It’s a Horror to Know You: Duncan!
1. What is the first film that ever scared you?
One of my dear Dad’s famous-in-our-house phrases in reference to horror films was “They have no socially redeeming value”. (Someday I’m going to make him say it into a recorder and put it to a techno beat.) That being said, our babysitter loved scary movies more than Charlie Sheen likes winning. The upside of the babysitter was I’d get to stay up and watch the movies, the downside was when my parents would walk in the door and find the babysitter sound asleep, and me sitting pinwheel-eyed in front of the t.v., practically needing a change of Underoos from what I just witnessed. The most horrific for me was undoubtedly “Damien: Omen II” (1978). How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways — a nosy reporter whose eyes are pecked out by a crow before being turned into Dinty Moore by a Mack Truck, a drowning beneath the ice, a crushing between two railroad cars, and Old Scratch himself. I almost joined the monastery for protection after that movie, but knew I wasn’t long for that life since it meant I had to be silent.
2. What is the last film that scared you?
“The Strangers” (2008). This flick has the suspense ratcheted up to an 11. That scene with sweet Liv Tyler in the kitchen as the bagheaded axe-wielding misanthrope just watches her… My inner voice suddenly changed into Raven-Symone screaming “Hells to the no!”. The hand brushing Scott Speedman’s neck in the car, the outline of the missing axe in the shed, the knock on the door at 4 a.m. It all seems plausible enough, making me ask — what the hells bells would I do in this situation? Special shout-out to “Quarantine” (2008). Drink all the Haterade you want, and I love the original as well, but the remake has some great scares and performances too. One more for my homegirl Nicole Kidman in the astonishing and atmospheric “The Others” (2001), an easily re-watchable and smart fright flick.
3. Name three Horror movies that you believe are underrated.
(01) “Black Christmas” (1974). Sure, horror fans know this movie, but no one else I know seems to. It’s so good. There’s no other way to describe it. The pacing, the performances, the tension, the phone calls, the characters, and especially the eye peering through the crack in the door — that old saying “They don’t make them like they used to” is so appropriate here. My Grandma also says “When life gives you lemons, don’t cry over spilled milk on the molehill with the mountain” or something like that, but you get my drift — some cliched sentiments do apply to this classic film.
(02) “Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3” (1990). I willingly admit this is a really flawed movie, but it’s enjoyable, fast-paced, and has a vicious streak. No sequel to the classic original can ever live up to it’s madness, but nonetheless, this is a disturbing, crazy ride. Kate Hodge, as the heroine Michelle, is completely convincing and carries the movie with a genuine and strong performance. Her final confrontation with loony Alfredo is pretty memorable, and I was rooting for the luminous Miss Hodge (who also starred in the underrated and deserving-of-love series “She-Wolf of London“) all the way. The girl gets her hands nailed to a chair and still gets back up to fight for her survival (cue “Eye of the Tiger” right now and play it while you read this!). Yes, so much is wrong here — the new family, the engraved saw, the implication that Leatherface copulates, even the ridiculous real-life MPAA chainsaw massacre on the film itself. However, it was one of my first horror movie experiences as a grown-up, and I’ve developed an affection for this uneven but entertaining screamfest.
(03) “Shock Waves” (1977). Nazi zombies that live underwater. Stranded tourists with awesome, groovy 70’s fashions and hairdos. The claustrophobic Chuck, with his most excellent Will Ferrell-esque afro curls and short shorts. A deserted, desolate, run-down resort with no access to escape. These reasons alone make this movie worthwhile, but it’s also suspenseful, tense, and creepy. It’s slow at times, but it has a lot going for it. Most of the stalking scenes take place in broad daylight, the characters are relatively relatable, and the backstory told by the legendary Peter Cushing about the origin of the zombies is chilling. My biggest complaint is that Rose, our heroine (although well-portrayed by the lovely Brooke Adams) is rather passive and hardly on the same wavelength as my girls Sidney, Gale, Alice, Ginny, Chris, Trish, Nancy, Sally, or Laurie. If only Ripley could’ve shown up, back from space, and lent Rose a helping hand.
Honorable mentions: “The Changeling” (1980), “Frontier(s)” (2007), “Hell Night” (1981), “Just Before Dawn“(1981), “Session 9” (2001), “Tourist Trap” (1979), “Wrong Turn” (2003), “You’ll Like My Mother” (1972).
4. Name three horror movies that you enjoy against your better judgment.
(01) “The Grudge 2” (2006). Yes, it’s sort of incoherent and could’ve been a way better film, but there are some excellent performances and stand-out fright scenes to be found amongst the plodding mystery. Amber Tamblyn is so believable and likable that I felt for her the whole way (her fate is quite tragic). Plus, I always like seeing Sarah Michelle Gellar (who will always be Buffy to me). The croaking noise that Kayako makes is worse than the sounds of a thousand screaming children running loose at Target.
(02) “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer” (1998). The script, direction, and entire set-up is a bigger mess than Snooki, I know. I can’t help it, I like that adorably plucky Jennifer Love Hewitt and her genuine scream. The Fisherman is actually quite an imposing killer when he’s not too busy giving lengthy monologues explaining why he’s so vengeful (Hey, Gorton Fisherman Guy — we saw the first one, save the speeches!). But this movie has some intense chase scenes, particularly once The Fisherman takes off after J. Love and her crew, relentlessly hunting them through attics, over glass roofs, and into storm shelters. Sometimes, as the characters in this movie will attest to, it’s nice to not have to use your brain to enjoy something.
(03) “Killdozer” (1974). It’s a t.v.-movie about a possessed bulldozer trying to kill people. I repeat — it’s a t.v.-movie about a possessed bulldozer trying to kill people. That should be all I have to say to make you feel my love (as Billy Joel would say).
5. Send us to five places on the Internet!
(01) Atlantic Works.
(02) The Gallows.
(03) Ghosts & Gravestones.
(04) Katie Trotta.
(05) Not For Sale Campaign.
Many thanks for reading and for the incredible work you guys do on this site! Peace, love, and hair grease, Duncan.