Kids like to push boundaries, and that includes watching horror movies they know they're not old enough to handle. In honor of the 35th anniversary of the childhood-ruining "Cujo," here are eight movies that have traumatized generations of horror fans at a very young age.
'Night of the Living Dead' (1968)
While not nearly as gory as later zombie movies, there's something especially undettling about "Night of the Living Dead." It's all too easy to imagine being trapped inside a remote farmhouse as an army of undead corpses bangs on the windows. Simply repeating the infamous line "They're coming to get you, Barbara!" is enough to give people the shivers.
'The Exorcist' (1973)
Watching "The Exorcist" is basically a rite of passage for many childhood sleepover attendees, and many of them come away wishing they hadn't. How many kids have suffered through sleepless nights worrying their bed was going to start shaking and an ancient demon was going to possess them. And don't even get us started on our collective aversion to pea soup...
'The Shining' (1980)
Few things sound less appealing than the prospect of being locked in a remote mountain hotel for an entire winter while restless spirits roam the halls. "The Shining" makes the most of that premise. It features some legendarily terrifying scares, but also a generally unnerving atmosphere. Something clearly isn't right in the Overlook Hotel, but we're left to question whether the culprit is actually ghosts or just a family suffering from a nasty case of cabin fever.
How the hell did this movie get a PG rating?! For a film with Steven Spielberg's hands all over it, you'd think "Poltergeist" would be a little more family friendly. Instead, it's a mind-numbing marathon of horrific imagery that really should not have earned a PG rating. Even now, we always check to make sure any house we move to isn't located above an Indian burial ground. It's just common sense.
Stephen King's brand of horror is often most effective when it hits closest to home. We may never be attacked by vampires or face a global super-plague, but anyone could face mortal danger when their beloved house pet suddenly becomes a rabid killer. "Cujo" manages an awful lot of terror with a very simple premise.
'A Nightmare on Elm Street' (1984)
Plenty of kids are afraid of the dark, but at least they know sleep itself is a refuge from their fears. But what if it isn't? Countless childhoods were ruined after watching this horror classic and discovering that some killers can stalk you in your dreams.
'Child's Play' (1988)
What kid hasn't wondered if their favorite toys come alive when no one's looking? Long ebfore "Toy Story" suggested that could be a good thing, "Child's Play" had us all living in terror that one of our dolls or action figures might be possessed with the spirit of a remorseless killer. This franchise may have moved into pure camp territory, but the original is still a traumatizing experience.
For a TV movie, "It" sure managed to terrify children. There's just something inherently creepy about clowns. And once you put Tim Curry in clown makeup and task him with lurking in storm drains and luring small children to their deaths, it's game over, man. In some ways, even the remake's version of Pennywise can't compare.