#3. Alma (Spain) -- Pixar Meets M. Night Shyamalan
Even if you've never heard of Spanish animator Rodrigo Blaas, you might have heard about some of the movies he had a hand in creating, like The Incredibles, Cars, Up or a little film called Wall-E. His short silent animation Alma could easily pass for another Pixar film ... if it wasn't for that soul-crushing twist ending.
The film starts innocently enough, with an impossibly cute little blonde girl running down a snow-covered street and writing her name, Alma (which is also "soul" in Spanish), on a wall. Then she spots something strange on the window of a closed toy shop: It's a doll who looks exactly like her.
All children desire plastic, dead-eyed replicas of themselves.
Naturally, Alma decides to break into the shop and grab the doll. We're barely two minutes into the film, and she's already guilty of street vandalism, breaking and entering and attempted theft -- but you know what, that sort of stuff happens in cartoons all the time. It's not like she's gonna receive some sort of convoluted supernatural punishment for her actions, right? This is an animated film set to clarinet music -- nothing bad can happen here.
Anyway, she gets inside the store, and while trying to reach the doll, she steps on a toy of a boy on a bicycle. She sets the toy on the floor and watches it go off on its own until it bumps into the store's door, over and over. Like it's trying to escape.
"Man, I wish I could speak forebodingness."
But we're still within the realm of a cutesy kids' movie here, like a short feature they'd show before a Disney movie. Everything changes when Alma notices that her toy double is now up on a shelf filled with other dolls, reaches up to touch it and ... we are treated to a flash of inexplicable images that would make Clive Barker flinch. In two seconds, the film goes from Pixar whimsical to David Lynch insane.
When the Nine Inch Nails promo clip sequence is over, Alma's view comes into focus and she breathes heavily, unable to move. She's trapped inside the doll and can only move her eyes. The camera pulls back to reveal the dozens of dolls around her also moving their eyes in terror, each one imprisoning the soul of someone's missing child.
This is actually the gritty prequel for Toy Story.
We're just gonna go out on a limb here and guess that the reason Rodrigo Blaas doesn't work at Pixar anymore was less "seeking new opportunities" and more like "We are terrified of what you may do to us in our sleep."
#2. Dot and the Kangaroo (Australia) -- The Bunyip Song
Dot and the Kangaroo is a classic 1977 animated film designed to teach kids about Australia's unique and often hilarious fauna. In it, the eponymous Dot and Kangaroo go around the Outback meeting animals like the grumpy platypus ...
"I remembered what a crime against nature I was, and then dropped my damn ice cream, too."
The lazy koala ...
And his literal morning wood.
And the ... the ... what in the hell is this thing?
Seriously, what are we looking at he -- oh dear God it's coming this way.
What makes this sequence so terrifying is that it's completely unexpected. One minute you're watching this movie about little cartoon animals singing and dancing, and then literally out of nowhere comes a horrible growling noise accompanied by depressing piano music and these lyrics:
"The bunyip's very bad,
And the bunyip's very bold,
And they tell me that the bunyip
Is now a thousand years old."
The blood of children makes it immortal. Happy Earth Day, kids!
The song goes on to inform us that "You better hide very soon, or the bunyip's going to get you in the bunyip moon," and that "It's the most unpleasant monster that you have ever seen" (but we already knew both those things, just from instinct). Compare that to the lyrics of the previous song: "I'm a frog, I'm a frog, I'm a frog, I'm a frog."
And this is of course accompanied by creepily animated visuals in a completely different style from the rest of the film, as if an actual ghost had possessed your TV.
Well, at least the kids can take comfort from knowing that the filmmakers just made up this bunyip creature ... after hearing about it from actual aboriginal accounts dating back hundreds of years.
#1. The Plague Dogs (Britain) -- Watership Down, With Dogs
If you were "lucky" enough to experience that gore-filled bunny rabbit classic called Watership Down as a kid, by the time the movie was over you had one consolation: There was no more of it. Discounting the nightmares it probably still inspires, there are no new scenes of that particular brand of carefully animated animal violence to traumatize you. Or so we thought.
"A special kind of movie magic" is the type they have to keep under three tons of lead in case it leaks out.
Four years after Watership Down came out, the same British studio teamed up with the same director and many of the same voice actors on an adaptation of a book by the same author, The Plague Dogs. Although slightly more obscure than its predecessor, it is just as messed up.
Right off the bat, The Plague Dogs lets kids know they're gonna regret picking the video cover with the doggies by showing them some good old-fashioned animal cruelty in the very first scene. First we see a dog in a room full of water, desperately trying to stay afloat.
"And then he starts singing, right?"
Exhausted, the dog gives up and starts sinking in the water as the air leaves his lungs. The whole time, a group of men in lab coats watch and commentate in their nonplussed British voices.
Finally, his motionless body settles at the bottom of the room, before being dragged away by a hook that grabs him by the collar.
But this is nothing compared to what's in store for you if, for some reason, you decide to keep watching this movie. The most soul-deadening scene by far starts when one of the canine protagonists is spotted by a hunter with a shotgun.
The hunter starts calling the doggy, and then he ... puts the gun down. He actually just wanted to pet him! Not everything in life is death and cruelty: There are also kind, friendly people out there. And then the dog excitedly leaps into the man's arms and ...
... accidentally shoots him in the face.
How do we know the shotgun wasn't pointed at, say, his dick or something (which is at least survivable)? Because they goddamned show us, that's why.
"It's just a really bad nosebleed. From the eyes."
That thing about the man being friendly with the dog? That was just there to lull you into a false sense of security before dragging you back into the cold, terrifying world of British children's animation. The dog sees the man's lifeless corpse and runs away, now a murderer.
Those aren't spots. They're bits of brain.
The worst part? This doesn't have anything to do with the plot. The man is never mentioned again, so presumably they just put the scene there to freak us out (it worked). Oh, and later on we see a re-creation of the scene from First Blood (released a couple of months earlier) where a guy falls from a helicopter and dies -- except this one's even more gruesome, because at least Rambo didn't go back and feed on the man's corpse.
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And stop by LinkSTORM to learn what happens to children who grow up watching this stuff.
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