With Halloween just around the corner, we at Squeezed Media thought it was as good a time as any to compile a list of the scariest films, shorts, or episodes we could think of. To keep the post at least somewhat related to what Squeezed Media is all about, each submission had to be animated.
And, as it soon became apparent, horror and animation often come hand in hand.
So, without further ado, I present to you seven of the most horrifying animated films the office could think of…
Muzné hry (1988)
Muzné hry (aka. Virile Games) is an animation short created by Jan Svankmajer, the Czech provocateur and master of animation. It was nominated for the Palme d’Or for ‘Best Short Film’ prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1989, so you know we’ve taken this list seriously.
It starts with live action footage of a man drinking whilst he watches football on TV. But wait, I hear you cry. That’s not animation. That’s not scary. Don’t worry, we’re only getting started.
After some stop-motion, cut-out animation of the football game, things take quite a turn. It all starts getting a bit weird as soon as Claymation gets involved. For starters, you see a man’s head get squashed between two sauce pan lids.
Svankmajer goes on to strike you right in the uncanny valley by dispatching clay figures in a variety of ways. You’ll cringe. You’ll cry. You won’t look away. Call me a coward, but there’s something terrifying about seeing a toy train drive through a man’s face.
One of the comments on the video says (in typical Youtube style), ‘some body can tell me what’s that?? I can’t understand what is happen.’
Me neither, pal, me neither.
From the research I’ve put into this article, I’ve learnt that no ‘scariest animation’ list is complete without Coraline. With good reason, too.
In adapting Neil Gaiman’s novel of the same name, director Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas!) managed to inject even more freakiness into the story through a masterful use of stop-motion animation and a reworking of Dave Mckean’s fantastic illustrations.
The plot follows Coraline, a bored young girl, who explores her new home only to stumble across a parallel world. Here, everything seems better: her toys are alive, her parents are attentive, and there’s a talking cat. The caveat? The ‘Other Mother’ wishes to replace Coraline’s eyes with black buttons and claim her soul. It’s truly disconcerting to see how the Other world, once whimsical and appealing, begins to disintegrate.
Watership Down (1978)
Hey kids! Do you like cartoons? Yes! Do you like bunnies? Yes! Do you like cartoon bunnies? Yesss!!! Do you like cartoon bunnies violently murdering each other? Ye— what!?
Ah yes, Watership Down. Don’t let the fact that it’s about animated rabbits scurrying around the glorious English countryside fool you. If the graphic violence tells us anything, it’s that Watership Down isn’t a movie for kids. Based on the novel by Richard Adams, the plot follows a small group of rabbits who, when learning that their warren is doomed, choose to relocate to save their own lives.
As with real life, the rabbits encounter predator after predator. The dogs are nightmarish, as are the humans — and their cars. One rabbit gets pinned down by a cat, and another gets picked off by a hawk. Even other rabbits are a threat.
It’s not a mindless bloodbath, however. Interesting ethical debates and a moving soundtrack keep the film on the right side of upsetting.
The Last Unicorn (1982)
Nothing scary about unicorns, right? Wrong. This strange musical number features the vocal talents of big-hitters such as Mia Farrow, Christopher Lee, and Jeff Bridges. Viewers join a brave young unicorn and a kind, beaky magician named Schmendrick as they journey to defeat the evil King Haggard and save unicorns from extinction.
Admittedly, it’s sounds like a relatively traditional eighties fantasy movie, think The Princess Bride (1987), or The NeverEnding Story (1984) to name but a few. But do either of those films feature a tree that transforms into a smothering pair of breasts or a witch being torn apart by a harpy? Didn’t think so.
And, behind these moments of horror is a film with real heart. Despite its age, the intellectual ideas raised by The Last Unicorn still have a place in modern day discussions of gender and fame. The visuals are a treat too; it might not be surprising to learn that a handful of people who worked on it went on to create Studio Ghibli.
‘Nightmare Cafeteria’ from the “Treehouse Of Horror V” (The Simpsons) (1994)
As a child, The Treehouse of Horror episodes of The Simpsons thrilled me more than they scared me. It’s now that I’m older that I realise just how dark some of them are.
Case in point, ‘Nightmare Cafeteria’, an adaptation of the 1973 classic, Soylent Green. In this episode, economic necessity drives Principal Skinner to turn the glut of detention students into ‘Grade F’ meat for the school cafeteria. Does anyone else remember the bit when you actually see the children get put into a giant blender? Or the bit where the unknowing survivors feast on their classmates?
And, just when you think it couldn’t get any darker, there’s that bit at the end where the Simpsons family breath in a gas that turns them inside out. Muscles and guts on show, they proceed to dance in a chorus line as the opening credits roll. Shudder.
There Will Come Soft Rains (1987)
Here’s one for the fans of nihilistic Russian film. I’ve tried to cover a variety of bases. пожалуйста.
This is another literary adaption, based on Ray Bradbury’s short story that goes by the same title. If you’ve ever wondered what chaos might ensue if your Roomba went nuts, then this is the short film for you.
The plot follows a snake-like robot as it blindly goes about its duties attending to a household that have been incinerated by the thermal flash of a nuclear weapon.
Woo! This will get your Halloween Party started with a bang! Now pass the punch and stop crying!
I’m being flippant, of course. It’s a very serious animation, and actually pretty distressing when taking into consideration the political landscape Bradbury was writing in. The industrial soundscape and robotic Russian voice doesn’t help either.
The Tale of Samuel Whiskers or The Roly-Poly Pudding (1993)
When you think of Halloween, Beatrix Potter isn’t necessarily the first person you think of. Her illustrations of creatures of the British countryside have melted the hearts of children and adults all over the world.
In 1993, an animated film adaptation named The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends was telecast on the BBC anthology series. It was a critical hit, and successfully bought to life stories such as the one where Jemima Puddle-Duck outfoxes a fox, or, in the case of this blog post, the one where Tom Kitten is rolled up in dough by two satanic rats who want to turn him into a roly-poly pudding.
So, there we have it. The top seven scariest animations — and works of art in their own right.
From us here at Squeezed Media: Happy Halloween!