It’s a Horror to Know You: Zack of Film Thoughts!
1. What is the first film to ever scare you?
I was a pretty meek kid. Advertising for horror films was enough to give me nightmares as a child. Drug awareness ads freaked me out. But no film affected me the way “Child’s Play 3” did. Print ads were all over the comic books I read and I was exposed to more then a few commercials. As a little kid, I couldn’t have been more then five, the idea of something as universal and innocent as a child’s doll, a toy, not unlike any of the ones I had, becoming evil and murderous was more then I could handle. I had nightmares about that one literally for years afterwards.
Another one that had a profound effect on me was “Gremlins.” I remember falling asleep in my older sister’s car and having a nightmare about one of those little monsters standing outside the window, scratching on the glass.
I didn’t actually start watching horror movies until I knew I was old enough to take it. I love “Gremlins” now. Still haven’t brought myself to watch any of the Chucky movies.
2. What was the last film to scare you?
Originally, I had picked Michel Soavi’s “Stagefright” for this slot. It’s a super gory, surreal, lottsa-fun slasher film for the majority of its runtime. However, the cramped location quickly causes tension to build. The climax of the film involves the final girl crawling under the stage, trying to get a key to wiggle through the cracks above and fall into her hands. The killer sits above, quiet, unmoving. Because of how the mask is designed, you can’t tell if he’s watching her or not. It’s one of the most intense horror sequence I’ve ever seen. That seemed like a pretty good choice for this category.
But then I remembered Lucky McKee’s “The Woman.” I’m a huge McKee fan and I was really digging this incredibly smart, expertly acted, truly twisted horror satire, but then the last act clicked in. As soon as it, I won’t say what exactly for spoiler’s sake, jumped out of the dog crate, I literally jumped up and yelled “WHAT THE FUCK?!” At that point the movie leaped from disturbing and calculated to just flat-out freakish and weird.
3. Name three Horror movies that you believe are underrated.
1. “The Car” (1977): I think this is a legitimately good movie. The “Jaws-in-the-desert-with-a-demonic-car” premise is pretty nutsy, but the execution works for me. I love the small town setting. I love everyman protagonist James Brolin. I love the scene where Kathleen Lloyd is standing in her kitchen, on the phone, getting increasingly freaked out when you see highlights in the window behind here and then hear that hellish honking. Plus the titular Car just looks cool. Goofy as hell maybe but I can dig it.
2.”No Telling” (1991): Larry Fesseden is a seriously underrated horror auteur and I’d say that any of his films belong on this list. Yet none of them got to me quite the way “No Telling” did. Its slow deliberate pace leads up to a truly disturbing climax. If you’re an animal lover, this movie is bound to get under your skin.
3. “Lisa” (1990): I have a bit of a soft spot for femme-centric horror, maybe because it’s just so rare. This one is more of a thriller for most of its run time but Stacy Keanan is a really lovable main character and Cheryl Ladd, as her mom, is also very good. It’s actually something of a fable about growing up but the climatic sequence with the serial killer is pretty intense. Director Gary Sherman also did the more well-known but still underloved “Dead and Buried” and “Death Line.”
Honorable Mentions: “May” is pretty well known in the horror community which is why I excluded it from the list above. However, seeing as how it’s one of my favorite movies of all time and my vote for best horror film of the 2000s, it still deserves to be more widely seen. Lucky McKee’s friend Chris Siverston is also underrated. “The Lost” has a brutal, intense final act and “I Know Who Killed Me” is nowhere near as bad as you’ve heard, a lovably trashy homage to giallo.
“Kolobos” is an obscurity that I like, a throwback to Italian gorefest that predicted and predated the extreme horror phase of the early 2000s.
“KatieBird: Certifiable Crazy Person” isn’t the easiest movie to like, with its noise-rock soundtrack, multiple comic-book panel visual gimmick, and all that torture and weird sex stuff. But under the grime are two extraordinary performances from the female leads and an exceptional non-linear storyline that builds to a shocking conclusion.
4. Name three horror movies that you enjoy against your better judgment.
1. “Repo! The Genetic Opera” (2008): This is one of those movie with a fandom that embarrasses even hardcore horror fans. I’m neither goth nor an industrial music fan but something about this gore-soaked rock opera is irresistible to me. The overstuffed lyrics and melodrama make me groan but I love the A+ cast and the bittersweet finale. Besides, it’s hard to hate a musical about live organ transplants.
2. “Sssssss” (1973): Why not a bad film by any means, there really isn’t a lot remarkable about this goofily entitled film. It’s just one of those movies I saw over and over again on cable at the right age. I came to love it through pure repetition. It’s enjoyably gonzo with some decent creature effects and an awfully attractive leading lady. Snake-lovers and fearers should check it out.
3. “House of Horrors” (1946): This forgettable late period Universal Monster entry is about as routine as you can get, some would even say contemptible for the way it exploits Rondo Hatton’s real-life deformity. Yet this is pure horror comfort food for me. I love the atmospheric back lot setting. Rondo’s, let’s be kind, “naturalistic” acting skills are immediately endearing. Any story of an underappreciated artist striking out at the world is going to appeal to me. My inner-Monster Kid can’t help but adore it.
Honorable Mentions: Eben McGarr’s “Sick Girl” (unrelated to the Masters of Horror episode of the same name) isn’t a great movie. It’s extreme for extreme’s sake. The miniscule budget shines through repeatedly and the ending is abrupt. I sort of love it anyway. I can’t tell if Leslie Andrews gives a good performance or not but I’m hooked either way. The hitchhiking scene misleads the audience fantastically.
There are plenty of trashy slashers I adore. “The Toolbox Murders” for its opening cascade of misogynistic gore. “The Prey” for its unintentional hilarity and accidental dream-like tone. “Sleepaway Camp II” because it’s completely brilliant, in every meaning of the word. I could go on and on.
5. Send us to five places on the Internet!
1. Six Weeks of Halloween: Though obviously only updated during the Halloween season, Kernurex is a friend and an always witty horror reviewer.
2. Horror Etc. Podcast: I eagerly await listening to Tony, Ted, and Sometimes Doug chatter about horror movies (And sometimes other stuff) every week. These guys are true horror fans who love the entire genre and are always worth listening too.
3. Andrew Barr’s MONSTARS: Andrew Barr draws horror characters, beloved, derided, and completely obscure, in his quirky signature style. I’d love to have a few of these framed and on my walls.
4. Fantastic Movie Musing and Ramblings: Dave Sindelar has quietly been going at this for years, an endless quest to watch and review every “genre” (sci-fi, fantasy, or horror) movie ever made. Originally stationed on the beloved, long-gone Scifilm forums, he now has his own archive of hundreds of amusing, insightful movie reviews.
5. Trent Harris: Denying all financial sense, Utah based independent filmmaker Trent Harris has continued to pop out obscure, bizarre, and utterly unique tragi-comedies ever couple of years. Bootlegs, books, and artwork can all be read about and purchase here, his central online hub.