I cried “zoinks!” and jumped into Shaggy’s arms watching Shaun of the Dead. I averted my eyes and whispered “jeepers” when Skinner impaled his chin in Hot Fuzz. I tried to calm my mail-horror nerves by downing bagfuls of Scooby Snacks – but to no avail – I simply have no taste for horror films, for gore, for gratuitous violence.
And that’s why, when I was a small child, I would cower behind the sofa when the Scooby-Doo theme played. I’m too young to remember the Daleks in their ’60s heyday when they drove audiences out of the room with their immortal cry of “exterminate” and so the program that sent me quivering with fear was Scooby-Doo. But, like the pepperpots of Doctor Who, I watched the television with one eye open. As Miranda Hart once put it, “it’s one of those, I don’t want to look but just can’t stop looking things.”
Scooby-Doo scared me and elated me at the same time, so I’ve seen every episode. With Halloween approaching, I thought it suitable to cast my eye back to the crime-solving hound’s earlier adventures and determine which episode really is the scariest. So sit back, relax and allow yourself to be taken back to a time when people were genuinely puzzled by Scooby-Doo.
And remember, don’t take this seriously (I’m not), I am speaking to you through this article as an eight year-old. Be warned that I may get bored with writing and go off and play outside.
10. Never Ape An Ape-Man
For starters, I don’t know why the titular primate is called an ‘Ape-Man’ when he is quite clearly just an ape and it doesn’t even rhyme. But I guess they thought it sounded better. In “Never Ape An Ape-Man” the gang travel to meet one of Daphne’s many uncles who is conveniently a movie director. He’s shooting a King Kong B-movie rip-off and he’s enlisted the five of them as extras but naturally disaster strikes when a rampageous ape scares everyone off. There’s even a haunted mansion and a display of alarming bitchiness from Velma towards Daphne – “well, with your luck, Daph, the next button you push will bring the roof down.”
Fear factor: The ape itself is rather threatening and for once the man behind the mask doesn’t just run around, freaking everyone out. He actually toys with the gang and even whips out his own Scooby mask because everyone has one of them (I did).
Who’s the villain? Believe it or not, the man behind the ape mask is in fact Carl the stuntman(!). The only man on set with access to the costume. Shocker.
9. Make A Beeline Away From That Feline
Scooby-Doo does cat people. You can tell this was the point when the writers really were stretched for ideas – so they invented Cat-Man, the rather stylish alter ego for Daphne’s aunt (no relation to her filmmaking uncle). He likes long walks across the New York skyline (at night), growling, and natty red capes.
Fear factor: Cat-Man is a menacing creation. In his spare time he likes to creep around Daphne’s aunt’s apartment, hissing and staring self-consciously at the camera.
Who’s the villain? Dr. Bell, Daphne’s aunt’s bedside physician and a trained hypnotist. He likes diamonds so darned much that he decided to dress up as a rejected Marvel supervillain and steal them, pinning the blame on his patient and her sinister medallion.
8. Watt a Shocking Ghost
When you fake your own death and then come back as a ghost, how do you make yourself look like a ghost? It appears Mr. Voltner thought it’d be smart and innovative to ditch the white sheet for a rubber suit and a battery pack, enabling him to look like orange soirbet. This is the 10,000 Volt Ghost, an infamous phantom in the Scooby-Doo universe. He’s haunting the sleepy town of Winterhaven where Mystery Inc. conveniently stop, only to discover trouble is afoot.
Fear factor: We all get a little fright when we get a mild electrical shock. This “little fright” personified is the 10,000 Volt Ghost, the one monster I most certainly wouldn’t like to grab me.
Who’s the villain? As I said before, it’s Mr. Voltner, the docile drudge of Winterhaven’s mayor, a man desperate for money. A man desperate for money who in a bid to get money spends a helluva lot of money on a electricity suit. Smart.
7. The Harum Scarum Sanatorium
“The Harum Scarum Sanatorium” is, essentially, a cartoon horror movie. You’ve got your band of stylish youngsters who, when on vacation, come across an abandoned sanatorium in the middle of nowhere. It’s got a suitably chilling atmosphere and one of the most clichéd monsters ever (quite a feat given that Scooby-Doo is one big cliché): the mad doctor figure.
Fear factor: the idea that Mystery Inc. are in the middle of nowhere with nobody but each other in a thunderstorm and an insane GP on the loose is enough to terrify anyone. Well, eight year-old me.
Who’s the villain? Officer Oldfield. That’s right, you heard me. “Who’s he?” you may ask. He’s a now incarcerated crim that was smuggling gold or some other high-value substance underneath Niagara Falls. Neat.
6. High Rise Hair Raiser
Imagine if Jon Pertwee was electrocuted and coated in blue paint. He’d look something like the prime baddie in “High Rise Hair Raiser,” a foppish phantom stalking the girders of a construction site. Here we have a genuinely terrifying villain with piercing yellow eyes and a vampiric countenance. His blood red cape doesn’t help much, either.
Fear factor: Midway through the episode, Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby take a detour to a sinister mansion and encounter the cape-clad creep’s great-great-great-great granddaughter. She’s been dead for twenty years – and she looks it.
Who’s the villain? Red Sparks and Jim Rivets, two construction site foremen that have delightfully themed names. Sparks and Rivets are bank robbers using a powerful lens to see the code of safes from their conveniently placed apartment. Unfortunately for them the titular high-rise will block their view and so rather than petitioning to the council they decided to dress up as a long dead dandy and his wizened relative.
5. Bedlam in the Big Top
The episodes of Scooby-Doo I’m covering were written in an age when political correctness was a wholly different thing. “Bedlam in the Big Top” has a character lovingly named Max the Midget (who the gang refer to as “the little man”) as well as Shaggy whipping a lion in his “lion-tamer act.”
Aside from those rather offensive moments, “Bedlam in the Big Top” is one of the greatest Scooby-Doo episodes I’ve seen. There’s a genuinely intelligent and menacing villain that manages to hypnotise the gang (bar Velma and Fred), a few nice circus set pieces, and an unexpected unmasking.
Fear factor: The fact the “ghost clown” manages to use hypnosis on our leads is most unsettling. Seeing Daphne, Scooby and Shaggy under the clown’s influence sends a chill down the spine. And besides, who isn’t afraid of a monster that looks like an effete member of Kiss.
Who’s the villain? Scooby-Doo is unbelievably obvious and that’s partly the charm of it. So when the “ghost clown” was revealed to be someone they hadn’t met (parodied in the What’s New Scooby Doo? episode “It’s All Greek To Scooby” in which Velma rants that she hadn’t met the culprit beforehand) before, it was quite astonishing. There were multiple suspects already and when the writers (who I have come to assume were inhaling goodness knows what when they came up with the episode titles) hoodwinked us, I was genuinely surprised.
4. The Backstage Rage
Scooby-Doo meets The Phantom of the Opera, it’s an unusual mix but surprisingly it works. The whole thing comes about when Shaggy and Scooby en route from the pizza parlour discover a violin case chockfull of money. Surprisingly they jump to the conclusion that it’s counterfeiters and indeed, they are right. The pace quickens and soon Mystery Inc. find themselves with a mystery on their hands (again).
Fear factor: what makes “The Backstage Rage” scary is really the atmosphere. Essentially the only people in the episode are the gang and one other man (classic Scooby-Doo) so it’s pretty tense, in Scooby-Doo terms.
Who’s the villain? There’s only one other person so it doesn’t push the boundaries of your imagination to guess who it is. I suppose with Scooby-Doo it never is.
3. The Chiller Diller Movie Thriller
For once one of the hilarious titles Scooby-Doo churns out (come on, they actually made up a word to get this one to rhyme) is actually fitting. “The Chiller Diller Movie Thriller” is quite a thriller, in the loosest possible sense of the word. The gang travel to the set of Scooby-Doo (and Scooby-Dum’s) cousin Scooby-Dee’s – they’re quite the incestuous bunch, Scooby-Dee and-Doo end up kissing Dee – new movie because, well, dogs can be actors too. But disaster strikes as the movie’s original star returns to proclaim that nobody can ever remake his famous feat. Presumably this is what Edward Woodward will one day do to Nicholas Cage. Once the death threats start coming in Mystery Inc. naturally volunteer to accompany Scooby-Dee for the rest of the shoot and the action gets off at a breakneck speed.
Fear factor: Milo Booth, the original star, likes to turn off lights and flee through cemeteries so, typically, “The Chiller Diller Movie Thriller” gives me serious heebie-jeebies.
Who’s the villain? Scooby-Dee’s right-hand man, surprisingly. I didn’t actually see it coming but don’t tell anyone that, I’ll never live it down.
2. The No-Faced Zombie Chase Case
“The No-Faced Zombie Chase Case” is, perhaps, one of my all-time favorite episodes of Scooby-Doo. It’s fun, fast-paced and nobody can ever guess who the villain is (no, honestly, I implore you to avoid the “who’s the baddy?” section below and go off and watch this episode. I bet you’ll never guess who the titular zombie is). It moves from a snack bar to a ridiculously anticlimactic car chase and then to a doll factory. This all comes from Scooby witnessing a jewelry store robbery.
Fear factor: the eponymous ghoul is sufficiently spooky in its own right. But he’s got a limp (there’s a case that antagonists shouldn’t be defined by their disabilities, see: The Lone Ranger). Nonetheless facelessness and nondescript clothing lend a chilling air to the “no-faced zombie.”
Who’s the villain? If you want to do a fun bet in your household then I suggest you go now and watch “The No-Faced Zombie Chase Case” because none shall win any money. Now go and bet the car, I shall wait.
Back? Good. Weren’t you completely shocked that the zombie was actually a robot controlled by Mr. Dilly (of the Dilly Dally Dolly Company – another corker of a name) who dressed up as a gorilla to retrieve a valuable coin once the robot had been hit by a forklift? I was.
1. Nowhere to Hyde
“Nowhere to Hyde” is absolutely terrifying in every respect. Like “The Harum Scarum Sanatorium” it has all the hallmarks of a horror movie: a spooky mansion, a chilling roadside encounter, and some traditional fright-night scares.
One of the standout moments that really justifies this episode’s high ranking is the beginning when the monster-of-the-week, the abnormally green Mr. Hyde, robs a store and decides to evade the authorities by hiding in the Mystery Machine. This is a definite no-no. Episodes of Doctor Who when the TARDIS is invaded by a malicious presence (“The Doctor’s Wife,” “Journey to the Center of the TARDIS,” in some ways) always make the blood run cold. In Skyfall when MI6 is blown up, you know the villain means business, it’s the same thing again and again. The home/vehicle/office of the protagonists is a safe haven, somewhere that viewers recognize as a protected place and so when Mr. Hyde breaks into the Mystery Machine, you know things have gotten serious.
Fear factor: Mr. Hyde, with his bloodcurdling cackle and virescent complexion, is a sinister ghoul and one that stays long in the memory.
Who’s the villain? If you know your Louis Stevenson then you’ll be able to guess who the villain is from the off. Indeed, it is Dr. Jekyll who intended to frame his housekeeper for robbery, feigning funny turns so he could disguise as Mr. Hyde and rob outlets.