It’s a Horror to Know You: GCG!
1. What is the first film that ever scared you?
I’ll have to distinguish between being scared and being disturbed. The former has always been purely pleasurable, while the latter is something I can only appreciate now. As a kid, being disturbed messed with me, made me feel a little hopeless. But today I value that experience in horror films. The first things that disturbed me were scenes of humans being eaten. It’s hard to figure why that would upset a child, but there you go. I could only answer this question directly since last week, because only by that time was I able to source a childhood movie-watching memory, something that rarely happens, but of course, does happen more and more frequently as the giant Internet brain helps us use fleeting images as keywords. In this case, the film in question turned out to be War of the Gargantuas, a dandy 1966 Kaiju film featuring two giant simian creatures—one born from a piece of hide torn off the other, which is how they reproduce. Sanda, the progenitor, has brown fur, a gentle disposition, and lives on a mountain. Gaira, the offshoot, has green fur, a mean streak a mile wide, and lives in the sea. Gaira likes to eat humans and spit their clothes out. As a child, I knew a cat who lived in the woods and brought rats to the porch as a kind of tribute to the boss-man, right before eviscerating the rodent, eating every last bit except for the stomach and intestines, which the cat would daintily push to one side before unhinging his jaws to devour the rest. I saw WotG as a child on television and watched Gaira grab a young attractive Japanese woman from an airport terminal and chew her up, spitting out a wad of something that I thought, at the time, were the unsavory parts of her human anatomy masticated into a cud and summarily expectorated upon the tarmac. I didn’t catch the fact that they were merely her blood-stained clothes; I was still too young to register every plot point. Instead, I saw a young middle-class woman transformed into a gob of human remains. It was like driving past a road accident and catching the leering bug eyes of a well-dressed man with a crushed skull flopped on the hood of his own car—something exceedingly normal made ghastly. Wikipedia tells me that this hock-a-human-loogie moment was actually added to the version of the film that was distributed in the U.S., as if this film wouldn’t be successful here without it. It also tells me that Brad Pitt was inspired to act after watching this film and that the creatures are not giant apes but “Frankenstein” monsters.
Years later, some UHF channel around Halloween 1976 gave me this opportunity to crap my corduroys:
I swear that’s Ted Knight, the Superfriends narrator, speaking in that trailer. He did a lot of voice-over work in the ‘60s. Notice how he pronounces “terror” toward the end, like a man who can only console himself with drink and blurt out random words in the face of the zombie apocalypse. I also like the final wait-for-it moment between “night” and “of the living dead,” leaving room for some dissonant piano punching. And if you don’t believe me that it’s Ted Knight, imagine that voice drawling out, “Mon-ROE!”
2. What is the last film that scared you?
I can watch A Serbian Film, yawn, and say to myself, “Oh, puhlease, with your coitus-eye-socketus,” but put me all by myself in my study late at night watching reruns of the ghost episodes of Unsolved Mysteries on Youtube, and that’s it. I’m done. I’m fetal. There’s a cupola on an old Victorian home just across from where I live on a third floor—it’s the old governor’s home of our state before it moved to Sacramento—and after hearing Robert Stack muse on the odds of there being a Tallman’s Ghost, I’m peeking out the window toward the silhouetted cupola, waiting for some green glowing eyes to appear within a Miss Havisham veil along with that perfect scream from the Disney Haunted Mansion sound effects album.
The last scene from a feature-length horror film that gave me the willies was the night vision sequence at the end of [REC]. When that tall skinny girl-thing with the long face swung around blindly, I got a healthy dose of follicus erectus. Of course, I kept checking the cupola to make sure she hadn’t made her way from Spain to my neighborhood to escape the austerity laws in Europe.
3. Name three Horror movies that you believe are underrated.
Monkey Shines (Romero 1988) Vulcan mind meld with an evil monkey. I bet THESE GUYS watch the movie on a regular basis for a good laugh.
Night of the Living Dead (Savini 1990) Barbara whupping ass in a wife beater. Tom delivers the goods, and it’s coming out on Blu-ray later this year, albeit at an extortionary price, if we can judge by Twilight Time’s previous releases!
Dark Eyes of London (The Human Monster) (Summers 1939) Bela Lugosi at his nastiest, abusing blind people, defrauding life insurance holders (by killing them, of course),
throwing bodies in a mud bank while laughing.
4. Name three horror movies that you enjoy against your better judgment.
Bloody Pit of Horror (1965) A sadistic murderer who fancies his own well-oiled Charles Atlas physique. It’s a kitschy version of master race arrogance, starring a man who spent more time on the covers of fitness magazines than in films, and had regular sex with Jayne Mansfield before she migrated from buxom bombshell to vehicular death totem. Here are the two faces of Mickey Hargitay:
The Thing That Couldn’t Die (1958) MST3K can kiss my ass. Gideon Drew’s mutely mouthing severed head is a thing of genius. Water-dowsing, voyeuristic cowhands, and Sir Francis Drake!
The Black Raven (1943) When a storm forces several people to stay in a mysterious house… I don’t care what happens after that, and this film is the litmus test of my love for such a premise, because what happens is just stolen money and murder and even that description over-complicates it. It’s so public domain, that there’s probably a sun bleached VHS copy covered in sticky dust and stuck like hard candy to the edge of a splintered wood veneer entertainment console, broken and tossed beside a dumpster down the street from where you live, right now, no matter who you are or where you live. I was introduced to it via the good folks at Viking Video in the early ‘80s, a copy sold at a drugstore on a spinner rack.
5. Send us to five places on the Internet!
I already sent you to monkeyhelpers.org! What more do you want from
me! OK, here’s four more:
THIS will be helpful when the wild roving bands of cannibalistic post-apocalyptic thugs require us to use more discreet forms of communication in order to escape their notice.
I enjoy THIS young Brit’s take on all things exploitative:
THIS guy knows how to aggregate and do insanely obscure research for no remuneration, except my long-distance affection. His site covers all things Lugosi only as they pertain to the time he spent in England (including the Dark Eyes of London production).
If you are into noise and experimental music, I’m loving THIS new
label out of Seattle. Beautiful vinyl and cassette releases. Use
Hellvete or The Story of Rats as background music the next time you
watch Häxan or Nosferatu!