Traumafessions :: Peter of The Flicks That Church Forgot on The Mad Death


Thank you for your fantastic website. I love it, and it reassures me that I’m not the only one who loves spooky stuff from my childhood!

I have a Traumafession of my own. Not sure if anyone will remember this, and I haven’t seen it since it was broadcast in 1983 (I was nine at the time), but this was a BBC Scotland mini series called THE MAD DEATH. It was about a rabies outbreak in the U.K. which was in the news at the time. I remember a guy catching the disease from a fox and becoming hydrophobic. He kept staring at a decanter of water in someone’s house and was just terrified of it.

I remember being really scared at the idea that something so mundane could become a source of such horror. Also, the opening titles (I wish they were on YouTube!) have stuck in my memory, even after 27 years. It was a fox’s head on a black background, but the face was sort of swirling and pulsating. I’d love to see it again, to check if it is as scary as I remember it.

Another thing I thought I might mention is that I just produced an episode of my podcast on the 1973 T.V. movie DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK. I know that’s the sort of thing that traumatized many kids! I’m an ordained Baptist Minister from the U.K. who presents a podcast on horror. A little odd I know, but I basically review a horror film, and then offer a sort of spiritual reflection on it.

Anyhoo, I thought I’d mention it in case you thought it might be of interest to your readers. (The religious commentary bit is in a separate episode to the film review so people can just skip that stuff if they’re not interested).

You can find it at

Thanks again for a great site,


UNK SEZ:: Thanks for the traumafession Peter and thanks for introducing me to THE FLICKS THAT CHURCH FORGOT! I spent the better part of last weekend listening to your podcasts and I was thoroughly impressed! They’re informative, funny and brimming with fresh insights on films that I thought I had heard every possible take on!

I admit it, when you said you were an ordained minister I prepared myself for something dry and preachy and I couldn’t have been more wrong. You do an incredible job capturing just what makes movies like CARRIE, THE HOWLING and HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME so special and your two-parter on HOUSE OF THE DEVIL was spot-on brilliant! I found the three part series reconciling Christianity and Halloween not only fascinating but imbued with the type of rational, common sense that the world could use plenty more of.

Horror fans, listen to your Unkle Lancifer: No matter your religious views, if you’re looking for an original perspective on the horror genre look no further than THE FLICKS THAT CHURCH FORGOT!

The Initiation of Sarah (1978)

THE INITIATION OF SARAH (1978) may be wearing CARRIE’s hand me downs but I don’t think that’s such a damnable thing. There are worse fates than knowing exactly what to expect from a movie and can there ever be too many stories about psychic nerd revenge? Being born for television broadcast prevents SARAH from going hog wild or stomping on too many toes. You’ll find no skewering of religious fanaticism here; pigs blood is replaced by mud (and rotten tomatoes) and a sweaty work out will have to do as a stand in for sex. BRIAN DePALMA’s classic needn’t fret being usurped by this imitator anytime soon but let’s be real here, there’s only one movie in the world that features the unsinkable SHELLEY WINTERS and employs two of the world’s most notable MORGANs (We’re talking FAIRCHILD and BRITTANY.) Yes, this also-ran may as well be titled THE IMITATION OF CARRIE but it endures thanks to its fetching cast.

KAY LENZ (who will later star with CARRIE alum WILLIAM KATT in 1986’s HOUSE) is our wallflower Sarah. She’s a real uggo I guess on account of she wears oversize sweaters. We understand that Sarah is special from the first scene when she stops her more socially acceptable stepsister Patty (BRITTANY) from being raped ten feet in front of her on a beach. Rather than merely yelling “Hey, stop raping my sister in front of me!” Sarah uses her crazy power to knock the guy on his ass. INITIATION may fall infinity short of the emotional depths to be found in BRIAN DePALMA’s take on STEPHEN KING’s novel but the relationship between these two sisters, one with the opportunity for larger acceptance and one without, is actually pretty interesting in a BASKET CASE kind of way. In fact, Sarah’s interactions with others may be what ultimately rescues this movie from the superfluous retread zone.

Once in college, Patty is accepted by a highfalutin, snobby sorority lead by tweezer-faced glamorpuss Jennifer (the FAIRCHILD) and Sarah is relegated to a dumpy sorority of theoretically drab outcasts. We’re lead to believe that Patty is the fortunate one in this scenario, but I beg to differ. I admit that the idea of FAIRCHILD forcing me to don hobo drag and beg for change has always been a fantasy of mine but I still think Sarah receives the better deal. She gets to live in a gothic mansion helmed by creepy Mrs. Hunter (brilliantly insane WINTERS) and her roommates include Alberta “Mouse” (Italian horror staple TISA FARROW of ZOMBIE & the underrated says me, THE GRIM REAPER), butch, Izod clad Allison (slick chick TALIA BALSAM of the underrated says me THE KINDRED), and groovy Barbara ( Yay! Plunger gal NORA HEFLIN of the BLAIR-tastic BORN INNOCENT!) For all of Sarah’s supposed awkwardness, she’s also often seen canoodling heavily with dreamy assistant teacher Paul Yates (future MY BODYGUARD director TONY BILL.) Add to all that gravy the fact that Sarah has coveted psychic powers and I’m hardly convinced that hers is the sticky end of the lollipop. All Patty gets is the opportunity to watch Jennifer manipulate DONNA PESCOW’s future squeeze ROBERT HAYS. (Yes, that’s an ANGIE reference. Holla, Philly!)

Anyways, Patty and Sarah’s sororities have a long history of hating on each other and it puts a giant wedge in their once simpatico relationship. Eventually Sarah starts developing a backbone and throwing grand pianos at her sister and dunking bitch Jennifer in a fountain. Her new found moxie is an inspiration to her sorority sisters and to her house mother who wisely decides to harness Sarah’s hate to put an end to the rivalry but unwisely decides to use beloved Mouse as a human sacrifice in a garden maze ritual. Ultimately many things catch on fire and FAIRCHILD’s face gets crusty.

If you are looking for simple entertainment, INITIATION is a fluffy success. It’s a veritable late night classic and the scene involving FAIRCHILD’s fountain comeuppance is highly memorable and plenty o’ fun. Still, it’s unquestionably undercooked and rough around the edges. I’m convinced that SHELLEY’s character is, in fact Sarah’s real mom, but for some reason that revelation is never exploited or properly addressed. I’m also of the thinking that SHELLEY’s witchcraft is the cause of an injury that befalls “Mouse” but we’re never allotted any acknowledgment or evidence in that area either and that would have helped too. Unable to fall back on gore or sex, the television movie’s major strength comes in the form of characterization and story and these needlessly dropped threads leave a major dent.

This is a fun movie but there’s no reason why it couldn’t be more effective too. Unlike CARRIE’s ultimate end, SARAH’s feels strangely unfinished and substantially less satisfying. INITIATION may know whom to follow but it doesn’t seem to understand why or where. As I said though, you do get WINTERS and two, count em’, two legendary MORGANs and that ain’t hay. Too bad SARAH is so oblivious to just how good she’s got it.

NOTE:: This review is an important part of a nutritious breakfast AND it’s a part of the FINAL GIRL FILM CLUB. For more on SARAH look HERE!

Traumafessions :: Reader bdwilcox on Magic: The Gathering Commercial

I remember catching a glimpse of this Magic: The Gathering commercial on T.V. and being utterly petrified of that savage rabbit. I can’t believe they allowed such imagery on T.V. during regular hours.

I looked over at my parents and they didn’t seem phased by it in the least, so I felt totally alone in my terror. I think this came on about the same time that TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE was on cable.

So, between this commercial and that scene in TZ:TM where the demonic rabbit pops out of the magician’s hat, I’m totally scarred in the lepus department.


Thanksgiving in Sunnydale

Urgh. Thanksgiving is not my favorite holiday. As much as I support murder when it involves electrocuting and burning alive your tormentors on prom night, murdering an indigenous people in order to swipe their real estate is kind of douchey. Maybe it’s me but I’m not convinced that the yam with marshmallow dish everyone keeps raving about is all that delicious either. Plus there’s the Kindertrauma holiday post dilemma to worry about. I really don’t want to resort to that phony ELI ROTH trailer.

What I finally decided to do was just share with you a yearly ritual of mine, which is watching the BUFFY THE VAMIRE SLAYER episode “Pangs.” This particular episode of BUFFY takes place on Thanksgiving and although it’s hardly the strongest in the series, it does provide me with a certain amount of comfort. “Pangs” involves Indian warriors coming back to life through magical means to avenge their people. Like I just attempted, Wicca witch Willow makes comments condemning mass genocide but it sounds less annoying coming from her because she is a girl. It may not be BUFFY’s shiniest hour, but it is the only hour of hers that involves turkeys, syphilis ad somebody turning into a bear.

While watching “Pangs” this year I started thinking about my long history with Buffy and, as I did, a memory resurfaced that, as it turns out, specifically involves Thanksgiving. Picture it. Philadelphia, mid-nineties, your Unk is living far from home and all of his so-called pals have other plans for the holiday that don’t include him. One friend, let’s call him “Spike” was in the same gravy boat so plans were made that we would spend Thanksgiving together. It should be noted that I may have had a thing for “Spike” at the time. In fact, I know I did because he had a physical impairment and was morbidly self-involved and I know that’s how I rolled back then. So I cooked, I cleaned and I stocked the fridge with suds. Spike never showed though, he called me very late from a bar and he said he’d be there soon and then he STILL never showed. Cram a yam, I got stood up!

The toasty festive atmosphere began to curdle rapidly. The universe was pouring vinegar in my eggnog. I don’t know why it hit me so hard. Why was the carpet not only pulled out from under me but also set on fire and placed over my head? A giant black vortex opened in the wall and tried to suck me through it. My instantly massive loneliness crushed down like a cartoon anvil. There I was, by myself, during a national holiday with an excess of alcohol and nothing to do but stew. Eventually my depression grabbed me by the nape of my neck and led me to the only fire escape not guarded by demonic trolls, the television…

I caught on to BUFFY early in its run but somewhere I had lost it. I must have hallucinated that I had more pressing things to do. Suddenly, it was the only thing on T.V. and I had no idea what was going on in the series by now but I was going to watch it anyway. The episode was from the third season and it was called “Amends.” In it, Angel, the cursed vampire, is worn down with guilt and remorse to the degree that he goes to a hillside to await the sunrise so he can turn to dust. He has decided the world would be better off without him so why not? Buffy confronts him and tells him everybody goes through the same crap and screws up all the time and the important thing to do is just fight and most of all, that she’s got his back (or something to that effect.) Talking Angel off the ledge takes too long though and with dawn breaking it doesn’t seem like he’ll make it indoors to safety in time. Then something happens, the sun won’t be rising at all (Did I mention it’s Christmas?) because for the first time ever in fictional Sunnydale’s history, it’s starting to snow…

I’m a lame-o and a light touch and snow is my Achilles heel forever. There I was munching down on mega melancholia and I just happened to stumble upon this cure. I wasn’t so much moved as transferred to the other side of the psychological globe. That night’s episode of BUFFY ended in the same way as that night’s episode of UNKY, with divine intervention. I wasn’t depressed at all anymore; I had a new favorite show.

After that I fanatically and ravenously caught up with all of the episodes of BUFFY I had missed and followed it to its (sob) conclusion in 2003. (My viewing of “Amends” did not take place during its original airing but during a repeat marathon of sorts.) I guess it might make more sense to watch that fateful episode “Amends” this time of year rather than “Pangs” but the latter fits in more with where I’m at today. The characters on BUFFY became my friends and family during a time when I really was for the most part alone in the world and watching them gather for Thanksgiving is strangely like gathering alongside them. I’m almost ashamed to admit this (and by almost I mean not really) but for a while I was consciously aware of the show surpassing the real world in importance to me. If you are a nerd with a favorite show you either know what I mean or are not as much as of a nerd as you think you are.

This post is a toast, a toast to my make believe family I guess. This Thanksgiving I give thanks to the Scoobies, for always being just a play button away.

So, what happened with that dude “Spike,” the guy who left me at the cranberry sauce alter, high and dry on a cold night staring at a room temperature bird? I forgave him. While I’m talking about being thankful I might as well go that extra, after-school-special mile and talk about forgiveness too. I know carrying a grudge is more fashionable but I’m thankful that I ended up letting bygones be bygones. A year or so later he made “amends” and introduced me to Aunt John.

Traumafessions :: Spooky Sean on The Christmas Toy

When I was about six years old, one of my favorite movies was a little film called THE CHRISTMAS TOY. Only, it also happened to scare the utter shit out of me, with its concept. For, you see, when the Jones’ leave the room, their toys come to fucking life.

The film opens with Kermit the Frog dressed as Santa Claus falling down the chimney, and into the Jones’ home. He explains how, in essence, whenever any of the human beings leave the room, the plastic and stuffed play things come to life. Apparently, they also like to sing, for as soon as Kermit peaces out, we get a musical number.

I had a very over active imagination as a child, and the premise of the film more then anything fucked with my head. So, wait, when I leave the room, my Ninja Turtles and my Fraggle Rocks will come to life?! And when I come back inside, they will go back to playing dead? What the hell, am I not cool enough for them to just talk and sing to me! Or, are they planning some kind of terrible plot against me, and they can’t talk about it in front of me! According to the plot if the toys are seen moving by humans, they become frozen. I’ll tell you, if I saw a stuffed animal come to life, I’d be frozen too; frozen in fear for my sanity.

I’m sorry, I love the toys and inanimate objects come to life films, but can you see how they might be disturbing to a small child who hasn’t yet solidified his sense of reality? Re-watching it, of course it just seems silly, but yes, I was also still a little freaked out. Fuck, there is a scene where one of the main toys, Rugby the Tiger, is spying on the adults from inside the closet! Tell me that Tiger doesn’t seem a little whacked out.


Spooky Sean

UNK SEZ:: Thanks Spooky Sean! Kids, make sure you go and check out Sean’s fortress of awesome-tude SPOOKY SEAN’S SINFUL BLOGGERY!