I imagine that most of us who like cartoon entertainment (which I figure is most people who’ll read this) have some traumatic viewing experience that still gives them a chill to remember. Some will mention the shooting death of Bambi’s mom or the last moments of Optimus Prime in the 1986 animated movie. As a somewhat sheltered child, I had a bunch of scares that just embarrass me now, but the scenes here, of Thundercats hero Lion-O overpowered and entombed by the living bandages of his mummified enemy, can still induce a jittery tightness in my breath. (Did they really have to make it a cliffhanger, I was on tenterhooks for twenty-three-and-a-half hours after this, and I had to go to school and act like everything was fine because only losers got so messed up about cartoons and I had to prove I wasn’t… ahem.)

It’s part of my job to ask why such a reaction happens. What makes an effective slide from cartoon escapism into outright horror? It’s certainly somewhat subjective: if you weren’t as invested in my childhood diet of cartoons, or even if you were, you might look at these images and go “Well, that looks like a goofy trap someone thought up when they got bored taking their kids to the Egyptology exhibit” or “Furry BDSM, papa likey. Now spank him!”

But when it works, I think it’s because the exaggerated nature of cartoons lends a certain starkness to moments that touch on the big themes they often deny: mortality, the cruelty of overwhelming force, and the indifference of the universe to your personal feeling of being your own life’s protagonist.