Silly Parents, These Movies Aren't for Kids
By Brenna Ehrlich Posted Nov 30th 2009 01:00PM
everyone was buzzing about how Warner Brothers balked at the dark touches the 'Being John Malkovich' director added to the narrative: truly terrifying tantrums thrown by Max, the main character, shouting matches between the imposing Wild Things and a cacophonous soundtrack by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O. It's as if no one has ever made a challenging children's movie before. Well, PopEater did some digging and came up with a list of 10 flicks to match, if not rival, 'Where the Wild Things Are' in cinematic sophistication. Check out our rundown!
'The Wizard of Oz'
'The Wizard of Oz'
Although this 1939 candy-colored flick was based on a children's novel and is jam-packed with catchy songs, whimsical creatures and important lessons (there really is no place like home), 'The Wizard of Oz' is, in a word, terrifying. Between the house falling on the witch, the flying monkeys and the creepy (false) rumors about the Munchkin hanging himself during filming, 'Oz' kept many a child sleeping with the lights on for decades afterward.
'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory'
Based on a book by the Grand Master of Scaring Kids Witles, Roald Dahl, 'Willy Wonka' is basically a parable about being a good kid. Charlie -- the poor lad -- triumphs over a mewling cadre of sinners (children who embody qualities like greed, gluttony and sloth) and is rewarded for his Algerian ethics in the end when he inherits a chocolate factory. That would all be well and good if said sinners were not horrifically punished over the course of the movie, their downfall heralded by a group of singing creatures called Oompa-Loompas. Forget the Boogey Man, just tell your screaming brats that Willy Wonka is watching.
'The Nightmare Before Christmas'
Back when Tim Burton first released this stop-action animation cult classic, Disney didn't even want its name associated with the macabre flick, according to ign.com. Instead, the studio released the film under its Touchstone Pictures banner. Apparently, Disney thought 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' was too scary for tots--and they thought right. Packed with singing skeletons, dead pets and a group of monsterous children who torture Santa Claus, the movie tells the tale of Jack Skellington, king of Halloweentown, who aims to get into the Christmas spirit. More suited for midnight showings at the local indie cinema than pre-naptime fare, 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' became a hipster fave over the last decade or so, even coming to be released in 3D.
This star-studded film was also based (at least loosely) on a Maurice Sendak book, the lesser-known 'Outside Over There,' which tells the story of Ida, whose baby sister is spirited away by goblins. Featuring Jennifer Connolly as 15-year-old Sarah, David Bowie (hell, yeah!) as the Goblin King and a host of puppets created by director Jim Henson and executive producer George Lucas, 'The Labyrinth' is a dark coming-of-age story that transports a young girl into a world filled with evil goblins and sexual confusion. From the Goblin King's efforts to seduce Sarah to the sheer tightness of Bowie's trousers, there's a lot of perplexing adult feelings pulsing through this film. Also, the kick-ass soundtrack (entirely sung by Bowie) is more appropriate for rocking out at a loft party than for singing a fussy kid to sleep.
'The Princess Bride'
Based on thoroughly confusing book by William Goldman--the tome purports to be an abridged version of a fictional book by a nonexistent dude named S. Morgenstern--'The Princess Bride' is at once a classic love story and a Mel Brooks-esque comedy. The film opens with a sick child sullenly tolerating his grandfather, who attempts to amuse the boy by reading him a fairytale--the story of a poor farm boy and his lost love, Buttercup. Although the ensuing tale is most definitely the stuff of myth and legend--there's princesses, giants and castles galore--it actually cleverly satirizes your garden-variety "happily-ever-after" schtick.
'The Dark Crystal'
'The Dark Crystal' is one of those films that you saw as a child that you can't quite recall much about except that it gave you nightmares. Another Henson creation, the movie takes places on some distant planet where they're myriad beings jostling for prominence--prominence that depends, apparently, on whether or not a crystal of some kind is intact or not. Rather than try to explain the intricate chaste systems and unique obstacles inherent in this fictional world, we're going to suggest you watch this clip. Those vulture things are just freaking creepy.
'The Neverending Story'
Based on a longer, creepier book by the same title (are you sensing a trend, here?), 'The Neverending Story' was panned by the New York Times when it was released in 1984. Dubbed ''The Pre-Teen- Ager's Guide to Existentialism'' by the reviewer, the film admittedly beats the symbolism drum a little more loudly than most kids' movies: A boy named Bastian begins reading a book about a mythical land called Fantasia in which an evil force called 'The Nothing' threatens to destroy everything, including the Ivory Tower where 'The Childlike Empress' dwells. Obviously, the story is some parable about the loss of childhood, hope, imagination, etc, etc. Still, despite the caterwauling of the NYT, it's managed to take a respectable place in the canon of cinematic classics--those films that one watches even after the children's section at the DVD store is off-limits.
Another cinematic adaptation of a children's book, 'Jumanji' is full of horrors both realistic and surreal. First, Alan Parrish (played by Robin Williams) is sucked into a board game back in 1969, only to be released decades later into an unfamiliar world by a pair of orphans. Let's just let that sink in--the film stars orphans. The trio is then forced to continue playing the demonic game, which releases all manner of horrors: crushing vines, stampeding animals, and, to top it all off, a man-hunting dandy who wants to add Parrish to his collection of mounted and stuffed beasts. No wonder kids have summarily denounced Monopoly in favor of video games.
Robin Williams seems to have been typecast as the man who refuses to grow up (see the above flick as well as 'Jack' and horrorshows like 'Patch Adams'), and he played his most literal Peter Pan syndrome role to date when he starred in 1991's 'Hook.' Although Peter Pan is essentially a children's story (if you ignore all the pedophila rumors about J.M. Barrie), it was a dark story even in its earliest incarnations. There's man-eating crocs, evil pirates and wicked fairies, as well as Pan himself--a consummate rogue who taught generations of women to fall in love with the developmentally challenged bad boy.'Hook' takes the tale a step further, wandering from the kiddie pool into the deep end by exploring the life of the ultimate Lost Boy after he reaches adulthood. Although slightly saccharine with its lessons about embracing your inner youth and spending time with your children, 'Hook' manages to appeal to the the nightcap-drinkers as well as the nightcap-wearers. Also, Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook is just epic.
'Flight of the Navigator'
To explicate why this movie is terrifying to children, let's just take a look at the plot as described by Wikipedia: '[Twelve-year-old] David is abducted by an alien space craft in 1978. Due to time dilation, David is gone for only a few hours, but when he is returned to Earth, it is 8 years later in 1986. Everyone else on Earth has aged eight years, but David is still physically twelve years old.' Damn. Getting abducted by aliens is bad enough, but to be stuck in a 12-year-old's body when everyone else is almost legal? That sucks.
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