Being an 1980s kid sure had its perks. I mean, we had it good. The heyday of consoles, some of the best geek movie franchises in history, and of course, some of the most amazing hand-drawn animation to ever hit the screen.
But that’s not to say everything was good. In fact, if you were a Disney Channel aficionado like I was, or happened to have parents who couldn’t tell a good cartoon from a bad one (or anime from Looney Toons) you may have stumbled across some of these cartoons that may well have scarred me for life. I was a very imaginative kid, and while some of these films certainly influenced me as a writer, they also made room for some pretty enduring nightmares.
5) The Hobbit (Rankin-Bass)
Sure, now we laugh at this movie. In contrast to Peter Jackson’s films it somewhat pales in comparison in its rendering of Middle Earth. But the Rankin-Bass version, at the time I saw it in the mid-80s, was like a long, drug-induced fever dream. Not that I knew about drugs, but I swear I could feel it. It was in Gollum’s eyes, and the gaping throats of those horrific Orcs. I recall many nights laying awake in bed, unable to shake the visions (and the songs) from my mind. While technically a late 70s movie, I think the aftershocks of this film were felt well on into the 80s. Especially for those of us who got to relive the story over and over again with LPs and storybooks!
So I’m going to say right off that there’s not much about this film I recall. But I do remember this: the main character went on a journey, and he needed to have a “kabump” appear on his butt. Seriously, it was a rite of passage. Oh, he tried to fake it for a while when all his friends got their kabumps, with a piece of fruit. But eventually everything got figured out… except my sanity. I spent years wondering if this film was a hallucination or just a half-remembered dream. Turns out it actually existed, and somehow that makes everything worse.
Don’t get me wrong, I love this film. I love Peter S. Beagle. But as a child, man. There was no terror like the terror of The Last Unicorn: talking skeletons, well-endowed trees, horrifying birds, and of course that indomitable red bull. The weird thing about this film was that, in spite of my absolute fear of it I never could stop watching. I mean, it has unicorns. And pretty princesses. Even if they did haunt my dreams for years to come. (Although, I think this is where I can trace my propensity for crushing on nerdy wizard types; Schmendrick is so dreamy. Or something.)
2) The Sea Prince and the Fire Child – This 1981 anime is real. I know this now. My cousins know this. For some reason it was the film my parents rented every time they came over to the house. There’s something about old gods, fire and water, star crossed lovers, eclipses, and a little horned merman named Bibble who frakking dies. (Spoiler?) Bibble’s death was a black mark on my childhood, shaking me to my very foundations. It really is a beautiful film, however—just at the time, my raw, emotional response to it was off the charts.
1) Unico. Okay, this may be a little obscure. But there is nothing as terrifying as Unico. Nor will there ever be. Now we have Wikipedia to chronicle our 80s traumas, but when I was in college I remember mentioning Unico to a friend in passing, who stopped me and gasped. “Oh my God!” he nearly shouted. “Someone else in the world has seen Unico! I thought it was just me… oh my God.” Unico was adapted from a manga, I’ve since learned, and the first film (yes there are more than one) was released in 1979. There’s all kinds of nightmarish stuff in those films, though, including a deranged puppet, vengeful gods, and of course bricks made out of real people. Not to mention that Unico himself looked like a creepy little unicorn crossed with a cat with a human child’s face.
So, that’s my top five. Any of you experience films that left an indelible mark on your soul for decades? Share the trauma in the comments!