The Killing of an Egg (1977) dir. Paul Driessen
I’d been contemplating a follow-up to last week’s pumpkin-spiced Taco Break about horror films that are good but not scary with another group question about benign cultural items that scare anyway. Then Sam’s ongoing and Not Optional series on oddities from the Dark Ages of Animation reminded me of this example. A strange short from Danish animator, “The Killing of an Egg” kicked around as an interstitial programming filler on Nickelodeon and HBO in the 90s and later aired as part of MTV’s Liquid Television. It may be considered responsible for SpongeBob SquarePants due to its influence on the show’s creator Stephen Hilliburg at a young age.
The three-minute short accounts for a miniscule fraction of my childhood, even only considering the sizable television-watching portions. A man breaks into a poached egg before becoming breakfast himself the end (my favorite part viewing it now is the yolk-colored roundness of his body). But every second of time with this squiggly figure and his Italian accent wormed its way into my brain, from his unintelligible prayer to the collapse of his roof.
Part of it was content, the cruel glee of the eater as he continues to crack the egg despite hearing pleas from within and the subsequent realization he’s about to become victim to an unseen – but no doubt equally gleeful – assailant himself. The alien format of the short no doubt contributed as well. I’d seen acts of wanton animated violence aplenty, likely within minutes before and after seeing this short, but save a Sniffles or two the Looney Tunes generally followed a familiar formula. And that formula didn’t have time for thirty seconds of muttered prayer, didn’t allow spoons to appear from thin air, and almost always suggested that violence was impermanent and one-sided. Mostly it didn’t suggest my breakfast had a conscious that had to be snuffed out before partaking nor that I could be snuffed as easily. I stuck to Grape Nuts.
The Internet in its way of collecting and disseminating creepy pasta has rejoined many a searcher with their long lost bits of traumatizing media, and created a place for commiseration with others that have similarly scary memories. There’s a whole section of TV Tropes devoted to the topic, and a classic AV Club Inventory. Even august publication The Solute brushed against the subject as pertains to music videos.
I don’t think encountering “The Killing of an Egg” as an adult would have made much of an impact on me. Certainly it wouldn’t have kept me up at night, staring at the cracks in the ceiling to make sure they didn’t widen. Most of the unexpected media horrors I encounter as an adult come in the form of particularly gruesome or uncanny public service announcements, which at least have the intended purpose of putting a scare into me. The effect isn’t limited to visual media either; I can remember listening to a playlist prepared by a friend late at night and having my blood freeze encountering Sophie’s “Faceshopping” without warning (not that the music video would have helped).
Your Turn, Soluters: what Accidental Nightmare Fuel has haunted your lives?