Made and released at nearly the same time as ’79s THE PROPHECY, the killer bat movie NIGHTWING shares many similarities with our favorite mutant bear flick. Riding the tail end of the nature-bites-back wave goaded by JAWS, both PROPHECY and NIGHTWING were directed by established directors, wore their long-winded environmental messages on their sleeves and questionably recruited up and coming swarthy Italian actors to represent the plight of the American Indian (ARMAND ASSANTE and NICK MANCUSO respectively).
NIGHTWING probably still holds the title as the best killer bat movie ever made, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s fatally dry and about three times more talky then it needs to be. (Take it from me, I own the seriously uncompelling Fotonovel). The cast couldn’t be better, MANCUSO is the sh*T, THE ISLAND‘s DAVID WARNER makes a far better scientist than a pirate, and have I mentioned my long standing adoration of KATHRYN (THE SENDER) HARROLD? The cinematography and the musical score by HENRI MANCINI are top notch as well, but there’s no way around the fact that most of the flick is about as stagnant as a stalactite.
There is one scene that gives you a taste of what the film might have been and frankly it’s almost too awesome to describe. Right smack in the middle of the film, surrounded by all that ponderous dialogue is NIGHTWING‘s crown jewel, a campfire attack to end all campfire attacks. The special effects may be a tad crappy by today’s standards, but the set-up and surprisingly sadistic tone more than make up for it. Watching co-eds meet the business end of gardening equipment may be fun, but you have not lived until you have observed stuffy, prissy middle-agers running about pell-mell with bats chomping on them from head to foot. What’s remarkably hilarious is just how cowardly the male campers are (keep an eye peeled for CHARLES HALLAHAN whose head will later sprout spider legs in J.C’s THE THING), they leave one woman to fall into the actual fire pit and catch aflame, and the other one is refused access to the safety of a nearby van. When the poor woman seeks refuge under the vehicle, her husband nonchalantly drives over her head!
Two more scenes of this caliber of questionable taste and overall pandemonium would have made NIGHTWING an instant classic but alas, some people insist on taking the high road and it is we the audience who suffer. NIGHTWING (and the beloved PROPHECY to some extent) is a good example of trying to woo respectability at the cost of forgetting just who butters your bread. Let me tell ya’ future monster movie makers, that Oscar is never going to be yours; do yourself (and your actual audience) a favor and spread on the blood.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Kindertrauma readers know their horror. Reader sbd gave me a major head-slapping, “I could have had a V-8,” moment when he remarked that Mr. TIM CURRY should be considered an official Traumatizer. CURRY not only perfectly embodied perhaps the scariest and most kinder-traumatizing television entity of all time as Pennywise the clown in the miniseries IT, but he also pretty much made a career out of playing people who you would not want to be left alone in a room with. (I’m well aware that there are many out there who would be delighted at just such a scenario, but this is neither the time or the place!) CURRY‘s portrayals of the demonic Lord of Darkness in LEGEND, the BERNADETTE PETERS withstanding opportunist flimflammer Rooster Hannigan in ANNIE and, perhaps most horrifying of all, the brain-frying, psychedelic sense-stomping songster Grand Wizard in THE WORST WITCH all serve to further underline sbd‘s cause. So here’s to you TIM CURRY, this honor is well-earned and long overdue. You, my scene stealing, multi-talented friend, are one impossible to dispute Traumatizer!
When I was about six or so, I was playing in the living room and my brother started watching STEPHEN KING’s IT– the miniseries starring TIM CURRY. I asked my brother if I should leave, and he said, “If you want to.” I decided to stay, and watched through the opening bit alright, and then it showed a little girl playing while her mom goes inside the house. She then hears goofy laughter and sees a clown appearing behind flapping sheets while spooky music plays. The next scene showed her being loaded into an ambulance with a white sheet over her face. If you want more than a description, here’s the scene:
I don’t know if the rest of the movie would have traumatized me, because I ran away. What I did afterwards or where I went escapes me. I’m not afraid of clowns, although to this day I still get a bit anxious every time I see TIM CURRY.
I would be remiss if I were not to inform y’all of a recent post over at EVIL ON TWO LEGS entitled “Childhood Horrors.” It’s a superb list of grade “A” traumatizers that I think you will really enjoy, plus they were kind enough to mention ye ol’ Kindertrauma as well! That kinda made my day and was sorta like a bloggy neighbor dropping off a surprise Bundt cake on account of they rule. While you’re there, make sure you look around and and stay awhile, there’s tons of great stuff to dig through and those guys really know their horror! Jump to the post HERE!
The year was 1979, my Dad was working in Atlanta, so my Mom and I spent the summer with him. A great time. One of the best summers I ever had. Lots of cartoons (first time I ever saw the RANKIN & BASS “King Kong” toon), Space Giants, 6 Flags, that DC Comics live action thing with the Justice League. I made friends with a kid in the next apartment, a friendship that ended abruptly when we argued over which was cooler, X Wings or Y Wings (I preferred the more rugged Y Wing). A great summer all told. Except for one thing…
1979 was the year of PROPHECY.
I was a Famous Monsters kid, I loved monsters. I grew up with THEM, TARANTULA, many HARRYHAUSEN films, the CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, PETER CUSHING, CHRISTOPHER LEE and HAMMER. GODZILLA was my personal hero, and now we had a film that billed itself not as a monster movie but as “THE MONSTER MOVIE.” The incredible print ads featured the three step evolution of a hideous thing in a womb sac, the slug lines read “Don’t move, don’t breathe, she is alive, and she will find you.” The last picture was of a monstrous, toothy, deformed thing that just screamed, “cool monster.” It was supposed to be about some kind of creature spawned by pollution, a mutant grizzly bear I heard. Good Lord, I had to see this.
Be careful what you wish for.
I begged the folks to take me, and we settled into a comfy theater for a night of monster goodness. By the time the lumberjack put the chainsaw near ARMAND ASANTE‘s face, I began to grow very uneasy. Maybe, just maybe, this would be too intense for me. I started to squirm. I had no clue it would get worse. Momma Bear’s attack on the campers seriously scared me. Although we never got too good a look at her, it was obvious that this was one seriously messed up creature. Not cool by any means, but utterly disgusting. The exploding sleeping bag scene has gotten a lot of derision over the years, but to my 8-year-old eyes, it was quite nasty. It only gets worse when they talk later about the evidence of the dead campers, evidence that was at the hospital in buckets! Ick. It was becoming plainly obvious; PROPHECY was not what I expected. Then it happened. The scene that burned itself into my retinas like the stare from a Gorgon. I closed my eyes as quickly as I could, but it registered, it was too late. My childhood was over, at 8 years of age no less. The scene that scarred me for life and began years and years of nightmares.
The mutant baby bear in the trap.
The sight of that uber-disgusting, slimy, deformed thing, squealing in agony was too much for me to take. Up there, on that screen in Atlanta, was the single most disgusting, disturbing, grisly sight I ever saw. I could take no more, this was simply too much. I begged my folks to take me home. Dad was ticked off (the old, “we payed our money” line), but Mom (thank God for Mom, God bless Mom!) overrode him. She hated the film anyway and could have cared less to stick around. Besides, no way was her baby boy going to be traumatized by this damned thing (well, too late for that, but you know). We went home, the fate of the characters and the beasts a mystery to me for many years. I always felt that PROPHECY‘s PG rating was a fluke. This was an R film if ever there was one, and had it been given it’s true rating, I would never have asked my folks to take me.
As I grew up, I suffered from many a PROPHECY induced nightmare. The bears, or some variation thereof haunted the old dreamscape. I still have them from time to time. The kicker is this, in the ensuing years; I have become one of the films only supporters. Yes, it is heavy handed at times, but it has a good message about pollution and how it affects us and the land. It’s scary, well shot and acted. And the FX work is in no way sub par. Maybe I remembered that terrified 8 year old in terror, cowering in the seat, maybe that colors my perception, but I always rise to defend TOM BURMAN‘s creatures when folks slag them off (as an aside, I must note that BURMAN provided superb effects for a film that is a major favorite of mine, THE BEAST WITHIN). I have just about seen all of the film too. I can actually look at the main bear. I don’t like her, still find her quite upsetting, but can look at her. But not the baby. When PROPHECY plays on TV, and if I catch it, I look away, change the channel or cover my eyes. As a grown man nearing 40, I still cannot let the fear go and look at the stinking thing. Now I have seen some of the most disturbing, disgusting, upsetting, bloody, gory horror films of all time in the past 30 years. Movies that make many folks react the same way I reacted to PROPHECY. I watched them without batting an eyelash, loved every minute of them, and added them to the DVD collection. But PROPHECY cut me too deep. The scar is still there and will never heal. All due to a mutant bear squealing in a trap.
The summer ended on a high note. THE BLOB played on TV one night. Thank God for STEVE McQUEEN! But PROPHECY was not done with me yet. Back home in Charlotte, my brother and sister came back from the mall. They promised to pick me up some comic books or something. They came back with Fangoria #2… cover story and feature?
I cried for about hour after that.
To read more by David, be sure to check out Confessions of an Anxious/Depressive.
As a child, I really had no restrictions as to what I could watch on T.V. or as video stores opened up what I could rent. I do remember at the age of 8 being terrified of the MANIAC trailer every time it came on T.V. and when I finally saw it at 14; it is now one of my favorite horror movies. When we got cable, my brother and I could watch every horror movie on HBO or Showtime and it is because of that I have a love for horror to this day.
Now I can’t remember what age I was when I kept seeing the tape for BLOODSUCKING FREAKS. All I know is that the cover scared the shit out of me and I was always drawn to it every time we went in to rent something. It was the picture of the director JOEL M. REED on the back of the box that scared me too death, but I couldn’t put it down every time I went to that video store. My dad would say, “Do you want to rent it this time?” I would always say, “No.” I think I finally got the nerve to rent it with my boyfriend who is now my husband and I was 25 at the time. I now know it was a piece of crap and JOEL REED wasn’t even in it, just on the cover. It really is a joke of a movie with bad effects and bad acting. It was his sinister grin that to this day gives me the chills. He is so creepy looking.
Anyway I would love to thank my parents for not being restrictive on what my brother and I could watch when we were younger and that is why I have such a love for horror. We both turned out normal from all of the stuff we saw. I would also like to thank my mom for renting I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE for me when I was 15 after I asked her to bring back anything horror. It has remained one of my favorite movies due to CAMILLE KEATON‘s performance. If my mom only knew what she had rented for me that day I am sure she would not have rented it. She said she thought the title was cool.
I cannot wait until my 3-year-old son is old enough to share my love for horror. He has been to several conventions and has his own CHUCKY doll, so I hope he follows in my footsteps.
UNK SEZ: Great traumafession Jenny. We’ve been talking a lot around here about age appropriateness and horror films lately. I’d like to think kids with open, loving parents who are involved in their lives are pretty durable and you (and your mom) sound like a fine example of that. Color me jealous, I didn’t get my first Chucky doll till I was in my twenties! (thanks for the swell b-day gift Kip and Sheri!)
During World War II my parents took the family to see DRAGON SEED, a movie about the Japanese invasion of China. The tension built as the Japanese approached a small rural community. The family’s grandmother was too obese to travel fast so they hid her in some bushes. The soldiers found her and raped her. Her hysterical crying remained with me throughout the war, reminding it could happen to my mother if we were invaded. To this day I have fears of being attacked because of invasion, whether by wars or into my home, car, etc.
I must add my family, especially my very creative mother, were fans of the gothic. During the depression after my parents lost their farm we moved into a small, rural village. For lack of money and no special events in the community my mother would take us to the cemetery at night to tell us macabre stories as we sat on tombstones.
We also lived in a very large home with a basement not unlike a dungeon. If I had to go to the basement, on return I would run up the stairs as many outstretched arms pursued me.
At age 75, I am a very happy person!!!!!!!!!
UNK SEZ: Tom, where do I even begin with such a stellar Traumafession? First of all, thanks for dispelling the notion that trauma is reserved for the horror genre. The truth is war, rape and fear for our loved ones trumps most of what is found in the average horror film. Secondly your mother is an inspiration, being taken to the local cemetery for some homemade brand-trauma tales sounds like a dream come true to me. And lastly thanks for including your age, not only does it illustrate the staying power of kindertraumas but their universality as well. I spend a lot of time fretting about getting older, but if I get to be half as cool as you clearly are, I’m looking forward to it!
My biggest child hood trauma would have to be an even split between GONE WITH THE WIND, as seen with my folks at a drive in at the tender age of 5 or 6 , and several children’s records we would listen too all narrated by DAVID FROST.
I am probably older than most readers here and grew up in South Africa, where television was only introduced in 1976. I have no childhood television memories to speak of, and we didn’t frequent the movies very often. We read a lot of books, and had LP’s with children’s book narrations. We were as glued to them as any child today is glued to the TV screen. These LP where not musicals, but the narration was usually accompanied by music adding to the tension created by the deep and serious voice of DAVID FROST. Tubby the Tuba was the only one of the LP’s that didn’t scare the living daylights out of me….
Jack and the Beanstalk’s ever-coming Giant, whose large and heavy steps would vibrate the house (or so it seemed to me, would send me screaming to my mother, and to a nightmare filled night – or several.) The Pied Piper of Hamlin was another one that scared me to death (although I did like the mice) The seductiveness of his music, and the happy sounds of children disappearing though the streets echoing their laughter into the silence of god knows where terrified me. I don’t think that I ever got to listen to the end of these records, or that I ever slept a good night sleep after listening to them – but still I would return, for more and more and more….
As I said above – the other half of my child hood trauma is all about the amputation scene in GONE WITH THE WIND. (Probably many of you are wondering what exactly is so scary about that movie, especially as todays movies are a lot more revealing in blood and gore) I was so traumatized by that scene (my screaming obviously forced my parents to leave the drive-in with some haste,) that I refused to see that movie until I was about 25 years old…. at which point I did watch it in complete and utter boredom unable to understand how this is what had haunted me for so many years…
UNK SEZ: Thanks Rachel. Rachel blogs about horror over at TOP HORROR MOVIES CLUB. A recent post even concerned Kindertrauma and her thoughts about just how young is too young to allow kids to experience scary films. Similar discussions recently took place at both VAULT OF HORROR and CLUB SILENCIO. I threw my two cents into all three, but you know your Unk, my creepy kiddies, I wouldn’t trade my childhood kindertraumas for the world!