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USA’s Saturday Nightmares:: By John Sullivan

November 27th, 2013 · 16 Comments

I was an ‘inside kid’.

Sure, I went to school and rode bikes and journeyed to 7-11 to pick up comic books and Slurpees.

That was my afternoon. But my night?

Movies. Lots and lots of movies.

My parents gave me a TV time limit. I had a few hours a week. It was sort of an allowance. I had to be smart, and budget my presence in front of the tube.
I used all those hours on Saturday. Here’s why:

USA’S SATURDAY NIGHTMARES.

Saturday Nightmares was my youthful gateway into horror films. In an environment where my parents were permissive enough to let me watch some TV, but not permissive enough to let me rent R-rated horror films, Saturday Nightmares provided a mainline fix that my pre-teen (and early teen) self desperately needed.

USA’S Saturday Nightmares was a prime-time (8 PM – East Coast – old school USA network) non-hosted weekly horror movie feature forum that consisted of several elements:

0 – The Intro. As I mentioned, this was an un-hosted venue for horror films but the intros were awesome. In the early days of USA’s Saturday Nightmares, it was a little more commando. They were stark black and white shots of grotesque monster movies. It looked cheap, and felt cheap and that informed the scariness of whatever film the show was threatening to air. After a few years, they amped up the budget and it became an early CGI ‘tour’ through a museum of horror icons. Regardless of which intro or bumper I preferred, they were atmospheric and foreboding. In other words, even if the movie sucked – I was still scared to watch it.

1 – The Horror Movie. This was usually some semi-obscure thriller that was molding in a VHS bin somewhere. I’m not industry adept enough to guess where the USA network programmers got their material, my guess is it was whatever they had access to. I mean, ‘Bloodbath in the House of Death’? ‘Scared to Death’? ‘Devil Times Five’?, ‘Up From the Depths’?, ‘The House Where Evil Dwells’, ‘Spookies’?, ‘The Being’?, – I can go on. And I will. But this show dredged up some of the most lesser-known, cheap thrill horror movies that could ever be IMDB’d. For a kid who was only exposed to ‘Salems Lot’ and ‘Gremlins’, Saturday Nightmares was a goldmine. R-rated horrors edited for television. Therefore, parent-friendly.

2 – The Anthology Shows. It wasn’t just a horror feature showcase. Oh no. It had frosting on the cake. Following the movie, Saturday Nightmares wasn’t done with you. They aired three different syndicated horror anthology shows. Among them: The Ray Bradbury Theater, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and The Hitchhiker.

The Ray Bradbury Theater’ was more of a slow-burn horror anthology. The stories were generally fantastical and had a more broad nature. Not all of the stories presented were from the mind of the great Ray Bradbury, but many of them kept the tone of some of his earlier works. I remember one called ‘The Playground’ with a young-ish William Shatner that haunts me to this day.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ had a more crime-oriented atmosphere and a typical just-desserts twist ending. I’d compare the stories presented akin to EC Comics’ noir books.

The Hitchhiker’ was probably inappropriate for a kid my age. It was a port from an HBO series, and consisted of a lot of sex and murder. A lone, scruffed Hitchiker tells stories of lust and death. It was heavily edited for TV, so the impact was lost on me. I do remember some of the stories were compelling, but they had to cut out all the naughty stuff.

3 – The Short Films. Oftentimes, one of the Saturday Nightmares features would end early, and they would have to stick in a mysterious short film to fill out the run time. Short films are commonplace these days, especially on YouTube – but in 1988, it was rare to see a cool, scary short flick. Somehow, the USA Network was able to find some frightening brief bits to pad out the run-time. I remember one was about a man engineering a gigantic mouse-trap…for himself. It was his method of suicide. Dark, right?

I WAS 10!

The first film I ever saw on USA’s Saturday Nightmares was ‘The Loch Ness Horror’. It involves – you guessed it – a bunch of people running away from a rubberized Loch Ness Monster puppet. It’s…garbage. However, the nostalgia of gunning my BMX bike back from the comic book store to make it home before sundown to watch ‘The Loch Ness Horror’ stays with me.

I think I bought a Hulk comic that day. Memories fade…

My parents had to endure my love of USA’s Saturday Nightmares. We weren’t a rich family. We had a modest house on Long Island with one TV. So, if I watched something – they had to watch that thing. In a strange way, my parents are well-versed in horror movie trivia because of that environment.

-‘Hey Dad, remember ‘Demonwarp’?

-‘Is that the one with the murderous Sasquatch and George Kennedy, and the zombies you made us watch’?

-‘Yup’.

-‘Why couldn’t have you been a doctor’?

I was a weird kid. I lived for Saturday Nightmares. Whenever my parents had a dinner party, they knew I’d be out of their hair watching something like ‘Jaws of Satan’. Just to be clear, that’s a film about a king cobra possessed by the Devil.

My Dad’s buddy, after wandering into the TV room:

‘What are you watching’?

Jaws of Satan. Killer king cobra movie’.

‘What the hell is Fritz Weaver doing in this crap’?

As low-grade as many of the movies shown on Saturday Nightmares were, they did expose me to a world beyond the A-list ‘thrillers’ that masquerade as horror movies.

Later on, as USA became more mass-audience oriented, the films became more commercial. ‘Demons of the Dead’ was replaced by ‘Nightmare on Elm Street 3’. ‘Girls Nite Out’ was replaced by ‘Friday The 13th V’. Not that there’s anything wrong with those particular films, but I could see them anywhere. I respected the unavailability of the unknown titles.

Soon after…

Saturday Nightmares was kicked. USA rolled into original programming, and became the home of ‘Psych’ and ‘Burn Notice’. I’m sure those shows are fine, but I miss the ‘go for broke’ programming of the 80’s. What is ‘Burn Notice’ about, by the way?

I got older and discovered eBay and Amazon and YouTube. I was able to find a lot of my favorite niche horror films on that landscape.

My Saturday nights got booked with grown-up things. Girls, life, girls.

I work as a screenwriter now. I’ve written the (self-proclaimed) B-movie classics ‘Fear of the Dark’, ‘Prophecy: Uprising’, ‘Prophecy: Forsaken’. ‘Recoil’ (not a horror film but Steve Austin is kinda scary).

I’ve got a few new thrillers in the pipeline.

I like to think that USA Saturday Nightmares contributed to my silly career.

I leave you with the Wiki link for USA’s Saturday Nightmares.

Every flick is a classic. Sorta.

Now, I’m off to find a VHS copy of ‘The Loch Ness Horror’…

JOHNNY BLACKOUT (John Sullivan)

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Tags: Kinder-Editorial · Kinder-Spotlight · Special Guest Stars

Kindertrauma Theme Song!

November 19th, 2013 · 6 Comments

Howdy kids! Please accept my sincere apologies if you already saw this on Facebook. I’d hate to be all annoying and repetitive! I just realized though that many of you might not be connected to Kindertrauma via Facebook and I wouldn’t want you to miss this! It’s the awesome new Kindertrauma theme song by the incredible Col. Mike and Montana Tyler! Click on that little tiny button below to the left to hear!

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Tags: Kinder-Link · Kinder-Spotlight · Kinder-Topix · Uncategorized

Miley Cyrus Is Possessed.

August 30th, 2013 · 7 Comments

I know you’re sick of hearing about MILEY CYRUS and well you should be! What is the big deal? Anybody with even a cursory knowledge of horror films could tell you that the girl is simply possessed! She’s not the first and she won’t be the last. Get over it! It’s not like she can’t afford an exorcist and really, isn’t becoming possessed a natural part of growing up? People who view poor Miley’s behavior as some kind of calculated media manipulation need to educate themselves! Thank God I’m here to do just that. Here’s proof that Miley is possessed as illustrated by the always informative world of horror cinema…

PROTRUDING TOUNGUE. Sticking out your tongue in a provocative manner is the simplest way to let folks know that you are possessed! AMITYVILLE 2: THE POSSESSION (1982) is a fine example of this but really just about any possession movie will tell you the same!

STAIR SLITHER. Those possessed know that making an entrance is key and nothing leaves a more indelible mark than a creepy crawl down a staircase. One needn’t attempt a full EXCORCIST style crab walk to be effective; punished heathen Lucy’s crypt decent in BRAM STOKER’s DRACULA (1992), for example, looses no steam for being streamlined and straight forward.

DANCING TEDDY BEARS. Do your toys dance on their own accord? Congratulations you are possessed! Sometimes it is not your actions but the actions of the inanimate objects around you that determine how lost you are to possession. There are far too many examples of toys, dolls, teddy bears and other symbols of childhood coming to life in possession films (Not to mention THE WALTONS) for me to name them all so allow me to simply reference the doll in BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN (1971) and assume that title alone is enough to back my theory.

SATAN GOT BACK. Honestly I don’t know what the devil’s long recorded SIR MIX-A-LOT-like obsession with posteriors is all about. I suppose whatever gets the church folk in an uproar is worth his while. Satyr-horned Cyrus’ recent display of fanny fascination fits right in with the archfiend’s modus operandi. Maybe just count your blessings that a goat was not involved as depicted in THE ANTICHRIST aka THE TEMPTER (1974).

SIMULATED MASTURBATION. I probably do not need to remind you of little Regan’s disturbing repurposing of a crucifix in THE EXCORCIST (1973). Unless you’ve sprayed SCRUBBING BUBBLES directly into your ear, that’s still in your head. Miley doesn’t go quite that far but if she thinks wearing a foam finger will save her from the curse of hairy palms, she is mistaken. On the other hand what better way to communicate you are Satan’s #1 fan?

BODY COTORTIONS. Be real and admit that Miley’s twerking stance is basically just the backwards version of the torso origami showcased in THE LAST EXCORCISM (2010).

BODY MUTATION. When you are possessed your body can do crazy things that seem to go against the laws of nature. Your head can blow up like in THE BEAST WITHIN (1982), you can somehow stick a lipstick into your breast like in NIGHT OF THE DEMONS (1988) or your boobs can turn into monster faces like in MAUSOLEUM (1983)! In other words, if Miley doesn’t fit into her costume as well as she might- don’t blame her blame Satan!

SHAMELESS BEHAVIOR! Opinion has ranged from “Hey, that’s too sexy!” to “Hey that’s not sexy!” Dusty professional MADONNA sycophant CAMILLE PAGLIA even called MILEY’s performance “cringingly unsexy.” (Would-be pop stars take note: If you fail to deliver Jane Hathaway a lady boner, it isn’t art!) It’s as if disobedient CYRUS thought she could just wing it and have fun while Lady Gaga spent all her days practicing her precision SPROCKETS moves! This love it or leave it attitude and scandalous lack of shame over one’s physique can only bring to mind that rude scantily clad attic beast from [REC] (2007)! Don’t kids today realize empowerment requires flawless choreography and tailoring?

SEDUCTION OF MEN! If only there was some way to figure out why the first order of business for recently possessed gals is to seduce innocent older men! I know you must be thinking “ROBIN THICKE is not so much innocent as the dude that sang this past summer’s smash hit date rape anthem.” Yes, but don’t you understand that Satan speaks in symbols and codes? ROBIN THICKE is the son of ALAN THICKE and when you hear “son of ALAN THICKE” you subconsciously picture KIRK CAMERON, America’s greatest Christian! Oh Satan, you and your mocking trickery! How dare you!

O.K., now I’m just being facetious…but only half so. I truly think if you look under the hood of the hysterical outrage to CYRUS’s performance you’ll see the same engine that drives your standard possession film. Fear of female sexuality doesn’t even begin to cover it (though it’s a crucial start), something tells me CYRUS could be as sexy as she wanted to be as long as she respectfully emulated an approved icon like deceased exploited trainwreck MARILYN MONROE (see: MADONNA) or expressed the proper reverence and gratitude toward fame and commerce (see: LADY GAGA). Instead her entire shindig was a goofy, gangly, semi-bratty, free-spirited blow-off to the status quo and no, that’s not going to sit well with certain folks.

Because the real fear billowing up here (as in many a possession film) is the fear of uncontrollable youth, the fear of the next generation coming up to bat, the fear that they’ll stick their (foam) finger up at the boundaries we’ve drawn for them, the fear that they will not adopt and be loaded down by our collective neurosis as planned, the fear (resentment, really) of their freedom to make their own path where we were too meek to do so. The fear that they’ll have more fun than we allowed ourselves, the fear that we misspent our time worrying about the wrong things. This makes the older generation angry but more importantly, and stingingly, this makes the older generation…older (and “older” by the way, is super secret code for “closer to death”).

Damn, CYRUS’ Pan-tastic rite of passage ritual was a pagan dance on all of our graves! She even transformed 27-year old LADY GAGA into a haggard crone right before our eyes! Don’t believe me? check out this clip of GAGA‘s opening number…

(alright, maybe she can’t be blamed for that but still…) In any case, the point is there are plenty of things to be outraged, angry and scared of in this world and a young woman leaving behind childhood has never been nor ever should be one of them. I have little interest in MILEY’s musical output (I’m still trying to adapt to OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN’s “Physical” and SHEENA EASTON singing songs penned by PRINCE) but from what I’ve seen, each generation is slightly less ignorant and hateful than the one that came before it so I’m perfectly fine with MILEY and her contemporaries twerking to their hearts content. I say go for it… go for it, have fun and hail Satan!

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Tags: Caution: I break for geniuses! · Kinder-News · Kinder-Spotlight · Kinder-Topix · Kindertrauma Hair Club

Kinder-Kraft:: Phyl Snow Globe!

December 22nd, 2012 · No Comments

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Tags: Kinder-Advice-Korner · Kinder-Art · Kinder-Spotlight · Kinder-Taining

Happy April!

April 1st, 2012 · 1 Comment

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Tags: Holidays · Kinder-Spotlight · Kinder-Topix · Kindertrauma Hair Club · Misc.

Painting By Numbers: 40 Paintings, 40 Nights (Confessions of a Convention Vendor)

March 26th, 2012 · 1 Comment

Something I can always look forward to is the Monster-Mania convention that visits my neck of the woods a couple of times a year. I’m not big on crowds because I’m always half sure they’ll pull a DAY OF THE LOCUSTS routine at any minute but seeing so much horror memorabilia in one place at one time is worth putting my phobias on hold. One of my favorite venders has always been this guy who does original acrylic paintings based on iconic horror imagery. I’ve always dug looking through his work and appreciating the one of the kind expressive quality of his creations. There’s invariably plenty new and he even makes sure to do work inspired by whoever might be appearing at that particular convention. Little did I know until recently that the artist in question PHILIP MERTZ had contributed some excellent traumafessions to Kindertrauma under the name Grimpressions on several occasions. This was too cool to be true but it also made a lot a sense because Grimpression’s posts here at KT were just as clever and one of a kind as his artwork.

So at this last Monster-Mania instead of just loitering around his table I finally got to meet PHILIP aka Grimpressions and his lovely wife JAMIE. They were both really cool and easy to talk to and my favorite kind of horror fans; enthusiastic and down to Earth. I came away with two new pals, a FUNHOUSE painting (which now hangs center stage in Kindertrauma Manor) and this great documentary that PHILIP and his wife put together. The doc is called PAINTING BY NUMBERS: 40 PAINTINGS, 40 NIGHTS (CONFESSIONS OF A HORROR CONVENTION VENDOR) and it shows Grimpressions in his natural habitat creating art with special guest appearances by his son Sabian and cat Toxi and a score by Lawrence M. Fischer. I can’t help but be incredibly impressed watching PHILIP’s paintings come together starting as simple brush strokes and ending as works of art. If you’re a horror fan or even just a fan of the painting process you’ll probably feel the same way. I posted a few select images below but jump over to PHILIP’s Facebook Page HERE to view more of his work and stay up do date with his activities. Also PHILIP is eligible for a Rondo Hatton Award for his work so why not support the arts by casting a vote for him HERE!

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Tags: Kinder-Art · Kinder-Spotlight

Leprechaun’s Revenge

March 17th, 2012 · No Comments

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day kids! Do not go outside tonight the streets will be filled with drunks! Instead, put on something green and stay indoors and watch the SYFY channel! Tonight they are premiering a brand new horror flick inspired by the holiday entitled LEPRECHAUN’S REVENGE! What makes this movie so promising is the fact that the one and only DREW DAYWALT directed it. Drew has directed many a fine horror short including the perennial “The Easter Bunny is Eating My Candy!” and “There’s No Such Thing!” which actually happens to be dedicated to Kindertrauma! (You can even read a traumafession from good ol’ Drew HERE!)

With DAYWALT pulling the strings, LEPRECHAUN’S REVENGE is sure to be monstrous good fun so make sure you catch it. Go buy some beer and prepare. SYFY is even going to show the first three unrelated WARWICK DAVIS LEPRECHAUN flicks so that you can make a night out of it! Check out the teaser trailer for DREW’S flick below and remember it premiers at nine. Don’t miss it! It’s sure to sham-rock!

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Tags: General Horror · Holidays · Kinder-Spotlight · Sham-Rock!

Have You Seen The Unseen? (1980)

February 24th, 2012 · 5 Comments

Do you live in New York City? Can you find a way to get there? On March 16th, at 10:30 p.m., Kindertrauma is teaming up with 92YTribeca to bring you a special screening of the 1980 goosebumper THE UNSEEN! Have you not seen THE UNSEEN? Isn’t it time that you did? And what better way than on an actual movie screen and on real solid 35mm film!? Even better, this 92YTribecca joint has a bar downstairs and with your ticket you can get 2 dollars off a beer! Don’t chug it! You can take that very beer into the theater and nurse it in a civilized fashion while enjoying the film! What could be better? Not much.

THE UNSEEN is an old school spookfest from director DANNY STEINMANN (he of the LINDA BLAIR classic SAVAGE STREETS and good ol’ FRIDAY THE 13th PART 5: A NEW BEGINNING.) It stars the lovely BARBARA BACH as an ace reporter who gets stuck in a weird town with her sexy pals and has to spend the night in an awesome old house. Little does she know that the folks offering her a roof over her head may be offering her a lid to her casket as well! Expect an exceptionally creepy performance from SYDNEY LASSICK (who you might remember as an obnoxious teacher in CARRIE) who’s keeping a startling secret within the basement of his home. A sort of mash up of later flicks AMERICAN GOTHIC and HUMONGOUS, THE UNSEEN deserves to be seen; it’s an eighties slash-classic that offers as much campy fun as spooky chills. Find out some more about this incredible kinder-event HERE!

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Slashers 101

January 28th, 2012 · No Comments

UNK SEZ: If you happen to be a slasher fan or a comics fan or a fan of people who get creative and make stuff, I need to point out something special to you! Stacie Ponder of the perennial hot spot FINAL GIRL has gone and made a mini-comic called SLASHERS 101 and it is a hysterically informative primer on, let’s face it, the best movies ever made.

Ponder knows her stuff after racking up years in the VHS salt mines and her illustrations are wonderfully expressive. For one Abe Lincoln (five bucks) you get the comic alone and for two Abes (ten bucks), Ponder will illustrate the back for you with an original drawing of your request (within reason)! For more details on how you can get your hands on this little treasure just jump on over HERE!

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Tags: Book Reports · Kinder-Art · Kinder-Link · Kinder-Spotlight

Dante Tomaselli’s Top Ten Horror Scores

December 14th, 2011 · 7 Comments

UNK SEZ: You guys remember our pal the multi talented DANTE TOMASELLI (Interview HERE). Well, DANTE has just concluded scoring his latest film TORTURE CHAMBER so I asked him what movie scores were his favorites and influenced him the most. Below are his favorite top ten scores alongside some fresh images from his forthcoming film (Check out the official site HERE)! Thanks for sharing this with us Dante, You’ve got great taste!

1.) HALLOWEEN

I experienced Halloween in theatres at my birthday party in 1979. I just turned 10. My childhood friends were petrified and some of are still traumatized. It’s hard to describe the impact of this movie to the younger generation because you really had to experience Halloween in theatres. It had a ferocious grip on audiences. I haven’t seen anything match its power. To this day, most critics and fans declare Halloween the ultimate horror film and I wholeheartedly agree. The music is 50% of the film’s equation. Halloween’s heart-pounding, anxiety-inducing theme is so powerful. It’s become the anthem for classic horror films, and definitely something you can’t escape around October. I can’t escape it. It’s been the ringtone on my phone for years. Analogue synthesizer music was popular during the 60′s and 70′s in sci-fi and horror films but Halloween took that kind of sound design to a whole new level. This is a landmark horror soundtrack. Flickering and glowing like a devilish jack-o-lantern, the music is sinister and playfully evil. I’m forever influenced by this motion picture and its soundtrack. Thank you, John Carpenter.

2.) SUSPIRIA

I saw this film in my late twenties, during post production of my first feature, Desecration. How did I not ever see it? I remember the commercial on TV when I was 7-years-old. There was a seductive woman brushing her hair…her back to the camera. We hear her child-like voice. Roses are red. Violets are blue…She’s telling a poem. She swings around. Her face is a skull. Then a man’s voice says, ‘You can run from Suspiria…but you cannot escape…Suspiria.’ It was a whispery, evil voice…S-U-S-P-I-R-I-A. Somehow, where I lived in New Jersey, Suspiria wasn’t distributed. Eventually, though, I do remember seeing the title in video stores, and oddly ignoring it. I guess I was in my own fog at the time. When I finally watched the film, I felt like it was a religious experience. The same feeling I got while watching The House with Laughing Windows. It’s the kind of movie that must be properly viewed at night, in darkness, in stereo. Any other way diminishes it. The music by Goblin is so dense and multi-layered. Synthesizers, rhythm guitars, real instruments, all kinds of drums. You can get lost in its labyrinth design. Especially the beginning of the Suspiria theme. It starts off with a child’s lullaby, actually beautiful and soft but then these obscene whispers crash in and the drum beats more insistent.

3.) THE FOG

My mother and I saw The Fog in theatres in 1980. I was 10. We were already fans of Carpenter’s Halloween. The theatre was called Totowa Cinema on Route 46 in Totowa, New Jersey. My father owned a Jewelry and Bridal Store in the mall where the movie played. I remember my mother was slightly disappointed by The Fog, I guess because she was comparing it to Halloween, but I absolutely loved the film. Everything about it. I was electrified. I was completely obsessed with the images and sounds and murky ghost storyline. The Fog. I’d illustrate the title, in its own special font on my grammar school notebooks. I always loved typography. The music in this film totally jumped out at me…just like Halloween…and there’s a mysterious knocking at the door. TAP. TAP. TAP. TAP. I used to mimic that all the time on different doors….There was a wood burning stove in our garage and I used the stoker to strike the door, pretending I was one of the ghouls. Around this time, I played an electronic organ. I’d sit home and fantasize. Low tones. Also, I played the pounding beat on electronic drums in my basement. I’d pound the drums, in a trance, over and over. It’s that section of the film where the fog is chasing everyone through the streets. Ahhhh. I love that. Nothing beats the Moog synthesizer analogue soundscape. It just pushes my button. When I purchased the soundtrack to The Fog I listened to it non-stop. You get the feeling that something is chasing you…and it’s coming closer and closer….The film has state-of-the-art moody electronic sound design.

4.) HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH

It was 1982. I was 12 and I couldn’t wait for its release. The commercials on TV were striking with a spider crawling out of an old hag’s mouth accompanied by nightmarish music. I was so excited. The Night No one Comes Home. Perfect tag line. Then I saw the film. I already read the tie-in book, so I knew what to expect…Robots. I liked the film but didn’t love it. Still, I admired its fresh approach and loved its Dean Cundey widescreen cinematography. Mostly, mainly, I was ecstatic about the music. What perfect electronic horror music! I bought the album and listened to it endlessly. I still do. While nothing beats the theme to the original, overall as an album, this is definitely a better listening experience…and with the widest selection of doom-laced worlds. To me, it sounds like it would be a very dark solo album from Greg Hawkes, the imaginative keyboardist from The Cars. For example, Drive to Santa Mira…it has the distinct John Carpenter low toned vibe while incorporating a new dreamy organ with lots of reverb. Every single track stands out as an example of haunting mood music. John Carpenter and Alan Howarth created magic here. This is synth horror heaven and should probably be number one on my list. I could just listen to Halloween 3: Season of the Witch until the end of time.

5.) SOUNDS TO MAKE YOU SHIVER

This is actually not a movie but a horror sound fx album. It was played around Halloween in the 70′s and 80′s…and in many different funhouses as background music. Halloween was every day for me, so I’d listen to Sounds to Make You Shiver all the time, especially from 1st to 6th grade. The album consists mainly of moans and screams and thunderstorms. First we hear a woman groaning in pain and a man sadistically laughing with a chain clanging in the background. You feel like you’re in a dungeon. I got lost in the howling wind and thunderstorms and creepy, thick atmospheres. In a trance, I would listen…My imagination lighting up. Side 2 has variations of screams, witches cackles, cats, growling dogs and more moody and violent storms. Midway through, the sounds morph into an ambient, almost experimental piece with dreamy piano, guitar and bells…mixed with echoed footsteps…and a chain dragging on a castle floor.

6.) THE SHINING

At times you can hear devils giggling. I used to scare my younger brother just by playing the music. This spine-tingling score by Wendy Carlos, a pioneer in electronic music, has an almost demonic power. I swear it’s transmitted straight from hell. The opening theme is expertly constructed…so delicately woven…It’s bone-chilling. Atmospheric, psychedelic, macabre and surreal…It floats on another plane. There is nothing like this Moog synthesizer music, it creates its own space. I love Wendy’s score for A Clockwork Orange too. Her sound is so otherworldly….

7.) ALICE, SWEET ALICE

My cousin, Alfred Sole’s film, doesn’t have a soundtrack that’s released and it should. Stephen Lawrence conjures one of the most dreamily sinister themes I’ve ever heard. I’m referring to the sparkling lullaby mixed with the menacing tones and breathy vocals. It’s cold and sleek and evil as can be, just like the movie. The swirling violins are unnerving and in-your-face. I love all the small interludes with haunted piano and reverb. The opening titles music is surprisingly reserved and reminds me of a warped version of The Godfather. Very Italian…family tragedy….On the DVD copies, you can find a montage of the film’s old stills…and the music playing over these images is the breathy, ice-cold theme to Alice, Sweet Alice…extended. I loop it over and over….

8.) SCANNERS

Howard Shore scored The Brood and Videodrome, also favorites. He’s an expert in somber, deadly serious soundscapes. You don’t just hear them, you feel them. The trancelike electronic music here is percolating, staccato, moaning in pain. He captures emotional violence. In fact, my first short film was called Emotional Violence. It got me into Pratt Institute, the film department. It was a non-linear montage about a suicidal girl with an abusive boyfriend and mother. My mother, an actress, played the mother. I had Scanners music throughout. How could I resist? I know I could never sell it. I can’t find the film now.

9.) THE THING

This soundtrack reminds me of being in high school and listening to the cassette on my walkman. I’d get completely lost in this gorgeous, classy horror music. It’s amazing how Ennio Morricone was channeling John Carpenter, intentionally or not. Sometimes it really sounds like him. I love Morricone’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage too. That should be on this top 10 list. The Thing’s theme, with its pulsating electronic tone, is genuinely hypnotic. I can play it over and over and over. There’s something off-kilter, almost avant garde in its repetitiveness. It’s minimalist. But not all of the soundtrack is like that. There are violin compositions that are spacious, warm, lush and eerie. There are also some screeching violins that are all-out terrifying.

10.) CHRISTINE

Cold and pristine, John Carpenter’s Christine score is embedded in my psyche. Just like the soundtracks to Halloween, Halloween 2, Halloween 3, The Fog and Prince of Darkness, Christine has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. A bit clipped, which makes for a jumpy listening experience. But it’s not really meant to stand on its own, even though it does. John Carpenter is all about scoring to picture. It’s thin and glacial and it works. The throbbing baritone employed throughout is pure old-school Carpenter. I love it. The scene where Arnie says, ‘Show me’ and that electronic bell pierces through the atmosphere…followed by the galloping low tone…cinematic magic. It takes my breath away and sometimes brings a tear to my eye. I’m in awe of the way the music changes the environment, how it completely elevates and transforms the scene. The chase compositions are melodic. There’s that propulsive beat that feels like all early Carpenter themes wrapped into one.

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