This will not be a proper review, but rather simply a recounting of my experiences.
I was hanging around the internet today and began to read a Cracked article about cartoons. As I was reading, a memory suddenly emerged in my brain. As a young child, I was often sitting down and watching TV by myself while my older siblings did their own thing and my parents were taking care of my baby brother or doing other parental things. I was a well-behaved child and always kept the TV to channels playing cartoons and other, age-appropriate programs.
So, one day in October in the early 90’s (I don’t remember the exact year, but I’d have to guess ’93 or ’94. So I would have been six or seven), I was sitting on my couch downstairs, watching TV like any child of the 90’s was doing. I was flipping through the channels, looking for something entertaining to watch when I stumbled across a cartoon. It was done in claymation and in a style very similar to A Nightmare Before Christmas (1993). In fact, that was the reason I continued to watch it. I was reminded of a movie that I had at least kind of enjoyed. It turns out that it was a nine-minute-long short film rather than a movie or full cartoon show, buy hey, it was something to watch.
Now, this particular cartoon actually stayed with me since I saw it, the memories of my single viewing often finding their way into my thoughts at random points in time. Apparently, I was very impacted by this short work of stop-motion animation. But sadly, I only ever saw it the once and even then, I had come in after the title, so I didn’t know what it was called. So, I didn’t really have any luck finding it online. I was even beginning to wonder if I had ever actually seen it at all, or if it was just some kind of dream I had.
But, as I was reading the aforementioned Cracked article and was suddenly reminded of my young viewing experience, I became determined to track it down… today. And after surprisingly little effort, I did.
That, my dear readers, is The Sandman (1991) by Paul Berry and it’s a bit fucked-up. As you may imagine, as a child of six or seven sitting alone in front of the TV looking only for some mindless cartoons to watch, this kind of… well, disturbed me. I remember sitting there, watching this little gem, at first being a little disconcerted at the surreal imagery and odd camera tricks, again, much in the same way A Nightmare Before Christmas did, but on a much higher, more atmospheric level. As a side note, Paul Berry was actually one of the animators for A Nightmare Before Christmas, so all of the similarities make total sense.
But for the most part, I was okay. Sure it was a little disconcerting, and I certainly felt uneasy, but even I could figure out what it was about. A young boy, frightened of the dark, the monsters in his room at night, and his own imagination has to learn how to live with and overcome those fears. It’s something that I understood and appreciated, even at such a young age, and it resonated with me and my own experiences with irrational fears and an overactive imagination. After a brief fright, the young boy’s mother enters his room and gives him a pat on the head, reassuring him that all is well and that there are no monsters, and the boy is able to sleep soundly. His imagination begins to act up again, but he’s able to remain asleep and ignore it and OH MY GOD!!
The film just kicks you right in the proverbial dick. As a young child, I was simply stunned by this. I sat in complete silence, unable to turn away as these images flashed on my television. When it finally ended, I could do nothing but sit in place for a good ten minutes as the TV played the next short (which I don’t even vaguely remember). After that, I finally found the presence of mind to stand up and turn the television off so I could sit down and reflect upon what I had just witnessed.
Sure, it’s not the scariest or most disturbing thing to ever come to film, but it still made an impact on me. I was young and I just wanted to watch cartoons and I was suddenly hit with this. As a result, I’m still mildly disturbed watching it, though I can definitely appreciate it a whole lot more and a few images will remain vividly in my memory. Though it may leave my head at some point, I’m fairly certain that throughout the rest of my life there will be times that I’ll remember those images, take a deep breath, and say, “Damn… I remember that.”
And just for those of you that decided not to watch the film above, I’ve decided to include one disturbing image from it, just for you.