Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Traumatizing kids' movie from the '80s: Labyrinth

I am about to criticize my all-time favorite movie.  "Labyrinth" came out in 1986, when I was one-year-old, and I think I've loved it since then.  It was the first DVD I bought with my own money.  The soundtrack was one of the first cds I ever bought.

And it kicked off a lifelong obsession with David Bowie.  I own a cd version of every David Bowie album (even rare stuff, like the German version of "Heroes", "Helden").  I own almost every movie Bowie has appeared in, ranging from "Gunslinger's Revenge" (where Bowie adopts a heavy southern accent) to musical about race relations in Britain, "Absolute Beginners" (a movie so English, you have to use subtitles to understand what they're saying).

I love David Bowie so much, it has extended into a disturbing tendency for me to crush on any British actor who is way too old for me.  Sure, Christian Bale is hot.  But he's got nothing on Hugh Laurie, Alan Rickman, or Anthony Stewart Head.  (House, Snape/Hans Gruber, and Giles from "Buffy", for the uneducated.)

This is all to say, please understand that I take the accusations I am about to make against "Labyrinth" very seriously.  For all I love it and have it memorized back-to-front, it is a seriously messed-up movie that no child should ever be subjected to.  For instance:

Pedophilic love story.  Jennifer Connelly was 16 when "Labyrinth" was released.  David Bowie was 39.  Her character was 15.  His character was a freaking Goblin King who ruled over a mystical realm but was obsessed with a 15-year-old girl.  And the movie makes it very clear that this was a romantic obsession.  Remember the masquerade party scene where they slow-dance to "As the World Falls Down"?  Also, he liked to turn into an owl and stare in her bedroom window.  Nothing pervy about that.

Of course, impressionable child I was, I generally thought Sarah was an idiot.  My version of a happy ending for the movie involved her agreeing to stay with him as Goblin Queen if he sent the baby half-brother home safe and sound.  This is logic I would also later apply the first time I saw "Phantom of the Opera", when I decided that Christine was an idiot who should have stayed with the Phantom in exchange for him releasing that pansy, Raoul.

Then again, this love for tragic anti-heroes has my husband convinced that, were I ever kidnapped, I'd succumb to Stockholm Syndrome in, oh, about 20 minutes.  He's probably right.

Excluding the overarching just, wrongness of the whole plot of "Labyrinth", there were specific scenes that were also just scary as crap to a kid, puppets or no.  Like...

Baby kidnapping.  That scene at the beginning where the power goes out in the storm, and the goblins, just barely glimpsed at the corners of the screen, steal an infant from its crib?  Terrifying.  "When a Stranger Calls" should have taken notes.

"She chose dooooown..."  The "helping hands", remember?  Sarah falls into a tunnel full of hands that catch her and talk to her by joining together to form faces.  They ask if she wants to go back up, or continue down, and she chooses down, since that's already the direction she's heading.  (Again, Sarah is a moron.)  They mock her choice and drop her.  This is almost a relief, since the idea of being held by dozens of pairs of hands is way worse than the thought of plunging to my death.

The Cleaners.  A spinning, blade-covered drill that completely fills the circular tunnel it's in and almost filets Sarah and Hoggle.  You're supposed to get a giggle when it passes by and you see that it's just powered by two little goblins on a bicycle-like contraption, but I just always wanted Hoggle to run up to the little jerks, pull them off the rig and punt them.

Gross disrepect for the laws of physics and reality.  I know, I know, it's a fantasy movie.  But I was a scientifically-minded child, and things like doors leading to multiple places and the Escher painting set at the end of the movie bothered me deeply.  Especially the scene with...

The Junk Lady.  Look it up on IMDB; that's the character's name.  A creepy little troll of a woman who lived in a dump and hoarded her possessions, she tries to lead Sarah to the same fate.  In fact, Sarah miraculously locates her bedroom in the middle of the dump and flops into bed, implying that '80s movie trope that, "Oh wow, it was all some crazy dream."  She goes to open her bedroom door and...

...in bursts the Junk Lady, coming straight from the dump outside.  This bothered me to no end.  If I was in my room alone with the door closed, I was sometimes afraid to open it, convinced that behind it, the rest of the house had disappeared, and I had been transported somewhere awful.  More unsettling than psilocybin mushrooms.

Of course, we all know the movie has a happy ending.  Sarah and Toby end up back home and Sarah persists in her delusions of having goblins for imaginary friends.

The End!

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