The Scariest Movie Ever Made

There are Cosmic Forces that intervene in our lives, for their own purposes and to their own schedule.

A young man on Earth, with the dreams of youth, plans to travel, drink deeply of experience. His life stretches out before, waiting to unfold, beckoning him onward.

Obstacles arise, as they always do,  these in the guise of other people’s wants and desires. Loving the world and all the richness it  has to offer, the young man encourages them to follow their dreams, wishes them god-speed, often even makes it possible for them to proceed. But in their wake, Chaos stirs. The young man could leave it behind, set off on his own path, but there is no one to encourage or support him, so he is left to his own devices. Surely he knows that he is not indispensable, that there are others who can constrain the Chaos. But where are they? Will they? And what if they don’t?

At first he stays, believing that once the crisis has passed,  then he can go . But each time he approaches the boundary of the town he lives in, Chaos reasserts itself, larger, stronger, threatening to engulf ever more people. More friends leave to chart their own destinies, either oblivious to the Chaos or perhaps driven by it. The young man sees them on their way, yet grimly stays,  as Chaos settles in permanently, centered in the figure of a grim old invalid.

Are the Cosmic Forces guiding these events?  Are they indifferent? It’s mysterious, unclear

The battle is fought with human souls, and the now not-so-young man, if not exactly triumphant, is holding his own. As he matures, he learns to pace himself. He finds some consolation in other interests, family, business. There is some laughter, some singing. His dreams are still present, but they are now middle-aged, flabby from lack of exercise. And when on occasion they flare up, rebel, try to assert themselves, Chaos floods forth to meet them. Though they don’t know it, the dreams are defeated the minute the fight is joined, as their goals change from escape to defense. Chaos calls the tune.

Then the crisis comes. Unintentionally betrayed, the hero realizes he has lived a delusion, that he has been trapped all along. His forces spent, Chaos overwhelms him, ready to destroy the little bit of life he has managed to construct for himself in the midst of the long, hard fight. He cracks. Seized with madness, he abandons the fight at last. There is one last chance to escape…from the top of a bridge. into the icy water below.

But it’s too late. The Cosmic Forces are invested in his complete and utter destruction, and suicide is not what they have in mind. They act.  They drive him further into madness, convincing him that his long sacrifice has been the right thing, the good thing, that he should continue, that he must continue.

As the hero abandons all hope and reason, he has a vision: all the people who escaped, who lived their lives, developed their careers, achieved their dreams, return in a single instant to rescue him…if he’ll stay. He loses sight of the fact that the battle has long since been lost. The dreams of his youth are shattered and driven away forever. Like Salieri in Amadeus, he will live out his life in a new dream, one forced on him. Most frightening of all, he will learn to like it.

The name of the movie?

It’s a Wondereful Life.


  1. Bob


  2. Linda

    I read the first sentence and thought: “He’s not going there! Not THAT movie!” But it couldn’t have been anything else.

    Thanks for backlighting that particular bit of Americana. (Wouldn’t have been my choice, but I definitely appreciate the sentiment.)

  3. gloomhound

    I’ve always thought that a Wonderful Life was a very sad movie only redeemed at the end(if then).

    The Scariest Movie Ever Made?

    The Wizard of Oz.

  4. Kestrel

    “Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first woman she meets and then teams up with three complete strangers to kill again.”

    -Rick Polito, Marin Independent Journal’s TV listing for “The Wizard of Oz”

  5. Bess

    Wow… that gave me whatever the day version of nightmares is… One of my favorite movies, and I might not be able to watch it this year because of this post…

    Truly, sir, you are a master of horror.

  6. Grumpy Old Medivalist

    A freind of mine saw, in childhood, a stop-motion Christmas film that transformed him into a chronic pediophobist.
    Now, i too have undergone such a metamorphosis.

  7. Stygian Depths



  8. McGee

    I honestly can’t stand it’s a wonderful life

  9. mathguy

    For scariest, I’d go with Oz, then IAWL. The end of Oz is maybe a bit more horrible.

  10. Some guy


  11. Grumpy Old Medivalist

    But at least IAWL is appropriate to the season. It is customary to tell ghost stories at Christmas, after all:

  12. gazes_also

    Yep, the claustrophobic inanity of small town life lived by small minded people, sucking the life out of the only man with imagination.
    I always think, if it had been me, !’d have run off with Violet Bick

  13. Edgewalker

    I’ve avoided IAWL like the plague since I saw it as a kid.

    @Grumpy You look for these things, don’t you?

  14. Grumpy Old Medivalist

    Actually, one came across that particular body of apocalyptic folklore in ones wiccan-hunting days.
    Just as was

  15. Altair IV

    The classic post has returned again, just as I’d hoped it would. I’ve been waiting for it to appear so that I could post this:

    You weren’t the only one to notice the horror that exists behind this film.

  16. missallen

    I’ve never seen IAWL. I have seen enough clips and read enough reviews of it to know that I would be screaming in anger after the first 30 seconds. ANGELS?? REALLY?? And everyone wonders just why I hate the holidays so very much. BTW, Larry, keep up the good work. I know you’ve got the day job, but I so look forward to LIM every time you post a new panel. Love your art work and story lines, and I’m looking forward to the new year and seeing What HAPPENS!!