Sinister movies based on kids stories
This week yet another movie version of Peter Pan was announced, but the latest iteration sounds rather different to J.M. Barrie's heart-warming classic. The flick, simply called 'Pan', sees Aaron Eckhart playing a long-suffering detective called Hook, who's tracking a child murderer named Pan. Wendy's one of his few surviving victims and as far as we know, Tinker Bell won't be a real fairy.
Weird though it sounds however, the film's not the first classic children's story to be transformed into a strangely grown-up movie. Here are some of the weirder examples that are definitely not for kids.
Return to Oz
This sequel to The Wizard of Oz, only loosely based on L. Frank Baum's novels, proved too dark for kids when it was released back in 1985 and was a box office flop. The plot sees Dorothy, six months after putting on those ruby slippers, shackled in a psychiatric ward and being given electroshock treatment. When she finally returns to the Emerald City, it's been pulled down, the Yellow Brick Road's destroyed and the Tin Man and Cowardly Lion have been turned to stone. There really is no place like home.
Snow White: A Tale of Terror
A bizarre made-for-TV movie that transforms the classic Grimm's Fairy Tale into a horror film set during the Crusades. Sigourney Weaver is superbly unhinged as the evil stepmother who really doesn't like Ms White ("Never forget! I am the cat and you are the mouse!"). It also features pig disembowelment, rape and, most horrifyingly of all, a scenery-chewing Sam Neill. There's not a singing dwarf in sight.
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The Company of Wolves
Weird gothic horror loosely based on the Red Riding Hood story about a teenage girl from the present who dreams that she lives in a fairytale world. The movie's a grab bag of bizarre symbolism and fairy tale folklore, almost all of it sexual, with the story a Freudian parable for the loss of childhood innocence. Angela Lansbury (who plays 'Granny') gets the best line: "The worst kinds of wolves are hairy on the inside!" Subtle Ange, subtle.
Where the Wild Things Are
In the hands of director Spike Jonze, Maurice Sendak's brief kid's book (it's ten sentences long) became a depressing and peculiarly adult drama. The Wild Things acted like depressed, neurotic New Yorkers (James 'Tony Soprano' Gandolfini voiced lead monster Carol), while little boy Max now comes from a broken home. The film has moments of genius, but kids won't get it.
This truly creepy Czech version of Alice in Wonderland puts Tim Burton's disappointingly sanitised adaptation to shame. It's shot in a dingy house, with only one live character (Alice) surrounded by a variety of stop-motion puppets, including 'Caterpillar', which consists of a sock with a pair of false teeth. The trailer alone will give you nightmares.
Hansel and Gretel
Creepy but effective South Korean horror version that switches the roles of the children and adults. Insurance salesman Lee accidently enters the gingerbread house and finds it inhabited by charming kids, but it soon becomes clear they won't let him leave. Asian cinema excels at 'creepy children horror' and this is no exception.
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Another dark riff on the Red Riding Hood myth that sees the main character reborn as an illiterate teen (a young Reece Witherspoon) on the run after her mum's arrested for prostitution. Kiefer Sutherland's the Big Bad Wolf (he's called Bob Wolverton), which in this hilarious but thoroughly nasty re-telling means he's a serial killing pedophile. The best line: "You killed my grandma!" says Reece, "That's not all I did to grandma!" laughs Kiefer.
Beauty and the beast (La Belle et la Bete)
Not the charming musical Disney version, but a live-action effort made in France back in 1946. This being France, there's less singing and comedy teapot sidekicks, and rather more weird sexual tension between the mis-matched leads. Gloomy and creepy, it also has a peculiar ending that suggests Belle preferred her prince when he was a beast. Nonetheless, this is a (very grown-up) classic. You won't even miss Lumiere!