It’s a Horror to Know You:: Ben S.!

It’s a Horror to Know You: Ben S.!

1. What is the first film that ever scared you?

The first film that really scared me was Flowers in the Attic (Jeffery Bloom, 1987). I was probably 6 or 7 and asked my mom to rent it for me on video after seeing a TV spot (inappropriate, mom! But I forgive.) The concept that a GRANDMOTHER could be abusive was truly more than my mind could take, and I turned off the movie as soon as Louise Fletcher picked up little Carrie by her hair and kicked little Corey across the floor. Also, there was just something about Louise Fletcher’s face in that movie. For what I think might actually have been years after seeing Flowers, I had to avoid the “F” section of the Horror and Drama sections of video stores around town because I was afraid of seeing the movie’s cover (I lived in fear whenever I browsed, because I never knew what genre they were going to place it in). Of course after that I became obsessed with it, and asked every adult and teenager I knew what happened after I turned it off. I needed to hear as many different angles as possible. I devoured the book in third grade (it got taken away from me and I immediately ran out to get a new copy, because I had to finish it!) Aah, trauma: Needing to know more, but being afraid to know more. It would be 4 or 5 years until I could actually watch the film, and even then it was a struggle for me to get through it because I brought so much baggage to the experience. After that I watched it 100 times and de-sensitized myself, and now I love it. I know not everybody thinks that it’s a great betrayal of V.C. Andrew’s novel, and I get that–but I think that it captures the novel’s tone. I’m sure that Jeffery Bloom would be happy to know that the film disturbed somebody.

Runner up: Flipping the channel from an original airing of The Golden Girls (or something similar) to come across the “laser in the mouth” scene from Halloween III: Season of the Witch. I immediately changed the channel, but ran it over in my head hundreds of times. When I finally saw the movie I was, like so many, disappointed. Now, like so many, I think it’s a great masterpiece.

2. What is the last film that scared you?

The Strangers (2008, Bryan Bertino). My partner and I rented it half-expecting to laugh at Liv Tyler being terrorized (even though I love her), and it scared the hell out of us both. I generally don’t do home invasion movies–they hit too close to my deepest fears. I thought Liv was great, by the way. House of 1,000 Corpses also scared me more than I ever would have expected. That also sort of goes under “most underrated,” for me. I love it unconditionally and don’t understand why so many people don’t–even though that’s their right!

3. Name three Horror movies that you believe are underrated.

Dead Silence (2007, James Wan): This movie got a lot of shade when it came out, and I don’t agree with it at all. I thought that the visuals were fabulously kindertraumatic, reminiscent of The Fog and Something Wicked This Way Comes and a lot of other movies that I love but not in an overly derivative way. The story was engaging, and the scary old woman gave me the creeps (possibly because she looked a lot like Hildegard Knef in Witchery, triggering an innate trauma response. See my previous traumafession!) It is one of the most fun horror movies I can remember seeing in the theater over the last 10 years or so, and it’s surprisingly old fashioned coming from the Saw people.

Haunts (1977, Herb Freed): I stumbled upon this in The Chilling Classics 50 Movie Pack and it, for me, exemplifies why I love those box sets. I know nothing about it, I know not where it came from–but it’s a really engaging, slightly-boring-in-a-good-way character study about a woman dealing with her past traumas, which may or may not be manifesting themselves supernaturally. There’s also a killer on the loose, and Cameron Mitchell and Aldo Ray. It is pretty reminiscent of “psychologically disturbed women” horror films like Repulsion, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, Images, Perfume of the Lady in Black, and Black Swan. I never get sick of additions to this subgenre. In addition, the mysterious lack of any background info available on Haunts makes it even more, well…haunting for me. The movie’s also a little more ragged and unhinged and less polished than those other films, which makes its depiction of mental duress, on one level, more convincing and unsettling. Plus, I was struck by the amount of amazing footage of ’70s kitchens. See also: The Witch’s Mountain.

The Velvet Vampire (1972, Stephanie Rothman): I have to give a shout out to my favorite feminist ’70s exploitation filmmaker, Stephanie Rothman. Her masterpiece, to me, is 1970’s The Student Nurses. But Velvet Vampire is chock full of catnip: a bisexual vampire riding a doonbuggy, said vampire seducing Michael “Lance Rock” Blodgett by eating a piece of raw liver while wearing a frilly pink bathrobe and mourning her dead lover while lying on his coffin, a chic L.A. art gallery, Ingmar Bergman inspired dream sequences about sexual conflict. It depicts life as it is.

4. Name three horror movies that you enjoy against your better judgment.

It’s hard to answer this in an original way in a world where there’s an entire website devoted to reclaiming Poltergeist III (love the website, love the film!) Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985, Danny Steinmann): I know everybody hates it because it breaks the rules and isn’t very scary, but I’ve always had a soft spot for this film. I like the character development. Also, thanks to this movie, I always half expect Jason to pop up behind me while I’m looking in the mirror. I don’t mind!

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988, Renny Harlin): I feel like people complain a lot that Freddy was too funny, and that it’s too dated and trendy and Renny Harlin-ized. I love it for all of these reasons (I don’t really need Freddy to be funny–but I love that it’s like a string of commercials, sitcoms, and MTV music videos thrown in a blender with ’80s-’50s chic and The Long Kiss Goodnight!) But also I find Alice’s journey truly poetic and profound. What can I say? I also feel this way about the song “The Greatest Love of All.” Anyway, I find myself watching this entry in the series all the time.

The House of Exorcism (1975, Alfredo Leone/Mario Bava): I sort of love this batshit crazy bastardization of Mario Bava’s lyrical masterpiece Lisa and the Devil. I love that they thought that, by adding bizarre exorcism scenes, they would make Lisa and the Devil more palatable for American audiences. Instead the film is even less comprehensible–but to me it is oddly comprehensible on an intuitive level. I love that this movie used to be on TV on networks in the middle of the night. That it used to enter unexpectedly into people’s homes. The House of Exorcism is, as my friend once said of I Know Who Killed Me, an act of cultural terrorism. In Annie Hall there is a shot of a theater showing a double feature of The House of Exorcism and Messiah of Evil. It is used to demonstrate everything that is wrong with Los Angeles, and instead demonstrates everything about Los Angeles that is right. If ever there was a double feature of dreams…

5. Send us to five places on the Internet!

Cinema Treasures: A database of movie theaters where people share their memories of going to see films there. I like to google things like “THE VISITOR” AND “CINEMA TREASURES” to see what comes up. This is how I learned that Kim Basinger went to see EYES OF LAURA MARS in a theater in Santa Barbara eight times when it came out! I need to know why!

Cinema Du Meep: I found this from Kindertrauma. I will use this opportunity to thank its administrator for being a kindred spirit, appreciating Goldie Hawn, and endlessly helping me find films to watch.

The Complete V.C. Andrews: In honor of the first movie that ever scared me. You can read Wes Craven’s original screenplay for Flowers in the Attic here and weep for the missed opportunities. They also have scans of those amazing dual layer covers that I imagine many of us remember fondly.

BADMOVIEART: The writer of BADMOVIEART is a friend, and also one of the most insightful and hilarious film critics you will ever read. Only on this website will you find a retrospective of films made by Hollywood Pictures. If it’s sphynx, it stinks.

Eddie Ray Breaks That shit Down. When Eddie Ray says he is going to break that shit down he is not lying. He’s a genius.

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Taylor
9 years ago

I have a very mild trauma from seeing the Flowers in the Attic trailer as a kid…I don’t think I even picked up on what the movie was about, just that there was a scary lady in it.

I’ll second the Strangers love…A friend of mine was so freaked out by it that she claimed to have trouble answering her front door for a few months after watching it. She lived in a fifth-floor apartment in a safe urban neighborhood, that’s how effective it was.

I’m sure I’ve got Haunts in one of the few 50 movie packs I’ve got, I’ll have to give it a go this weekend.

cmcmcmcm
cmcmcmcm
9 years ago

I absolutely love what you said about Flowers in the Attic – mostly cause I wish I could say the same. I read the book in high school and saw the movie in the theater when it came out and was so absolutely in love with the book that I was totally forgiving the movie for not being as great as I was expecting….till people in the audience started laughing. Then I figured I must be wrong and decided that I didn’t like it (high school age, you know) and didn’t see it again till a year or so ago after I reread the book – and I gotta say I was pretty riveted. I know it’s bad but it’s got that certain something!

And OMG I have one (actually 3, who am I kidding) of those movie 50 packs too but I don’t know if mine has Haunts in it! I hope it does cause I want to see amazing amounts of 70s kitchen footage!!!!

Um, and Velvet Vampire looks amazing!!

Great IAHTKY!

Ben Sher
9 years ago

I have to make an amendment: Reading it today I realize that calling JASON V “not very scary” is an extreme euphemism for its level of fright. But I re-watched it the other day and loved it even more than the last time.

Unkle Lancifer: Thank you for posting it in its lengthy entirety, and for including such flawless pictures and clips! I can’t wait to hear your further comments, and I hope that Aunt John’s exam goes well. I do give you my IAHTKY’s hand…

Taylor: The trailer for FLOWERS is everything that the film could have been. I feel like part of the reason people hate the movie so much is because they were expecting so much from the trailer.

Erin Lashley
9 years ago

I’m very disappointed in myself for not ever having noticed the marquee you mentioned in Annie Hall, but now I have an excuse to watch the movie yet again.

Also, I was very frightened by House of 1000 Corpses when I saw it, but I was very pregnant and emotional at the time. I saw it again a year later and decided it was funny, but I haven’t watched it again. I’m afraid it will go back to being scary!

cmcmcmcm
cmcmcmcm
9 years ago

You may be somewhat right about your trailer theory, but to be honest with you Ben S, having been a young lady during the Flowers in the Attic book heyday, I think most of it had to do with the expectation that folks had from reading the book. It was an über drama in the überest sense of the word and it had girls and ladies – and I’m sure many guys that might not have admitted it – rolling around on the floor in sweaty drama-induced love after reading the first book, and then even more floor rolling in anticipation of the movie. There was so much that was just alluded to in the movie that was just INSANE subject matter in the book – the incest being the main thing – but also just massive amounts of details that they just couldn’t fit in. Also, if Flowers in the Attic had, like, quadruple the budget it had it might have come closer to what people were expecting too. All I remember, pre-movie release, is hysteria. In my mind anyway.

Matt Sunshine
Matt Sunshine
9 years ago

I have a place in my heart for “Flowers In The Attic.” I was a kid when I first saw it and hadn’t yet read the book so it didn’t bother me. It has been 2 decades since I’ve seen it but I’d really like to again. I’m a little afraid I won’t like it now, but I love the score and I still remember the main theme perfectly.

I also don’t get the hate for “The Strangers.” I love the atmosphere and masks. I had not viewed the trailer prior to seeing the film, so I had no idea why the home invasion was taking place, and must say I found it disturbing. Yet many found that incredibly stupid and felt that made the film a complete waste of their time.

Ben Sher
9 years ago

cmcmcmcm: I’m sure you’re right, and I so appreciate your first hand account of FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC-mania! Whenever I see a billboard for a new TWILIGHT movie, I think about how things could have been different if FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC had had quadruple the budget and a big studio attached to it. I think about the movie version of PETALS ON THE WIND.

cmcmcmcm
cmcmcmcm
9 years ago

You know, I tried reading Petals twice but could never get past the first 1/4 or so. Have you read all of the books?

tehdarwinator
tehdarwinator
9 years ago

I am currently traumatized by that clip from Halloween III. Why did they have to compound the laser to the mouth with a big, fat spider? Gahh! I suspect that this movie, which is pretty good in retrospect, would have gotten a much better reception if it hadn’t been called ‘Halloween.’ We had expectations, darn it!

Ben Sher
9 years ago

cmcmcmcm: I loved PETALS, but *hated* IF THERE BE THORNS, its sequel. Because of that, I still haven’t read SEEDS OF YESTERDAY, the official conclusion to the series. But I did read, and love, GARDEN OF SHADOWS, the prequel to FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC which tells you everything that you need to know about why The Grandmother ended up that way.

Lance: That background information about PIN is fascinating! I need to re-watch the film keeping that in mind. It’s nice to know that V.C.’s ghostwriter was so accomplished.

Eric Eddy
9 years ago

I don’t understand why so many people have “The Strangers” on their list… I hated that movie and thought it was lame and terrible. Maybe it’s just me.

mickster
mickster
9 years ago

Oh Unk! The Strangers really gives me the willies! I will NOT watch it alone. Great! Now I’m going to be thinking about it tonight!

kristy
kristy
9 years ago

I also watched Flowers in the Attic around the same age and time. My aunt had a satellite dish in the 80s and we both watched it followed by Texas Chainsaw Massacre II. I remember that Flowers in the Attic was the first film I obsessed about. Oddly enough I never read any V.C. Andrews novels when I was young, but I remember being fascinated by the covers at the drugstore. Funny you mention Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning, because that was the first horror movie I ever watched and that terrified me. I remember I was approximately 4 or 5 at the time. My parents were watching it out in the living room and I walked in during the scene that involved an axe. Once my parents calmed me down and explained to me that it wasn’t real I was fine. Actually, I watched a lot of horror movies with my parents as a child. Surprisingly I turned out pretty well adjusted. We actually went out to see Cabin in the Woods together.

Eric Eddy
9 years ago

Yeah, it just wasn’t my cup of tea I guess. Maybe it’s because of everyone raving about it and then finding out that it’s just like a ton of other movies that were done way better in the past. I actually managed to sit through it. That should at least say something about my resolve. lol