The Horrors of the 80s Kids' Movie


We've got a fun blog post for you today. Well, I say fun but in actual fact it's packed full of things that will terrify and shock you!

We've talked about some of the inspiration behind the Röki before and one of the things we've cited was the kids films from our childhood. These were a brand of children's movies that weren't afraid to pull any punches in scaring the living snot out of children! Films that both scare and enthral. It's something in this mix, in the tone and the spirit of some of those movies that we're keen to capture for our game. 

With halloween approaching we thought it's be "fun" to look back at some of the movies we remember fondly (if you can say that about films that terrify and disturb) and pick out the key scenes that petrified us. When we thought about writing this post we thought we should take a look to see if the scenes were as frightening as we remembered, and the verdict is...yes, they're as terrifying as ever.

NOTE: If you are of a nervous disposition you might want to proceed with have been warned!

SPOILER ALERT: The rest of the blog contains some spoilers for the films we'll be talking about (The Neverending Story, The Dark Crystal, The Witches, The Goonies and Return to OZ) so feel free to avoid if you'd like to watch them first!


The Neverending Story

Atreyu's (the hero) cherished horse and only friend Artax gets swallowed alive in the swamp. It's not a swift death, rather a slow sinking to an inevitable demise as the hero pleads with his only friend to escape. If that wasn't bad enough the swamp in question is "The Swamp of Sadness", so he's pretty much just given up on life and doesn't care anymore because of the swamp's making him super sad....this is not Garfield the Movie...pretty bleak.

This happens near the start of the movie but the film still has plenty of horrors in store for you!

Later in the film there was a scene that stuck in my head. A brave knight clad in polished armor, the archtypal hero, and clearly much more capable than Atreyu, approaches a gateway guarded by each side by immense Sphinx statues. Atreyu watches his apporach to the threshold through a looking glass only to see the knight get vaporised by some kind of Sphyinx eye laser. Atreyu watches on mouth agape. Happy times!


The Dark Crystal

Now, be warned, the first examples were a warm up, here's where we unleash the big guns. What or who are we talking about? The Skesis of course! In all seriousness I would class the design of the Skeksis up there with the 'big bads' of horror cinema such as the Xenomorph from Alien.  The combination of their visual design, rotting disgusting skeletal birds clad in decaying musty finery, with their motion and sing-song voice acting is a truly horrific cocktail that makes my eyeballs itch.

Here's a great scene to keep you awake at night. The old Skeksis emperor is dying and the pretenders to the throne begin to vie for position even as he expires (not unlike the Conservative Party Conference). It features one hell of a jump scare and then what every kids film needs, some old bird dude's head decomposing before your eyes. Sleep well everyone!

I'm afraid to say that, joking aside, the next scene from the Dark crystal is pretty hard to watch for me even now. Where as some scenes in this post are scary or sinister this next scene is just out and out brutal. Near the beginning of the film the Chamberlain looses a leadership challenge, a trail by stone, where he and his rival bests him in swinging swords at a rock. Once defeated the Chamberlain, in a brutal display, is stripped naked by his colleagues and recently turned allies, his rotting fine clothes ripped from him to reveal his scrawny skeletal body. It's just brutal, a vulgar display of power, fickle betrayal and violence that tells you all you need to know about the villains of the piece.


The Witches

Let's proceed to The Witches, the 1990 film based on the children's book by Roald Dahl (OK so it's not strictly 80s but close enough jeez). The film changes some elements of the book to make it a bit more child friendly, for example the young hero gets turned back into a human boy at the end of the movie whereas in the book he is doomed to spend the rest of his life as a mouse. However the movie wasn't sanitized to a great degree and still had some thoroughly creepy scenes, here's one right now...

A young girl is spirited away by witches, but rather than being found after meeting some visceral grisly demise, something much worse happens; she gets trapped in a painting. You might think I'm joking but I found this really disturbing as a kid. Her family discover her trapped there in the canvas and are forced to watch her grow old in the painting until one day she dies...dark dark dark.

On a less cerebral level, and at the other end of the scare spectrum The Witches doesn't disappoint. Check out this scene were the head which peels back her skint to reveal her true form, just make sure you're not eating a corned beef sandwich at the time!


The Goonies

We're on the finishing straight now, hang in there, you got this...

You remember the Goonies right? Indiana Jones with kids, some nice old fashioned wholesome adventure with a gang of lovable misfits chasing after pirate gold. Nothing really scary happened in the Goonies did it, just some dusty skulls and stuff right?

Well there was that bit where Chunk got locked in a freezer with a corpse...

Or when Ma Fratelli produced a flick-knife and threatened to chop Clarke "Mouth" Devereaux's tongue off...


There is even a scene where the Fratellis interrogate Chunk by liquidizing tomatoes to a pulp in a blender and threaten to do the same with his chubby little hands. Red card.


Return to Oz

I wouldn't say we've saved the best until last, but Return to OZ really rolled its sleeves up and tried it's best to disturb a young generation of movie-goers.

To start off with there are the Wheelers, a gang of marauding cackling weirdos with wheels for both hands and feet. Maybe it was this mix of man and machine that feels natural or possibly the fact that they have two faces, which is also feels unnatural. They wear metal nightmarish face masks on the top of their head so as they're racing around you see the static mask, then when they lift their heads their true face will be revealed (which is not much better to be honest). As well as this double hit of wheels and double-faces they are just plain creepy,  riding around the ruins of the emerald city bothering kids. Not cool.

OK so those guys are pretty bad but the next bits of the film is one of my favorite scary sequences from the era. How on earth they managed to get this into a kids film I'll never know.

Mombi, a Witch Queen, with no head of her own, keeps a collection of severed heads in a gallery in her castle. Each day she chooses a head to wear like she was picking out a shirt.  These heads are not dead, they're alive. A collection of living severed heads put on display in a ornate gallery to be selected at will based on a whim. ..Just wow. The fact that Mombi doesn't seem to think that anyone should be taking exception with this type of behavior is telling to say the least.  

The scene that really drive it home is where Dorthy is creeping into the head collection to steal something and all the severed heads wake up and start to scream. Then, as if that wasn't enough, the headless body of the queen get's out of bed and starts to shamble blindly towards her. For the brave, you can see the clip below:


How about you?

That's it, hope you enjoyed that slightly disturbing trip down memory lane. How about you? Were there any scenes in kid's films that used to scare the crap out of you? Hit us up on Twitter/Facebook with some comments if you think we've missed a good one!

Until next time,

Alex & Tom


Alex Kanaris-Sotiriou