Well, I said last week that I might make this a thing. A few sleepless nights and some White Russian deliberation later, and I’ve decided to do just that. Welcome, then, to my second Top 10 Tuesday. Anyone who’s made the mistake of reading my pointless ramblings here knows that I’m not only a horror guy. I also like noir, documentaries, and a good hat movie now and then. But I don’t think I’ve mentioned how much I love animation.
That said, this week is Top 10 Horror-y Cartoons. For this list, I’ve tried to focus on shorts, so there’s no anime, no Scooby, etc. Some of these are straight up horror. A lot of them have horrific implications. And some are just plain fuckin’ sick and/or weird. For fairly obvious reasons, just like I’ll never discuss Jeepers Creepers, I won’t be talking about Ren & Stimpy either, even if it breaks my heart a little. But Kricfalusi, like Salva, is a child predator, so fuck ’em both.
#10 Steamboat Willy
This isn’t horror-y in terms of content, but in terms of visuals. All these black and white cartoons. All these old Disney shorts from the late 20s into the 30s (as well as Leon Schlesinger’s Bosko and Max Fleischer’s Betty Boop) are unnerving for reasons I can’t put my finger on much less articulate. Joe Dante does a great job tapping into this unease in his “It’s A Good Life” segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983).
#9 Bambi Meets Godzilla (1969)
One of my most cherished memories of the 80s was Night Flight on USA Network. Night Flight had everything: music videos, B-movies, animation, documentaries, all kindsa stuff. This is where I first saw Atomic Cafe and several of the shorts on this list, including this here one here. If you’ve never seen it, I won’t give it away other than to say it’s just a sick little sight gag.
#8 Face Like A Frog (1987)
This is another short I first saw on Night Flight. For a long time, I thought it was called “Don’t Go In The Basement.” It’s got some horror overtones, but it’s not so much a horror short as much as it’s just weird as fuck to watch. Something about it just makes me really uneasy, and I have no rational explanation for it. Oh, and the song was done by Danny Elfman.
#7 The Cat Came Back (1988)
I don’t remember where I first saw this, so I could be wrong, but I think it was in a theater which means it was probably at the Pittsburgh Repertoire Theater to catch something showing as part of their film series. I’ve mentioned this place a few times, and it’s another venue through which I came across lots of less-than-mainstream animation. This one is from those zany folks at the National Film Board Of Canada. It’s based on an 1893 song of the same name about a guy trying to get rid of a cat that keeps showing up in his house.
#6 Maxi Cat (1971-1973)
This was from a Croatian animation studio called Zagreb. I first saw this on PBS on yet another offbeat animation outlet, the International Festival Of Animation hosted by Jean Marsh. Maxi Cat was a cat who’d come across some random object or situation which always took an unexpected turn. The resulting humor was often on a Far Side sort of level, sometimes becoming truly gross. My favorite is the one where Maxi Cat eats a plate of pasta that’s all one noodle. When he gets to the end, the last bit breaks off and crawls away. Blech.
#5 Porky In Wackyland (1938), Dough For The Do-Do (1949)
There are two versions of this, 1938 black and white by Bob Clampett and a 1949 color remake by Friz Freleng. They’re more or less the same with Porky going to find the last do-do. Both of them are surreal and trippy, but Freleng kicks it up a notch in terms of the backgrounds which include Dali references and border on creepy.
#4 The Fly (1968)
This is another Zagreb short that I probably saw either on International Festival Of Animation or at Pittsburgh Repertoire Theater. It’s from the perspective of a fly buzzing around and making its way from the woods, across a yard, and into a house. It runs about 9 minutes and is a mesmerizing thing to watch right up to its chilling end.
#3 Ape (1992)
I don’t know where I first saw this. It’s by Julie Zammarchi and based on a Russell Edson prose poem. If you’re not familiar with Edson, all I can tell you is his stuff is an acquired taste. He’s a master of the frame shift, and folks I’ve suggested his stuff to have so far loved it or hated it, no middle ground. The premise is a husband complaining about his wife preparing ape for dinner again, but that’s only the least of it.
#2 Jac Mac & Rad Boy Go! (1985)
Here’s yet another one I first saw on Night Flight. Jac Mac and Rad Boy are a couple waste-oids on their way to a party. On their way, they have to stop for beer. After that, they can’t get to the party fast enough. This is Wesley Archer’s college film, waaayyy before King Of The Hill, Bob’s Burgers, and Rick And Morty. I also gotta believe there’s some kind of connection between him and the sort of stuff you see in, say, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and Beetlejuice. It’s twisted, has a sicko ending, and for some reason, at least partly the sound design I think, it was kinda disturbing the first time I saw it, and still is.
#1 Lupo The Butcher (1987)
As is often the case, it was tough to decide between #1 and #2. I finally came down on the side of Lupo The Butcher. It’s another Pittsburgh Repertoire Theater entry, and it’s about as sick as humor gets. Lupo was created by Dan Antonucci, and watching it, you can see exactly where Ed, Edd, N Eddy came from. Lupo is a foul-mouthed, short-tempered butcher who inadvertently cuts off his left thumb with a cleaver. Oopsies. From there, more stuff starts falling off on its own. The whole thing is a graphic, bloody mess and funny as hell in a Monty Python Black Knight kinda way. Oh, and the shot where he tries to prop his own severed head up with his tongue? Yeah we’ll see that again in Spawn.
Alrighty, there’s the list. There’s some bizarro shit on here, so if you haven’t seen these, they’re all pretty easy to find on the YouTubes. What’d I miss? What’s your favorite twisted animation? Let me know in the Comments.