Only one Roald Dahl entry, I promised myself, otherwise this master of whimsical nightmares could have taken up much of this list.
It's no real surprise he's in the top spot, is it?
Matilda may not be responsible for quite as many childhood sleepless nights the world over as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but it is my favorite Roald Dahl story, and it's my list, damnit.
Book or movie? Either. The movie's fairly faithful apart from Americanizing the story, and though each is more horrifying than the other in its own way, both are all-around terrifying.
If you haven't read or seen it, here's how it goes:
Matilda is the daughter of an absolutely awful family, who are oblivious to how precocious she is and prone to punishing her for such sins as reading and asking logical questions. In spite of or more probably because of this, she soon realizes she's more than just smarter than her parents; she's also a budding telekinetic.
She finds herself in a school run by a raging (and super strong) lunatic, Miss Trunchbull, whose disciplinary philosophy falls somewhere in the same school of thought with this guy.
Wow, Dahl, you make my job too easy.
Matilda finds some comfort in her classmates and her teacher, Miss Honey, who turns out to be Miss Trunchbull's niece.
Here's where the terrors of the book and movie diverge.
In both cases, Miss Trunchbull murdered Miss Honey's father and stole her inheritance.
In the book, Miss Trunchbull also has Miss Honey intimidated into signing over all the money she makes herself, leaving her with an unlivable allowance, and Matilda resolves to use her power to rescue her.
So we've got a grown up bully so good at bullying that she can keep intelligent adults under her thumb with no legal grounds behind her.
Miss Trunchbull loses a lot of her superhuman influence on the adult world this way, but she makes up for it several times over in the sequence the movie adds in which Matilda sneaks into her house and tries to steal back Miss Honey's things.
Miss Trunchbull naturally comes home in the middle in one of her mad rages, caused by Matilda's father for unrelated reasons no less, and it's quite clear from the moment she realizes someone's in her house that she's not going to bother with the cops no matter who it is. She’s going to kill whoever she finds with her bare hands if she has to tear the house to pieces to get to them.
What follows is very much like this:
Come to think of it, how did any of us grow old enough to gather that knowledge without frightening ourselves to death first?
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