Shock Labyrinth, like many films in the long history of the horror movie, draws on childhood fears and nightmares for it’s thrills and spills, rather than a leering psychopath or gruesome slayings. In some ways it’s a little like a youth movie version of Stephen King’s ‘It’, mirroring as it does people returning to a place of fear as older, wiser characters.
As a surviving species, we evolved to have heightened awareness so that sabre-toothed tigers didn’t have our babies for lunch but now we live in relative comfort and safety, these instincts we still have within cause the imagination to run riot, especially as kids, lying in bed at night after the light has gone out. Well, that my opinion anyway if anyone wants to back me up or refute me with science, be my guest.
Shock Labyrinth takes things from our childhood that should fill us with wonder or delight, things like fairgrounds or a cherished soft toy, and turn them on their heads, perverting them into scary hallucinations. Nightmare on Elm Street inspired a generation to tuck their feet under the duvet to avoid a bladed glove reaching for under the bed. Things always live in cupboards and shadows on walls reveal spiny backs and fanged mouthes once your parents close the door behind them and the light from the landing is finally extinguished.
As Shock Labyrinth is a film that deals in the nightmares of a group of Japanese children, I asked members of the CULT LABS FORUM to tell me some of their memories of spooky childhood moments, whether they were cherished recollections of early horror movie experiences or terrifying visions of the closet monster…
Jaws seems to be a pivotal moment for some, me included, as it’s one of those movies that isn’t quite a horror film so parents let you watch it a little earlier I suppose. The moment when the mutilated body floats out the the sunken ship caused me to fall off my chair as a seven year old but the single vision that recurred most for me was a scary scene in th old ITV kids TV show Dramarama, when a child looking down at a pool sees a ghost over her shoulder in the water. Looking into puddles become a magnetic thing, even though I was terrified of what might appear.
For people around my age who were kids in the 80s, Salem’s Lot and American Werewolf in London are also very important. Reaper@Cult Labs recalls the same two night BBC screening of King’s TV epic that I sneaked a look at and then having to take a Rosary to bed while American Werewolf had such a perfectly balanced mix of laughs and frights that it seemed almost to be a kid’s horror primer.
As children, out imaginations fire off in a way that we simply won’t experience in later life. There’s a blurring of the imagination and reality, especially on sleepless nights. Kingofthewitches666 recalls the night he saw an astronaut floating through the curtains because as a kid he was really into the NASA space programme. The real and unreal mix and a vivid memory is born. Horror movies like Shock Labyrinth use these youthful blurs and shifts in the perceived world to produce it’s jumps and scares. Like many horror films it offers a totem from childhood as a short hand for fear. In Don’t Look Now, a flash of a child’s red coat tells you all is not well, in Shock Labyrinth a cuddly rabbit becomes the harbinger of unease.
The shadows caused by a lampshade can cause a fevered imagination to go into overdrive, Nosferatu@Cult Labs describes a hot air balloon light fitting turning into a looming man in the cold half-light of the evening.
As if our own minds weren’t cooking up enough trauma at that age, in schools we were repeatedly bombarded with Public Information Films designed to put the fear of god into us and stop us messing around on farms/building sites/near water. Little wonder that the anxieties and traumas of our early days continue to be fair game for those filmmakers with a vested interest in making us scared.
So, the next time you find a clown creepy, think back to watching Poltergeist and remember the scary toy that the brother had on a seat near his bed and when you have to walk down a dark road late at night, try to avoid thinking of the terrors that once lurked behind the wardrobe door and could now have seeped into streets.
Shock Labyrinth 3D (cert. 15) will be released on DVD (£14.99) by Chelsea Films on 31st January 2011.