I am not, by nature, a particularly squeamish human being.  Growing up with a nurse for a mother and a tendency towards curiosity, I learned quickly that things considered gross or horrifying can also be fascinating, and clearly recall a time back in the 70’s when she had to dissect a deceased animal, a process partly done in our dining room.  So when I watched a recent rerun of Family Guy (the hurricane episode, wherein Brian takes psychedelic mushrooms and trips badly) I didn’t expect to be overcome with base revulsion and a literal case of the chills.  This is what I get for watching cartoons at night, I’m sure, but the scene was so unpleasant that I cannot even bring myself to link to it, in case I accidentally glimpse it again.  I clearly remember (and even Retro Reviewed) the scariest comic I ever read in my childhood, a book made horrible not by the depiction of a horrifying, vivisected Superman body, but by the calculated refusal to do so…

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) is fine making a scene on the mezzanine, but absolutely refuses to go in the basement, asking:  What’s the most unexpectedly frightening/unnerving/disturbing thing you’ve ever seen in pop culture?


About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.


  1. George Chimples on

    Unico in the Island of Magic.

    A simple children’s cartoon about a little unicorn with a lot of broad humor. Nothing scary about that, right? But the villain freaks me out something fierce, even now. In high school, some of my friends and I recalled this strange cartoon, where people got turned into weird, marching blocks which march all the way to the bad guy’s castle then slot themselves into the structure. None of us could recall anything more than vague, nightmarish imagery. Years later, a buddy of mine finally figured out just what it was and tracked down a copy for us to watch. Just hearing Lord Kuruku’s voice sent chills down my spine, scaring me more than any horror movie I’ve seen before or since. There is something deeply, deeply wrong about this cartoon.

    • That voice was really cool. They synthed it, and I think I read that it was done by taking the voice actor’s voice up one octave and down one octave and overlaying them. I also really like the flute song played when Toby is converting the villagers to puppets.

  2. BioShock – From the Little Sisters to the self injections to eerie setting, the game gave me goosebumps. I remember thinking (and saying out loud): why can’t one person be normal in this entire game!?!

  3. Hands down, Lidsville. Yeah, I know, it’s just another Sid and Marty Kroftt show, the guys who did H.R. Pufnstuf (which was faintly adorable), Land of the Lost , Elektra Woman and Dyan Girl, and other staples of my youthful Saturdays. Somehow, though those hat people just creeped me out! Even Charles Nelson Reilly, who usually charmed and amused me, couldn’t keep the chills away.

  4. In movies: The clown doll in “Poltergeist.” That little b@st@rd is what tainted clowns for me for the rest of my life.

    In comics: I was in agreement with Jimmy about Sue Dibney right up until the death of Peter Parker in Ultimate Spider-Man. Every time he gets referenced in an Ultimate comic now, I get chills. Bendis has done some good stories with Miles Morales, but I miss Ultimate Peter Parker in ways I would never miss Earth-616 Spider-Man if he bled to death after being shot by the Punisher and beat on by the combined forces of his greatest adversaries.

    In TV: The death of Ianto Jones in “Torchwood: Children Of Earth.” Heart-wrenching.

    In Literature: The ending of H.P. Lovecraft’s “Pickman’s Model” the first time I read it.

  5. Spice World. That movie still gives me nightmares.

    Joking aside:

    – The Golgothan from Kevin Smith’s movie “Dogma”, the demon made of excrement, is disgusting, disturbing and freaks me the hell out.

    – Chucky from “Child’s Play” freaks me out to this day. Oddly enough, I can stand to watch “Bride of Chucky” and “Seed of Chucky”, but the original Child’s Play movies still bring back the scariness I felt watching the first one when I was heavily medicated after surgery as a child. Seriously folks, if your kid is on heavy medication after a surgery, do NOT let them watch anything that could be remotely scary.

  6. For me, it is not the movie Saw, but rather the popularity of the movie and the franchise. I don’t get how so many people would be so happy to watch bizarre torture over and over again.

  7. I don’t even remember if it was Adam Warlock or one other of Jim Starlin’s comics, but I remember the panel vividly. The villain is using his mind control powers on Adam (or whoever it was) and just before he blacks out, he throws a belt-buckle knife at the villain which emerged from the villain’s back, carrying a single vertebrae on it’s tip. It was a relatively bloodless scene, but chilled me to the bone!

  8. A superbowl halftime show.
    Bono and fans jumping up and down and cheering while the list of the victims of 9/11 scrolled by. Not the intention, but really came across like they were celebrating the deaths.

  9. Eastern European fairytale “The Singing Ringing Tree” en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Singing_Ringing_Tree
    Clearly a communist plot.

  10. There’s a few points in both the Codename Sailor V & Sailor Moon manga where people die by melting to nothing while they’re still awake & aware. One is even SMILING the entire time. That stuff still freaks me out.

    Also, if you’re scared of bees & other stinging insects (like me), Swarm is no laughing matter.

  11. Medium, in an episode we see a murderer torturing his dog, we see the poor dog laying on his side and he pats him and tells him “everything is gonna be okay… good dog” and adds one more cigar burn on the dogs stomach while it cries out in a weak voice.

    I don’t care what you do to humans in fictional settings, but defenseless animals? And specially dogs that are loyal to their owners to a fault? Well I stopped watching the series and still have a hard time remembering that scene…

    • Ditto. Crime shows especially seem to get off on showing how eeeevil a criminal is by lovingly showing them torturing animals nowadays. Frankly, I think any show that does a scene like that should be fined for animal cruelty because I firmly believe they’re showing it to entertain themselves, not highlight character motives; the same goes for sex crimes rendered in loving detail with more attention to the perpetrator than the suffering of the victims (I’m looking at you, CBS). TV is just messed up anymore.

  12. Halloween
    Being in a hospital bed at 14 years old, with a broken leg and just finishing Salem’s Lot, watching this at 2am in a dead quiet ward was totally disturbing. The squeaky wheels of a passing nurses cart had me immobilised in fear.

  13. Chucky the killer doll from Child’s Play. This may seem like an odd choice, considering the character is a slasher villain and so should obviously be scary. But the thing is, I’ve never seen those films. Not the original or the sequels.

    My only first-hand experience with the character, rather, was a skit of some kind on a comedy show that I don’t remember which. A show I saw as a kid while up watching TV late at night on a road trip with my grandmother. And for some reason, the doll’s brief appearance on the show, not even having killed anyone, basically scarred me for life. To this day, I can’t stand to see the character’s face in any form. Makes perusing the horror aisle of the DVDs a bitch – despite me being mostly resistant to any other horror characters – especially when it comes to that special edition of Child’s Play that includes a miniature Chucky doll.

    Funny what sticks with you into adulthood.

  14. So did you ever do the Retro Review of World’s Finest Comics #190? I can’t find it, and having tricked me into reading the review of #189 (you had me at “vivisected Superman”), you can’t leave me hanging.

  15. Josh "Spaceboot" Treleaven on

    The only time I ever had a physical reaction to something I read was Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I don’t always faint at the sight/mention of blood, but I am familiar with the woozy feeling.

  16. Buffy, season 7, episode three. There’s a demon called Gnarl that paralyzes with its nails, then eats your skin. He starts doing it to Willow and eats some of her skin on camera. I had to close my eyes and use every iota of my willpower not to vomit.

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