Isn't it funny how when we think back to movies we watched as kids, we find that almost everything we watched was the most terrifying thing we ever saw? Nowadays we are in uproar over CGI monsters and blood that looks more like Kool-Aid than the real deal, when back in our youth we were traumatized by claymation demons.
What is it about our young impressionable minds and our brain's insatiable desire to completely scar us for life?
Having gone back and watched several of the films that caused me grief, I have realized many of my errors in naming what I thought was pretty terrifying. Little Monsters, a PG gem starring Fred Savage however is one that I continue to go back to. Despite it obviously being geared towards kids, I can't ignore how certain aspects of the film remain etched in my head, and how after all these years I still find so many of the images to be scary.
For starters--Little Monsters isn't your typical hunky dory kid comedy. Fred Savage stars as Brian, who has recently moved to a new town against he and his younger brother's (played by real life brother Ben Savage!!) wishes. Their parents are often heard fighting, and witnessing the father's temper is more than a little startling. Aside from the fact that having Daniel Stern has a father would be healthy for nobody,
the life and times of Brian Stevenson are anything but pleasant. The constant over hang of parent's soon on their way to divorce seems outwardly realistic in this movie about fictional monsters.
On top of that, one of the more terrifying moments comes when we get a glimpse into what Brian's favorite sandwich is.
Yes, peanut butter and onion. I admit to never having tried it, but I'm pretty sure it would taste something like what I would imagine dysentery smells like.
When Brian first meets his soon to be best friend, Maurice (played by the always annoying Howie Mandel) I can't help but notice how terrifying he truly is. I know we are suppose to like Maurice, but I could never get past his disgusting outer image.
His constant need to burp and make gross and annoying jokes doesn't help the situation either. Still, despite how Maurice is actually on our side, there is something so scary about how monsters are portrayed here. By taking the age old tale of monster's hiding underneath beds, Little Monsters creates an entire world hidden beneath where we go to sleep each and every night.
Brian's first run in with Maurice is spine tingling in a most curious way. Shadows on the wall, and a very literal bump in the night--this scene did little to make me want to sleep with the door closed.
Once Brian enters the monster world, we are met with a steady stream of what can only be described as the most oddly terrifying display of monsters known to man.
Maybe it was my constant disgust of mismatched clothes, or the overly 80s vibe of the costumes that rubbed me the wrong way--whatever it was these monsters scared the crap out of me. I couldn't understand for the life of me why Brian would willingly be friends with such terrifying "kids". On top of that, the world of the monsters, was like a labyrinth of Popsicle stick hell, straight from one of my very darkest nightmares.
I think I may have once compared the set up of wooden ladders and steps to that of the underworld in Nightbreed, but there is something so strangely unnerving about this land of monsters.
None of these images however top the ultimate scare factor that occurs near the film's conclusion. After Brian's brother is kidnapped, he ventures to leader of the monster world, Boy's room and is met by a very alarming presence.
Frank Whaley, dons the uniform of a well seasoned school boy, and speaks to Brian and his friend's in a sickeningly sweet manner, all the while exposing his hands which seem to be an indication of Boy's true self.
Words cannot express how insanely eerie this scene is. Boy's room is at once a lair of hell and a toy store after closing hours. A place where the facade of a room filled with toys, is broken when a teddy bear tries to drill through Fred Savage's sneakers.
And then we reach a pivotal moment, when the camera focuses on Boy as he continues to deliver his attempt at convincing Brian to remain a monster, and we pan around to the back of Boy's head---his disgusting monster brain seeping out from what appears to be a mask much too small.
If we weren't already creeped out by Boy to begin with, this reveal causes a paralysis. A feeling that persists until we are finally presented with what lies behind the mask.
Even now with my highly attuned sense of horror, I find that the atmosphere in this scene is a different ball game altogether.
Sure the scene may only be scary because I judged it as so when I was little, but something tells me Little Monsters knows something that we don't. Could it be perhaps that we can try to escape the fears from our childhood, the monster's hiding underneath the beds and the threat of our parent's divorce--when really, the slightest hint of our past can send us reeling all the way back to childhood. With that smallest hint, we remember how scared we once were, and still are in some ways--because fear is more real than we sometimes want it to be. Fear, the kind of thing that is very, very hard to forget.