Traumafession:: Audrey Spindler on The Neverending Story

I must have been about 4, maybe 5. I saw The Neverending Story for the first time at grandma’s house, sitting in the living room with my 2 cousins. I loved the movie, but there were some parts that scarred me for life. Of course I can watch the film now and still experience it with glee every time…but that day, so long ago, is a day I will never forget.
First off I hated the part where Artax dies in the Swamp of Sadness. It was horrible. It made me very unhappy. It still does. Not to mention the fact that I had a big ole insta-crush on Atreyu ( who didn’t, am I right ladies?), and didn’t like to see him so upset. It was all very emotional and intense for a small girl.

Of course after seeing what happened to the knight when he tried to pass the first gate…I wasn’t too excited to have Atreyu try his luck. I don’t remember breathing during this scene at all.

Then there was Gmork. Need I say more?

Then at the end of the movie, the Ivory Tower is crumbling after all of Fantasia has already been destroyed. Very heavy stuff here. I was so caught up in the moment, I was certain that the Childlike Empress ( who was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen up to that point in my young life) was going to die.

I began crying inconsolably behind grandpa’s big recliner until my mother found me there and assured me that the Childlike Empress was NOT dead, and look how how her and Bastian are rebuilding all of Fantasia now. I will always remember wiping my nose and tear stained face on the back of my sleeve and watching the end of the film- feeling afterwards not just a little bit silly.

Well that’s my story. Tons more where that came from. I’ll be posting again soon.


Audrey Spindler

USA’s Saturday Nightmares:: By John Sullivan

I was an ‘inside kid’.

Sure, I went to school and rode bikes and journeyed to 7-11 to pick up comic books and Slurpees.

That was my afternoon. But my night?

Movies. Lots and lots of movies.

My parents gave me a TV time limit. I had a few hours a week. It was sort of an allowance. I had to be smart, and budget my presence in front of the tube.
I used all those hours on Saturday. Here’s why:


Saturday Nightmares was my youthful gateway into horror films. In an environment where my parents were permissive enough to let me watch some TV, but not permissive enough to let me rent R-rated horror films, Saturday Nightmares provided a mainline fix that my pre-teen (and early teen) self desperately needed.

USA’S Saturday Nightmares was a prime-time (8 PM – East Coast – old school USA network) non-hosted weekly horror movie feature forum that consisted of several elements:

0 – The Intro. As I mentioned, this was an un-hosted venue for horror films but the intros were awesome. In the early days of USA’s Saturday Nightmares, it was a little more commando. They were stark black and white shots of grotesque monster movies. It looked cheap, and felt cheap and that informed the scariness of whatever film the show was threatening to air. After a few years, they amped up the budget and it became an early CGI ‘tour’ through a museum of horror icons. Regardless of which intro or bumper I preferred, they were atmospheric and foreboding. In other words, even if the movie sucked – I was still scared to watch it.

1 – The Horror Movie. This was usually some semi-obscure thriller that was molding in a VHS bin somewhere. I’m not industry adept enough to guess where the USA network programmers got their material, my guess is it was whatever they had access to. I mean, ‘Bloodbath in the House of Death’? ‘Scared to Death’? ‘Devil Times Five’?, ‘Up From the Depths’?, ‘The House Where Evil Dwells’, ‘Spookies’?, ‘The Being’?, – I can go on. And I will. But this show dredged up some of the most lesser-known, cheap thrill horror movies that could ever be IMDB’d. For a kid who was only exposed to ‘Salems Lot’ and ‘Gremlins’, Saturday Nightmares was a goldmine. R-rated horrors edited for television. Therefore, parent-friendly.

2 – The Anthology Shows. It wasn’t just a horror feature showcase. Oh no. It had frosting on the cake. Following the movie, Saturday Nightmares wasn’t done with you. They aired three different syndicated horror anthology shows. Among them: The Ray Bradbury Theater, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and The Hitchhiker.

The Ray Bradbury Theater’ was more of a slow-burn horror anthology. The stories were generally fantastical and had a more broad nature. Not all of the stories presented were from the mind of the great Ray Bradbury, but many of them kept the tone of some of his earlier works. I remember one called ‘The Playground’ with a young-ish William Shatner that haunts me to this day.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ had a more crime-oriented atmosphere and a typical just-desserts twist ending. I’d compare the stories presented akin to EC Comics’ noir books.

The Hitchhiker’ was probably inappropriate for a kid my age. It was a port from an HBO series, and consisted of a lot of sex and murder. A lone, scruffed Hitchiker tells stories of lust and death. It was heavily edited for TV, so the impact was lost on me. I do remember some of the stories were compelling, but they had to cut out all the naughty stuff.

3 – The Short Films. Oftentimes, one of the Saturday Nightmares features would end early, and they would have to stick in a mysterious short film to fill out the run time. Short films are commonplace these days, especially on YouTube – but in 1988, it was rare to see a cool, scary short flick. Somehow, the USA Network was able to find some frightening brief bits to pad out the run-time. I remember one was about a man engineering a gigantic mouse-trap…for himself. It was his method of suicide. Dark, right?

I WAS 10!

The first film I ever saw on USA’s Saturday Nightmares was ‘The Loch Ness Horror’. It involves – you guessed it – a bunch of people running away from a rubberized Loch Ness Monster puppet. It’s…garbage. However, the nostalgia of gunning my BMX bike back from the comic book store to make it home before sundown to watch ‘The Loch Ness Horror’ stays with me.

I think I bought a Hulk comic that day. Memories fade…

My parents had to endure my love of USA’s Saturday Nightmares. We weren’t a rich family. We had a modest house on Long Island with one TV. So, if I watched something – they had to watch that thing. In a strange way, my parents are well-versed in horror movie trivia because of that environment.

-‘Hey Dad, remember ‘Demonwarp’?

-‘Is that the one with the murderous Sasquatch and George Kennedy, and the zombies you made us watch’?


-‘Why couldn’t have you been a doctor’?

I was a weird kid. I lived for Saturday Nightmares. Whenever my parents had a dinner party, they knew I’d be out of their hair watching something like ‘Jaws of Satan’. Just to be clear, that’s a film about a king cobra possessed by the Devil.

My Dad’s buddy, after wandering into the TV room:

‘What are you watching’?

Jaws of Satan. Killer king cobra movie’.

‘What the hell is Fritz Weaver doing in this crap’?

As low-grade as many of the movies shown on Saturday Nightmares were, they did expose me to a world beyond the A-list ‘thrillers’ that masquerade as horror movies.

Later on, as USA became more mass-audience oriented, the films became more commercial. ‘Demons of the Dead’ was replaced by ‘Nightmare on Elm Street 3’. ‘Girls Nite Out’ was replaced by ‘Friday The 13th V’. Not that there’s anything wrong with those particular films, but I could see them anywhere. I respected the unavailability of the unknown titles.

Soon after…

Saturday Nightmares was kicked. USA rolled into original programming, and became the home of ‘Psych’ and ‘Burn Notice’. I’m sure those shows are fine, but I miss the ‘go for broke’ programming of the 80’s. What is ‘Burn Notice’ about, by the way?

I got older and discovered eBay and Amazon and YouTube. I was able to find a lot of my favorite niche horror films on that landscape.

My Saturday nights got booked with grown-up things. Girls, life, girls.

I work as a screenwriter now. I’ve written the (self-proclaimed) B-movie classics ‘Fear of the Dark’, ‘Prophecy: Uprising’, ‘Prophecy: Forsaken’. ‘Recoil’ (not a horror film but Steve Austin is kinda scary).

I’ve got a few new thrillers in the pipeline.

I like to think that USA Saturday Nightmares contributed to my silly career.

I leave you with the Wiki link for USA’s Saturday Nightmares.

Every flick is a classic. Sorta.

Now, I’m off to find a VHS copy of ‘The Loch Ness Horror’…


Mama (2013)

Is it too late to write a review of MAMA? That movie is ancient. I missed it in the theater because who knows why, waited for it to appear on Netflix streaming, which it never did and then watched its price as a used DVD go from 15 dollars to 10 to 6 to 4. I finally had to buy the decrepit thing before it turned into a fossil! When I opened the DVD case the disc inside had a long grey beard growing on it! This movie is positively geriatric! Oh wait, IMDb says it was released less than a year ago. Hey don’t blame me, blame our disposable culture! This is BLOCKBUSTER’s fault even though they are dead! If it was up to me, you’d all be waiting three years for movies to come out on VHS and when they did, they’d cost a hundred clams to purchase and you’d rent them for 5 bucks a pop and if you were late returning them, you’d be fined up the wazoo! That is the natural order of things!

MAMA! Back to MAMA! Love that title! Why didn’t I like this movie so much? The premise is fantastic not to mention kindertrauma-riffic. Two poor, pitiful little girls are left in an abandoned cabin in the woods by their insane, gone postal father. Instead of starving and freezing to death, they are cared for by a motherly spook who, like Charo, goes by one name only “Mama” (okay, “cared for” might be a bit of a stretch.) We come to learn that Mama is a ghost that can physically engage in the world and move objects about with ease, so I’m wondering why the hell she didn’t pick up the cabin a bit, do some laundry and maybe comb the poor kid’s hair! Get it together Mama! You so lazy!

Five years later (really? It took five years for someone to look in the cabin next to the crashed car?), the now feral kids are discovered and taken in by their not insane uncle and his borderline sociopathic “rocker” girl friend Annabel (JESSICA CHASTAIN in a Cousin April wig). I say she’s borderline sociopathic because the card that informs us that Annabel is struggling with her maternal instincts is so overplayed that it appears as if she has never encountered a child before and has the patience of a spider monkey. To be fair, there are several later scenes of her connecting with the kids that are less ham-fisted and do really work. In fact, there are many elements in this movie that hint at a much better film just begging to happen. The kids are fantastic and the Mama entity, when not shoved down our throats, can be pretty spooky. Unfortunately every thing from a meddling Aunt to Mama’s backstory is painted in such broad strokes that it feels like a fairy tale performed on a Colorforms set. I have two major gripes…

Now, you know I love a “research” scene, they crack me up for being so cliché but I also love them as mid-film markers that declare that the mystery portion of our story is over and things are about to come to a head. MAMA’s “research” scene happens super early and it goes on and on and on. It’s like a big gelatinous mound of nothing in the center of the picture, a cinder block tied to a kite. We get the library, the wise oldster, a RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK storage unit, maps upon maps, news clippings, psychic dreams with characters pointing towards things, street signs, BIG close ups of news clippings, more maps, more sign posts and it all just amounts to redundant filler. Really all the information could just be stuffed inside one of the psychic dreams but instead we have to laboriously follow a boring psychiatrist around when we should be at home with the kids. The kid’s story is interesting! It’s heartbreaking when the older sister is ready to move away from Mama and the younger one is not. The story is in the house between these characters but we keep getting pushed past the good stuff! Nothing to see here folks! Let’s catch up with our throwaway character’s attempts to learn what we all already know! (On the other hand, Dr. Boring’s cabin encounter with Mama might be the strongest scare in the film. )

Then there’s the whole look of Mama. Sometimes Mama looks cool and I dig her underwater hair-do and sometimes Mama looks terrible as in, “Did they model her facial expression from Beaker from the Muppet Show?” At this point, I don’t care if the effect is CGI or practical or stop-motion marionette, what matters is what’s on the screen and what’s on the screen is a problem for me. I think it was a fine idea to put Mama front and center at the climax. I’m not saying less is more and they showed too much and the audience needs to use its imagination because what’s in your head is scarier than anything they could show you and all that junk. It’s just that, as WHAM once said, “If you’re going to do it, do it right.” If you want to display Mama in all her glory make sure I’m in awe instead of catching myself wondering if DARKNESS FALLS is underrated. I don’t think MAMA is terrible, it’s just one of those movies that frustrates because you know it could have been way better. It’s not a good sign when your “Sorry I adopted you only to make you feel unwelcome in my home.” redemptive resolution was better handled in POLTERGEIST 3.

Like I said, I think it’s a great premise and I’ll even add that when MAMA is good, it feels like something from Disney’s early eighties dark fantasy period like WATCHER IN THE WOODS or SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES (I wouldn’t be surprised to receive traumafessions on it in the future either). It’s also clear that the filmmakers at least tried to do something of substance even though they got sidetracked along the way. Ultimately for me though, it comes off kind of shrill and cloying and I think the material deserved a more subtle approach and more of a focus on the characters, particularly the relationship of the little sisters. MAMA is based on a short film and that makes perfect sense. If you edited out all of the subterfuge, stalling and brownnosing jump scares, you probably would have one very good short film. There are some priceless heirlooms in this dumpster (a tug of war with a blanket and an unseen Mama comes to mind) but boy do you have to dig! Now I’m sad. I wanted to like this more because it reminded me of my adopted cats. On the bright side, it was totally worth the four dollars for the snow scenes.

CORRECTIONS: The above review incorrectly claims that CHARO has only one name. That is not the case as is revealed in the clip below…

Sunday Viewing:: Demon Wind (1990)

After all the SPOOKIES love last Sunday I was all set to spotlight THE WILLIES today but then something happened. Late last night while reality and logic were fast asleep in their bunk beds, I stumbled across DEMON WIND (1990)! Many a yarn ago (a yarn is a year in Battlestar Galactica-ville) we received a “Name That Trauma” about a cabin that was demolished on the outside and yet totally intact on the inside (HERE). The film in question turned out to be DEMON WIND, which I had regrettably never seen. I made a mental note to check it out on YouTube but by the time I got around to it, it had disappeared! Rats and double rats! Then, to pour salt on my tender wounds, reliable sources like Matty from Boston and Enzo S. sang the praises of DEMON WIND within their respective “It’s a Horror to Know You!” posts! I probably should have bought a VHS copy right then an there but instead I went into a corner and prayed to God that one day DEMON WIND would return to YouTube even if only for a brief period so that I would not have to endure the pains of the postal system. Dumb story, dumber, right before I hit the hay last night, God contacted me through a headless Hummel figurine and was all like, “Oh, I’m sorry, I totally forgot you requested that! We’re so backed up here and your prayer was accidently received as junk mail. Here ya go- Here’s DEMON WIND on YouTube…”

DEMON WIND is terrible and eerie and strangely trance inducing and incredibly fantastic and also hilarious and wonderful and eye-poppingly bizarre. I think it changed my life. Yes, it did. It changed my life. I wish somebody could explain why DEMON WIND is not shown on T.V. everyday around the clock on a DEMON WIND Channel. I trust that writer/director CHARLES PHILIP MOORE is currently safely and securely kept in a mental hospital and that the key to his cell has been thrown into a volcano. You don’t understand! People explode in this movie and turn into infants! There’s a giant skull with a snake tongue and an egg opened up and spilled larvae! There are magicians and they play hacky sack with beer cans (?) and spin around with Kung fu kicks! Wait a minute, did I really see this movie or did I dream it? Oh my Lord, so many possessed demons and or zombies roaming the countryside that is paroled by an evil fog! Did I mention the horrifying taking doll?

All right, you just have to watch DEMON WIND is all there is to it. Trust me, DEMON WIND is going to come up at every holiday gathering you attend this season and you’ll want to have seen it so that you might join in the conversation and share your learned opinion. I can’t believe I wasted my life by not training to be a Kung fu magician. I really blew it.

An Open Letter to Corey Feldman

Corey, I can now say that I have exactly twice in my life read a book in one sitting. The first time was with IAN BANKSTHE WASP FACTORY and the second incident occurred thanks to your autobiography COREYOGRAPHY. I was trapped in an airplane with THE WASP FACTORY but your book was so good I just went into a corner and ssshhed the world. I may need Tommy Jarvis style glasses now. I read till four in the morning and my eyeballs were way past pleading for mercy. But what can I say, it’s written in such a concise, conversational, clear-cut way that it’s an overall joy to read except for the parts that aren’t a joy to read because they are like being punched in the stomach and having your GREMLINS lunchbox stolen. I feel like I owe you an apology. Being a couple years older than you, I enjoyed your performances in eighties classics like GREMLINS, FRIDAY THE 13TH: PART 4, GOONIES and STAND BY ME and then as soon as you hit your teen phase, (think anything after THE LOST BOYS or involving the “Coreymania” phenomenon you shared with soul brother cohort COREY HAIM), I basically rolled my eyes and prayed for your quick downfall. If I had known anything of what your life was actually like and the things that you endured I would have been routing for you all the way.

I’m sorry, Corey! I didn’t know! I just thought; “Hey, this person is loved, has everything they could possibly want, is enjoying their life and why can’t they fall into a manhole and die?” It wasn’t personal! Back then I condemned all human contentment that I falsely perceived due to my incalculable ignorance! Plus I was jealous! I can admit that now. Where was Lance-mania? Why didn’t I have an 800 number? Why wasn’t I invited to the Neverland Ranch? O.K., you can actually have that last one all to yourself but I would have at least liked to have had the honor of meeting Crispin Glover!

Oh well, I’m older now. I realize the grass isn’t always greener and to my credit when, earlier this year, the townspeople were calling for Miley Cyrus’s head on a pike, I was actually repulsed by all the misplaced venom. I feel bad for you child stars who have to somehow find a way in this world while constantly being scrutinized and undermined by what must seem like everyone. Plus, I’m a middle child so I totally get that “one day you’re hot, the next your not” thing. But I don’t think I can ever comprehend the exploitive chomp ‘em up and spit ‘em out Hollywood machine you survived or what it’s like to have such a horrible mother. You go ahead and forgive your mother Corey, it’s best for you. I can’t do it.

Blaming parents has really gone out of fashion lately but I’m a retro type of guy that believes folks should be accountable for their actions. At some point we’re all told we must get over stuff and move on but it’s usually those who stand to gain the most from collective amnesia that sing its praises the loudest. No, Corey your mother didn’t force you to do drugs but she couldn’t have programmed you to be a bigger user if she tried and she may not have molested you but she might as well have held the door open for those who did. While she was living off your income, she had one job to do which was to keep you and your siblings safe and provide you with the foundation of self worth to continue that job on your own in the future. It was a job she mostly failed at. It’s impossible to fill a bucket that has been punched full of holes and while horrible things happen to kids with the greatest of parents as well, kids treated the way you were stand little chance at all. I’d blame your Dad too if he even registered as a person. Ah jeez! This is why I have avoided writing this for so long! I knew it would get me up on a soapbox because this book, good as it is, outraged me to no end and I have to mourn the fact I’ll never watch FRIDAY THE 13TH: PART 4 the same way again!

In closing, wonderful job on the book! What a brave and impressive achievement! I’m so sorry that you went through what you did but thanks for sharing your story because it will not only open eyes like mine but also allow others who have suffered in the same ways feel less alone. My sincere condolences on the loss of your friend Corey Haim, the one person who needed no help understanding your experience. I think you are absolutely correct in surmising his drug problems were a direct result of his abuse and I guess, from now on, I will not be so quick to judge those with substance problems. I hope the rest of your life is a breeze and know that even more amazing than the accomplishment of this book is the accomplishment of breaking the chain of abuse and becoming the parent that you yourself deserved. Oh, and thanks for narrating the CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES documentary! That was really cool! Keep on keeping on and “Goonies never say die”!

Traumafession:: Reader Lorraine on The Rugrat’s Search for Reptar Game

Hey, it’s me again. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a video game-related trauma on here before, so I figured: Why not be the first? Now, we all remember good old Rugrats, right? Turns out the show had a few licensed video games out there. I only played one of them as a kid, Rugrats: Search For Reptar. To be quite honest, I would even go so far as to say that I was absolutely addicted to the game. I loved it! I’d say it was one of the games that I played the most, topped only by the famous Spyro the Dragon games.

Like I said, I loved every moment of that game. Well, except for a few trauma-inducing levels. The absolute biggest offender for me was the level, “Let There Be Light“. Looking back, this level still gives me the creeps. I even have a hard time playing it to this day. Everything about it was just… I can’t even describe it.

First off, there’s the overall atmosphere of the level. It’s dark, the music is eerie as hell, Tommy’s parents are nowhere to be seen, and there are “shadow monsters” everywhere, ghosts, more or less. And then there’s the noise that they made when you got too close to them. Oh God, the noise. “Oogie-boogie-boogie!” Oh, you may laugh, but it’s just the tone of the noise. It would scare the pants off any kid! I absolutely refused to play that level unless I had one of my parents in the room with me. Often at times, I would just make them play the level for me. When I found out that you could skip whole levels by collecting enough Reptar bars to get puzzle pieces, I would go out of my way to collect as many as I possibly could just so I could avoid that level.

Then there was the Ice Cream Mountain level. You know, the mini-golf level. Now, unlike “Let There Be Light“, the whole level didn’t scare me. It was just one part, specifically the hole in which you play as Angelica. There’s a pyramid at the center. I eventually found out that you could actually go in the pyramid. It was a bad idea.

It started out with a noise. I was creeped out, but curious at the sound. I went in further to find out what it was. Turns out, if you go into the pyramid, you’ll be greeted by mummified Mister Friends. They will approach you slowly but menacingly. I freaked out. Because the inside of the pyramid was designed like a maze, there were dead ends… with even more Mister Friends. I was starting to panic. You have no idea how relieved I was to get out of the place.

Come to find out, I’m not alone. Looking in the comments of Let’s Plays of the game, many people were scared by the same things. Some, even scared of things that didn’t scare me, like the crazy goose in Grandpa’s Teeth or the giant gorilla in Toy Palace. Looking back, I have absolutely no clue why those things didn’t scare me.

Name That Trauma:: Derek B. on a Slow Motion Bully Stabbing

Hola, you are brilliant. I love your site.

Here’s one that hit me pretty hard as a kid. It was on network television after Saturday Morning Cartoons had run their course. Time period was early eighties. It was live-action, a kind of after-school-special feel to it. It was about bullying, or about bad kids. I remember a warning about “This program contains content that may upset younger viewers.” Ha! I can take it!

The music is hyper-dramatic, almost like the theme to “The Black Hole.” One smaller boy is attacked by a larger one. The attack is very slow. The smaller boy, in glasses, is backed against a brick wall. The bigger one pulls a knife on him.

The knife goes into the smaller boy’s belly. The mean kid cuts neatly from one side to the other, and we see blood. He leaves. The younger boy, again with slow, slow reactions (he didn’t defend himself) slowly collapses against the wall. The camera zooms on his agonized face. The end.

None of this looked real, of course. But when has that ever made a difference? When I was a kid, this made me feel like I was going to vomit. I was small and wore glasses. Sucks.

UNK SEZ: Thanks Derek! I so wish I knew the answer to this one ! That way I could repay you for bringing up the theme to THE BLACK HOLE! It’s so swirly and hypnotic and frequently stuck in my head!