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...:::Traumafessions:::...

Traumafession:: Unk on Helter Skelter (1976)

August 28th, 2019 · 9 Comments

It’s such a beautiful day outside, so I think I’ll stay in and watch HELTER SKELTER. Lunatic Charles Manson seems to be popping up everywhere lately thanks at least partly to Damon Herriman’s recent duo performances of the cult leader in the Netflix series MINDHUNTER (great show) and Quentin Tarantino’s latest flick ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (Maybe I’ll borrow it from the library someday?) Herriman has some big old giant shoes to fill because the incredible STEVE RAILSBACK truly brought an intense A-game to his unnerving take in the 1976 two-night event television miniseries. You’d think that what scared the hell out of me when I watched it as a kid would’ve involved one of the two savage home break-in multiple murders (the first so depraved it involves an eight-month pregnant Sharon Tate) but nah, crazily enough what gets under my skin takes place in a courtroom (which is especially nuts when you know that nothing puts me to sleep faster than a courtroom scene). The bit works as a kind of cliffhanger for the first night’s segment. Manson wildly enters the courtroom and takes a seat as GEORGE DiCENZO as prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi (who authored the book) notices that his watch has inexplicably stopped and remarks, “It’s never done this before”. He then looks up to see Charles Manson smiling at him, the implication being that somehow the madman has OMEN-like telekinetic powers and is responsible. RAILSBACK’s smiling, whacked-out expression is the true epitome of insanity. It’s beyond uncanny and far scarier than any special effect could possibly offer. It absolutely terrified me as a kid because I knew that what I was watching was a TRUE STORY and it seemed that what was being suggested was that Manson indeed had supernatural powers and that idea chilled me to the bone.

I have no idea why my parents would think that HELTER SKELTER was an appropriate thing for me to watch.  Truth is though; I was already well aware of the appalling crime thanks to a visit to my cousin’s house where I had stumbled across the book and the gruesome photos inside. Still, I suppose nothing could prepare me for STEVE RAILSBACK’s hyper-convincing delirium and the way he almost seemed to look through the TV screen at me. In typical beat you over the head seventies-style subtly, the monstrous visage freeze frames for even more of an unsettling impact that nearly branded itself inside my head. Watching the movie again as an adult it becomes clear how much the musical score guided by mounting hysteria. It’s something I’m sure I wouldn’t even notice at the time but looking back I recognize so many of the era’s prerequisite musical jabs, nudges and cues. Having been raised on TV, it’s possible I’ve been trained to panic at these blunt obvious sounds like a nervous dog. Composer BILLY GOLDENBERG has a long list of television credits including DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK (1973) and CIRCLE OF FEAR which explains a lot.

Note: When I finally did venture outside I stopped by my favorite thrift shop and randomly procured an album by The Brady Bunch entitled “Meet The Brady Bunch”. The record is mostly an assortment of covers of then (1972) popular mellow seventies songs; one of them being Don McLean’s “American Pie”. For some reason known only to them, the Brady kids jump ahead with the lyrics and start their version with “Helter Skelter in the summer swelter…” Yes, the Brady kids actually sing about the Manson murders (Somehow this is even more inappropriate than their cover of Bread’s “Baby I’m-a Want You”)! It’s crazy, right? It just goes to show you how ubiquitous and inescapable the Manson murders were (and apparently still are). Also, I would be remiss if I did not also point out that HELTER SKELTER sports an impressive performance by the late great horror icon MARILYN BURNS ( THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE ) as key witness Linda Kasabian. How she and RAILSBACK eluded Emmy awards is a mystery for the ages.

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Tags: Traumafessions

Traumafession:: Dylan Donnie-Duke on Pink Floyd and The Wizard of Oz

August 13th, 2019 · 3 Comments

Hello Unk L, Aunt J, and assorted cats, bats, and belfries; I know that there have been more than several mentions of Wizard of Oz as a traumatizer on this site, and I figured that I would never have anything to add to the discussion. Then came the discovery of WoO with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon on YouTube (HERE).

I had heard the lore, and even tried to do it once or twice in college, but lacked the patience/sobriety to continually flip the album.  Finding it with the music overdubbed made actually getting through it more of a possibility.  Because circumstance dictates that I am unable to currently deal with reality, I had a steady supply of jazz lettuce, the Devil’s coleslaw, reefer, see? on hand, and embarked on the journey most potheads only dream of. For the most part, it was a lot of fun. Certain coincidental peaks were scarily dead-on, while others required some allowance.  It was when our good green goddess of ghoulishness, The Wicked Witch of the West pops up in the crystal ball, mocking Dorothy’s tears.  The sudden PKTD (Post Kindertrauma Disorder) kicked in, and I was five years old again, watching this movie in a vintage movie house.  My parents had taken my sister and I to see a special showing, and that was our first time ever seeing it.  I was fairly stable until this moment, at which point I crawled under the movie theater seats to hide from her.  (And, being five, to no bout eat floor JuJuBes.)  I have watched this movie at least, no joke, 100 times since I was five, but not once have I so viscerally remembered this moment, which my mother loves to laugh and laugh about.  So, thanks for the recommendation stoners everywhere.  I’ll send you my therapy bills.

Best Regards, Dylan Donnie-Duke


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Traumafession:: Unk on Demon Seed (1977)

July 29th, 2019 · 11 Comments

In my tiny head, I think I can divide the types of movie scares that hit me hardest into three major categories. The first type of scare is PHYSICAL and it covers the fear of injury, violence, body damage and mutation. The second is SPIRITUAL and includes ghosts, demons, the supernatural and the unknown. The third is MENTAL which covers the fear of insanity head-trip movies and anything that’s just so dang weird that it leans toward madness. DEMON SEED covers all three of those bases but for me, it especially hits that last category really hard. DEMON SEED (especially its bonkers climax) freaks me out basically just because it’s so insistently bizarre.

I recently re-watched DEMON SEED to confirm the recollections that my accosted brain failed to bury after catching it on a local channel afternoon broadcast in the early eighties. It seems I remembered the insanity accurately as this movie makes me feel like CHARLES GRODIN trying to decipher MARTIN SHORT’s infuriating oddness in CLIFFORD (“Can you act like a real human boy for one minute here?”) DEMON SEED, which is somehow about a computerized house deciding to rape a woman and force her to have its impossible baby contains crazy 2001-style psychedelic strobe effects, an abundance of nutzo slow-mo dissolves and a truly bizarre score that sounds like a robot being tortured in hell. On second thought this movie is one of those rare birds that is actually more disturbing than I remember it.

I hate to spoil the ending but the crazy computer’s plan to create a hybrid robot/human baby is shockingly successful. Trapped victim Susan (the superb JULIE CHRISTIE), who has really been put through the wringer at this point, is not keen on welcoming the abomination into the world and tries to pull the plug but ultimately fails. The “baby” emerges from the machine covered in goo and insect-like metallic scales and looks a hell of a lot like the mask in the MR. ROBOTO video by STYX (and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was an inspiration). But forget the molten lava Buddha bad looks- the awful screeching sounds it makes really get under the skin. I thought the robot’s nightmarish voice was bad enough but the newborn sounds like an animal getting run over by a car and I’m not here for it. Eventually, we’ll find that the monster has a kid under its shell that seems to be a perfectly engineered clone of the daughter poor Susan had lost but before you can get sentimental, it opens its mouth and starts talking like the computer! This leads to the camera going into a close-up of the child’s eye and more drugged-out strobe effects. It’s an ordeal, folks. DEMON SEED, I don’t need to watch you again for a couple more decades. We good. 

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Traumafession:: Amanda M. on Perfect Murder, Perfect Town

June 5th, 2019 · 2 Comments

Hi! It’s me again.  I’m currently watching “Perfect Murder, Perfect Town”.  It’s a movie about the murder of Jonbenet Ramsey.  I wanted to watch it again…well to be truthful, I wanted to watch the whole movie for the first time.  The first time I attempted to watch it was in 2008.  The scene where John Ramsey, her father, finds Jonbenet dead in the basement, he picks her up.  Her arms, which are tied over her head, do not move.  This was the first movie I’d ever seen where they actually depicted rigor mortis the right way, because the dead body was stiff as a board.  I mean, I knew intellectually at the time I saw the scene for the first time, that they used a dummy.  Still, though, it really disturbed me.  I’m pretty good at suspending my disbelief, so of course, I was pretending that it was really Jonbenet and I was watching the discovery of her body. 

I didn’t turn the movie off right away.  It wasn’t until they had a morgue scene where the body was displayed from toe up to the head.  Again, I knew it was a dummy, but it still disturbed me to see a little girl’s “body” on the slab.  I turned it off then and didn’t watch it again until just now. I used to live in Colorado, but it wasn’t Boulder.  It was Colorado Springs. 

Ironically 1996 was the year my family moved from Colorado back to Ohio, where I’d spent most of my life.  We moved back to Ohio just weeks before Jonbenet was murdered.  I was 14 and the news blew me away. 

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Traumafession:: Bigwig on Gumby and The Small Planets

June 4th, 2019 · 2 Comments

  I recently introduced this site to my parents.  Ma Bigwig found it particularly fascinating, and both enjoyed and remembered a great many of the subjects in my posts over the past decade. She brought up one that I hadn’t thought about for dozens of years, that I only vaguely remembered since I was no older than four or so, but Ma insisted it should be included on my trauma highlight reel. I researched based on what she remembered, and we watched it on the youtube, and yeah, I get it.

Gumby – The Small Planets.  Art Clokey must have read Le Petit Prince and decided there was plenty of room for a quick moralistic Gumby adventure in the same vein.  With little to no buildup, Gumby announces he’s fed up living like a slave, controlled by his parents, and sets out to find his own planet to live in peace. He’s made his choice and is already happy about it.  A reluctant Pokey is along for the ride, as they hop in a book, and a spaceship therein.

They visit three small worlds in their whirlwind odyssey, each inhabited by a child who (presumably) also got fed up and ran away from home. These kids demonstrate poor behavior, and Gumby decides his situation wasn’t so bad after all.

The first planet is the lair of Train Boy, a Davey and Goliath leftover puppet, who kicks them off rather than share his world and glorious train sets and fires a missile at them.

Second, we have a girl who delights in frightening our duo with a giant dinosaur mask, but then wonders upon their hasty egress why she has no playmates. (also a Davey and Goliath looking castaway)

And third, the clincher…they find a very intense Claymation boy unlike the previous two playing a piano. Pokey sneezes, which sets the kid off, pulling his hair and screaming that his “Beautiful Arpeggio” was ruined. If that wasn’t bad enough, he morphs into a lycanthropic demon hybrid to further hammer the point home that they are not welcome.

Mom says I hid under the kitchen table after watching this one. ( AKA – young Bigwig’s Fortress of Solitude)

So there you have it, kids, if you ever think you have it bad at home, take a look at what else is out there waiting for you….the selfish;  those who find delight in your fear, and bonafide psychotic monster children just waiting to tear your arms off for sneezing.

All the best,

Bigwig

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Dead & Buried (1981)

April 4th, 2019 · 10 Comments

The other night I was struggling with the age-old question of what to watch when I suddenly realized I was in the exact perfect mood for Gary Sherman’s 1981 shocker DEAD & BURIED. This must have been the very first R-rated movie I had ever seen because once upon a time, nobody asked about your age when you were in the back seat of a crowded car at the drive-in. You’d think that over the decades I’d come to find this movie less frightening than the first time I saw it and you’d be partially correct but the truth is, it still leaves me thoroughly creeped out. Here are some of the reasons I still find this underrated and relentlessly bleak, paranoid classic uniquely disturbing.

THE OPENING SCENE. D&B opens with a photographer taking photos on a beach. He meets a beautiful young woman (Lisa Blount) who slyly seduces him and just when he’s about to seal the deal, he is instead beaten by random townspeople, tied to a poll with a fishing net and then set on fire while the mob encircling him smiles and take photos. No matter how many times I see this movie, this startling introduction never fails to alarm me. Perhaps even more unsettling than the brutal violence is the way the fish netting twists, distorts and mutates the victim’s face. I can’t think of a more distressing visage, it’s as if it foretells the burn scars he’s about to acquire. Somehow the poor dude lives and is taken to a hospital but his recovery is short lived. Completely vulnerable and covered head to toe in bandages, he is visited by the same treacherous young lady who instigated his assault. Dressed in nurses’ garb she presents the worst remedy ever conceived- a hypodermic needle administered straight through the eye! Imagine surviving so much only to endure a crueler fate when you’re in the most vulnerable state imaginable- it all still upsets me. 

THE LOST FAMILY. Right smack in the middle of the film we are unceremoniously introduced to a couple and their young son who are lost in the remarkably foggy town. To avoid hitting a man that darts in front of their car, they crash into a telephone pole. Although we’ll find out shortly the car is quite operable, the beyond befuddled couple decides to venture into an abandoned dilapidated house to search for ice for their child’s head (yes, these people are insane). Making matters all the more surreal, the original sound of this scene must have been lost because this entire portion of the film is abysmally dubbed, resulting in tons of superfluous dialogue and general awkwardness.

It seems every move and decision the trio makes is frustratingly ill-advised. At one point the mother even surmises that the owners of the (clearly abandoned) abode must be in the basement fixing the fuse box and suggests that her husband go down to verify her demented fantasy. It’s truly crazy-making watching this family stumble about while the shadows of maniacs wielding weapons loom just out of their view. Nonsensical and partially infuriating as this entire segment is, it’s also beautifully shot and genuinely unnerving to me. Eventually, crazy townsfolk are jumping out of every closed door and crevice like demented jack-in-the-box clowns engulfing the terrified trio. As the family somehow makes it back to their vehicle, the way the ravenous mob is presented as a mass of menacing silhouettes following them is stunningly nightmarish (and brings to my mind the finale of THE DAY OF THE LOCUST). It’s hard not to feel bad for the hapless child, who is dragged about like a suitcase throughout and has no say in the blundering decisions of his ineffectual guardians.

THE FOUND FOOTAGE. The entirety of D&B is filmed in a gloriously gauzy and grainy way that rather resembles peering through dusty cheesecloth. Remarkably the murky-visual-ante is upped even further when Sheriff Dan Gillis (James Farentino) develops a mysterious roll of film for his wife (Melody Anderson) and decides to check out its horrific contents. I won’t give away the devastating plot point he discovers but I will say it is presented in a POV semi-snuff looking way that leaves you with the unclean feeling of having witnessed something vile and atrocious. Years before THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, D&B presented this grittier than a Philly mascot slice of visual miasma and it still feels as disorienting and downright icky as ever. I don’t know if it’s the leering oldsters, the decrepit surroundings or Joe (CHILD’S PLAY) Renzetti’s persuasive score but combined with the clips sleazy revelation it really gets under my skin. I can almost smell the moldy dank air as I write this and I also get a poisonously putrid Lovecraftian vibe. 

Not everything in D&B makes sense but I believe that is part of the reason I find it so disturbing. Some folks are able to “fall out” of a movie when it presents something that is unlikely to occur but I sometimes find such lapses in logic remind me of the relentless way an inescapable nightmare works. I get the feeling that the writers didn’t fully lock down exactly what is going down in Potter’s Bluff, there are mentions of voodoo, witchcraft, and pseudo-science but when a definite explanation is teased by the central culprit it is soon nipped at the bud with, “I’ll take my secrets to the grave.” I’m fine with that. I find the horror in DEAD & BURIED especially potent because it is so darn amorphous and impossible to fully pin down. You get the sense that Potter’s Bluff is a town abandoned by light and rationality long ago and now it’s kind of stuck in an endless death spasm. I wish I could chalk up the way DEAD & BURIED hits me in my psychological Achilles’ heal to mere nostalgia. The truth is the inescapable mortality that engulfs the town like an impenetrable fog may be even more unnerving to me today than it was when I witnessed it in my youth.

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Tags: General Horror · Traumafessions · Uncategorized

Traumafession:: Mike R. On a Disturbing Hunger Project Commercial

February 12th, 2019 · 5 Comments

Aha! I finally found it! Picture yourself a kid in the 1980’s. You are watching The Brady Bunch or an old horror or Sci-fi movie. Then, it goes to a commercial break. And after a Fruity Pebbles and record store commercial comes THIS.


It scared the hell out of me at first sight. And not only do you begin to see this commercial all the time; you don’t know when and if it will show up in a commercial break thereafter.

I began to fear commercial breaks. They showed it on Saturday morning TV, afternoon movies, Star Trek reruns. I had nightmares about this gaunt kid coming after me.  I would turn away from the TV on commercial breaks and fear the stab of creepy music. 

Mike R.

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Traumafession: Brian K. on Mister Rogers and a Dead Tree

February 6th, 2019 · 7 Comments

Okay, you ever have one of those childhood memories where you think ‘That couldn’t  possibly have happened, I must have misremembered it?’ But then it turns out it did happen?

I recall an episode of Mr. Roger’s neighborhood that must have aired in the very early 80s. The citizens of the Neighborhood of Make Believe are delighted to meet a tree that could both walk and talk. And then…SOMEONE MURDERS THE TREE! I distinctly remember one of the human characters grimly walking through the neighborhood, CARRYING THE TREE’S CORPSE, a la the father in Frankenstein carrying his dead daughter’s body through the village. I assumed I’d just hallucinated this, but I did a google search and apparently, it happened just as I remembered it: HERE.

This allegedly was Rogers’s response to children having to deal with a lot of high profile murders and attempted murders at the time (John Lennon, Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul). But what the hell, man? Really?


Did anyone else see this episode? Does anyone have a clip?
Love the website.
Brian K.

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Traumafession:: Andrew H. on The Believers (1987)

June 19th, 2018 · 4 Comments

For decades, I was haunted by a movie where a mom dies by getting electrocuted in a kitchen. I couldn’t remember the details and when I saw it, I didn’t know what the title was. It was a scene that terrified me and stayed fresh in my mind for nearly 30 years.

Recently, my wife and I went and saw Hereditary in the theater. We loved it. Once we got home, we immediately did a horror deep dive and started watching movies with similar themes. That’s what led me to the 1987 voodoo, child-sacrifice thriller The Believers.

The movie starts with the death of Martin Sheen’s wife by electrocution in their home. As his son watches terrified while screaming, Sheen’s wife played by Janet-Laine Green seizes up and dies in front of their eyes. That’s how the movie starts before we even get to the credits.

I was probably six or seven when I saw this on HBO around 1990. For years, I thought it was part of the film Pulse starring Cliff De Young, but it wasn’t and I could never track down the scene even when internet searches became an option. The thought of this movie where a mom got fried in her kitchen always stuck with me, lingering in the back of my mind and occasionally popping up.

Now that I’ve seen it again thanks to Heredity, I can say it’s not nearly as traumatic as I remember, but it’s still a very effective scene. I don’t recall trying to watch the rest of the film when I was younger, probably because I ran away from the television terrified, but as an adult I can say The Believers is a pretty good flick.

I recommend seeing this one not only for the scene that scared the hell out of me, but also for the other traumatizing parts in the film. The Believers features a lot of great familiar character actors and has a pretty great story written by Mark Frost of Twin Peaks fame. I liked it, even though it still kinda freaks me out.

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Traumafession:: Sophia D. on IT (1990)

May 15th, 2018 · 7 Comments

Something has been driving me crazy. I have a pretty clear childhood memory of a scene in the movie IT (1990) where Pennywise the clown says “Beat it, Audra! Beat it! Beat it!” in a mocking fashion and laughs scarily. But I’ve watched the movie a few times in the last couple years and the scene is mysteriously nowhere to be found. Google is no help and it’s making me BONKERS. Is this just something I hallucinated as a child? The only thing I’ve found that remotely corroborates my memory is this meme:

I know in the final scene Bill says “Beat it, Audra, beat it” while he’s trying to wake her up on the bike, but I swear I remember the clown saying it too. Does anyone else have this memory/can anyone produce a clip? Thank you!

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