Let me get something straight to begin with. My first ‘horror’ experience was not with a horror ﬁlm… It was with an animation for children. Now, you are probably asking, why is this crazy girl talking about children’s animations being terrifying?
Well, this ﬁlm saw me crawling behind a pillow. A pillow I refused to put down for four hours even after the ﬁlm. This ﬁlm had me screaming and shaking. This ﬁlm had me having nightmares for years (that is right, YEARS) afterwards. In fact, while watching this ﬁlm, I even vowed never to watch animations ever again because of the truly horrifying experience (which didn’t last long, but the threat was there!)
By now, I am sure you are all wondering what this terrifying ﬁrst horror experience could possibly be? Well, my ﬁrst experience of a horror ﬁlm was Watership Down. For those of you who do not know, this is a classic ‘children’s’ animation about rabbits. However, the twisting, demonic tale made me jump, scream and cry. My worst fears as a child were encapsulated within this ﬁlm. Dark forests, my favourite animal – rabbits – turning into sinister, twisted, violent demons, attacking and chasing each other. What makes this ﬁlm a true “horror” ﬁlm in my mind is the eerie accompanying soundtrack – the suspense, fear and threat of an unknown, blood-red force slowly destroying the peaceful English countryside.
I have seen hundreds of horror ﬁlms since and consider myself a very brave person (even if sometimes I do still grab a pillow to “protect” me), but even now the mere mention of Watership Down brings a shiver down my spine. In fact even writing this reminds me of how truly terriﬁed my seven-year-old self was.
Trying to be brave, and thinking my eight-year-old self had over-exaggerated the level of horror, I decided to re-watch the 1987 ﬁlm. It did not go well. I ran out of the room after ten minutes. Yes, I am an adult and yes, I like horror ﬁlms and can stomach any you can name, but this supposed U ﬁlm is anything but child friendly. In fact, I claim it to be not only my ﬁrst ever horror experience, but to be up there with one of the scariest ﬁlms I have ever seen.
It may not be on many people’s playlists for ﬁlms around Halloween, but if you are brave enough to stomach this ﬁlm, then I salute you. Whoever said cartoons cannot present truly horrifying horror experiences had clearly never seen this ﬁlm. Yes, I often throw whatever I am holding when I watch ﬁlms (I would still like to apologise to the entire row in front of my viewing of The Woman in Black at whom I threw my pic ‘n’ mix) but the hairs on my arms and back of my neck have never spiked as much as they did while watching Watership Down.
I guarantee many of you will disagree with my claiming Watership Down to be a true horror movie, but watch it alone in a darkened room and I guarantee you will never look at rabbits, the countryside or animations in the same way again. So for those of you whose ﬁrst horror experience were with ‘actual’ horror movies, you missed out on a truly terrifying childhood that would have left you scarred for life.