Inspired by a recent io9 article, and with Halloween just around the corner, I got to wondering (as you do) about what the five most disturbing films and tv shows were that I watched during my childhood. Whether intentional or not.
Growing up in the 70s and 80s there’s an abundance of disturbing films and television shows from childhood memories to draw upon – Play Safe public safety adverts featuring children being electrocuted to death simply for playing with frisbees and footballs, the ghostly drummer boy from Dramarama, the man-without-a-face in Sapphire and Steel, Danny Kendall’s dead body in Grange Hill, odd half-remembered fragments from Children’s Film Foundation productions and other children’s television dramas, The Stone Tape and… dear Christ… Mr Noseybonk! But these were the ones that left a true lasting impression about upon my young innocent mind…
1. The Wicker Man (1973)
The Wicker Man is one of the most disturbing films I was allowed to watch (it may have been one of our first VHS rentals). I must of been five or six at the time. Anyway, I say allowed, I just think it happened to be on in the same room I was in and nobody realised this. It’s the infamous ending that scarred me for life. I remember the sound of my own screams of ‘When are they going to rescue him!’ and those of Edward Woodward’s character as he slowly burns to death in titular Wicker Man. Sorry, ‘spoilers’. I think I expected him to be rescued at the last minute. It was a harsh life lesson to learn.
2. Watership Down (1978)
They let us watch Watership Down in primary school. As a treat. It was not a good school.
3. Penda’s Fen (1974)
I don’t remember much about Penda’s Fen except for how creepy it was. Just what the hell was this about?
4. The Vortex from The Adventure Game (1980–86)
Okay, so the effects have not aged well (like the hairstyles) but as a child I lived in fear of the vortex from the end of the The Adventure Game. Like a twisted game of chequers the contestants had to navigate a board to escape to freedom. They made one move and the vortex made a move in return but only you the viewer could see the vortex. If you were caught by the vortex you were evaporated. The tension was unbearable. Seriously.
5. The Faceless Nun from Quiet As A Nun 1978
I remember this scene quite vividly from my childhood. I had no idea what it was from and what the context was. I also remember that it was on television quite early in the day for something that disturbing. It wasn’t until nearly two decades later when it appeared as number 63 on Channel 4’s top 100 Scary Moments that I finally able to find out that it was called Quiet As A Nun, part of ITV’s Armchair Thriller series.