Horror Film Countdown Day 25 – Movies Anxious Parents Should Avoid
October 25, 2016
Welcome to our countdown to the most anxiety-inducing horror films for parents! Today is day twenty FIVE! Only SIX days left till Halloween! Are you excited yet???
Each day, we are covering the films I both love and hate because they’re awesome and they give me panic attacks now that I’m a mom.
Today’s movie brings back a film most of us saw when we were young enough to identify with the daughter. Now, watching it and identifying with the mother, I look at “white noise” on the TV in a whole new way…
Disclaimer: Trigger warnings are a given when you talk about horror, but I’m going to say it anyway. Many subjects covered by horror films are disturbing to parents in ways we can’t possibly understand and each is unique to the parent and his/her experiences. Tread carefully and know your limits. If this begins to be too much, there’s no shame in closing the window. Also, this post contains some spoilers throughout.
Poltergeist is one of those movies I have seen so many times throughout my life, it just can’t scare me anymore. Of course, that was before I had a family of my own. When it was just me to worry about, I could watch this film without relating to the parents and just appreciating a good, old fashioned ghost story. Now it’s completely different because I do have a family, children, a dog and a home. I first saw this film when I was little more than Carol Ann’s age and I related to her, most of all. I remember thinking the medium was nice but scary and I’d be afraid of her if I ever saw her. I remember I felt bad for the ghosts because they just wanted to be alive again and how sad for them…
Now, I’m a mother and I see things through a mother’s eyes. I see a sweet baby, barely older than a toddler being manipulated by a monster. I see a child the same age as my son, who would be just as taken in by something seemingly so magical as “TV people” who spoke to him through a television set. I’m certain he would think that was the coolest thing ever and if it appeared to him as a child, all he would think of, is: “A kid to play with!!” It would never occur to him to fear them. I’m nearly certain of it… because I would have done the same thing.
Placing myself into the position of the mother in this movie captures a different version of the story than what I’d seen before. She has a husband who works incredibly hard to be successful and provide for his family. He works for a booming real estate company and is blessed to be able to live in the same location he works, so he’s nearby. They have a gorgeous home in an upscale development project and are comfortable. When the activity begins, she doesn’t really fear it, she thinks it’s a game and tests it a little to see what can happen if she pushes it a bit.
She doesn’t think there is any harm in a little innocent fun, but when that harmless fun quickly escalates and the spirits steal her daughter, she realizes how dangerous her games have been. She calls a paranormal team and they begin investigations.
It’s easy to get lost in the activity and the friendly banter between everyone in the house, the spooky scenes of ghosts, lights, evil clowns, steak creeping across a countertop like an inchworm and most memorably; the “face peeling scene”:
…but above all this, the most horrifying aspect is that there is still a five year old baby lost somewhere in that house and you feel it every time the mother is on the screen. There is a constant longing, looking, sense of desperation in her voice and mannerisms. You are never NOT aware of the reality that this mother is frantic with helplessness and will do anything to get her baby back, even if that means she has to walk directly into the dangerous sprint world herself to get her daughter back.
Of course, like all good ghost stories, just when you think it’s over, it isn’t. Carol Ann is back and they are moving that night… you think the story is wrapping up and all will be okay, but no such luck. Since the monsters couldn’t take the baby, they’re going to do their best to scare the crap out of everyone else. They go after the son who is terrorized by his freakishly large and awful court-jester style clown doll. He is choked by it and dragged under the bed.
Then, they attack the mother. As she is waiting for her husband to return home so they can pack up and leave that house forever, she is relaxing and enjoying a quiet evening alone. That quickly changes of course, when the demon ghost attacks her, levitates her, tosses her across the room and then manifests as some kind of creepy, dog, monster, demon skeleton thing and chases her down stairs.
Then, the eldest, teenage daughter who has been a pretty minor character until now, appears and then falls into an unfinished swimming pool that quickly fills with the dead. Not ghosts, literal, actual dead people. Coffins rise out of the mud in a torrential rainstorm to reveal all manor of corpses in all states of decomposition. They float around her, mouth’s gaping, grim, skeleton arms grasping at her, seemingly trying to drag her down into the mud with them.
The scene above is literally one of the most terrifying things in any film for me. I saw this film when I was about 6 or 7 and had nightmares for YEARS. To this day, I cannot stand the idea of walking through a mud puddle where I cannot see the bottom or know for sure it’s not too deep. I also do everything in my power to avoid places where there are open construction sites, places where unfinished pools and deep holes might be present. Honestly, it’s not really that I fear this exact thing happening, but the memory of seeing this at such a young age completely traumatized me and now I associate anything like this with these images.
So, they make it out of the house alive and they leave forever. Exhausted and worn, they arrive in a motel, making sure to leave the television outside just in case.
Like I said, as movies go, this one doesn’t really scare me much because I’ve seen it so often since I was very young, but the thing about this movie that gets to me is the lasting impression it made upon my subconscious when I was young enough to be deeply impacted by it’s imagery and now that I’m a mother, I am seeing that imagery in a whole new and terrifying light.
When my children talk to no one, when they say things like, “great grandma says she doesn’t like it when you do this” or, “(insert random person name I’ve never heard of here) told me to do that thing I know I’m not supposed to do! It’s not my fault!” When I realize that I really do avoid construction sites in the rain and I get a deep anxiety any time I feel something I am doing might accidentally upset the recently diseased… I understand that it is because of this movie and the lessons it teaches.
Be respectful of the dead. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Don’t mess around and think you can handle it before you call someone who knows what they are doing. Watching 5 seasons of Ghost Hunters International does not prepare you for this in real life. And above all… DON’T IGNORE YOUR CHILDREN WHEN THEY TELL YOU SOMETHING IS GOING ON.
Oh, and one last thing, white noise is never okay. If there is “snow” on the tv or a radio for any reason and it can’t be fixed within a few seconds, I will throw that shit in a bathtub full of water or fill the room with kerosene and light it on fire – whichever is easier at that moment. Okay, so that’s probably not true, but you can bet I’ll be doing that in my mind every single time.