It’s Halloween time again and I have three more movies that sort of shook me as a child. It’ll be pretty similar to last year’s post, as the movies I have are all franchise-related films. I should probably mention again that I didn’t watch any horror movies until I was in my late teens, so it’s best to take these three ‘unofficially scary movies’ with a grain of salt. Anyway, let’s get into these messed-up movies that exclusively messed up one curious 8 to 12-year-old boy.
Last time I started with a Spielberg movie, so we’re doing that again here. The first time I heard of Jurassic Park was during an episode of an old Australian TV show called 20 to One. It was a show that is pretty similar to watching a WatchMojo video on YouTube, except stretching out for an hour-long TV block. Anyway, I don’t remember what they were counting down, so whatever reason, Jurassic Park was on there, and the idea of a dinosaur theme park intrigued a 10 to 11-year-old me enough to eventually rent it via a DVD sent in the mail. The film was so terrifying to me that it took me another two years before I got the courage to not only rewatch it but also check out the sequels. Don’t worry; by the time Jurassic World came out, I had completely gotten over the fear of being chased by giant dinosaurs that want to eat you.
This one, I think, will be a pretty easy one to sum up as it’s only the scenes with the man-eating dinosaurs that scared me, which doesn’t happen until an hour in. Sure, there is the opening scene of that guy getting attacked by a velociraptor as they’re trying to handle it into its new cage. Perhaps because we don’t see the dinosaur nor the act of it eating a human being to garner an emotional trigger. I need to physically see the act of dino teeth chowing down on human flesh and then imagine myself in that same scenario in order to be traumatised. In between that and the first encounter with the T-Rex, we see the film’s more whimsical side of our group of main characters going to the Dinosaur Island and being amazed at the sight of the vegetarian dinosaurs. This portion of the movie is actually my favourite as it takes time to establish the characters whilst also building up how the park works. The best scene in the movie is the lunch with the park’s founder John Hammond, which is mostly famous for Ian Malcolm’s lunch box analogy. Though Elle Satler’s ecosystem critique and Grant’s views on man and dinosaurs in the same space are just as great at exposing Hammond’s façade.
Anyway, the scene where the T-Rex shows up is excellent at building tension and, most importantly, suspense. It had my heart pounding as the sequence is really creative with the tremors made in the glass of water, the goat disappearing, and the cowardly lawyer abandoning the kids, all of which built up to the moment of the T-Rex’s roar. This was the scene that was too much for me as a child, as the T-Rex circles around those kids and breaks through the glass roof, and is so close to eating them. Then the sequence keeps going with the car being flipped over and Grant getting involved in distracting the T-Rex with the flare. It never gets boring as there is always a new problem such as the boy still being trapped in the car, which falls into the tree, and Grant has to rescue him. An amazing sequence on retrospect. Anyway someone has to be dino-chow so the most notable ones that messed me up include the lawyer on the toilet meeting the T-Rex and Dennis Nedry being stalked by that goopy dinosaur.
I couldn’t recall any triggers for the rest of the dino rampage that upset my young self. Except maybe the T-Rex car chase and Elle Satler being chased by Velociraptor. Surprisingly the kitchen scene with the kids didn’t bring up any memories, as that is still pretty stressful. I do remember the ending of the helicopter departing from the island with our surviving characters and swearing to myself I would never ever revisit this place.
I have seen Jurassic Park a few times and usually really enjoy it. This time, I felt a bit more negative toward it. It’s a really solid movie, but I believe the whimsical family appeal conflicted with the horror aspect for me. The character of John Hammond stood out to me on this watch, as I was surprised Spielberg let him off so easily as he could easily be the villain of this movie. Sure he is rather sympathetic with his child-like optimism of the park and Richard Attenborough’s portrayal definitely helps with softening the character’s darker aspects. I interpreted him as being a bit of a shady showman who was willing to take shortcuts to fulfil his dream of an amusement park zoo where people can marvel at his genius. That’s literally the whole reason that he bought Grant and that lot to his island in the first place. Hammond is also pretty manipulative and willing to endanger his guests just to persuade them to his side and when it doesn’t go his way he sulks like a spoiled child. It’s just interesting to note although I think Spielberg’s childlike approach to the initial idea of Jurassic Park hurts the film for me. There is, however, some good commentary in Jurassic Park that explores the dangers of man upsetting the balance of nature and turning it into a profit, but it’s pretty surface-level stuff for me because once the dinosaurs are lose, that’s the end of that. Anyway good movie still, those animatronic dinosaurs look really good and the CGI dinosaurs have aged incredibly. The character interactions are really great especially whenever you throw in Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm, as he’s easy scene stealer.
The Planet of the Apes franchise and I have an interesting relationship, as it’s as odd and off-putting as I am with Tim Burton movies. I used to rent a lot of family movies on my dad’s TV, and while scrolling through these movies, the original 1968 Planet of the Apes movie always kept popping up. The cover had an orange background of the ruined Statue of Liberty and an ugly-looking chimp watching me, and it set off a little bit of an irrational fear of The Planet of the Apes. More so, the idea that we’re building towards humanity being enslaved by talking intelligent apes. It was troubling, even though I guess I overlooked enjoying The Simpsons parodying the hell out of that movie. Anyway, when I was 12 or 13, I finally got the courage to watch Planet of the Apes; however, it was the 2001 remake I watched first because I had a prejudice against older movies or something back then. Even though this poster had a dark blue background with a scary warrior ape on it. I don’t understand myself, either. I just needed to see the Tim Burton ‘Re-Imagining’ first!
Planet of the Apes is notable for being Burton’s first remake and a huge departure from his gothic and rather quirky style that made his career in the ’90s. So, my comments on the similarities between Batman Returns and the other Burton films that scared me hold up very poorly here. (Though the one other film of his I plan to cover might fix that.) I have only seen this 2001 remake once, and that was 10 years ago, so my memory is a little faulty as to what actually scared me. Luckily, from this re-watch, I have managed to build a fairly decent idea of what that might be.
Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes has a pretty unremarkable start inside a monkey astronaut space station with Mark Wahlberg, but things get interesting and more traumatic for me once we encounter the apes. The apes in this movie act between regular human and ape behaviour. So, they can talk about boring stuff like politics or whatnot, but also swing around in trees and make monkey noises, along with other notable ape qualities, such as jumping 50 feet in the air to pounce on someone or being indestructible when falling from rather large heights. My favourite ape-exclusive detail is being blasted by rocket engines and surviving. It’s comical now, but when I first saw this, it was freakin’ terrifying. So, Mark Wahlberg and friends are being chased in the jungle by far superior apes who are faster than them and can ambush them in the trees or on horseback with their nets and spears. It was a tense sequence as I could only imagine as a helpless child in that moment when an ape making ape noises pounces on me from the trees to then toss me into a burlap sack and put me in a cage with other helpless humans to be sold as slaves. This is about the time we meet the film’s villain, General Thade, who was absolutely horrifying as a child. Thade is an armoured chimp that doesn’t like Mark Wahlberg only because he looked at him, and no human has ever looked at Thade. Though Thade is pretty much super aggressive to everyone in this movie, as he is an intense-looking chimp who is always growling in people’s faces and uncomfortably touching them. Nowadays, I find Thade awkwardly comical thanks to his zany monkey-like mannerisms and hilarious temper tantrums, so not so scary now.
After that, Mark Wahlberg is taken to the ape city, which is full of more unsettling examples of why apes acting like humans, and regular apes is just wrong for me. This movie is often praised for the makeup on the apes, as it was done by Rick Baker, who has a history of doing impressive stuff. For this movie, I feel mixed as it helped create another layer of why I felt off about these apes. While Tim Roth’s Thade is the most notable for hamming up his ape acting, but pretty much every other notable ape in the film helped create an aura of this uncanny effect. An example of this is Helena Bonham Carter plays the other notable ape in the cast, who also acts very ape-like and talks in a weird voice. It’s as off-putting as seeing an ape with human hair, which I guess isn’t fair as every female ape in this has a hairpiece, which must mean all the male apes are bald. Speaking of Helena Bonham Carter, she is notable for a new reason that this film disturbs me as a grown man. She plays the ape love interest to Mark Wahlberg, who is a human, but she doesn’t care. She instantly has the hots for him and touches him as weirdly as Thade does to everyone else. Mark Wahlberg, who plays the most boring protagonist ever, somehow has a blonde woman and a female ape who not only both want him but spend the whole movie fighting for his attention. A small spoiler alert, but the film spends more time rooting for a possible human and ape romance. Anyway, scenes that traumatised me in this section of the movie include: The one thing that I still don’t understand is when this topless fem-ape is seducing this big orangutan, and she is making these odd ape noises and dancing on the bed. Thankfully, Mark Wahlberg interrupted them, but I was still a changed boy after that brief encounter. The other moment that really messed me up is when the old man of the group sacrifices himself by one-man armying the apes so the others can escape. I think what scared me was my misremembering it as him getting captured and Thade executing him while his daughter watched. Re-watching this moment, it’s more laughably silly than sad. He didn’t even need to sacrifice himself as they could have all easily slipped away without the apes chasing them. I say that because as the old man made his heroic last stand, the army of apes behind Thade just sat back and watched as their general and his mate swiftly destroyed one old man while 20 humans ran by them that they could have easily pursued but didn’t.
After they escaped ape city, there wasn’t much that I remember messing me up, perhaps whenever Thade showed up and the agony of severe boredom. That all changes once we reach the ending, which again incorporates my irrational fear of apes one day conquering the Earth. Mark Wahlberg’s chimp from the start of the movie randomly shows up and ends the war between the apes and humans because he’s the ape messiah. Happy days as Thade is imprisoned, Mark gets to make out with both of his devoted girlfriends before flying that monkey pod back to Earth and crashing landing in Washington D.C., only to discover that Abraham Lincoln now looks like an ape, which is now a monument to Thade and Mark Wahlberg is quickly arrested by ape cops. It’s a twist ending that made young me wonder why he bothered going home, and it’s the only thing I thought of, not that it made no flipping sense.
Out of the six movies I’ve covered for this series, this is the only one that’s flat-out bad. In retrospect, this movie almost qualifies as a guilty pleasure, thanks to some goofy ape acting and physics, but unfortunately, it’s held back by how boring it is. It’s a very uninspired Sci-fi story led by a leading man who acts like he doesn’t want to be there and is followed by too many side characters that you couldn’t care less about. All traits you wouldn’t associate with a Tim Burton movie, though apparently, he was pretty checked out while making this movie, which resembles a lot of his current career.
One last movie and I figured it was about time I revealed the other Batman movie that traumatised my young self. This Batman movie, in particular, is pretty significant as it’s one of the two movies that inspired the creation of this once-a-year series. I was still very much a child when The Dark Knight came out, but I can recall it being the biggest movie of that year. It was always talked about on the news and in the newspaper, and it seemed like it would never leave my local cinema. I remember being annoyed by this as I was yet to be a Batman fan, but that wasn’t far off as that Lego Batman Video Game came out the same year, and I played the hell out of that. The main thing to note is I never saw The Dark Knight in cinemas, and a movie I feel quite proud of waiting to see. Though the first time I saw it was on DVD the following year at my dad’s place. It was very confronting, to say the least, for a child who hadn’t seen that many live-action superhero movies at that point, especially since this one is not really a superhero movie but a crime drama.
This one was a bit difficult to create in my head as my initial watch of this movie was such a blur. The reason for that is I was too young to be even watching it. The Dark Knight is not a typical exciting superhero movie that you could sit down and enjoy with the whole family. The film is very much a crime drama where all the characters are morally questionable, and they’re often having philosophical discussions whilst critiquing each other’s ethics. To a child who didn’t know what half of those words meant, you’re going to have no idea what’s happening. You’re just going to be sitting there tuning out the dialogue in favour of anticipating when the next action scene will happen. Then, when there was an action scene, they were often very brief, and we’re right back to talking. While watching this, I could only imagine I must have been pretty bored with this movie. In retrospect, I think it’s because most of the action scenes are constructed very poorly, as it involves a lot of that quick cutting where you can’t tell what is even happening. I think this is mostly because the film is unusually dark for a mature-rated superhero film; they were forced to cover up a lot of violence to keep that rating. That’s why most of the more violent acts are implied, and it’s pretty difficult to spot any blood. I think that’s why the most competent set piece in the film is that truck chase, as that doesn’t involve any visible human murders. The Dark Knight, being a crime drama, is more concerned with its characters and story, which is what I missed back then, but next, I’m going to highlight what parts of the story did stand out to younger me.
Firstly, we’re going to go over the character that everyone thinks of when this movie comes up, which is rightfully the villain of the movie. While I don’t really recall specifics, I have an overall impression that Heath Ledger’s Joker was probably too much for a young me. Though this is very fair, as sometimes I still find him rather terrifying. The main thing back then was in Ledger’s mannerisms as he often improvised on the set and the big one being his evil actions. The Joker, I don’t fully understand what he wants, but I believe that was Nolan’s point. The character is clouded in ambiguity; his overall plan is to turn Gotham into a chaotic playground, but the why and how of this plan is what loses me. It’s a very philosophical approach, which I believe is why the specifics don’t matter, but again, I didn’t understand that back then, which is why he scared me. I couldn’t wrap my head around why someone would do something so evil for seemingly no reason. Moving to the traumatic parts, which could almost be any of The Joker’s scenes, the blur has created some uncertainty. I’m pretty sure my top 3 scary Joker scenes would include the camcorder message, Joker telling Rachel how he got his scars, and his final scene in the film. There is, however, one sequence in this film I am utmost certain messed me up, which is the whole Batman needing to choose between Harvey Dent and Rachel.
Batman interrogating The Joker is the best sequence in the film. It’s where The Joker truly reveals himself as a great villain because not only does he continue to test Batman’s morals, but he also shares his deluded viewpoint on the world, which is actually understandable and kind of true. The Joker is terrifying because not only do you agree with him, but the sequence reveals he has locked Batman into a position where he’ll win regardless of the outcome. Batman loses the intimidation that he has over other criminals because The Joker is not only laughing at Batman’s punches but also because he holds all the cards as to where Harvey and Rachel have been taken. I don’t think I had seen a hero so hopeless in a film before this, and it’s worse that The Joker tricked Batman into saving Harvey Dent instead of Rachel. It was a horrifying moment for me when Rachel died as not only was I used to seeing the hero always saving the woman he loves, but I had never seen the main love interest die in a film before. It’s about as bad as seeing Harvey Dent’s burned up face for the first time. This is as violent as the movie gets, and it was very off-putting to an 8-year-old. That’s the main thing, and I’m not sure if I was used to the villain winning and ending it on a dark note. The Joker was right that Harvey Dent could be corrupted and turned into a common criminal, but he was wrong about Batman being incorruptible because not only does he kill Harvey Dent, but he takes the blame for Dent’s murders. You see, everyone is morally questionable, including Batman, so I think it’s incredibly dumb when everyone puts Batman on such a high horse when, in all three Dark Knight movies, he kills at least one person. At least each movie makes the killings less egregious, as Batman Begins literally has Batman leave the main villain to die in a train crash that he orchestrated whilst acting like he’s not directly killing him.
For a few years after seeing it, I remember being too afraid to re-watch The Dark Knight again. That changed when The Dark Knight Rises came out, and I had a newfound interest in watching the whole trilogy, which by then I was a teenage boy and could confidently say The Dark Knight was my favourite superhero movie. That’s not exactly the case nowadays, but The Dark Knight is still a very solid film that holds up exceptionally well. This is solely based on all the things I wanted to share about it in this post, but due to the lack of relevancy to the topic. It’s definitely the best of the trilogy by a long shot, as the other two Dark Knight films falter quite a bit.
There you go another round of scary movies for a child of the 2000s is done. The next one I’m thinking of choosing out some more kid friendly movies and moving from these grimly adult movies. What that’ll be is best shared next Halloween. Until then Blog Complainer, signing out.