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JULY 2008 - THREE MOVIES YOU CAN WATCH WHEN YOU'RE BABYSITTING (WITH INTENT TO TRAUMATIZE)

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THREE MOVIES YOU CAN WATCH WHEN YOU'RE BABYSITTING (WITH INTENT TO TRAUMATIZE)

It's the summer! Put on your bathing suits and get yourself all tanned up, because here comes the return of Icons of Fright's Trilogy Pics. If there's one thing I can remember about summer is that when you're a kid and there's no school that often means plenty of time for Mom and Dad to get out of the house and relax, and that meant sleepovers at a friends or at a relatives house.

Being 30 years old I don't find myself discharged on Aunt Denise or grandma's porch anymore while Mom and Dad go off to catch “Porky's Revenge” at the Westbury Drive-In, but sometimes I do find myself with of some of the younger members of the family in my charge. Yes, now I get to play the part of the older sicko relative that none of the kids want to visit because he smells bad, likes weird music, and has a too many scary things on his wall, like autographed photos of Joyce DeWitt. Ah, the childless existence of the elite horror journalist. But I digress...

If you should find yourself in the care of small children you may find yourself saying, “Oh damn it, now I have to hide all of my DVDs because what should happen if they accidentally pop in 'Cannibal Holocaust'? Aunt Bedelia would never forgive me.”. I say no! Certainly there are movies that in these sensitive times you would never show a 6 year old, but I say what's childhood without a healthy dose of cinematic trauma? And you likely own at least 3 movies you could, say, tell old Aunt Bedelia, as her children run screaming back towards her bosom the next day, “I don't know what happened, they were all rated PG!” Might I suggest the following movies you, the horror fan, can enjoy while scaring the crap your little nieces and nephews? (I am not a nice person.)

GRIZZLY: (1976)

I only caught this for the first time a few months back, but I was really surprised to find it was rated PG. It's one of the first films to come out in the wake of “JAWS” that was directly inspired by Spielberg's snappy little fish movie. Released only 11 months later in 1976 and directed by the late William Girdler, who also helmed 2 “Exorcist” rip-offs, “Abby” and “The Manitou”. Hey, Spielberg had to deal with a vicious and unruly 25 foot mechanical shark, but William Girdler got himself one of them actual real-life bears.

Ok, so he photographed the real life bear from behind an electrified fence and the “claw” close ups are an obvious puppet but if you're a kid you can suspend your disbelief, can't you? As a “Jaws” rip-off it's not too bad either, and it rarely betrays its small budget even with the ridiculous exploding bear at the end. It's got 70's genre staple Christopher George doing the bit as the ranger who knows there's a killer bear in those woods, while Richard Jaeckle does his best as the bear expert who's out to help stop it. Seriously, it's “Jaws” with a bear, plain and simple, but where Grizzly goes from thematic rip-off to traumatic rip-offs is one scene involving a kid and his leg. (Hooray!)

Now, if I wanted to traumatize a child with a nature run amok film I had a few choices from the 70s. I could have just gone with “Jaws”, there's the kid on the raft, and later in the movie the two kids nearly eaten by the shark. I could have gone with “Piranha”, where the ferocious fish feast on day campers but...I don't know too many kids with rafts, and I don't know too many kids who go to day camp. However, I do know a lot of kids with backyards, so when that bear decides to come and visit a 6 year old kid in his backyard a teddy bear picnic is not what's on it's mind. This kid that old Grizz has a little chat with won't be kicking anything, anymore, if you know what I mean. Your charges won't feel safe in their own yard for weeks to come.



HOUSE II: THE SECOND STORY (1987)

1986's “House” probably isn't the kind of movie you'd get away with showing to a kid these days. It's a fairly decent haunted house number directed by Steve Miner, and it's a big nasty 80's “R”. And if that isn't enough you'd have to let the kids stare at William Katt's fro for 90 minutes. Traumatic we want to be, but cruel? No worries, less than year later the fairly tame PG-13 sequel was released.

So, if Aunt Bedelia happened to take the Kool-Aid stained ones to see “Indiana Jones And The Crap About Aliens” this summer you can pop this number in because, hey, it's all got more crystal skullduggery, guys in brown hats, Aztecs, alternate dimensions, and a...well, a dogapillar. Yes, some kind of puppy/caterpillar hybrid. Kids will love it, it's goofy, fun, and entertaining.

Until the last 15 minutes.

Then it gets ridiculous. Ridiculously traumatic, that is! Woo! Now, yes, the first 5 minutes feature a young kids parents being shot to death. However, by the time the young ones get their eyes on that dogapillar, they'll have forgotten all about that unpleasantness, besides Harry Potter pretty much starts out that way! Where “House II” gets down to business is near the end of the film in what feels like might be the last scene. The main characters, and an assortment of strange, but non-threatening weirdos collected throughout the movie, are having a nice dinner when...hey, what's that under the big serving dish? A turkey? A roast? Another dogapillar? Oh, no, no, no. How about a nasty 6 foot tall zombie cowboy with a skully face who wants to murder everyone. When I was watching this in the theater I nearly stained my everything. It comes out of nowhere and it comes on fast! The kids will never look at chaffing dishes the same way.



RETURN TO OZ (1985):

I know I said we didn't want to be cruel, but... Ok, here's the deal. If the kids you're looking after ask you to watch a movie and you happened to say, “Ooh, would you like to watch a movie about Dorothy and the yellow brick road, and Oz and Auntie Em, and talking chickens?” They'll likely throw their little hands in the air, sing your praises, and speak in tongues. Then, you're going to put “Return to OZ” in the DVD player, and they're poor little faces are going to get collectively more and more grim. Over the course of 109 minutes these kids will have aged 40 years and their hair will have gone stark white by the time this movie is done with them. It's a real winner.

Let's get down to it: The beginning of the movie finds 6 year old Dorothy, back in Kansas, but sent to an insane asylum for children where a doctor wants to perform electro-shock therapy on her. When she finds herself again magically whisked away to Oz, she doesn't find herself in Munkinland. She finds herself in a cage in a sand-filled desert with her (now talking) chicken Bellina. It's not pleasant, and even less pleasant is that the sand is deadly, and anyone that touches it instantly dies and skeletonizes. That's the kind of stuff that really scares kids, well, at least it always scared me. So, you may have gathered this isn't the Oz these kids remember, and it gets worse...

When Dorothy finally reaches the Emerald City again (by following the broken, destroyed remains of the yellow brick road) she finds all of friends from “Wizard of OZ” have been turned to marble. Ouch! And then she's perused by androgynous half-man/half-rollerskate creatures called “Wheelers” who say things to her like, “You have to come out sooner or later. And when you do, we'll tear you into little pieces and throw you in the deadly desert!”.

The deadly desert is the least of her worries, because eventually she stumbles upon the beautiful Princess Mombi. She seems friendly enough until Dorothy discovers the woman's got a room full of decapitated heads. Decapitated heads. Heads that she steals from young women to replace her own as the mood strikes her. Disney produced this movie and they've given Oz it's own glamour version of Leatherface. Oh, so guess what Princess Mombi wants to do with Dorothy? When Aunt Bedelia comes to pick up the kids the next day you'll have to give them all a xanax when she says, “Come on kids, there's no place like home!”



-Mike C.

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I find myself coming to your blog more and more often to the point where my visits are almost daily now!

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