Written by Jonathan Wojcik
Nightmare Fuel Review:
Some call it Nightmare Fuel. Others have coined the term Kindertrauma. Whatever label you prefer, some of the weirdest, creepiest and most disturbing "monsters" in film and television were never even meant to be scary at all, but were innocently conceived with the best of intentions to entertain a young and sensitive audience. Nightmare Fuel Review will be a series of Bogleech posts this Halloween season, exploring some of the most unsettling denizens of children's entertainment, beginning with one of the most notorious of Eastern Europe...
Behold, the soul-chilling gazes of Pompel and Pilt, stars of a 1967 Norwegian program essentially entitled "The Repairmen." Designed by the talented Arne and Bjørg Mykle, the program's surreal, dreamlike logic was intended to challenge young imaginations and stimulate children on an artistic level, which I'm sure it did, but it also distressed and confused them enough to generate a slew of complaints from parents, teachers and even child psychologists. It's hailed as one of Norway's most frightening television series of all time, enjoying a recent stage revival fueled by its twisted reputation. As stage producer Geir-Ove Andersen puts it, "we are talking about two cool characters that scared the shit out of an entire generation."
So, what's all the fuss about, besides some slightly eerie-looking puppets? Despite the title, these mouthless, unblinking goons actually spend much of their time breaking and ruining everything they touch in some sort of cold, colorless purgatory, surrounded by human hair forests, Escheresque architecture and unpredictable spatial anomalies. It's a gloomy, echoing void where the stars themselves dare not shine, and nothing, even as simple as a door, always does what it's supposed to.
Few living creatures seem to inhabit this Lynchian abyss, if they're even living things at all; the "migrants" are literally just slide whistles with wigs who come and go hurriedly from who knows where, and the "Moffedille," shown here, is a hooting blob of carpeting that communicates through images in word balloons, usually demanding keys, which it eats, completely uncooked and unsanitized. My god. It must be teeming with spine-lice.
Only one other human seems to occupy the same world as our un-handy-men, and I use "human" as loosely as I use "other." Its name is Gorgon, like the mythical being whose eyes turn men to stone, but our heroes need not worry, since this particular specimen's eyes appear to have been burned from their sockets a long time ago. "Gorgon" is apparently a janitor, which means he has to clean up after Pompel and Pilt's horrible messes, and he doesn't handle it well, to say the least. Whether it's screaming in rhyme or inexplicably pretending to be a baby, Gorgon appears to have been driven irreversibly bonkers long before the series began, and I'm inclined to wonder if the entire situation - Repairmen and all - is nothing more than this eyeless bastard's personally tailored hell. Gorgon cleans, the Repairmen destroy. Forever and ever, with nobody else around to care.
As fascinating and downright beautiful as this program is through my adult eyes, I have no doubt that I'd have found it ghastly had I been alive, young and Norwegian enough in the sixties, assuming I could even distinguish it from the fever-induced hallucinations I was plagued by in my early years. For once, people thought a program could have a potentially damaging effect on child development and may have actually had some semblance of a shadow of a point, somewhere. Would anything here really look out of place in the middle of Eraserhead? Don't just take my word for it, now; whole episodes are available on youtube, including one with English subtitles!
FINAL NIGHTMARE RATING: 10 OUT OF 13
Not scary to me now, but I can see how it might have been.
Think back to your childhood - have you ever been excessively terrified by something that wasn't at all supposed to be frightening? Share your "nightmare fuel" memories in the comments! I have a broad list of candidates to narrow down already, but you just might have something new that I'll have room to feature, and I always enjoy a good terrified child story!