was the result of a double dog dare, but here’s what the list-maker had

to say:


that the first movies parents took their tots to in the ’30s and ’40s

were the early Disney features. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,

Pinocchio, Dumbo
all exploited childhood traumas. Parents disappear

or die; stepmothers plot the murder of their charges; a boy skips school

and turns into a donkey. Kids were so frightened by these films that

they wet themselves in terror. Bambi, directed by David Hand,

has a primal shock that still haunts oldsters who saw it 40, 50, 65

years ago.”

While I don’t buy that Bambi

is legitimately a horror movie, I do agree that elements of it are

horrifying — and haunting. The movie certainly gets at some primal childhood

fears: loss of a parent, violence, fire, etc…. And the images stay

with kids long after they leave the theater. So that got me thinking

about other movies that are haunting without actually being horror movies.

(And, yes, I could, but will not, delve in a discussion of how the supernatural

or over-the-top dangers in horror movies symbolize real dangers, blah,

blah…) So I conducted a thoroughly unscientific poll and asked some

friends and colleagues what movies haunted — or still haunt them.

Here are the results, plus

a little glimpse of some of my neuroses. Some of these are deliberately

creepy or contain intentionally scary elements, but none are traditional

horror films.

1. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate


This was the most popular response

in my unscientific survey, and I heartily agree. You’ve got kids getting

themselves into pretty serious peril — and adults who either don’t keep

them safe, or don’t really care that they’re in danger. Much of the

visual imagery is jarring. And then there’s the Oompa Loompas — red

faces, green hair and spooky songs. (My brother used to taunt me with

the Oompa Loompa song.) .

And the scene where Violet

Beauregard turns into a blueberry still freaks me out.




2. The Wizard of Oz (1939)

This was another common choice.

Margaret Hamilton
is the standard by which all other scary witches

are measured. And she was possibly more frightening as Miss Gulch.

Again, there’s scary imagery:

witches, flying monkeys, apple-throwing trees. But there’s also the

danger: the child who cannot get home, the adult who wants to hurt you

for something that was an accident and the all-knowing adult who turns

out to be a fraud. Haunting concepts for a kid.

3. Whatever

Happed to Baby Jane

This is another one that is

supposed to be creepy, of course, but a friend of mine had a very strong

reaction to it. It wasn’t so much the specifics, e.g., the rat, but

the vulnerability. The very idea of being completely dependent on someone

else is the haunting concept. (Of course, when that someone serves you

a pet parakeet and a rat for dinner, it’s that much worse.) But even

without the pathos, that type of vulnerability is still haunting.

4. Parenthood (1989)

Yes, I mean the Steve Martin


A friend of mine said this

one right off the bat and then expanded it to include any movies that

feature long-term relationships or parenting responsibilities. And,

although I laughed at first, I think this friend makes an interesting

point. As 30-ish straight woman, she runs into assumptions that she

wants marriage and kids, but these things freak her out to no end. And

I’m guessing she’s not the only person haunted by images of commitment.

(I happen to love the movie,

but get a little freaked out by how much Diane Wiest

looks like my mother in it.)

5. Mulholland


This was Scribe Grrrl’s pick.

It haunts her both in the sense that it scares her and that it stays

with her (and, she admitted, it definitely turns her on too). David Lynch movies are tough to classify. The supernatural

and surreal elements could make them horror movies, but that doesn’t

seem quite right.

Mulholland Dr.

certainly provided a great deal to interpret and wrestle with. The friends with

whom I saw it could not stop talking about it afterwards — what did the

alternative reality mean? Which character interpretations were real?

I did not find it as compelling. But there were women kissing and I

liked that.

6. Jesus


This was the linster’s pick,

and I must say that I agree. I, definitely found this documentary about

evangelical children to be chilling. This also made me think about documentaries

in general. The callousness of the principals in Enron: The Smartest

Guys in the Room

disturbed me immensely. And I cannot even bring myself to see An

Inconvenient Truth
. I don’t need to be convinced about global warming

and, frankly, don’t need to get that freaked out. Documentaries can

focus on extremely scary concepts without providing anything fictional

to hide behind. Now that’s haunting.

7. The Day After (1983)

Both Scribe Grrrl and I independently

picked this 1983 nuclear bomb made-for-TV movie. I’m just old enough

to have been afraid of nuclear war with the Soviet Union when I was

a kid and this movie gave me some serious nightmares. Again, that omnipresent

danger and lack of control was beyond unnerving. I do, however, conflate

this movie with the other ’80s nuclear bomb made-for-TV movie, Testament.

The latter was primarily about the effect on one family. And Roxanna Zal, who played some of the most depressing

adolescent roles in the ’80s, was excellent in it.

8. Overboard (1987)

I’m only half-kidding about

this one. While I actually enjoy the movie and am not scared by it,

I’m always disturbed when I watch it because memory loss scares the

crap out of me. This was comic amnesia, of course, but the idea that

loss of memory equals loss of identity chills me to the bone.

Of course, different things

scare different people. What non-horror movies haunt you?

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