As I pointed out in my Poltergeist review, I didn't watch much horror as a boy. That's probably a good thing, as even the non-horror flicks I enjoyed often scared the bejesus out of me. You kids today don't know how lucky you have it with your wussy Shreks and your lamewad Pikachus! Children of the 1980s are still in therapy over what Hollywood deemed "family films" back then. The following non-horror mind-screws should prove my point.
Return to Oz (1985)
In high school, I brought Return to Oz to a Halloween movie marathon. I hadn't seen it since I was a kid. Everyone scoffed. "A Wizard of Oz sequel? That's supposed to scare us?" I didn't hear a lot of mockery after the movie started. In fact, nobody said a word until about halfway through, when a friend of mine whispered "Can we please turn this off?" I'm not sure who thought this movie was appropriate for children. It gave me nightmares for nearly a decade.
Dorothy finds a key with an Oz symbol on it, shows it to Auntie Em and Uncle Henry as proof that Oz exists, and is sent to an insane asylum!An evil insane asylum where they give our young heroine electro-shock therapy! That's how this "childrens' film" starts! Once Dorothy gets to Oz, it's a speeding night train of horrors. How about that Nome King? Good LORD! Winged monkeys aren't scary enough anymore, let's give the kids The Wheelers -- sadistic shrieking psychopaths with roller skates instead of hands and feet! Kids today won't be satisfied with just a standard wicked witch, let's really ramp that up too, and ruin their lives! The sequence with the witch's cabinets full of human heads easily rivals anything in the Nightmare on Elm Street series for sheer terror. "Dorothy Gaaaaaale!!!!"
Even the heroes are horrifying! Jack Pumpkinhead? A hybrid stick n' pumpkin creature who calls Dorothy "Mother"? That's your good guy? Not cool, Return to Oz. Not cool.
The Neverending Story (1984)
Along the same lines as Return to Oz, The Neverending Story feels way too dark, weird, and just...wrong to be a kids' movie. I feel my eyes welling up now remembering Atreyu's horse slowly sinking into quicksand and dying. I can't even talk about the Gmork, that big wolfy vampire thing. And a storm called "The Nothing?" Sweet fancy Moses! Also, again, the heroes should not be scarier than the villains! The racing snail? The Rockbiter? That bat-dude? And Falkor? A big flying dog/dragon mutation with disgusting scaly eggs on his skin? We were supposed to root for this hellacious beast?
Another scream-inducing aspect -- one of the worst theme songs in all of 80's film. And that's saying a whole lot!