Name That Trauma:: Randall on a Haunted Reality Show

Hello, my name is Randall.

I was hoping you could identify a massive childhood trauma for me. It was a reality TV show (supposedly anyway) that ran in the UK although I’m not sure of its origin, might have been American. A team of contestants were brought together for a series, and then one by one they were eliminated, though I’m not entirely sure how. It centered on visiting ‘haunted’ locations, and each night a new contestant would have to visit a creepy location.

They all were together in a house and I remember the location of the next haunt was revealed by someone posting Polaroids and scrawled creepy messages on a large glass window at night. One location that really stuck with me was a supposed underground missile silo or bunker or something. The contestant was walking down a hall and out of nowhere a dummy on a rolling chair came hurtling towards him! Obviously these locations had all been made creepy with set design and everything.

It sounds like it would be easy to find but I have had zero luck on it. Most think it is the MTV series ‘FEAR,’ but I am pretty sure it is not. This was much creepier and disturbing and I’m fairly sure it was British, looking back on it. Similar concept to FEAR, but it was not FEAR.

Thanks if your readers could help me on this guys!

UNK SEZ: Randall, you may be thinking of SCARIEST PLACES ON EARTH which aired around the same time as FEAR premiering in 2000. The show was hosted by the legendary LINDA BLAIR, narrated by the lovely ZELDA RUBINSTEIN and the onsite correspondent was a UK DJ named ALAN ROBINSON which might explain your memory of it being a British production. You can find a list of episodes HERE and it looks like most, if not all, are on YouTube! This is my best guess but if readers have any other suggestions, please share!

Ghost Stories for Christmas!

I’ll be watching both Black Christmases this holiday season along with assorted Silent Nights but I decided to take a break as far as posting about them. I feel that anyone who has done a “Help Mrs. Mac Find Her Hidden Hooch” puzzle has done their due. After seven years the idea of writing about the usual horror Christmas flicks made me want to hang myself like a stocking and that’s not very Christmas-y at all (unless you consider the statistics.) Unfortunately my new standpoint left me with nothing to talk about, until I fatefully heard, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year “ on the radio and the lyric “There will be scary ghost stories…” jumped out and reminded me that once upon a time, ghost stories were a big part of Christmas Eve.

This Ghost Story Christmas tradition still maintains a somewhat substantial hold in England but here in the States, we foolishly dropped it save for Dicken’s ubiquitous “A Christmas Carol.” That means that we collectively did the dumbest thing ever and jettisoned the one thing that could potentially make Christmas as cool as Halloween. Whose idea was this? I wasn’t consulted! I blame misguided, overly puritanical religious people because…because I blame them for everything (on account of the history of everything.) In any case, the idea that I could watch any ghost story I liked and still sorta be operating in the Christmas spirit really opened things up for me and added a slew of fresh flicks to my creepy Christmas cache!

As it turns out, if you look far back enough into history, Halloween and Christmas Eve are not that different at all; on both nights it was once believed that the wall between the living and the dead worlds become thin and easier to trespass through. Ghosts are scary, sure, but they also make us feel better because they imply a second act and what better gift to give the dead than the chance to moan and complain a little longer? So here are some ghost movies I suggest checking out this Christmas Eve. Some are more holiday-friendly than others but all suggest that perhaps death is not the final curtain call, an idea that surely lil’ baby Jesus can get behind!


Let’s get this 40-minute television production out of the way first. It’s the most traditional on my list as its based on a short story by M.R. JAMES and went on to inspire yearly BBC Christmas-timed adaptations of his work. It concerns a fussy professor who comes across a whistle in a graveyard, makes the grave mistake of playing it and then finds himself accosted by the supernatural forces he unwittingly beckoned. This is horror of the quiet and infesting variety and captures beautifully the type of dread that visits in the wee hours of the night.


Is Amy’s new pal a ghost or a figment of her overactive imagination? Parents traditionally look down on imaginary friends but Amy’s pop Oliver (KENT SMITH) has an extra reason to be perturbed on account of his daughter’s invisible BFF sounds an awful lot like his deceased ex-wife who caused mucho drama with her habit of turning into a ferocious animal whenever she was feeling frisky. I’m not sure any film has ever captured both the wonder and terror of childhood in such a glorious way and it’s no slouch in depicting the magical quality of Christmas either.


I should be embarrassed to say that the first time I watched THE UNINVITED I didn’t care for it that much. I think it was because someone suggested it to me based on my affection for THE HAUNTING (1963) and I originally watched it through a filter of expectation that it would strike me in the same way and of course it didn’t (and why should it?) Thankfully I bumped into it again on a classic movie channel a couple decades later and was able to take in its striking form outside of the pointless dysfunctional shadow of comparison and no bones about it, I loved it. I think what first threw me about the movie was its permeating sense of humor. How could I get scared when everybody kept speaking in quips all the time? The thing that my little head didn’t get was that joviality in the face of life’s darker elements was what this flick was all about. In fact, when the negative force that threatens to drag everybody down is vanquished in the end, our hero (charm machine RAY MILLAND) basically blasts it off by laughing in its face (before chucking a candelabra at its wispy, wet-blanket head.) If you can get the CRITERION COLLECTION version then do so. It features an informative and surprisingly moving video essay by filmmaker MICHAEL ALMERWYDA (NADJA, THE ETERNAL).


This classic anthology is all about the sharing of ghost stories and I know I’m not the only one who it still has the power to disturb. Incredibly the film’s hide and seek Christmas party segment was left out of its initial American release and I have to wonder what kind of dummy would allow that. Personally I believe the tale’s closing line “I’m not scared, I’m not scared…oh hold me tight!” is the unheralded inspiration for SAVED BY THE BELL”s classic Jessie Spano caffeine meltdown exclamation “I’m so excited, I’m so excited…I’m so scared!” I could be wrong.


THE HEARSE and I have a long, acrimonious history full of mistrust and unfulfilled longing yet I can’t deny there’s a secret fondness that keeps me returning to this ghost flick even though I know I’ll only feel disappointed again. I shall forever admonish THE HEARSE for dropping the ball at the worst time possible and for pushing the limits of lameness repeatedly and yet I’ll watch it again in a heartbeat because it’s for the most part, creepy–cozy. I’m sure nostalgia plays a big part in the relationship but I guess the larger truth is that the type of glee some folks feel when they see a car chase or a fiery explosion I can only feel when I see TRISH VAN DEVERE alone in bed in an old house reading.


An elderly couple moves into a mansion with a dark history and soon find that their skepticism of the supernatural is challenged on a daily basis. They invite a young woman to stay with them who confirms their concerns by becoming possessed. I’ll understand if some horror fans find this one a little too restrained and polite for their tastes but the acting (particularly by JAMES MASON who was only in his thirties at the time) and the story consistently intrigues and it sports a cool twist. This one I stumbled across on Netflix and I’m still stunned I hadn’t heard of it earlier.

HAUNTED (1995) & THE SKEPTIC (2009) & THE ECLIPSE (2009)

Skeptics really need to learn not to be so skeptical because clearly skepticism is like a magnet for ghosts and only gets them riled up! AIDAN QUINN in HAUNTED which is based on a book by JAMES HERBERT and TIM DALY in THE SKEPTIC, which I reviewed back HERE, both learn this obvious fact the hard way. Speaking of AIDAN QUINN, remember how he was in that other ghost flick we once talked about called THE ECLIPSE? Yikes, that movie had one of the scariest moments EVER.


Just as I had recently panicked that I might someday run out of Christmas holiday horror movies, this past Halloween I was worried that I might run out of beautiful black and white horror goodies. Then I remembered a post over at our pal Christine’s pad FASCINATION WITH FEAR that suggested many a horror flick could loose their color and be all the better for it. So I adjusted my TV to black and white and I watched GHOST STORY and it was all kinds of awesome. With its classic Hollywood cast, snow-filled settings and gorgeous ALBERT WHITLOCK matte paintings, GHOST STORY wore its new colorless suit like it was born in it. The spirit we’re looking for is all here, there’s scotch, fireplaces and ghostly tales to be told and if a rotted corpse shows up instead of Santa, well that’s fine too. Director JOHN IRVIN’s earlier effort 1974’s HAUNTED: THE FERRYMAN is another chiller worth seeking out.

So why not celebrate the Christmas ghost story tradition by watching one of these fine titles today or if you really want to go old school, you could make up your own ghost story and tell it to your perplexed pals as they look at their phones! You can even just jump on over to YouTube and make some unknown stranger read to you and you don’t even have to pay them for their time! Here’s some tireless lady reading HENRY JAMESTHE TURN OF THE SCREW in one sitting! Note how this famous story of a nameless governess begins as a tale told around a fire on Christmas Eve!

Even if you don’t follow my ghostly advice, I hope you all have the greatest holiday season! I should warn you that I may be making myself scarce for a little while as I need to spend some quality time with my family and friends…hahahhaha…just kidding. Actually I just got an early present in the form of the ALIEN ISOLATION game so I gotta hang out in space for a while. Wish me luck against those rascally Xenomorphes, and I’ll see ya sometime next year!

Sunday Viewing:: Tales From The Darkside: Seasons of Belief (aka The Grither)

I have the perfect segue from talking about THE BABADOOK to getting ready for the holidays. It’s an episode of TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE’s third season called “Seasons of Belief” even though it would make much more sense to call it “The Grither.” It’s Christmas Eve and a little brother and sister (Hey, it’s Glim-Glim’s best friend JENNA SixVON OY again!) are acting up, being bratty and generally disparaging Santa Clause. In order to cool the kid’s jets and perhaps teach them some humility, the kid’s notably long in the tooth father (CREEPSHOW vet and SUPERMAN 2 president, the always awesome E.G. MARSHALL) and his much younger wife (I’m just sayin’) tell the moppets a terrifying tale of an artic beast called ”The Grither.” The kids are warned that the monster’s name must not be said aloud or else he’ll come a’ calling. You know where this is going don’t you?

As the parents relay more and more fantastic details and even improvise a Grither theme song, the creature seems to grow more and more corporal as if they are conjuring him into reality. In fact, this lil’ 20 minute episode is not unlike a mini-version of the great SCREAMS OF A WINTER NIGHT. I believe the hostile wind from that treasure of a movie even makes an appearance! Nope, there’s not much innovation going on here, but MARSHALL is so much fun to watch, the requisite shock ending is out of this world and the last line is the funniest thing I ever heard.

“The Grither” is the lone directorial effort of the late MICHAEL McDOWELL who authored the classic BEETLEJUICE, another tale of a ghoulish entity whose name should never be spoken and if it doesn’t get you in the holiday mood, quite frankly, I don’t know what will.

The Babadook (2014)

I apologize if you’re already tired of hearing about THE BABADOOK. Until recently I was tired of hearing about it myself. I was assuming people were only talking about it because the title is so enjoyable to say. I just found out though there’s a completely different reason this little flick has gotten tongues a’ wagging and that reason is the rarest of all- THE BABADOOK is actually really good! I know, I’m shocked too! I thought horror fans only rallied when they were instructed to by manipulative marketing campaigns but in this case, the enthusiasm is on the up and up. THE BABADOOK totally deserves the attention it has and will continue to receive, and that’s coming from someone to whom hype is a serious buzzkill. If you crave gore (who doesn’t?) or are frightened by jolty noises, cats being thrown in windows or killers suddenly appearing in medicine cabinet mirrors after they are closed, this may not suit your needs but if you dig the type of paranoid horror that burrows deep into your psyche and makes you squirm like a worm on a hook… then it’s a goldmine. THE BABADOOK left me with a fear I have not felt since I finished watching SESSION 9, which is a fear not of an evil outside myself but a fear of an evil covertly camped out in some dark corner of my own head. That’s good stuff!

Viewers may recognize the terrain but be warned that while you’re noting the nods to REPULSION and THE SHINING, writer/director JENNIFER KENT, aided by a knock out performance by actress ESSIE DAVIS, is cleverly crafting characters that you can’t help identify with and feel empathetic towards which brilliantly pays off in maximizing the stakes. It’s easier (and probably wiser) to sell this movie as a “kid’s imaginary friend turns out to be real” flick but it’s anything but. It’s much more concerned with how grief and depression can eventually eclipse everything when left unattended and how frightening it is to live in fear of your own rage. I never truly agreed with STEPHEN KING when he complained that JACK NICHOLSON was too crazy at the beginning of THE SHINING to make his psychological downfall dramatic enough but now thanks to DAVIS’ performance, I finally see his point. She’s really incredible in this and she reminded me how truly crap-your-pants terrifying it is when you are a kid and you witness a trusted adult’s face transform in fury.

KENT’s direction and storytelling is equally impressive as she insists the audience keep on their toes and never lets them rest with a black and white perception of the goings on. We look at things through the child’s eyes and the parent’s eyes and each take turns being either terrified or terrifying. At one point KENT utilizes a horrific image from the “Drop of Water” segment in MARIO BAVA’s BLACK SABBATH (1963) but I think it is his underrated last film, 1977’s SHOCK (aka BEYOND THE DOOR 2), with its precarious reality, ambiguous antagonist and distressing mother/son bond that BABADOOK is most indebted to. Which isn’t to say it doesn’t bring a casserole of its own to the picnic. If more horror films took half the time BABADOOK does in establishing its characters the world would be a sweeter and scarier place. It’s not a perfect film, I suppose the ending could have been stronger, but what it sets out to express it does wonderfully and it’s nice to see horror breaking bread with emotional depth rather than detached voyeurism and puerile power fantasies for a change. The fact that the titular boogey man is possibly the least interesting component is a marvel.

I tells ya, I’ve got this goofy clown doll on my desk which is sort of creepy but would never actually scare me and while I was watching BABADOOK, I looked up at it and the light hit it just right and it was like another doll altogether and I thought, “Why the hell do I own such a thing?!”And that’s what good horror does or good art in general does. It makes you look at your world through a different filter, if even for a brief moment. When you see something well done, you get to almost jump inside it for a while and if it’s really well done, it jumps inside of you.

Traumafession:: Warren F. on Ed Sullivan and a Gluttonous Muppet

I remember watching The Ed Sullivan Show (or program) on a “black and white” (grey scale) TV with my parents circa “1967”. Ed Sullivan was showing the puppetry talents of Jim Henson and one of his puppet performances was “The Glutton”. This was a very large Muppet operated by Jim that would eat everything in sight incessantly (the “cookie monster” of Sesame Street is a grossly watered down version of this “uncanny valley” mega puppet that Jim created). The glutton was interrupted in his eating by a small flying saucer. The saucer shot a ray at him and made him small. When he was small, a “normal sized” version of him walked into the scene, looked down at him, picked him up, and ate the smaller version of himself… needless to say the 5 year old me ran screaming from the room…

UNK SEZ: Thanks for the traumafession, Warren! Sadly I couldn’t find “The Glutton” on YouTube but I did find a clip of JIM HENSON’s first appearance on THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW, check it out below!

Traumafession:: Father of Tears on Deckard Versus Pris in Blade Runner

Blade Runner” as a childhood trauma? Considering how I was introduced to it yes! Way back in the early 1980s at the age of 15 I was channel surfing while watching TV. When I got to HBO I stumbled upon the scene in “Blade Runner” where Deckard confronted Pris. Deckard goes into the toy room filled with creepy dolls. When he finds Pris trying to imitate one of the life sized dolls she gets up and attacks him. As she beats him up I’m thinking, “This spike haired crazy lady with the weird makeup is creepy!” She’s screaming the whole time and she even gets him in a “standing headlock” with her legs. When she twisted his head and body around I thought she twisted just his head! Pris then temporally lets him go she decides to run at him to finish him off…..while doing gymnastic flips! While she’s in mid-flip Deckard gets his gun and shoots her in the abdomen. Now this is the part that REALLY had me creeped out: Pris lands on her back and she violently, and rapidly, pounds her fists and feet on the floor while she’s screaming her head off. Quite an unnerving thing to stumble upon!

Oh, this isn’t the first time I was “introduced” to a movie via seeing a traumatic death scene. Can you say “Heavenly Creatures“?


Traumafession:: Eric D. on Wolfman (1979) and Hugo’s Video Store

I was a child in the early 90’s and there were two things I loved; werewolves and the video store. A combination which got along together like peanut butter and jelly. Werewolves had been my favorite monster since I had been shown The Wolf Man starring Lon Chaney Jr. by my father. The other side of this match made in horror heaven, the video store was where I acquired my love of film and indulged my imagination.

In short, the video store was my salvation. I loved everything about it, going there and seeing all the strange box covers promising entry into a strange, fantastic and often terrifying world where all the rules and limitations of mundane reality no longer applied. Werewolves, vampires, unstoppable indestructible undead maniacs and monsters of every description were not only very much real but out to get you; you were in their world now. It was simply the biggest thrill in my life. The first video store that I ever frequented was Hugo’s video store.

It was a small independent operation run by none other than the man himself, the eponymous; Hugo. The place had wooden shelves upon which sat all the box covers. I was compulsively drawn to the horror section because I adored the genre more than any other due to an early introduction given me by my father of all the old Universal Monster movies of the 1930’s and 40’s. Now one box in particular stood out and scared me, positively sent shivers down my spine. It featured a werewolf with what appeared to be bluish-blackish hair, an off white or light tan dress shirt, bearing his fangs and staring down from the shelf with the most terrifying look my young eyes had ever seen. My heart skipped a beat looking up at that face and made me feel as though my stomach dropped out.

My father rented it for me, I got it home, put the tape into the VCR and by the end, I was captivated, frightened and utterly distraught. It was the saddest movie my young self had ever seen. Many years past, Hugo’s video store packed up and moved to another location in the neighborhood for a short while and then eventually went out of business. Other video stores opened up at the same time as or shortly after Hugo’s and they in turn went defunct as the decade gave way to the millennium and the rise of the internet sounded the death knell of these emporiums of my adolescent phantasmagorical celluloid neuroses.

For years I could not remember the name of the film. Maybe I never knew it. I could only remember bits and pieces of it, certain pictures. A priest walking in the autumn woods, pensively traipsing over orange, yellow and brown leaves. A werewolf pierced by a mystical dagger falling to his death followed by an end credit crawl. I had forgotten the name of the movie but these images stayed with me.

The feeling the movie gave me stayed with me. I tried to find it on the internet but could not. I only remembered the box cover with that face and the ‘Thorn/EMI’ logo I had become familiar with through encounter of it on numerous other films I had rented over the course of many years. Then finally one day a year or two ago, I succeeded in rediscovering for myself this terror archetype long submerged and obscured yet nonetheless looming mightily in my subconscious memory.

There it was staring at me from my luminescent laptop screen opened to Google images. It was a recherche little title from 1979 called “WolfMan“, starring Earl Owensby. Elation took hold of me, I had finally satisfied the nagging question from my youth; “what was that movie called?”. I flew to Ebay immediately and purchased a copy for my collection immediately. The tape arrived in the mail several days later and on a warm summer’s night in the icy cold dark of an air conditioned bedroom, much like the one in my childhood on which I first saw the film, I watched WolfMan.

One thing was different however this time around; the movie was not good. Apparently time and maturity instill in one things lacking in the adolescent; namely taste and discernment. Not to say the movie was entirely without merit nor held any enjoyment, for there is something to be said for the sets and camera work which are quite well done. However, the acting is simply subpar and laughably wooden especially from the star, Mr. Owensby, who also produced the film. The story is typical for a werewolf movie involving a family curse and a tragic love angle, nothing to write home about.

What this did for me was to deepen my appreciation for the wide gulf which exists between the perceptions we have of something as a child or in the form of a memory and the reality of the thing in itself as it actually is when perceived through the lens of adulthood and a sense of discernment. I will always cherish WolfMan for the emotions it stirred in me and the memories I had of it as I experienced it in childhood, but it isn’t a good movie.

I can see why Earl Owensby is not as well known and consequently has not developed the same sort of following as have fellow producers of southern-fried horror such as Charles B. Pierce with his well crafted and thoroughly enjoyable films Legend of Boggy Creek and The Town that Dreaded Sundown. Though this be the case, I don’t think he should go unmentioned entirely as he seems to because despite the lack of quality dialogue and general dullness of his movies, you can tell that Mr. Owensby is truly passionate about film and has had quite a career outside of acting, building a successful film studio in North Carolina and has contributed to movies such as James Cameron‘s The Abyss.

Wolfman by MargaliMorwentari

Sunday Viewing: Monsters Season 1, episode 13: Glim Glim

You guys have to meet Glim Glim if you have not already had the honor. He lives in a Christmas set episode of MONSTERS from 1989. He looks a little like McDonald’s “Grimace” crossed with a pickle with Sigmund the Sea Monster tentacles. Poor guy, his space ship crashed on the planet and he accidently killed a bunch of people because of some virus he brought with him but he’s trying this best to correct the situation. Sadly his high-pitched voice makes communication impossible (although viewers are privy to his thoughts) and his appearance (not to mention his track record of inadvertently killing people) is a major hurdle in making new friends.

Christmas is right around the corner though and what better time to express one’s good intentions and offer an olive branch? GLIM GLIM is awesome. The world needs more GLIM GLIM and it needs it now. GLIM GLIM was written by PAUL F. WILSON (THE KEEP) and is the lone directorial effort of PETER STEIN the cinematographer of both FRIDAY THE 13th PART 2 and PET SEMATARY. It also stars a young JENNA VON OY who a few years later would star in BLOSSOM and not BATTLESTAR GALACTICA as a character named “Six”. This is a very special episode, as they say, so if you don’t have tissues remember toilet paper works just as well.

Name That Trauma:: Anita C. on a Baleful Box in a Bike Basket

Hello! Scott M. from Dearly Departed Tours in Hollywood recommended I write to you after he didn’t have an answer to my movie query. I hope you can help me.

In 1959, my babysitter took me to a theatre to see two movies. The first movie was Wasp Woman, and I was terrified. The second movie began with a little boy happily riding his bike with a box in his bikes’ basket. Something from inside the box began piercing the box and two holes appeared. That was it. My 9 year old brain couldn’t handle another scary movie, so we thankfully left the theatre. In hindsight, the bike riding might have happened farther into the movie, but that’s all I can remember.

Thank you in advance!