This needs to be said right up front. I like to be scared and I am easy to scare.
Few things scare me more than a good horror movie. Bear in mind that good is a relative term. Also that I can’t fucking stand Casablanca, Citizen Kane, or Gone with the Wind. In this essay I am going to touch on the key horror movies which have touched my life and influenced me as a creator. This is by means a comprehensive list. I have seen hundreds and hundreds of horror movies in my life.
My father has told me this story several times in my life. When I was little one of the channels on television was showing the Brian Depalma version of Stephen Kings Carrie. My mother, who’s always had a strange idea of what is and isn’t an appropriate thing to show a child god’s love her, let me watch.
Dad says I was terrified.
I like to think he is right.
Growing up in Metro Detroit we had two UHF stations we could watch. For any of you who are confused by that statement Google it. I’m not here to educate you that are what the schools and the streets are for. If they fail you Uncle Google can teach you everything you did and didn’t want to know about life.
Anyway where was I?
Right UHF TV in Detroit.
We had two channels (50 and 20) mostly they showed syndicated schlock but on Saturdays they became widows to another world. On channel 50 they would show the “Thriller Double Feature” and on 20 they showed the “Saturday Shocker” both were awesome. My little brother and I would park ourselves on the couch or splay in front of the television and gorge on vintage horror. I was give an education in filmed terror from the universal monsters, Vincent Price’s vast catalogue of work, every bad B horror movie from the 50’s and 60’s, and they best of the giant animal and 70’s exploitation horror flicks. All of them edited for television, but that didn’t matter.
These are some of my best pre puberty memories.
It was from these sessions that I came to love the Hammer horror films. Again Google them, I am not the big titted or tight abed teacher you always wished would ask you to stay after class to “Clean Erasers” just waiting to take you innocence and do all the work for you.
Fuck, moving on.
The movie that stuck with me the longest and scared me the most was called “Horror Express” starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, and Telly Savalas. This movie scared me in every amazing way possible. When those zombies advanced car by car through the train … fuck me!
Don’t be surprised if I steal the setting for a future work.
I actively sought out things that would scare me as a kid. Even though, or maybe because, they terrified me to my core I felt drawn to them and repelled by them at the same time. When I was watching a horror movie every bump and scrape caused me jump. I felt alive at a time when I was feeling a deeply growing sense of disconnection from the world around me.
The first time I saw Michael Jacksons Thriller video I hid behind a chair.
Yeah I know that sounds crazy but I was in second grade and when it got to the zombie scene I nearly wet myself. But over the months whenever I was in a home where they had MTV, hey we still had rabbit ears and a 25 inch black and white TV in my house, I would watch and wait for that fucking video to come on.
I’ve always been a masochist.
Fall of third grade I saw Halloween for the first. I’m not sure what I can say about that movie which hasn’t been said before. This movie broke the shell for me. There was no blood and a kick ass story. It scared the shit out of me. Whenever I am asked about my favorite movies the original Halloween is always on the list.
I fucking love Freddy!
The year of Halloween was the first time I saw the first two Nightmare on Elm Street movies. My mother rented them on VHS for me and my brother to watch. But I need to say this. Freddy Krueger has never scared me. The movies have managed to creep me out but they have never terrified me. Still even the worst of the Freddy flicks are a joy to watch. The touched and influenced me creatively but they never made it hard for me to sleep.
I know ironic right?
Jason Voorhees is another kettle of fish.
The Friday the 13th movies were the thing of legend in my elementary school. We would constantly talk about things we thought were in the movies and whenever a new issue of Fangoria came out we would tear it apart looking for Jason related items. But none of us could actually prove we’d seen it.
I saw my first installment in 5th grade.
My cousin Lenny was watching me and my brother while my mom was on a date. He took us to the video store, remember those, and let us each get a movie. One of the movies we rented was Friday The 13th Part 3. It scared the living fuck out of me. I am not even kidding I didn’t sleep for nearly 50 hours after watching that movie. Even now, after watching every one of the Jason movies multiple times the iconic sound effects from the movies still have the ability to freeze my blood and make me check all of my corners. It was the scariest thing I’d ever seen.
It held the title for less than a month.
I have told this next story many times so let me give you the condensed version. I would skip it but it is THE moment which changed my life.
When I was 10 years old my father let me watch a movie. It was Halloween night and everyone was exhausted from trick or treating and gorged on candy. It was about ten at night and I was just about ready to doze off for the evening when my dad and my step brother came in and changed the channel.
“You going to love this,” my father said as he set down on the couch next to me.
As the black and white movie began to play on the small screen I was quickly becoming bored with it. That all changed when I heard something emanating from the TV.
“They’re coming to get you Barbara!”
Immediately my attention was captured and for the next 2 hours, although it felt simultaneously like 2 minutes and 20 hours, I was a prisoner. I didn’t sleep a wink that night. Every shadow, every sound out in the windy Michigan night, and every creek in the house was one of the living dead coming to get me.
I was terrified.
I was an addict.
Not long after my Great Uncle Jerry showed me Dawn of the Dead, still to this day my favorite movie of all time. I believe until the day I die I will never love a movie as much as Dawn … but nothing will ever scare me like Night.
As I got older I watched a lot of horror movies some of them great, some of them horrible, but most of them mediocre at best. I was not scared again, truly scared, until spring of 2004.
I fucking hate love Zach Snyder.
When they announced that remake of my beloved Dawn of the Dead I wanted to cut a bitch. When I learned George Romero was having nothing to do with it I wanted to start punching homelesses! But despite those feelings I bought a ticket for opening day and with my oldest daughter and my mother, yeah I told you she was an odd bird, I sat down to watch Dawn of the Dead 2004.
I really wanted to hate that movie. I swear I entered that theater prepared to storm out in righteous indignation screaming my hate at the poor stupid kids who worked the concessions stand and making sure they never trusted a bald fat man again. That didn’t happen though.
I fucking loved it.
It also scared the shit out of me. My wife watched amused as I was unable to sleep until sometime around dawn. Fuck me that was a damn good movie. When I bought it on DVD it was added to my zombie collection with all the reverence of a Romero film.
That’s it. There are other movies which have scared me in my life, I’m sure many of you would find the list of things with the power to scare me cute. But these movies are the ones that, through the terror they filled me with, helped carve my personality to what you see now.
I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not.