Top 5 Hell Scares #1–Swing You Sinners!

Happy Halloween and welcome to the conclusion to my list of movies and shorts that try to literally scare the Hell out of you. All great horror writers know that humans fear the unknown. Great scares work because we don’t predict and don’t understand them.

And nobody grasped that better than the 1930 cartoon short “Swing You Sinners”.

If I’m wrong, please don’t let me know. I like sleep.

Now the first two minutes are fairly standard, even if they include some weird imagery. A dog character tries to steal a chicken, but gets caught by the police, so he flees into a graveyard about the 2:22 mark.

The graveyard door promptly swallows the key. Swallows it. Grows a mouth and swallows the key. And then, the whole cemetery comes to life and sings about how this poor lad has sinned once to many, and now “Your time has come.”

swing you sinners 1

This bit is eerie enough with somber, frightening music and imagery such as a dead man rolling over in his sleep beneath the ground, trees screaming in the high wind, and mouths opening up in the ground.

But about the five-minute mark, our protagonist flees as the music increases in tempo. He takes shelter from judgment in a barn, and that turns out to be a horrible, horrible mistake.

Here’s the best translation I can find for the next lyrics. Oh yeah, everybody’s still singing, only now it’s in a darkly upbeat tone.

Stand up, you sinner! We’ve got you at last.
You can’t get away, there’s no time to pray,
Your finish is gonna be fast.
Brothers and sisters, come on get hot.
We’ll amputate your vo-do-de-o
And tie your bones in a knot.

I don’t know what a vo-do-de-o is, but I think we can all agree that last line is horrifying.

But the true evil (and genius) of this short is its freaky imagery. For example, have you ever seen a chicken tap dance with the desperate eyes of one who’s been cursed by Satan to scat-sing for all eternity?

swing you sinners 2

Neckless sheet ghosts smack their butts, empty shoes walk down the stairs which turn out to be coffins, and even our hapless hero’s underwear is turned into a ghost that threatens his life.

Seriously, that happens.

So after the spirits threaten our hero with a “permanent shave,” he flees the barn. Wouldn’t you? But like every choice he makes, it turns out to be a bad one.

The barn gets up and follows him and…this happens:

swing you sinners 3.jpg

Acid-trip faces spring out of the windows and ask, “Where do you want your body sent?” then quickly reply, “Body? There ain’t gonna be no body! HA-HA-HA!”

A parade of Hellspawn chase the protagonist into a cave, and folks, I’ve run out of commentary. I can only refer you to the video if you haven’t seen it yet and just list out what happens, a cavalcade of nightmares straight from the most deranged, drugged-up mind.

Heads playing leap-frog. A buck-toothed man licking his thumbs while breathing heavily. And what might be the single weirdest thing I have ever seen in my near-thirty years on this big blue Earth: a potbellied frog screaming out scat while frantically feeling itself up.

swing you sinners 4

A knife cuts off our hero’s head, then a skull clamps down around him to these lyrics:

We’ll stretch you like a giraffe,
maybe chop you in half,
just to give us a laugh.
Swing, you sinner!

The end.

No, seriously. It just ends. The dog-guy tried to steal a chicken, got chased and terrorized by malicious spirits, and died. Thanks for watching.

Swing You Sinners is easily the freakiest, most bizarre, most hellish excuse for a cartoon I’ve ever seen. It depicts the sadistic delights of creatures bent on dragging poor souls to Hell and filling their eyes with soul-melting presentations of pure brain torture.

I freaking love it.

What macabre creativity! What twisted imaginings! Who in the world thought that up and how?! What drug could have possibly induced a human brain to fire off such rapid-fire nightmares? What twisted psychopaths allowed this cartoon to be presented to the masses?

swing you sinners 5
Ah, those guys.

I admire creativity, even if it frightens me. No, particularly if it frightens me. To me, good horror isn’t blood, jumps, or haunted houses. It’s the twisted concoctions of the most imaginative human minds.

I’ve changed my mind. If you know any more freakish cartoons or live-action romps that rely exclusively on bizarre imagery and creative terror, share it with everybody in the comments.

Happy Halloween, everybody.

2 thoughts on “Top 5 Hell Scares #1–Swing You Sinners!

  1. Here’s a little nugget that’s sure to freak you out. It’s from the 1985 film “The Adventures of Mark Twain.” The whole film is haunting and creepy. Even the depiction of heaven is eerie and disturbing. Enjoy this scene of the Mysterious Stranger.


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