10 nightmares from 1980s fantasy movies and TV shows

Put on a seemingly family friendly movie or TV show in the 1980s, or even watch the adverts, and terror may just have been waiting for you...

The Dark Crystal.

Kids nowadays don’t know how lucky they are, what with their ‘safe’ cartoons and shows. Now if you were a kid in the 1970s or 1980s, there were more than enough scary monsters and super-creeps to fill a child’s imagination with all manner of nasty nightmares. As part of our Enchanted 80s week, here is our top 10.

The Fireys from Labyrinth

Of all the creatures and Muppets Sarah has to encounter on the way to the goblin city in Labyrinth, the Fireys are the weirdest and most sinister.

A cross between foxes and lions, the Fireys at first seem friendly as they break out into a light-hearted song and dance number. However, when you realise that these weird creatures can remove their own body parts, things take a terrifying turn for the worst, as disembodied heads, multi-limbed monsters and even a Firey with removed eyeballs run and chase Sarah down through a very dark and scary wood. Not one for those who dislike puppets…

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Noseybonk from Jigsaw

A British children’s TV show from the 1980s, Jigsaw was Blue Peter but with logic puzzles and quizzes. Starring Janet Ellis and Sylvester McCoy, Jigsaw was designed to teach kids maths and to try and tease their brain a little with a mix of comedy and questions.

The show was also full of questions, with one of the characters on hand to help being called Noseybonk, a weird mime artist type creation with a huge nose and sinister grim that was a mix of a A Clockwork Orange‘s Droog and Cyrano de Bergerac. It was a nightmare creation so terrifying that it would put the willies up the likes of other nightmare kids’ creations, such as Pennyworth the Clown or Freddy Krueger. This sinister silent monstrosity haunts the subconscious of every child ever to have watched the Jigsaw back in the day.

As for the clip below, don’t ask us what Nosegays are…

The Groke from The Moomins

A representation of the ‘depression’ of long deep winters in Scandinavian countries, the Groke freezes and kills everything it touches.

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In The Moomins books, the Groke is a nightmare creature told in story form to Moomin-trolls, Little My and Sniff, as a way of getting them to stay in at nights or when it gets cold. But as with a lot of The Moomins stories (and northern fairy tales for that matter), the Groke is a real threat that lurks in forests. Even scarier is the creature’s representation in the 1980s stop motion version adaptation of the books…

Jabberwocky from Alice Through The Looking Glass

A tall tale told to Alice by Humpty Dumpty, this medieval-like poem involves knights, hideous creatures and vivid descriptive explanations of what would happen you if you ever got caught and eaten by a Jabberwocky.

Bought to life in the 1980s by Terry Gilliam, based on the illustrations for the original Carroll poem by John Tenniel, the monster looks like a cross between a bulging eyed gangly dragon and a deep sea creature. Even with a Vorpal blade at hand this was still a terrifying creature, straight from nightmares.

Humpty Dumpty from Kinder Eggs adverts

If you thought that Jabberwocky was scary, take a look at this Kinder Egg Advert from the 1980s, which is an even more terrifying take on Lewis Carroll’s eggy-based character. Remember, too, that this isn’t a TV show. This is a commercial, trying to sell you something. Proof positive that fear is a potent advertising technique…

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The Skeksies from The Dark Crystal

The creepy bad guys of The Dark Crystal,  these vulture-like creatures are another Jim Henson creation that mix parts of birds and reptiles together to create one of the creepiest movie monsters of all time.

Supposedly based on the seven deadly sins, the Skeksies’ creepy appearance was even more emphasised when the snivelling Chamberlain is stripped down and exiled. That’s when we find that under all the opulence they are just skeletal bits of bones, all weedy and saggy skinned. Creepy and deadly, these are more than just monsters, they’re under the bed nightmares, with kids everywhere only being able to imagine just what nasty and scary things these sharply intelligent nasties could do to you…

Fenella The Witch from Chorlton And The Wheelies

A Cosgrove Hall production, this late 1970s stop motion show (which was repeated lots of times in the 80s, when most of us got to know it) was based around a trippy premise of a large orange dragon who befriended a set of wheel-based creatures, and helped protect them from a vivid green witch who lived in a kettle.

Said witch, of course, also controlled an army of teleporting mushrooms.

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Fenella was full of insane kinetic energy and sort of a mix between a hyper-active kid, and a Punch and Judy puppet. And she was just a little creepy as a result…

The Judder Man from the Metz Schnapps advert

A mix up of sinister wooden puppet show toys and northern European folklore, the Judder Man, not unlike the manner in which the Moomins played on our terrifying fear of dark forest, digs into more cold and creepy nightmare fairy stories.

Not only is the design of the character just plain sinister, the jerky and inhuman movements, and stop motion techniques, just add to this creepy sinister atmosphere of this hugely successful advertising campaign.

The Thin Man from Look And Read: The Boy From Space

Not to be confused with the more famous ‘Thin/Tall Man’ from the Phantasm films, this more sinister creature was a terrifying alien from the 1971 series The Boy From Space.

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This was a serialised drama, shown in the children’s school programme, Look And Read. It was written by Robin of Sherwood’s Richard Carpenter.

Continually hunting the ‘boy from space’ (Peep-Peep), this older, scarier version of the metallic skinned alien was Terminator-like in his tenacity of prey, destroying and vaporising anything in his path to get to his goal.

An unstoppable alien menace with a stoic appearance, this children’s TV nightmare has never been repeated. Which is good news, as it would seem for the time being anyway that the sinister Thin Man and his scary appearances are firmly under lock and key in a BBC vault. They will not be terrifying the general public any time soon.

Grim Reaper from Dark and Lonely Water public information warning

In the 1970s and 1980s there ran a set of very sinister public information warnings to stop children and adults alike doing stupid things (such as picking up a hot sparkler or retrieving a Frisbee off a pylon).

However even if some of the information warning by today’s standards seems basic, there is one that even now is terrifying. Called Dark And Lonely Water, this showed what would happen if you played near or around water (obviously highlighting the potential to drown). It offered a mix of the most horrific of Hammer films, and for good measure added a sinister Grim Reaper figure, lurking around rivers, lakes and bodies of water, waiting for another victim.

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Simply terrifying.

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