Punky Brewster was a series created in the mid 80’s during America’s love affair with orphans. Seriously, they were popping up every where. It was a fairly inoffensive series that ran for four heartwarming seasons. The show taught many an important lesson, like don’t get locked in an empty refrigerator during hide and seek, Mark Paul Gosselaar is an ass and I think there was even something about not doing drugs. All in all, it was a fine little show, except for that time they tried to scare the bejeezus out of children.
Yes of course I’m talking about the two part episode titled “Perils of Punky” which I’m sure is locked away deep in the dark recesses of the minds of those who saw it. I can’t find the full episodes, but the chunks I have found do a good enough job of telling the story, and contain all the stuff of nightmares. Sorry for all the bad memories I’m about to reawaken, I’m sure you spent a lot of time repressing them. Here are your links:
Things begin innocently enough as Punky and her friends Cherrie, Allen and Margaux go on a camping trip with Punky’s guardian Henry and Cherrie’s mother Betty. Punky’s dog also comes along, his name is Brandon, because the writers weren’t creative. They’re camping at Lake Waxahatchie, home of the Waxahatchie Indians.
Showing that he might not be fit to be a legal guardian, Henry allows the children to run off on their own, unsupervised. Punky lets Brandon run around without a leash and wouldn’t you know it, he runs off and the gang has to track him down. Of course they get lost, and can’t find their way back to camp. They do however stumble upon a cave.
They try to get Brandon to lead them back to camp, but he just ends up going in a circle and leading them right back to the cave. Allen has the brilliant idea to into the cave, and since Henry told them all to stick together, the rest of the group is forced to follow. They soon stumble upon a chamber in the cave that contains not only a roaring fire, but also a poorly done cave painting, depicting a dog and four children.
Punky notices the coincidence, but as her friends begin to freak out, she decides to calm them down by telling ghost stories. Well at least her heart was in the right place. Punky’s ghost story is really just a recap of current events, featuring a quartet of kids and a dog that get lost in a cave. Her story is interrupted by “Indian drums” which frightens the group and causes them to run off. But before they can go anywhere, an Indian pops out like a temple guard in Legends of the Hidden Temple.
The Indian is quickly joined by other Indians, including a chief who orders the group to sit around the fire with him. He tells them a story about the area. According to him, many generations ago, there was no lake and the land was barren due to the presence of an evil spirit. For some reason I doubt the validity of his claims.
Anyways, the spirit dwelt deep underground in the heart of the very same cave they’re all currently hanging out in. Long story short, an Indian girl named Princess Moon and her friends defeated the spirit with the power of love, and it locked itself away. The land then became fertile and I guess a lake just sort of materialized, I’m not sure, they sort of gloss over that part. Anyways, the spirit has gotten wind that Princess Moon is no longer alive, so it’s returned and now it’s up to Punky and her motley crew to stop it.
Of course Punky isn’t quite sure she’s up to the task and initially refuses. The Indian chief responds by laying an epic guilt trip on her, telling her how all the plants will die, the animals will leave and his people will be doomed. Ease up champ, she’s 10. Of course the guilt trip works, despite Margaux’s incredibly sensible protests, and the children prepare to venture deep into a cave alone. I can only imagine how many missing children’s disappearances we can blame on random groups of Indians found in caves. Punky tells everyone not to worry, because even if they get overwhelmed, they can just return to the chamber they were in and everything with be fine. Then the exit magically seals itself shut.
As the begin to explore the cave, things start to get creepy. First, after Punky comments that there’s no way the evil spirit could be watching them all the time in such a big cave, several pairs of eyes appear in the darkness.
Oh and then there’s a little sequence where they look into a hole they find. Go head and go to the 9:14 mark of Part 2. I’ll wait.
And for those of you who can’t view youtube, they find this.
Turns out that’s really only in there as a teaser for the next episode, but don’t worry, we’ll get to it soon enough. The kids continue exploring the cave, and stumble upon a tomahawk, but decide it’s better to just leave it where they found it.
You know what this hasn’t had enough of? Terrible 80’s special effects.
Much better. Yes the magical tomahawk floats in the air and follows after the children. Will it aid them in their time of need, or imbed itself deep in the back of one of their skulls? Really at this point, I’d say it could go either way. Next the kids come across a giant neon spider web. There’s either a giant neon spider down there, or an alien that wants to play.
And the winner is….
Giant neon spider! Holy shit!
Punky gets attacked, while the rest of the kids get stuck in the web.
The whole sequence starts at about the 2:10 mark of Part 3, go ahead and relive the terror. Let me just remind you, this was a show aimed at kids. That is one intense sequence for an 8 year old to watch. Not to mention, that spider is a creature effect that still holds up surprisingly well. In the 80’s that was piss your pants terrifying. Not that I’d know anything about that. The whole thing wraps up with Brandon the dog fighting the spider, while Punky kills it with the magical tomahawk that just so happened to appear in her time of need.
By the way, this is all just the tip of the crazy shit iceberg. After the spider is dead, the gang regroups, except for Margaux, who sits on the ground in a catatonic state until she mysteriously disappears.
Allen soon follows.
Punky and Cherrie huddle together and listen to their friend’s anguished cries for help, as a sinister voice asks them if they’re looking for someone. Skip ahead a little bit and of course Cherrie has gone missing too. We’re left with a terrified Punky all alone, being harassed by a disembodied voice that is essentially telling her it wants her dead. Punky sobs and pleads with it to return her friends. What does that get her?
I should remind you, all of that is accompanied by each friend screaming her name in a horrifying manner. Who in the hell thought this was a good idea? If that wasn’t enough, we also get a shot of what appears to be Allen as a zombie, and the Margaux skeleton exploding.
Say, let’s continue the psychological torment of a 10 year old girl and shower her a vision of her beloved foster father Henry sitting around not giving a damn that she’s missing.
And just when she’s figured out that it was a terrible trick, let’s turn her last companion, her beloved dog Brandon, into a giant skeleton.
Now, we’ve got a full scale psychological assault being waged against Punky and really, any children watching the show. Let’s time to bring it home and make sure none of them ever sleep again with the big reveal of what the terrible evil spirit looks like!
And we were so close. Yes, the mighty and powerful evil spirit looks like the back of a valley girl’s jean jacket. Our sparkly friend asks Punky if she hates him for what he’s done, and when she tells him that she does, there’s an explosion. I guess it’s supposed to be a display of his power, because he follows it up with some smaller, multicolored ones.
The spirit then tells Punky that she must die, and that he’s considering turning her into a mouse and feeding her to his snakes. Again, she’s 10. I think this is where Princess Moon’s spirit shows up, but it’s cut out of the clip. Instead we get Punky telling the spirit that she’ll fight him with love, and the spirit telling her that she will burn, then conjuring fire.
The whole encounter wraps up with Punky telling the spirit that she’s not afraid of him and feels sorry for him, because he’ll never know what it’s like to love someone and know that someone loves you back. Whoa Punky, too mean. The spirit attempts to talk tough, telling Punky that he’s going to kill her, but you can tell he’s hurt. He soon retreats in another unimpressive explosion, probably heading back to his room to listen to The Cure and have a good cry.
The episode wraps up with the revelation that all the events that just happened were part of Punky’s ghost story, and the kids are all safe and sound inside the cave. They’re soon found by Henry and Betty and they all head back to camp, while we’re left to ponder why Punky has such a disturbing imagination.
And so ends The Perils of Punky, the nightmare fuel for an entire generation of kids. The evil spirit’s hilarious appearance really brings the episode back down to Earth, but there is some seriously messed up shit going on. Who’s idea was this to an episode of a kid’s show like this? Did the writers from Tales From the Crypt had some free time and throw together a script? Or did the writers just get bored one day and do a lot of peyote? Regardless of how it came to be created, I absolutely love this episode and remember vividly how terrified I was of it as a child. But I’d still really like some answers on this, so I’m going to try to get Soleil Moon Frye to come on as a podcast guest.
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