Halloween has arrived yet again and I’m trying something different for fifth year in a row of reviewing something horror related. I’ve covered a variety of different horror movies over the years all of which have ranged in all types of quality of the good and bad kind. This year, however, I thought I would take a different approach by sharing some movies that actually scared me as a kid. In the traditional sense none of these movies are horror movies, because I pretty avoided those until I started this blog; however, these movies were traumatising enough to keep me awake certain nights. I only have three movies to share for this post as I don’t really have the time for anymore and also I had a lot to say about these three. I have enough of these type of movies to share for next year as well, if you’re up for that.
Here’s an old friend I like to revisit from time to time. I was close to 10 when I was first introduced to Indiana Jones. It started with running around not knowing who he is in Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga; to playing and not understanding what the hell was happening in his own lego game. My proper introduction would be when my Mum eventually got me the box set that contained all four movies, which I must say was a bit of a eye opener too. I had never seen any movie up to that point that was so violent and so causal with murder. I guess the only exceptions being Transformers and another movie we’ll be covering soon, but they did not faze me the same way Indiana Jones did. From what I learned from other people who watched Indiana Jones as a kid they all seem to be point to Raiders of the Lost Ark as being the most traumatsing one of the series. I can definitely recall the scene that triggers most people, which I can recall vaguely shutting my eyes the first few times I watched it. Though it was nothing in comparison to the Temple of Doom.
It’s easy to forget that Temple of Doom is a prequel to Raiders, yet that’s pretty inconsequential as the Indiana Jones movies are all standalone works, besides for the fun call backs, which even this one pulls off. Rewatching Temple of Doom again I’m instantly reminded of how different it is in comparsion to the other three movies. In this adventure, Indiana Jones spends pretty much the entire movie in India trying to recover these magic stones for this Indian village. He’s not on an archeological dig or is racing against an army of bad guys to get the prize, in the Temple of Doom he is essentially a superhero thrusted into action and destined to save the day. (All fancy ways to describe a white savior story.) We eventually learn through the village and other tip bids that an evil religious death worshipping cult stole the village’s stone along with all their children to put into work in the mines as slaves, so they can find the other stones in the quest for ultimate power.
Onto the thing that scared the hell out of me as a kid, which might be pretty obvious if you seen this, but it’s when Indiana Jones and friends first enter The Temple of Doom. The devil worshipping Thuggee are in a cave over a pit of fire preparing a human sacrifice. There’s also chanting from the patrons, accompanied by a creepy John Williams score. The whole room is red, which surrounds the main villain, Mola Ram, who looks like the devil incarnate. Then you got this guy chained up in a iron cage hovering over a pit of lava, absolutely terrified that this is the end! Then the high priest Mola Ram says otherwise by pulling the guy’s heart directly out of his chest. I guess on retrospect a devil man literally reaching into a man’s chest and to pull out his heart is a little comical, but as a young kid who had never seen something so graphic before, it’s bloody terrifying! I felt like the guy in the cage, before he was dropped into the pit of hell to be burned alive. What a horrible way to go! The darkness continues on afterwards where we see the children doing manual labor, they look like they’re starving and tired and they’re reward for this is a whip across the back. Afterwards Mola Ram tries to make Indiana Jones drink devil’s blood to make him evil; this scene is accompanied with the whipping of Indiana Jones and the small kid Short Round. This chapter closes with love interest Willie going into the cage of hell with evil Indiana Jones looking forward to her demise. Grim as, but good thing Short Round shows up to save the day by snapping Indy out of his curse so we can enjoy the movie again.
While that whole sequence does send me shivers, because of how dark it was. On retrospect this was easily least favourite portion of the movie, due how unnecessary cruel and dark it was. Despite that it’s pretty difficult to dislike Temple of Doom because it’s so damn fun. I think I always liked it as I believe I seen Temple of Doom the most, despite it being the movie that freaked me out the most on first viewing. (Seen this more than my favourite Last Crusade, I’m shocked too.) This is likely because it’s so short as I could almost watch the entire movie before having to run off to school. It’s a lot more light hearted than I remember as there are moments throughout the film are pretty damn funny. The scenes before the gang go down into the Temple of Doom such as when Indy and Willie are teasing each other with sleeping over, which leads to an assassination attempt on Indy and when Willie has to save Indy and Short Round from a death trap, is a lot of fun as the character writing is so solid. Especially considering Short Round and more so Willie both have their moments where they can be pretty annoying, yet the film is so good that it’s not a deal breaker, which is so reliving. Temple of Doom is a flawed movie, but I still like it more than most things so I would agree with the take that it’s underrated.
I have mentioned in the past that Batman was my favourite superhero growing up, which is why I actually have two Batman movies that I have listed that scared me as a child. I’ll get to the other one next year, but for now we have Batman Returns. The last of the Tim Burton directed Batman movies that share the same universe as Joel Schumacher’s despite being so tonally different. If I do end up revisiting this topic, you’re going to notice Tim Burton’s name pop up quite a bit and the story of how I watched them and why they scared are pretty damn similar. With Batman Returns I was probably about 11 or 12 when I first saw this and I remember it pretty well as I had two attempts watching this, succeeding on the second. Both viewings I was left more disturbed and uncomfortable than scared. Though I do know I was not ready for this as I should note I started this 90s Batman series with the Joel Schumacher stuff, and Batman Returns was the last one I watched.
Probably the biggest reason why Batman Returns got to me, is because it’s more of a Tim Burton movie than a typical Batman movie. Even though Burton made Batman (1989) as well, it’s pretty tame for a Tim Burton movie, compared to this sequel that fully embraces it. Batman Returns is a gothic fairytale, in the likes of The Nightmare Before Christmas that followed this. This is most evident in the opening scene, which is pretty dark. We start with these parents treating their newborn baby like a wild animal. This is followed by the parents deciding to throw the cradle over the bridge to sail off into sewer that is full of penguins. I think this set the wrong mood for my past self, as while he found this disturbingly twisted while the current me found most this sequence darkly amusing. I chuckled when baby Penguin pulled that cat through the bars of his small black cage. 33 years later it’s the Christmas season we’re introduced to our second main character Selina Kyle, the lonely dorky intern to Max Shreck. Selina eventually gets too smart for own good because Max pushes her out of a 30 something tall building. Thankfully for Selina the kiss from her cat brings her back to life and encourages her to trash her apartment and instantly cut up her leather jacket to make a cat like costume. This I agree with my past self is pretty intense stuff.
I say Batman Returns feels like a gothic fairytale because The Penguin and Catwoman feel like characters directly ripped from one. Catwoman is a tarnished woman that no one cares for, but gets an opportunity to seek revenge against the men who have wronged her by wearing this roughly sewn together dominatrix outfit. While The Penguin is someone born with disfigured fingers and was raised in the sewer by penguins; thus believing himself to be a monster who is destined to get revenge on the people who did nothing to help him. These two characters here is what essentially scared me as a kid, mainly because of their design and how screwed in the head they both are. Especially DeVito’s Penguin who was mainly just very creepy and off putting. That scene where he bites off someone’s nose stuck out to me along with his final scene in the movie, were just unsettling. While Pfeiffer’s Catwoman I think I was a little confused as she is very alluring, but she is also so unhinged, that it scared me like if her claws were always scratching up against a chalkboard. Catwoman’s final showdown with Max and Batman would be the part that sat the least well with me besides her transformation into the sexy, yet haunting suit.
Batman Returns was the one I was dreading the most to revisit as I remember it spooking me so much, that I never wanted to touch it again. I’ve obviously seen this the least out of the three movies we have, however, watching it all these years later I no longer hold the same grudge as I enjoyed this quite a bit. I find this movie more amusing than disturbing nowadays, mostly because I think Tim Burton intended the movie to have a twisted sense of humour. For example whenever Batman shows up it’s more tongue cheek fun than anything worth dreading over. In both of Burton’s movies Batman is essentially a side character in his own movie, in favour for highlighting the villains (A angle I personally like and wish more Batman movies explore). This is also the Batman that casually kills criminals with a smile on his face. Probably my biggest criticism would be having the focus on both Penguin and Catwoman as the main villains as for the whole movie they’re at a tug of war for screen time. Catwoman suffers the most she is quite sidelined for most of the movie, which sucks considering she is the most interesting of the two. Michelle Pfeiffer easily steals the show as this character and should have gotten her main villain spot to square off with Batman. Penguin isn’t bad, he’s just not as scary as I remember. He’s definitely more goofy than I remember, like that scene where he is giving a Hitler like rally to his army of rocket armed penguins comes to mind. Overall this is better than I remember.
The last movie for this post that used to scare me was a Star Wars movie. Sounds pretty weird to say I was scared by a Star Wars movie considering Star Wars is the one of the most family focused franchises to ever exist. Allow me to remind you of the existence of the last prequel film Revenge of the Sith and at the time the final Star Wars film. Like Indiana Jones before, I had a Star Wars DVD collection that contained all six movies and this was my primarily introduction to the prequel trilogy, as I had already seen the original trilogy on TV and on a crappy VHS TV recording the year prior. The first time I watched Revenge of the Sith was on a dark projection screen, by myself and I was naïve 8 year old who couldn’t get enough of Star Wars and was excited for another adventure. I was not prepared to be balling my eyes out in front of a Star Wars movie and feeling total misery from a series that is supposed to be fun.
Revenge of the Sith is a very misleading film as the first 20 minutes focus on this comically fun space ship battle and rescue. Anakin and Obi-Wan are having fun witty banter, while taking on an army of disposable silly henchmen, led by an equally comical cartoon bad guy, with the help of their overpowered comic relief droid. Then at some point Anakin beheads the last movie’s villain, which is the only sense you get that the film you’re about to watch will be darker than any other Star Wars film you’ve seen and it also serves to be the only real point to this stupid sequence. Revenge of the Sith I’ve always viewed as has having two distinct halves, with the turning point coming once Anakin finally figures out Palpatine is evil incarnate and when General Grievous stops serving his purpose. While Count Dooku and Grevious’ deaths are quite messed up for a Star Wars film, the first instant of me feeling fear is Mace Windu’s demise. He just keeps on screaming that entire time Palpatine is zapping him while he has his evil bad guy moment. This leads us nicely to the moment that did traumatise my young self, which is The Order 66 montage. Mass genocide was something I hadn’t seen on film yet, so my introduction to this idea was watching the extermination a bunch of heroes that a kid like me looked up to and wanted to be when I grew up. This sequence features Palpatine giving the order to the clones to suddenly betray their Jedi leaders, without question; Anakin leading a full frontal assault on a temple full of unsuspecting Jedi and Yoda sensing the deaths of all his friends throughout the galaxy. One final piece the puzzle that I’m realising is key to these traumatic experiences: is the sad miserable score by John Williams that plays over this whole horrifying sequence. Can’t forget about the part when Anakin walks into a room full of sweet little children and they’ll all scared and confused, but he says nothing to them as he draws out his lightsaber. Jesus, how did this get into the final cut of the movie, and what’s worst we’re reminded for the rest of the film that Anakin is now a child killer.
Let’s keep going as other parts of Revenge of the Sith that screwed with my mind would include pretty much any scene where Padme is crying. I really felt her her pain of her husband turning pure evil and being corrupted by the dark side. That whole confrontation on Mustafar would standout especially, with Padme pleading to Anakin to see the errors of his ways and then Obi-Wan showing up to ruin everything with his intent to kill his former apprentice. Another emotional scene would be after Obi-Wan beats Anakin by having higher ground than he did, where he pours his heart out to his former apprentice on how much of a disappointment he is, just before Anakin gets torched by the river. Roasted Anakin was another thing I don’t think I was ready for either. That was how I felt when I first watched Revenge of the Sith, but that didn’t stop my love for Star Wars then as I got over that trauma and had seen this film multiple times afterwards with no problem whatsoever.
Revenge of the Sith I go backwards and forwards if I really like it or just think it’s okay. It’s easily the best of the prequel films and I appreciate how bold it is in comparison to the uninspired trilogy that came 10 years after it. Still my main problem with Revenge of the Sith is it can’t really decide if it’s a family film or it is meant to be for adults. Having Anakin the main protagonist that you’re supposed to sympathise with, kill a bunch of children in the same movie with the wacky hijinks of that first 20 minutes that fills tailor made for kids, just feels wrong. The film has plenty of good scenes more so anyone where Palpatine is manipulating Anakin, and the Order 66 montage is super effective for what it is. It’s also a movie that I don’t take fully seriously mainly because the really cheesy dialogue and the stiff acting. That confrontation with Anakin, Padme and Obi-Wan I find more amusing on retrospective because it’s the only scene in the movie where actors over do it. It’s laughable along with being awfully quotable. Revenge of the Sith is a mixed bag of emotions and it’s honestly amazing how much George Lucas was able to getaway with only because it’s Star Wars and we’re going to eat it up regardless.
Well that’s that. The end of another October is upon us and it’s time to prepare for something else. Not sure what they’ll be yet, but stay tuned. I have been The Blog Complainer, signing out.