From The Thing and Poltergeist to Nosferatu and Dawn of the Dead, I have a soft spot for movies that give me anxiety attacks and nightmares. Halloween isn't anywhere in sight, but that doesn't matter because I've decided to reflect on the movie characters that traumatized me as a child and caused a few issues and fears.
Chucky from Child's Play
I first watched Child's Play when my auntie Arlene babysat me. Thank you very much, auntie Arlene, for implanting within my young soul a severe fear of dolls and small redheads. After a criminal dies and is reincarnated as a doll, a cute little boy gets a Good Guy Doll as a present from his mom (the lady from Seventh Heaven) and the doll says "I'm Chucky. Wanna Play?" I didn't have any talking dolls at the time because my mom only bought Cabbage Patch kids so I thought Chucky was the most awesome doll in the entire universe. However, after Chucky started to walk around, use knives, and murder people, I quickly changed my mind and decided to never own a talking ginger doll. I also developed a fear of redheaded babies because they have the same color hair as Chucky and are of a similar size. When the movie ended, I put my Cabbage Patch kids in a box, closed it with numerous layers of duct tape, and placed a basket of toys on top to ensure the dolls couldn't climb out. I'm being completely honest when I say that I never played with dolls again.
Giant birds without heads in Labyrinth
There is one scene in particular that disturbs me so much I still can't bear to watch it. There comes a point in the movie where Jennifer Connelly's character is walking in a forest and encounters a group of huge, red-feathered creatures that resemble some sort of pelican/ostrich/monster hybrid and they dance and start fires while singing "Chilly Down." I wanted to scream at Jennifer to RUN AWAY because I was terrified, and to make things worse, the creatures take out their eyeballs and toss around their very own detachable body parts. The moment Jennifer finally realizes that she should probably run away from the flying bird limbs, the red feathered monsters chase after her in an attempt to procure her head. I swear I can't listen to the song "Chilly Down" without having flashbacks, and it's impossible for me to look at pelicans or ostriches without experiencing pangs of terror.
Jeff Goldblum in The Fly
Jeff Goldblum plays the scientist Seth Brundle in The Fly and never before had I seen an actor with eyes that protrude so much. I already knew this movie was going to terrify me from the moment Jeff Goldblum puts Geena Davis' pantyhose in his teleportation machine and becomes so excited that his eyes protrude even more than usual. Thick black hairs start to grow on his back and I wanted to vomit when Geena Davis struggled to cut them with scissors. As he transforms into a fly, a number of body parts begin to fall off including his ears and fingernails. Because of this movie, I can't look at hair on people's legs because it reminds me of fly hair, and for about 10 years I found it impossible to watch any movies starring Jeff Goldblum (I have yet to see Earth Girls Are Easy). Even today I have to remind myself that he really isn't Seth Brundle, which makes me wonder if I was actually terrified of Seth Brundle or Jeff Goldblum.
Pinhead from Hell Raiser
I have no idea how I managed to watch any part of this movie as a kid. I suspect that I either hid behind the couch past my bedtime as my parents watched it on VHS, or my auntie Arlene put it on while babysitting me. I only saw a few minutes of Hellraiser and it managed to freak me out so much that I still refuse to watch it. What I remember is that a normal-looking guy opens a box and then a man appears wearing a black goth dress and pins in his face. The few seconds I saw of him gave me nightmares for a month and I couldn't go anywhere near a sewing box, pins, punk rock teenagers with piercings, or goths in black dresses without imagining the sensation of pins being pushed into my cheeks and my nose.
Toddler from Pet Sematary
Forget auntie Arlene -- my grandparents let me view this one. "What are you watching?" I remember asking. "A sad movie," my grandma replied. I apparently missed the sad parts that occur when everyone is alive, and started watching at the point where people and animals return from the dead and horror ensues. A toddler named Gage comes back as a mini zombie, hides under beds, slices people's ankles, and runs around like a Chucky doll. He even makes strange hissing sounds and scrunches up his nose before attacking people with a scalpel. This kid could hide in small spaces, run very, very quickly, and had access to surgical equipment. For months I couldn't walk past a bed without assuming Gage or some other toddler was hiding underneath with a sharp object just waiting to cut off my feet.
*Note: These movies freaked me out between the ages of 5 to 11, and since then I have developed a fondness for black dresses, along with a slight crush on Jeff Goldblum.