10 Things from Film and Television that Terrified Me as a Kid 

There have been times in each of our lives when we saw something in a film or TV show that scared the ever-living hell of out us. Maybe we saw a horror movie we thought we could handle, or perhaps there were certain moments that weren’t meant to be scary that still managed to shake us to the core. Whatever the case, we’ve all had these types of experiences. And this week, I thought it would be fun to share a couple of mine.

These aren’t ranked in any particular order. It’s just a collection of things that freaked me out when I was younger. I hope you enjoy!



  • Pennywise the Dancing Clown- IT
    • The IT miniseries was my introduction to Stephen King, and I didn’t see it by choice. I was about five or six years old. My mom and I were living in a condo at the time, and my dad was visiting that day. He’d rented the VHS and was watching it in the living room downstairs while I was playing in my room upstairs. Pennywise terrified me so much that anytime I wanted to go downstairs, I had to announce that I was coming, that way my dad had enough time to pause the movie at a point where the clown wasn’t on screen. From the moment I saw him, I could sense something was off. His dark beady eyes, his unnatural hairline, his voice, the way he moved, the way he bared his teeth like a rabid animal. Everything about him gave me the creeps. The fact that he had an appetite for children only made things worse. He looked human enough, but then a second later he was anything but. I couldn’t wrap my head around who or what Pennywise actually was, and I think that’s why the character was so terrifying to me.


  • King Ramses- Courage the Cowardly Dog
    • Only true 90s kids will understand this one. Courage the Cowardly Dog was like the Twilight Zone for kids. It was weird, it was funny, and a lot of the time, it was creepy. And by far one of the scariest aspects of the show was the character of King Ramses, a ghost who orchestrates a series of plagues to wreak havoc on whoever has stolen his ancient slab. While the rest of the show has a hand-drawn style, Ramses himself is CGI. More specifically, early 2000s low-budget CGI. So already he looks like some unholy demon thing that doesn’t belong there. Whenever I stayed up late at night and looked out the window, I was scared that I’d see King Ramses standing out in the distance staring at me. The words “Return the slab” proceeded to haunt my dreams for years to come.



  • Jaws and the poster for Deep Blue Sea
    • So I’m going to cheat a little bit for this one, seeing as how both of these fueled my fear of the open ocean. In the case of Jaws, two scenes in particular shook me to the core. The first was the opening scene when the girl gets dragged across the water screaming before being pulled under. The other is Alex Kintner’s death. The image of that kid trashing around in a fountain of his own blood while being eaten alive is burned into my memory. That scene showed me something I never wanted to know when I was little- kids could die horrible deaths. As for Deep Blue Sea, the poster made it hard for me to go into a video store. I remember giant cardboard cutouts of it being propped up at the entrance. I’d have to hide behind my mom every time we walked in. The movie itself turned out to be lame, but it doesn’t erase the effect the poster for it had on me.



  • The 2004 Ghost Adventures Documentary
    • I’m generally agnostic when it comes to the paranormal, but if it weren’t for shows like Ghost Adventures, I wouldn’t have ever considered the possibility that ghosts may or may not exist. At the time I saw this documentary, I was one-hundred percent convinced that everything in it actually happened. The low-budget quality and the tense, dreary atmosphere puts you in what feels like the darkest, most isolated place imaginable. This was my Blair Witch Project. And if you watch it as a found-footage style work of fiction, I guarantee it’ll make it hard for you to go to sleep at night, as it did to me.


  • Judge Doom- Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
    • So I even have to explain this one? This guy terrified a whole generation of kids, as well as adults. I haven’t met a single person who didn’t have nightmares about Judge Doom. The voice, the leaning toward cold-blooded murder, the eyes. Oh God, the eyes! This performance was one heart-stoppingly scary performance. It disturbed me so much because what looks funny on a cartoon doesn’t always look funny on an actual person. When someone gets flattened by a bulldozer, they aren’t supposed to become flimsy pancakes. Bodies aren’t supposed to inflate like balloons, or have animated limbs. But Judge Doom did, and look how he turned out. He’s a psychotic cartoon that fueled my nightmares.



  • “The Haunted Mask” Pt. 1 & 2- Goosebumps
    •  I read a lot of Goosebumps books in elementary school. And when I found out there was an actual TV show based on the series, I was hyped to see how R. L. Stine’s stories would be adapted for the small screen. And of all the episodes I saw, “The Haunted Mask” creeped me out the most. It’s about a girl who’s tired of being pranked at school, so she buys a mask from a shady store owner with the intent of scaring her classmates. But once she puts it on, the mask starts becoming a part of her and morphs her personality. The idea of something simple as a Halloween mask becoming part of your body freaked me out. And the sequence that really got me was when all of the masks come alive and float through the graveyard in pursuit of the lead girl. Being chased is scary enough, but being chased by a bunch of soulless faces? Terrifying.



  • Chucky- Child’s Play
    • Again, do I even need to explain? Some people argue that Chucky looks his scariest in the later films when he’s all stitched up. I whole-heartedly disagree. Chucky’s appearance in the first movie is beyond terrifying. The way his face contorts and changes to look more like a deranged old man is shockingly impressive and frightening. Child’s Play inspired me to never to play with my American Girl doll again, for fear it might come alive and decide to kill me in my sleep.



  • Tina’s Death and Nancy’s Dream- A Nightmare on Elm Street
    • While I just so happened to come across the IT miniseries, my first viewing of A Nightmare on Elm Street was one-hundred percent intentional. I remember lying on the living room couch, pretending to be fast asleep while my uncle, a horror nut, was watching it on TV. I peeked out from under the blanket, and the first thing I see is a young woman being dragged across her bedroom walls, screaming in agony, and being mutilated by an unseen force. Then to make things worse, she appears again in a dream. Her corpse is drenched in blood and wrapped in a plastic sheet, and the same unseen force lifts her legs and drags her past the hallway to God knows where. This image stuck with me for the longest time unfrotunately.


  • Jumanji
    • The phrase “Damn nature, you scary!” rings true for the 1995 Joe Johnston film. Wikipedia describes it as a fantasy adventure, but really it belongs in the horror genre. This movie is brimming with scary moments: giant spiders, a ruthless man-hunter, a stampede, enormous tentacle-like plants that emerge from the woods and gobble up an entire squad care, crocodiles lurking in a room flooded with water. This movie has it all. But the two scenes that really traumatized me are the ones with the lion and the man-eating plant. The slow reveal of the lion as it emerges from the darkness is one of the scariest things I ever saw during my childhood. Don’t believe me? Just watch!
  • The Grinch- How the Grinch Stole Christmas?
    • You wouldn’t think something Christmas related would scare me so much. But it did, and for a long time. Imagine you’re six years old. You’re sitting in the theater, ready to have good time with whatever movie you’re there to see. Suddenly, this teaser starts playing. You get quick snippets of some big green fuzzy monster. They go by so fast that you’re not sure what you’re seeing. But you know that whatever this thing is, he’s not good. He’s breaking into people’s houses and crawling around in an inhuman fashion. He’s stealing their Christmas trees, ripping sugar plums from children’s dream bubbles, stealing their presents and vacuuming up their beloved cats. All the while he’s laughing maniacally. Then at the end of the trailer (precisely at 0:51) you come face-to-face with the Grinch, his cruel yellow eyes staring into your soul before lunging at the camera with an aggressive growl. Then it’s over. Wouldn’t you be terrified? I sure as hell was. Any time that trailer played in the theater, I’d duck behind the seat in front of me. Carrey’s expressions and his energetic physical performance left me with nightmares. It got to the point where I was afraid that I’d wake up in the middle of the night and find the Grinch lurking around my house! Funny enough, I eventually warmed up to the film and even owned the DVD for a while. Though no matter the passage of time, I have to admit that Jim Carrey as the Grinch still gives me a bit of the creeps.


Thanks for Reading!

Happy Nightmares!


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