Halloween Won’t Hurt You: Or, How My Daughter Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blob

It’s not that I advocate terrifying children, I hope you understand, but… well, let me start at the beginning.

When I was 8 years old, my dad used to wake me up late at night to join him in watching the classic Creature Features package on local TV. The deal was I had to finish my homework and go to bed early, and then at 11 he’d come wake me up to join him for late night popcorn and Dracula (or pizza and Frankenstein—he’d mix things up).

As I’ve mentioned here before, I was blessed with parents who made little effort to censor what I had access to, and who blithely took my pre-teen self to see things like Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Ridley Scott’s Alien, John Carpenter’s The Thing… I was enthralled—and also terrified. I had nightmares, and I loved them.

When I became a parent myself, I wanted to share with my kids the monster movies I’d grown up with. And so, one night in 2005, I showed my 5 year old daughter and 3 year old son a marathon of DVDs on Halloween that culminated with The Blob.


I thought of The Blob as a safe choice—the candy colors of the monster and the goofy performance by Steve McQueen kept it from being too scary, while the ability of the title creature to ooze under doors and invade any space seemed just the right kind of spooky.

By the time the movie was over, Ann was definitely unnerved, and didn’t want to go to bed. So we sat up watching making-of material, looking at behind the scenes photos, and talking about the people who made the movie—and how they made the movie. The next day at school, she wanted to play “Blob” with her friends—which resulted in one very perplexed elementary school, I have to say.


The point of my anecdote is that there are two ways to keep kids from having nightmares. One involves shielding them from exposure to scary things, which seems to be the more common approach. Or you can confront the scary things and decided they aren’t worth being afraid of—which is the more robust and lasting approach, in my view.

Let me share another anecdote from my family, but this one doesn’t involve movies. I was with my extended family at a baseball game, watching from a private box as the nighttime fireworks show got underway. There was a little boy there—it’s not worth trying to work out how he’s related to me, my life is too much like Modern Family to make that game worth playing. Let’s just call him “nephew” for convenience and get on with the story—and he was terrified of the fireworks.

I sat with him and held his hand and said that I also thought the fireworks were scary. So bright and loud, the way they exploded unexpectedly in the sky. But they are also a fun scary—a safe scary. They are big explosions in the sky that can’t hurt you. And look around—here are all your family, your parents and grandparents, and other little kids, and we’re all watching them together. It’s OK to be scared, because that feeling is exhilarating and that’s why we do it.

I don’t really remember what I said. I’m reconstructing it as best as I can after the fact, because my mother in law told me afterwards how much it meant to her. Until I’d said these things, she’d been trying to convince the boy that he wasn’t scared—as if telling him his feelings weren’t real would make them go away.

But that’s letting fear win. That’s saying that fear is itself so objectionable an experience that it should be avoided—which is another way of saying that if you’re feeling fear, something’s gone wrong. Either you’re afraid of something you shouldn’t be (something’s wrong with you) or you’re in a situation you shouldn’t be (something’s wrong with the world). Either way, that’s not a reassuring message to give a toddler, or anyone else for that matter.


Scary movies aren’t gonna hurt you. In fact, owning up to your fear is more empowering, and more fun, than avoiding it. A fireworks show was right on the edge of what Carson could handle at age 3, The Blob was right on the edge of what Ann could handle at age 5; Donald Sutherland being turned into a Body Snatcher was right on the edge of what I could handle at age 8. And walking that edge, without falling in, made us all stronger for it.

So—what classic horror movie was just on the edge of what you could handle when you were young?

16 Responses Halloween Won’t Hurt You: Or, How My Daughter Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blob
Posted By Phil Marchesseault : October 25, 2014 1:18 pm

Great posting, David,
I loved the Universal monsters as a kid; they never gave me the “wrong” kind of nightmares. Rather, it was Disney that often scared the bejeezus out of me. PINOCCHIO in particular. Maybe it was the Expressionist environment playing on my child’s mind – or the kidnappings or the physical abuse or the ultimate fear of being swallowed alive by a giant monster, but that film had it all. For a six-year-old, it was a lot to handle. The strange thing was my parents thought it was perfect for me! So much less threatening than re-animated corpses or blood-sucking vampires.

Posted By Kathy Shaidle : October 25, 2014 2:37 pm

The Blob: Based on a true story!

And Bacharach’s coolest theme song!

Posted By Five Feet of Fury – Kathy Shaidle – ‘How My Daughter Learned To Stop Worrying and Love ‘The Blob” : October 25, 2014 2:38 pm

[…] Via MovieMorlocks: […]

Posted By Marjorie Birch : October 25, 2014 4:29 pm

My mother was one of those parents who wanted to censor the world for me. Hell’s bells, I wasn’t even allowed to watch Tarzan movies! (And when I saw feral-sexy Johnny Weissmuller in that first Tarzan movie — only recently — I thought boy, no WONDER she didn’t want me watching him! I’d probably been on the next boat to Africa!)

And I have to say, I was an easily frightened child — I still get the horrors at the thought of that sand pit in — what was it — Invaders from Mars? with its circular story line?

But I would have had the same reaction to “Pinocchio” (see earlier reply) had it not been for another child in the movie theatre. I went to see “Pinocchio” in the local small-town movie theatre (long defunct, but still recognizable as a movie theatre) by myself. Heck, it was a Disney movie, right? And a small town, right? (We’re talking fifty years ago. Seriously.)

Another child my age who had been left at the movie, a boy, asked if he could sit with me. (We were both eleven, it was all innocent.)

When I first saw Monstro brooding in the deeps (whale slander, by the way) I freaked. I wanted to leave. “No, no!” he kept saying, “don’t leave, it’s a Disney movie, they always end happily.” During the pursuit scene, I had to cover my eyes. “I’ll tell you when to look,” he said. (So I missed the traumatic scene of the little puppet, face down in the water. I saw it, years later and thought, “at age eleven, that would have just killed me.”) Next came the scene with the family grieving around the little puppet. “It will be fine” he kept saying. And he was right.

I thanked him in the lobby, we said goodbye and I never saw him again. But that’s a good childhood memory.

The funny thing is, the movies I was kept from seeing — tend to make me want to cry, not cower in fear. Example: the original Frankenstein. I teared up the minute I saw that close up of his face.

But I never saw “Alien”. “In space, no one can hear you scream.” I read the tagline and thought, ok, that’s one movie I am NOT going to see.

Posted By Christine Hoard-Barre : October 25, 2014 5:41 pm

When I was a kid the original INVADERS FROM MARS and the original INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS did it for me. Anything like that where the monsters can take away your personality – your sense of self – or someone close to you – was scary and still is acary. The original THE THING scared me as a kid, too. For fun scares, the old Universal monster movies. When I was a little older, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (the original) was scary and I still have zombie dreams a couple times a year.

Posted By Tom S : October 25, 2014 6:14 pm

I watched Jurassic Park in the movie theater with my much-older brother when I was nine or ten- and the air conditioning wasn’t working, on a sweltering July summer in Florida- so it would have been a memorable experience regardless. But I hadn’t really seen anything scary before, even at home, and while an adult may not think of Jurassic Park as a horror movie, a lot of it plays out that way to a little kid. My parents would have never given me permission to go if my brother had asked, but he decided that not asking was his duty as an older brother and just took me anyway.

I had nightmares about tyrannosaurs trying to eat me for months, and I could just barely deal with the movie at any level- but it’s also one of my formative movie watching memories, and something that will always be a big deal to me (even if the movie itself doesn’t have the same impact these days.) I’m sure there are ways of pushing that kind of thing that are a terrible idea, but as a way to bond with your brother and get a nice transgression thrill, scary movies are hard to beat.

Posted By george : October 25, 2014 8:02 pm

In the early ’70s, a Memphis TV station ran NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD uncut — on a Sunday afternoon. No idea how that happened; some clueless programmer must have assumed it was just another old black and white movie. (They usually showed Andy Hardy or Tarzan in that time slot.) I was way too young to be watching it, but watch it I did.

Needless to say, that never happened again! I’m sure the station got complaints from parents of traumatized kids.

Posted By george : October 25, 2014 8:17 pm

HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (Vincent Price version) was one of the few movies that I remember gave me nightmares as a child. I rarely saw horror movies in theaters because my parents would say “no.” So I didn’t see the Hammer or Corman-Poe movies until years later on TV. And, needless to say, I wasn’t allowed to see THE EXORCIST.

HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS was one of the few horror movies I saw in a theater as a kid. Little did my parents know it had buckets of gore that Dan Curtis couldn’t use on TV.

These days, I can sit through most any horror movie without it disturbing me … even the first SAW and HOSTEL. (I have no interest in the sequels.) Where I draw the line is movies that deal with truly sick and twisted stuff, like A SERBIAN MOVIE and THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE. I haven’t seen those and never will. I made it through the first half of SALO before bailing out, and haven’t tried to watch it again.

Posted By LD : October 25, 2014 8:26 pm

My first memory of a horror film was THE FLY (1958). I only saw a small part of it but that was enough. My parents took me, my sister and brother to a drive-in. Perhaps it was a double feature because I was suppose to be asleep when the film was on. I woke up and peered over the back seat of the car just as the cloth came off the scientist revealing his head. After that everything scared me including the banshee in DARBY O’GILL AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE.

As an adult I enjoy the classics. Love THE UNINVITED, the Universal monsters and Lewton’s films. WOLFEN really scared me. I was also terrified by THE HAUNTING but after watching it again after several years I now like it. I have never seen THE FLY again.

Posted By AL : October 25, 2014 9:54 pm

My earliest movie memory is a very vivid one that has stayed with me to this day. I was two years old; it was at the old FRUITVALE neighborhood theatre; my father was sitting in an aisle seat and I was sitting on his lap. On screen was the scene where a man is driving down a lonely road, with a passenger in the back seat. We see the driver look into the rear-view mirror, his eyes wide with horror as he witnesses the guy morph into…The Wolfman(!), who leaps over the seat and attacks the guy, causing the car to careen over the side of the road and…well, I remember it like it was yesterday, but the thing is–it didn’t frighten me at all; I thought it was Cool! I searched my whole life to track-down that film and it wasn’t until recently that I finally found it. It was THE MAD MONSTER, with Glenn Strange as the Wolfman and George Zucco in the title role…My second unforgettable movie memory was Rita Hayworth, in 3-strip Technicolor, dancing down that enormous ramp and into my heart, captivating me for life…

Posted By AL : October 25, 2014 9:59 pm

Scariest was the the HauntedMirror sequence in DEAD OF NIGHT, and that one never fails to scare the **** out of me. #2 is THE CHANGELING…

Posted By george : October 25, 2014 11:20 pm

The Twilight Zone episode “The After Hours” (with Anne Francis and the mannequins) scared me more than any movie I recall seeing as a youngster.

Posted By James : October 25, 2014 11:58 pm

There are a few scenes from horror films that scared me badly as a kid. There’s the young boy/vampire floating outside Mark’s window in Salem’s Lot (even more effective given I was probably about the child actor’s age when I saw it). There’s the clown puppet underneath the bed in Poltergeist (yikes). The scary monster with Craig Reardon’s makeup (once its Frankenstein’s Monster mask comes off) in The Funhouse. There’s a scene in Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4, where a girl is transformed into a roach stuck inside a roach trap (shades of Kafka – 4 is the surrealist’s delight of the Elm Street series, and kind of under-appreciated), that I could barely handle.

But the scene that really hit the limit of what I could handle as a kid wasn’t in a horror film. It was the Sea of Nothing sequence in Yellow Submarine (represented by white space, in an otherwise very bright, colorful film). Sure, the Sea of Monsters was pretty frightening, and Jeremy (Nowhere Man), though benevolent, was a bit scary looking for a kid. But the concept of a place of nothing – emptiness, a void – was my early introduction to existentialism (whee!), and it really did frighten me badly. I’ve never forgotten it.

On the other hand, it was also my introduction to the music of The Beatles, which I’ve loved ever since. “All You Need is Love” and Pepperland are wonderful alternatives to that scary emptiness.

Posted By Murphy’s Law : October 26, 2014 6:05 pm

James, you and I must be the same age – Poltergeist and Salem’s Lot were 2 of the first things to scare me. My mom had read Salem’s Lot and told me not to watch it, so of course I watched it. It scared the bejeezus out of me (especially the boy at the window and the squeaking rocking chair and the man’s glowing eyes. Also The Other, Dark Night of the Scarecrow, The Shining and The Amityville Horror. I saw the Vincent Price/Edgar Allan Poe movies after school – one of the local channels had a 3PM weekday movie that often showed these. These led me to read Poe and King and Thomas Tryon…

Posted By Hope : November 2, 2014 1:16 pm

Does anybody know why TCM has been discontinued on dish network?
I live in Georgia.

Posted By swac44 : November 4, 2014 8:25 pm

Another vote for Pinocchio, I’m sure Monstro haunted my dreams for months afterwards, if not years. Also, the thought of turning into a donkey wasn’t the greatest vision either.

I wasn’t really allowed to watch horror movies as a kid, although I do remember watching The Munsters and trying to imagine the characters as being scarier than they were on the TV show (I was also not allowed to have the Aurora monster model kits, I could only envy those friends who were).

What probably freaked me out the most in my early years was Kolchak: The Night Stalker, which was on when I was home with a babysitter while my parents were out bowling. One episode featured some sort of menace that caused people to burst into flames in their sleep, it was no easy chore to get me to bed that night, I’m sure.

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