Hillbilly Horror!

UNK SEZ: I don’t know what’s going on in your neck of the woods but around these parts today marks the day that TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL finally opens. To celebrate the fact that something is playing at the movie theater that looks good enough to get me out of the house, I have assembled this here post! Below are ten images from ten films. They may not necessarily be movies ABOUT hillbillies but they at least have a hillbilly(+ish) character or two within them. Good luck, have fun and make sure you check out the trailer for TUCKER & DALE below and the official site HERE too!

Name That Trauma :: Jody Susskind of Gods of the Game on a Tot Thrown from a Tower & a Paper-Plagued Opera Diva

I have vague memories of two T.V. shows that have eluded me despite intense Googling over the past few years.

The first was from the early or mid ’70s and was probably shown on The CBS Children’s Film Festival, though I can’t find anything like it on their episode list. The reason I remember it so well is because I only caught the tail end and have always wondered what the full story was.

From what I gathered, it was about a bunch of kids having an adventure in a fantasy kingdom, and one of the kids ends up in a situation where he had to jump to his death off a tower, as part of some ritual. There was a very creepy scene of this kid being forced up the stairs by two guards carrying spears. In the end his friends save the day by throwing a dummy off the tower instead.

The other one was from the late ’70s or early ’80s. My parents were watching an opera on PBS one night, and for some reason I decided to watch it with them. It was a modern opera, in English, about a woman who was progressively going insane. Her husband was missing or presumed dead or maybe he just left, but the upshot is he wasn’t there. The woman was battling some kind of awful bureaucracy that had her constantly filling out forms.

In one disturbing scene, she says (sings) “I ask you for help, and all you give me is…PAPER!” Then she goes on a rampage, screaming and throwing paper around.

The conclusion was even more horrifying: The woman has finally had enough, so she sticks her head in a gas oven. She starts to hallucinate, and in her hallucinations she’s STILL doing paperwork. The whole time the phone is ringing, and somehow you know the call is to tell her that her husband is alive, or coming back. And then she dies.

It was deeply disturbing, but I didn’t say anything to my parents because I didn’t want them to know that the opera had gotten to me. But the memory lingered for years, until I finally decided I needed to see it again. I asked my parents about it, and of course they didn’t know what I was talking about. So I’m on my own. Hope someone out there can help!

Jody Susskind

Gods of the Game

UPDATE: NAME THAT TRAUMAS SOLVED! Special thanks to kinderpals BigWig for getting the first one with THE BANANA SPLITS“New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” episode entitled “Son of the Sun” and FatherOfTears for knowing that the second opera in question is THE CONSUL.

The Sentinel (1977)

It’s time we talk about 1977’s THE SENTINEL. Director MICHAEL WINNER (DEATH WISH, the crazy/awesome SCREAM FOR HELP) has an inelegant caveman-crude eye, lead actress CRISTINA RAINES is as animated as a Colorform, and the derivative sanctimonious plot even has the nerve to rudely sink into the police procedural zone for zero effect or reason. So why is the film so darn bizarrely effective? How does it spit in the face of everything one values in a good film and still achieve its primary goal of making me feel like life is a gross, indecipherable nightmare that will never end? I suppose that sometimes something can be inadequately done and yet still be so singularly weird and wildly wrong that it leaves a strong impression regardless. It’s like throwing a dart at a board, missing the board entirely but hitting a fly on the wall instead. I can roll my eyes all I want while watching THE SENTINEL but by the time it ends, I know I’ll be left feeling disturbed.

I guess all the church-y mumbo jumbo is meant to convince us that we’re witnessing an epic battle of good vs. evil but that’s what they all say and I don’t believe it. The only war I see going on here is the clash between superficial beauty (fledging super model RAINES) and the not so appealing (everybody else). I don’t see RAINES’ character Alison in any true danger throughout the course of the film but she sure does experience a lot of anguish and mortification when presented with the ill favored and unattractive. The “demonic” are presented as too emaciated (her dad) too plump (his cake eating lover) too old (BURGESS MEREDITH among others) and too gay (Lesbian neighbors SYLVIA MILES and a she-bopping BEVERLY D’ANGELO). The film’s climax provides a large print version of the subtext with a full on parade of individuals with actual deformities representing the denizens of hell. Due to multiple suicide attempts, Alison is damaged goods too (at least in the eyes of the church) and her punishment (or honor?) is to freeze and crack, lost in a loop forever fighting to keep the “ugliness” at bay. She’s not the first. She won’t be the last.

We’re told that Alice has brought her torturous predicament upon herself by rejecting God and from what we see, God is not a fan of rejection. Yes, her brownstone apartment is the doorway to hell but that’s what she gets for dissing marriage and desiring to live alone. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to bash THE SENTINEL’s archaic view of damnation or maybe I do, but it’s with the knowledge that the film’s shallow piousness is its discomforting strong suit. Still, I can’t help sensing that Alice’s main anxiety is that atheism makes you less attractive. THE SENTINEL is usually accused of being an also ran in the religious horror movie craze of its time. It may look like that duck and quack like that duck, but it’s really just a neurotic swan swimming on lake shame. It doesn’t get close to the artistry of the films it is often compared to but its fervent condemnations and Alison’s relentless self-flagellation are nothing to sneeze at either. Just because an axe isn’t sharp doesn’t mean it can’t do damage.

Somehow even more fascinating than THE SENTINEL’s grotesquely simple view of humanity, hilariously crude post dubbing, cinder block lead actress and squeamish fear of the flesh, is the film’s mind-boggling extensive supporting cast. Nearly every person you have ever heard of makes an appearance and somehow new people seem to show up in it each time you watch it. It’s just ridiculous really and I refuse to list them all. Just when you think you’ve seen everything, TOM BERENGER and NANA VISITOR appear, eager to sign up to be the next victims. The fact that this film acted as such a weirdo magnet confirms my suspicion even further that there is something truly unnatural going on.

The truth is, I could stare at this movie like a zombie forever and I’d still be baffled. How was this movie ever made? How can such nonsense be so creepy? How is this not Italian? Based on a once popular novel by JEFFREY KONVITZ, THE SENTINEL may not hold a candle to THE EXORCIST in exploring good vs. evil but when it comes to exploring the sickness of dividing people into “desirable” and “undesirable,” (intentionally or not) it excels. I guess in the end it really does have something to say about religion…and I guess it ain’t pretty.

Traumafessions :: Reader Heather on Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, The World Beyond & The Monster Club

Last week I saw a commercial for a movie trailer that caught my attention, almost as if a cold clammy little hand poked out from under the couch and pulled me toward the heat duct…DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK.

Are they kidding?!

This movie single handed-ly gave me a bladder the size of a rugby ball when I was a kid. It was my first monster movie and I can still recall the creepy little voices whispering, “Saaalllllyeee… Saaaalllllyeee…” in the dark. The glimpse of the little ghouls/demons that I could only describe as having a piece of caramel corn for a head, still swim through my head. I was haunted by this movie well into my 20’s.

Now they are remaking it? I am sure their intention is to traumatize an entire new generation of children. After witnessing this movie, I would not go to the bathroom by myself at my grandparents’ home, because it was up a flight of stairs all by itself. It didn’t matter if it was noon and the sun was shining bright. I would not get out of my bed at night to go to the bathroom and barely wanted my head above the covers. Any noise, however slight, would set me on edge for hours in my bed.

After seeing the new trailer for DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, I was spurred on to research some of the other movies that added to my fears as a child. Remember THE WORLD BEYOND with its Mud Man and his severed arm that had a life of its own and THE MONSTER CLUB with its little stories of fog, ghouls, vampires and other creepies? These three are the apex of terror for me. I can only hope my kids will build an apex of their own to look back on and laugh….


Name That Trauma :: Wednesday’s Child of Deep Red Rum on an Asylum Run by the Insane

Hello Unkle Lancifer and Aunt John,

The movie I would like to find was one I watched on late night Cinemax or HBO sometime between ’85 and ’91. It was an “inmates take over the asylum” movie, but it was definitely not DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT. It looked to have been made in the ’80s. I think the only sane person was a nurse, and she didn’t find out until the very end that everyone else who “worked” there was insane. Pretty sure she ended up committed. I think it may have been British, but I’m not sure. It seems like the asylum was in a big Greek revival mansion.

Any help would be appreciated. The movie will probably turn out to be bad if I do find it, but I like bad movies.


Wednesday’s Child

Deep Red Rum (aka In It For The Kills: Horror Perspectives)

Special thanks to kinderpal Amanda By Night for naming this one with COMMITTED (1991).

Traumafessions :: Reader Paul on Are you Afraid of the Dark? ep. “The Tale of the Dead Man’s Float”

Hello Kindertrauma!

My terrifying traumafession focuses around the hit Nickelodeon show ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK?, which aired on Nick from the ’90’s througout the early 2000s. Many episodes scared me beyond belief, but there was one that REALLY took the cake, and that was “The Tale of the Dead Man’s Float.” This episode revolved around two teens, Zeke and Clorice discovering an abandoned pool above a graveyard, which awakened an angry spirit that took revenge on anyone who swam in the pool.

The scene in particular that traumatized me was towards the end, when the ghost-demon finally came out of the pool. This was a kid’s show, mind you but the ghost was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen and, looking back at it now, I still think its a rather scary and mature episode. The ghost was red, dressed in old clothes and covered in all kinds of slime and filth. But its head! Its head was a demonic red skull, with empty eye sockets that seemed to stare into my soul. I will never forget the demonic terrifying look of this ghost, and every time I go swimming I am hesitant because of this horrifying episode.


Name That Trauma :: Reader Bridget C. on a Freaky Alien Floor

All I remember is a scene were a group of astronauts are walking through a room in an alien spaceship. Suddenly one of the astronauts falls onto the floor and enveloped by it, almost as if he were eaten.

Do you know the name of this movie?

Does it even sound remotely familiar?

Please let me know!

Thank you!

Bridget C.

UPDATE: NAME THAT TRAUMA PROBABLY SOLVED!?! Reader Chris offered up HABITAT as the answer, and Bridget emailed to say:

“That could be the movie I was looking for, but I’m not sure that’s it. Thank you for looking!”

Dirty, Filthy Horror

So I came across a German trailer for THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE (1976) sneaking around YouTube and it got stuck in my head. The trailer is so dark, damaged, scratched up and weathered that it feels like an unscalable wall of gloom. I’ve never seen the film look shabbier and I’ve never seen it look as intriguingly sinister or lurid either. Maybe I’m experiencing a rubber band effect from being exposed to too much slick high definition lately, but it got me thinking about the movies I enjoy that gather strength by the fact that they revel in their own grunged-out grittiness.

PSYCHO (1960)

PSYCHO may seem like a starkly handsome film now but when you compare it to HITCHCOCK’s earlier flashier flicks, it’s obviously a deliberate step away from artifice and glamour. Marion Crane stumbles into a world that is rotting and falling apart and HITCH’s emphasis on keeping it candidly real went so far as to showcase the first flushing toilet seen in American film. PSYCHO is nothing if not about the blemishes and stains that can’t be scrubbed away; not even in the shower.


Some folks might assume NOTLD’s shabby chic aesthetic is due to its age but if you consider the fact that it was released the same year as ROSEMARY’S BABY, you get a better idea of just how scrappy and low brow this production is. The film’s non-existent budget surely influenced the end result, but director ROMERO’s blunt news footage approach turned the minus of poverty into an integral plus. NOTLD’s public domain status insures that a dingy looking copy is never more than a Google search away.


Remaster it, put it on DVD, smack it with a Blu-ray high definition stick, hire a zillion cherubs to polish it with Jesus’ tears, it doesn’t matter. TEXAS CHAINSAW will always look like it’s been dragged through the mud since the beginning of time and that’s why I love it. No need for blood, the ultimate horror here is derived from committing the unspoken American sin of looking under the carpet where the trash has been swept.


Here’s another example of a limited budget being an asset. SNBN is dark, cold and grey throughout and it utilizes its authentically well-worn locations to their creepy fullest, but it is the film’s cracked and crusty sepia toned flashback sequences that really chill the bone.


I may have just created a portal to hell by including CATHYS CURSE and PSYCHO on the same list and I’m fine with that. CATHY’S CURSE’s heap of garbage, ratty demeanor is not an artistic choice but the result of brain damaged filmmakers and the reality that nobody would want to remaster the film due to the process involving having to watch it. I stand convinced that every repulsive rust and avocado hue from the seventies dived into this celluloid cesspool to die. That said, one of my favorite aspects of this abomination, besides its doctrine of non-stop nonsense, is the fact that its base fugliness is heightened by its shredded, war torn ill kept state. What a Mess-terpiece!


I’ve never seen a copy of this movie that doesn’t look like hell and I don’t think I want to. Huge chunks of it are completely indecipherable but that’s part of what makes it work for me. SOAWN goes beyond delivering nicked and damaged visuals; it offers a wave of crunchy crumbling sound too!


Here’s an underrated movie with no shortage of atmosphere. D&B has several shockingly gruesome set pieces but for me there’s one ragged insert that shadows over the others. In it, one the main characters is revealed to be not quite what they seem via a battered and dingy amateur home film, the texture of which contrasts with everything else we’ve seen.


Finally available on DVD, I was initially disappointed when I threw NIGHTMARE’s disc in my player and noted the extensive scratches and damage that it still retains. My chagrin dissipated quickly when I realized that NIGHTMARE’s sleaze trash, grind house nature was in fact perfectly framed and amplified by the scourge of visual imperfections.


I have to include this recent discovery. One of the great joys of watching COT is basking in its ramshackle mangled mahogany state.


How ironic that when Hollywood jumped at the chance to capitalize on BLAIR’s success with a sequel that the first thing they jettisoned was the original’s coarse and crude threadbare look. C’mon, the film’s ace in the hole for igniting imaginations was its unrefined, vague as the shroud of Turin visuals.


From the kaleidoscopic channel surfing static strewn barrage of HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES to the acrid dusty rust heaps of THE DEVIL’S REJECTS to the swirling melted Jolly Rancher bag of his HALLOWEEN re-duo, ZOMBIE’s visuals are never not rug burn raw and bursting with imperfect unkempt energy.


Hey, so that was an eclectic (sloppy) assemblage of films wasn’t it? I almost included SE7EN(1995) and PLANET TERROR (2007) but decided that rather than earning the holes in their jeans, they bought them pre-weathered at designer stores. Maybe I should have separated the films by those that were scruffy on purpose, those that were ratty due to budget and those that were torn up due to not being well preserved but I didn’t. I mostly just wanted to talk about the wondrous effect that the marred, sullied, untidy image has on me when I watch a horror film and what can I say? I like things a little messy. It’s a matter of taste.

Traumafessions :: Michael Clark of Vast Cyclopean Vistas on Raiders of the Lost Ark

Dear Kindertrauma:

First off, you rock. I love your site and the way you have teased out many of the common traumas we suffered as children. I could go on about Oompa-Loompas, Flying Monkeys, The Poltergeist Clown…the list goes on.

But I was truly traumatized by the ending of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. I had been drawn in by the prospect of another movie featuring Han Solo (I guess I was nine when the movie came out), and thought somehow the movie would be about Noah’s Ark, but ok. I didn’t really know what a Nazi was, other than the “Black Spider” villains of THE SOUND OF MUSIC, but I got the idea pretty quickly.

So I’m tracking with the whole archaeology motif, digging (as it were) the Egyptian stuff–I could even handle the snake coming out of the mummy’s mouth in the Well of Souls sequence (though barely). But dammit, when those Nazis’ faces began to shrivel, drip, and explode in the Holy Wrath bit at the end, I LOST IT. I had gone to see the movie with our older cousin, who loved it–we were on vacation, and I think it was a moment for my parents to get us out of the hotel room at the Ramada Inn. I could not express to her how profoundly shocking the face-melting had been to me. Upon return to the hotel, where I had drawn the short straw and had to sleep on the floor, I remember keeping my mother up all night trying to describe the utter horror I had experienced at the end of the movie. I kept the bathroom light and fan on, much to my Dad’s dismay. Oddly, my younger brother had shrugged it off, or at least was too exhausted from all the Coke and Sno-Caps to stay awake.

I had loved it–and to this day it’s one of my favorites of all time–but my first time was a rough one.

If you liked this one, there’s more to come, as I was a Professional Scaredy-Cat.


Michael Clark

Vast Cyclopean Vistas