Nuggets of Wisdom

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

My Top 13 Scariest Nostalgic Moments (#7)

If I were to tell you that the next scary moment was from Pee Wee's Big Adventure, you'd probably guess it was the Large Marge scene. While that was a creepy scene, for me, there was one scene that was far creepier.

If you've never heard of Pee Wee Herman, chances are you were either born after the 1980s or living under a rock during that decade. Seriously, this guy was a cultural phenomena, alongside other 80s icons such as Madonna and Hulk Hogan. The creation of Paul Reubens, Pee Wee Herman was a dorky bow-tie wearing man-child with a squeaky voice and iconic laugh. (So, in essence, he was a human Spongebob Squarepants!)

Pee Wee had his start with Reuben's improv groups before eventually growing in popularity and earning his own children's show: Pee Wee's Playhouse. Growing up, I loved watching that show on Saturday morning. And what kid wouldn't? Aside from having a whimsical, fun-loving personality, Pee Wee also has a large cartoony, if not wacked-out, house that ever kid wanted to live in.

But before Pee Wee appeared on the small screen, he had his big break on the big screen with his big movie Pee Wee's Big Adventure. The premise is simple enough: Pee Wee embarks on an nation-wide journey in search of his missing bicycle. It sounds ordinary, but as the saying goes: the adventure is in the journey. In lieu of Pee Wee's whimsical nature, the movie has plenty of whimsical moments.

But not all of them were as whimsical.

The most infamous moment was Large Marge. While hitchhiking at night, Pee Wee gets picked up by a burly woman truck driver who proceeds to tell him a story about a horrific truck accident, which ultimately leads to this:

Needless to say, many kids wet their pants at that scene.

And no surprise: when Pee Wee is dropped off at a truck stop, he discovers that the truck driver was Large Marge, the driver from the story.

That's right: Pee Wee was riding with a ghost!

While I can understand why this scene may have scared other kids, it didn't scare me. For one, the scene establishes itself as a "scary" scene pretty early, what with it happening at night with a creepy-looking truck driver telling a foreboding story while dramatic music plays. So right from the start I already anticipated that something "scary" was going to happen, and when it did--well, to be honest, it came across as more silly than scary.

I mean look at the face! That's not scary. That's freaking hilarious.

But while this one scene didn't scare me as a kid, there was another scene that gave me the creeps.

Later in the movie, Pee Wee is taken to the hospital after passing out while saving animals from a burning pet store. (Don't ask!) As he's sleeping, he has one of the most frightening dream sequences in cinema history (at least in my opinion):

#7: The Clown Dream from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure

In his nightmare, his bicycle is lying on the road in pieces during a dark, rainy night. The good news is that an ambulance comes along to pick it up. The bad news? It's manned by clown doctors!

Because as we all know, clowns aren't the least bit scary to little children!

The clown doctors takes the bicycle to an operating room where a distraught Pee Wee watches them operate on it with a blowtorch. Now it's bad enough that creepy circus music is playing during it sequence. It's also bad enough that the clown doctors push the bicycle down a surreal, demented hallway. But then the camera pans into the head surgeon, who looks up to Pee Wee as if to give him news about his bicycle.

Instead, the surgeon pulls down his mask to reveal this:

Forget Large Marge! That made me piss my pants as a kid!

Oh, but it gets worse.

Just then a giant claw comes down to pick up the bike and carry it over to a boiling pot of oil where devils dance around it as the bike is lowered into the boiling, flaming inferno.

That's right: Pee Wee's bicycle died and was sent to Hell! (Which only makes me wonder what sins it had committed to send it there?)

If the surrealness of this scene looks and feels eerily familiar, it should. The entire movie was the start of the directing career for Tim Burton, who later went on to direct other surreal classics such as Edward Sissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas. His surreal imagery is especially apparent in this scene, especially with the long, demented hallway.

And then there's the creepy music, which was one of the many songs written for the soundtrack by none other than Danny Elfman, who would later go on to work with Tim Burton in his other movies, including The Nightmare Before Christmas.

So you have a scene that was the brainchild of the creepiest director and the creepiest musician. Is it any wonder that this would be one of the creepiest scenes in my childhood?

How scary is it? As scary as learning about Hell for the very first time. (That was a tear jerker!)