Punky Brewster: The Perils of Punky:
This was a Halloween special for the live action Punky Brewster show. The live action differed from the animated series, but I still watched both growing up. However as a kid, the live action one was a little more intimidating, being realistic and not just a cartoon with a magical sidekick who could fix problems with magic. The very premise, that she was abandoned by her mother with her pet dog to be adopted by an old widower is pretty gritty stuff on it's own. The theme that plays on the fear of abandonment is nothing new as a plot device to kids, hell, I had started to wonder if Disney could even MAKE a film without playing that card. But that's just the basis for the whole series. With the two part episode of 'The Perils Of Punky', the core group of main characters and their families go on a camping trip, but when Brandon, her loyal canine companion, goes off into a cave, the kids head down to find the dog. With this two parter, the first ended on such a scary note that I had to watch the second half, whether I wanted to or not. It wasn't that I wanted to see what further horrors awaited her, it was because I needed some kind of closure, dammit. The second half ended with Punky and her Spirit Guide vanquishing the evil spirit, but not before she was made to go through hell watching her friends die and turn into skeletons that mocked her and terrifying faces protruding from the walls. I recently rewatched these on YouTube and as soon as my eyeballs sent the message to my brain what I was about to see, my brain regressed right back into that, 'nope, nope. nope, nope nope,' that it did when I was a kid. Well played, Punky, you effectively made me a cat person from that and ensured I'd not go camping until I was performing at festivals as an adult where if I did see something along those lines, it could be attributed to shitty LSD I'd accidentally consumed thinking it was just water. Next.
The Facts Of Life, Episode 169:
Not to be confused with the Halloween episode, which I'm sure scared some of you. But this strange episode of the usually benign sitcom made me fear fuzzy dice as a kid. So much so, I can remember my grandmother taking the four year old me out of the novelty shop chain called San Francisco's (it was the Spencer's of it's day) because there was a large section of fuzzy dice on display, and I refused to go into the store any further. Or maybe she saw the adult novelties and didn't want to explain to me what a pet cock was and why I couldn't have one. Either way, I digress. This particularly peculiar episode of TFOL saw the girls return from seeing a scary movie and then they begin getting killed off one by one. While the body hanging in the closet and Mrs.Garrett getting poisoned was pretty bad, Blair with her 'fright hair' etched itself so badly into my grey matter, it was the figure for a subject I painted in high school. Eventually all is revealed as a dream, but not before I didn't trust mousse, fuzzy dice and hot cocoa for a long time afterwards. Seeing fuzzy dice falling down a staircase to this day will likely still set me off, and if you need a visual of that reaction you can search 'cats scared of zucchinis' on YouTube, after you watch this episode. I think it'll make my point very effective. As a bonus to this episode, this had young George Clooney in it, whom had other horror roots in this era with the feature film, 'Return To Horror High'.
My Little Pony:
With other shows mentioned here, they are the scary exception to the rule. In this case, be aware that this is not the MLP - friendship is magic - that you know about today. When *I* was a kid, our ponies were pretty damn metal. Not the ponies themselves, who were more or less a Hasbro-fuelled half hour advertisement for toys. Keep in mind that this was the 80s and pretty much everything directed at kids was intended to empty the pockets of our parents, but the cartoons that sprung up around them. From evil horned centaurs, to witches who wanted to make the ponies their slaves or change them into glass to better admire their own reflection, this shit was INTENSE. Please keep in mind, this was between the ages of three and six years old for me, which is likely why I am attracted to people with brightly colored hair and why I enjoy doom metal. But while I could write entire full essays on the crazy scary shit that was the 80's My Little Pony, let me give you an example that is both hilarious and terrifying at the same time as an adult. Case in point the male pony Knight Shade. He is a pop star who's music and moves entrances the young female ponies and others as he tours. However, he had a deal with the devil named Arabus, who's goal is to steal everyone's shadows to give him weird strength, and his deal is enforced through Knight Shade's shady manager Zebu who embodies all of the sleazy aspects of every shifty event promoter I've ever met. Including the victim list is - wait for it - Knight Shade's own mother. Knight Shade eventually helps the ponies and their friends defeat Arabus, shrinking him down to nothing with all the shadows returning to their owners. This was typical of early My Little Pony which is why when I watched contemporary pony cartoons I applauded the good message, but kind of missed the hardcore scary bad guy factor. Perhaps the scariest thing was how Knight Shade looked and sounded like Prince and nobody noticed. I'm still hoping to see someone do a KS CosPlay at an event, because that is major nerd points right there.
Transformers - The Zombie Optimus Prime:
Let it be said that by this point in my lifetime, Optimus Prime - leader of the Autobots - has died and come back to life so many times, I'm shocked there isn't an organized religion yet that is hailing him as a Prophet. Yet, throughout the time that the whole 'robots in disguise' cartoons, comics and films have existed for, it was one particular episode that cracked the ripe little egg of my then ripe horror brain. In 'Dark Awakenings' after the Transformers movie (the animated OG film that featured Weird Al's 'Dare To Be Stupid' on the soundtrack) Optimus Prime id brought back as an evil zombie. A number of Autobots are on the lam and take refuge in the - wait for it- Autobot Mausoleum that houses their fallen friends. It's not a junkyard, it's a floating ship in space full of dead Transformers. Optimus Prime comes back to life miraculously and then starts attacking them after a fashion. The whole thing is a ruse with the evil Quintessons who had stolen Optimus Prime's corpse in order to reanimate it for the purposes of destroying the Autobots. Aside from how robots can die and come back, the existence alone of a Autobot Mausoleum floating around in space was existential enough to keep me up for long nights as a kid pondering life and death and if I had to worry about robot zombies in addition to conventional zombies... (seriously Michael Bay now THIS is a film plot, and not an extended car commercial - bring on the robot zombies!)
Which brings me to...
Hulk Hogan's Rock And Wrestling Episode: Rock And Zombies:
If you grew up in the 80's in North America, WWF (as it was then known) had a host of crazy characters that were less about physical prowess and more about perpetuating weird ethnic stereotypes. But it had a lot of commercial success which in it's many incarnations it still enjoys today. These ranged from cereals to toys and like everything else, cartoons. Hulk Hogan's Rock And Wrestling was one of those shows that I didn't find terribly engaging, but there was one episode that stays with me. I actually had to Google it, so now my search history includes, 'hulk hogan zombies rollercoaster' because that was the clearest thing I could remember was a bunch of wrestlers being chased by weird zombies. The premise of this episode is that the two factions are invited to this amusement park, and the bad guy attempt to discredit the good guys by sabotaging their rides. However, when the house of horrors turns out to have actual zombies in it, who are in a snit due to a amusement park being built over their resting place. Personally, as a zombie, I'd be stoked, but the piece de resistance comes when the park owner agrees to honor their final resting place as the 'Rock And Rest In Peace Memorial Park'. Revisiting this, particularly watching it with my best friend Mary Jane, it is hilarious, but as a kid I recall always going past the PNE and Playland in Vancouver and was wondering if it had been built over the final resting place of any zombies. Given the European settlers to the area, I'm not totally ruling this out, but the only zombies I've ever seen shambling along Hastings street have largely been limited to those with substance abuse problems. I guess the scariest thing about that episode and show now is probably just the rampant racism among the 'bad guy' stereotypes.
80's Television Moments That Scared Me
by: Tristan Risk "Little Miss Risk"
As a Millennial, there is distinct advantage that we have as a generation when it comes to nostalgia. In years prior to our advent, if there was a memory of something that scared you as a child (or vice versa brought you joy) you were limited to whatever medium you could find about it and commiserating your memories with others. It is the key that built the foundation for the nostalgia craze, with adults rediscovering old comics, toys and things they enjoyed in childhood. But now we are lucky that we have a digital window into that past. I often have found myself pondering weird kids shows and movies that are just fleeting memories from my formative years, and wondering if I really remember it or if it was a more It's a grand collective consciousness. Thank goodness for both YouTube and Google that helped to remind me that the things that scared me as a kid were actually not just hair-raising for me, but for a number of other folks.
I'm not alone in this. Somewhere, where we made fun of ourselves because for a while with grunge-to-hipsters everyone looked like your friend's dad from the 70's to becoming actual dads themselves that just look like that now, the irony isn't lost on us... Trust me, the lumberjack beard/70s glasses/flannel and denim aesthetic is actually eerie, especially now they have infants and young children of their own. Since a large number of you share the same place where we are snugly nestled in between the Boomers who refuse to die and people to young to know what the hell we are talking about, I'd like to share with you all some things that made us into the fine members of society that we are today, and consequently, upon revisiting them can confirm that, indeed, that shit was dark.
*I'd like to note that this isn't an exhaustive list, and just a few examples from my own experiences, and just television at that. The 80's as a whole kind of more or less messed us all up.