7The Great Owl in The Secret of NIMH
Before An American Tail and The Land Before Time, Don Bluth's first attempt to beat Disney at its own game was The Secret of NIMH, a classic G-rated movie about friendship and magic and talking animals ...
... and stabbing and death and monstrous beasts with glowing eyes. You see, The Secret of NIMH employed a technique called backlighting, which created a surreal glow in some parts of the film. Unfortunately, Bluth decided the best use for this revolutionary technique was scaring the crap out of us.
It's hard to comfort your children when you're going "OH NOOOO" yourself.
The foremost example of this was the film's classic character the Great Owl, whose introduction to the audience includes crushing a spider, standing on a pile of bones and freakishly twisting his head around like something out of Hellraiser. And this is all done after it is made explicitly clear that he feeds on animals like, for example, the main character of the film. At this point making his eyes glow just seems like overdoing it.
The bright lights signal the film's scariest parts like a goddamn beacon, just in case the kids didn't know they were supposed to feel scared when they show us humans injecting weird things into caged rats and such. And then there's the unusually violent sword fight at the end, in which two characters are stabbed to death and you can clearly see their blood, making this officially more brutal than anything in Highlander: The Series.
Oh, and in case you haven't seen the film, a little spoiler: the mythical NIMH turns out to be the National Institute of Mental Health -- we're guessing Bluth had some sort of product placement deal designed to create as many young patients for them to treat as possible.
6Pretty Much Everything in Return to Oz
Return to Oz wasn't just a sequel to one of the most beloved children's films of all time: it was also, unlike the first one, a Disney film. Surely that means there will be twice as much singing, twice as much dancing and twice as many adorable characters ... right?
Let's play a game of Count the Psychotic Eyes.
Actually, remember those terrifying flying monkeys from The Wizard of Oz? Apparently someone at Disney decided, "Forget all the rest, we need more of that," because everything about this movie seems designed to give you nightmares.
For starters, we find out that the happy ending for the classic first film was secretly terrifying, too, because right after Dorothy came back from the land of Oz, her aunt and uncle decided to take her to a quack doctor for electroshock therapy. Seriously. They wanted to zap Dorothy's brain with electricity.
No place like home, indeed.
Later, Dorothy returns to find Oz more wrecked than the movie she's starring in. The Yellow Brick Road and the Emerald City are in complete ruins, her best friends have been turned to stone and, by the way, Oz is now policed by a gang of deformed rollerblading freaks known as the Wheelers.
At this point it is pretty clear that Return to Oz is just one washed-up actor away from being based on a Stephen King novel -- but shit goes from "bad for children" to "inappropriate for all ages" when Dorothy is imprisoned by a witch who has her own collection of disembodied heads. You know, because she's headless.
Oh, and did we mention that the actress playing Dorothy is only like 10 in this movie? They probably did that because if they had used a teenager, Return to Oz could have easily been mistaken for a Nightmare on Elm Street movie.