Friday 25 May 2018

Which TV/movie characters scared the bejaysus out of you as a kid?

Pennywise we understand, but Mrs Doubtfire?

Pennywise 2017
Pennywise 2017
Tales from the Crypt
Tim Curry as Pennywise, Stephen King's It, 1990
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

As the big screen adaptation of Stephen King's IT smashes box offices across the world, a generation of adults are reminded of the abject terror the original Pennywise inflicted upon them as children.

Back in 1990 Tim Curry played the demon masquerading as a clown who terrorizes young children in Derry, Maine, in the widely acclaimed two part TV series.

That incarnation traumatised some to the extent that they could not thereafter be within glancing distance of poor old Ronald McDonald.  People who made their living as clowns saw business suffer.  The impact was far-reaching.

Tim Curry as Pennywise, Stephen King's It, 1990

Even now, 27 years later, many adults still eye clowns suspiciously and will undoubtedly have those fears reaffirmed by Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise in the new flick.

As Pennywise has us in reflective mood, we take a look back at some of the TV and movie characters that scared the bejaysus out of us as children. 

A quick poll of the news team reveals some classic terror-inducing creatures but also some rather perplexing ones...


Freddy Kreuger

Six years prior to Pennywise, Freddy Kreuger was literally the stuff of nightmares as the supernatural villain in Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Robert Englund played the character who was a serial killer disfigured by burns who could kill teenagers in their sleep and he haunts the dreams of generations of kids to this day thanks to a never ending film series, TV series, and recent reboot.

The mere glimpse of a poster of Freddy was enough to cause one of the team weeks of panicked sleeplessness as a chisler.  "Get it out!" they cried repeatedly when they spotted it on their sister's bedroom wall.

Spare a thought for those of us poor kids who saw the actual trailer...



In 1988 Child’s Play was released and introduced the character of Chucky, a doll possessed by a murderous demon. 

Despite never having seen the film itself, the mere idea of it prompted one then 10-year-old member of our team (okay, me) to pack any toys with eyes in a cardboard box, seal it with Sellotape, and place it in a wardrobe in the spare room, a location which then became a no-go zone for several years.

On a more serious note, the series (among other 'video nasties') caused widespread controversy, particularly the third instalment which was blamed for inciting violence in children and was cited as 'inspiration' for the murders of Suzanne Capper and James Bulger in the UK.


The Crypt Keeper from Tales from the Crypt

You just have to take one look at “that yoke from Tales from the Crypt” to wonder how any child could be expected to ever overcome the trauma of a mere glance in its direction.  HBO's horror series ran from 1989 to 1996 and boasted graphic violence, sexual scenes, nudity and plenty of expletives.  However, it was the Crypt Keeper himself who terrified most kids, for obvious reasons...


Half the cast of V

The sci-fi series V hit the small screen in the early 80s and told the tale of a race of aliens who land on earth pretending to be friendly but are actually harbouring dastardly plans for humankind. The fascist references went over the heads of 80s kids who were transfixed and traumatized by the terrifying lizard people hidden beneath human skin.


Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz (1939)

Basically the live action version of Snow White's wicked witch (see below) she was absolutely terrifying with her big green head, raspy voice, and band of vicious flying monkeys.


The witch in Snow White

Several 70s babies will remember the evil witch from Disney's 1937 classic Snow White (which was re-released on the big screen in the 80s) with her warty nose, poison apple, and evil cackle.  Shivers...


The Witches from The Witches

Witches got an overhaul courtesy of Roald Dahl in his best-seller The Witches and the big screen flick brought them terrifyingly to life in 1990.  The fact that they could hide in plain sight as regular women was incredibly unsettling for children.  And then they removed their wigs and shoes and....


Scar in The Lion King

More evidence that animated characters can have as big an impact on children as live action - villain Scar scared the living daylights out of countless 90s kids just as Bambi's mum's unidentified Man killer did in 1942.  Gwan Disney!



The comedy element of this 1984 comedy horror was likely lost on very young 80s kids who were thrilled and horrified in equal measure when the adorable mogwai spawned the evil reptile-like gremlins. 


Edward Scissorhands

1990 was a particularly terrifying year as it also saw the release of Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands. Edward was supposed to be a sympathetic tragic character but for many young kids he was simply utterly 'terrifying'.  "I was absolutely terrified of Edward Scissorhands.  Terrified." reveals one still-traumatised twenty-something.


Not all of the characters that haunted our childhoods were intended to do so it seems.  Among the other sources of terror cited by the team at are Worzel Gummage and Aunt Sally ("very sinister back story - freaked me out), the Thunderbirds, and Mrs Doubtfire.

"I had to leave the cinema because I was terrified watching Mrs Doubtfire - not sure why.  I was 4."

It's okay, we get it.

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