Sunday, January 25, 2009

Terrifying Family Films. Part 1.

The Peanut Butter Solution
I'm no psychologist, but I've read a few things about children and how they overcome fear subconsciously. When it comes to film, children will actually watch a movie over and over again if it scares them. Like I said, I'm not a child psychologist. I have no idea why kids do this. It's pretty weird. I do know that I watched movies constantly as a kid, and if it scared me, I watched it repeatedly. Maybe I was trying to understand the parts that scared me, or maybe I was trying to overcome them. In any case, I was obsessed with certain movies and a lot of them were absolutely terrifying. The funny thing is, these movies weren't meant to be scary. Take my first example... for example.

The Peanut Butter Solution. 1985.

The Peanut Butter Solution first aired in the United States on Nickelodeon - the familiest channel of all family channels. (Note: This was the 80's. The Family Channel did not exist.) The movie claims to be a comedy. It's nightmare-inducing. And from Canada.
This "kid's" comedy is about Michael; a young boy who misses his mum. Michael goes into an abandoned house for some reason. This house is known to shelter many many drunk homeless people. This is a family adventure after all. He gets scared by something - we're not told right away, but obviously dead homeless people are to blame - and his hair falls out completely. The boy cries for a very long time, bald and alone. Honestly he shouldn't be that sad - he'd been wearing a wig the whole time.

Bitch burnt my toast!

The homeless ghosts show up later and because they feel bad, give him a secret hair-growth solution. The magic ingredient? You guessed it. Peanut butter. It works so well that even his friend puts some on his crotch. Really Nickelodeon? His crotch?
Michael can't stop his hair from growing. It grows so long that wind knocks him down a lot and he has to tie it to the ceiling at night. He even gets suspended from school for having long hair. That is comedy. And not that I really need to mention it - the friend's hair grows too. And the viewers are treated to the image.
Michael's French art teacher decides that he can make money off Michael's hair. Somehow he makes magic paintbrushes that paint whatever he imagines. The art teacher kidnaps Michael, along with dozens of other children, and starts a kid-friendly sweatshop. That's not disturbing at all!
As this is a children's film, Michael defeats the art teacher, by making him see a dead homeless person as well. The art teacher loses his hair as well and the circle of life continues. Sorry for the spoiler, but good luck finding a copy of this movie.
There are several things that scared me about this movie, aside from the terrible film quality and acting. Overall it's just a weird weird movie. The story is weird, the actors are weird, and the music is weird. The abandonded house is dark and looming, but the way Michael enters it, is even scarier. He climbs a garbage chute up to a second story window and disappears inside. For some reason, I've always had this image in my head. My sister bought this movie for me recently and though I hadn't seen the movie in years, I knew the scene was coming. I don't even know why it scared me that much. I guess the act of climbing over garbage and up a splintery slide is pretty dangerous and when you're already afraid of heights and falling down things like I was (am), a garbage chute is pretty scary. Remember the trash compactor scene in Star Wars? Me too! I once had a dream George Wendt pushed me down an elevator shaft. This may or may not be related.

I want an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action
Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!

This movie is so full of frightening images, that while they probably aren't scary to us as adults, a kid sees them differently. Ghosts, scary houses, homeless people, trippy paintings drawn with human hair... it's all a bit much for a kid.

Click here to watch the video for Celine Dion's first English single, Listen to the Magic Man, unbelievably the theme of this movie. Chances are you've never even heard of the Peanut Butter Solution. But imagine if you'd seen this video first. You'd probably be a little confused.


Bowha said...

I've never seen the movie, but, I would bet that it's way less frightening than the Celine Dion video that you linked. That image of her is burned in my mind forever! Thanks a lot! Good post, though.

Anonymous said...

I cannot thank you enough.

Thank you to the zillions.

You know how much I have been looking for this movie.

I saw it while I was little and was trying so desperately to find the title.


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