It’s a Horror to Know You: J. M. Cozzoli of Zombos’ Closet!
1. What is the first film that ever scared you?
That would be the original Night of the Living Dead. When I saw it with my mom at the local movie theater, the walk home, at night, was pure terror. I was 12. I’d seen all the classics like Dracula, Frankenstein, King Kong, The Wolf Man, etc, mostly with horror host Zacherley camping it up, but this baby scared the crap out of me. It hit too close to home. My home. I kept imagining being trapped in my house with shambling dead outside. I barricaded my bedroom door at night to sleep and I locked the bathroom door for two weeks after seeing this bloody damn movie.
You have to remember there weren’t any ratings back then, so kids like me went in expecting the usual goofy terrors and walked out scared shitless. It was numbing and mind-blowing at the same time. I think that was the night I couldn’t sleep so I stayed up in bed reading Famous Monsters issues until dawn. Maybe even then I realized I’d lost that “horror innocence,” of supernatural beings equals unreal, so they were “safe.” These infected walking dead didn’t just kill you, they ate you. Alive. And they didn’t stop until they got you. And it was happening TODAY, not in some frilly Gothic period way back when. These monsters were real.
2. What is the last film that scared you?
The last movie to really scare me would be a tough call between Hostel and Hostel 2. I’ve been scared by movies before and after, to some extent, but the thought of being helpless, fully conscious, and at the mercy of a sadistic person taking enjoyment from peeling you like a grape, or gouging your eyes out like coring a melon, or taking bolt cutters to your fingers and clipping a lot more than your nails is quite intense for me. It’s revolting but also emasculating, and for a guy, that’s pretty scary.
I believe it was in Hostel 2 that one victim is being carved up like a turkey by some rich nut drinking wine and eating him like human sushi. To be completely helpless while your body is ravaged at whim is very terrifying for me because it’s a physical and mental mind-f**k stripping away every bit of humanity until there’s nothing left. You want to talk horror, THAT’s horror.
3. Name three Horror movies that you believe are underrated.
Hard calls here, but the ones I’d pick to narrow this down would be The Ruins, Frozen, and May. May is the more sedate one of the bunch. A sad woman, a depressing life, a yearning for love and much more. The movie’s a downer; pensive, tediously slow, but the ending makes it all worthwhile, as does the actors and the subject. You feel her pain so much, it’s silly, but you want to believe in magic as much as she does.
The Ruins has one of the most gut-wrenching and frightening scenes: a spreading infection leads to the decision to amputate a leg; but the doctor’s out and the student’s missed a few classes. The guy sitting in front of me in the theater couldn’t take it. He jumped up and down at every whack of the dull axe and let out some loud yells of pain himself. I thought he was going to faint. I kept feeling my leg watching this scene, but I didn’t faint. Beyond that, The Ruins is a pretty scary story of alienation, desolation, hopelessness, doom, and vegetation that gets under your skin. It’s like Cabin Fever, Lovecraft’s The Colour Out of Space, and Caltiki rolled together for good effect.
Frozen is downright chilling (hey, cheap pun!) I don’t think many people caught this on the big screen, but I will never, ever, ride a ski lift again. I don’t like them to begin with (I’m afraid of heights), but this movie is so minimalist–three skiers are trapped for the weekend on a ski lift and it’s freezing cold, and a long way down. The cable is razor sharp so climbing it is near impossible. Their clothing is minimal because it was warmer in the day. And it’s dark and lonely, except for the wolves below. When one of them decides to drop down (not tooo far, right?), it really will make you think about this movie every time you go skiing. A stunningly effective little gem of building terror and suspense.
Now if you said 4 movies, well I’d mention The Monster of Piedras Blancas, but since you said only 3, I won’t mention it.
4. Name three horror movies that you enjoy against your better judgment.
4. Just 3 here, too? Well, okay. I suppose I better not fess up to any more or I’d be considered a real rube. Speaking of Caltiki… it’s top on my list of guilty pleasures. I saw this when far too young and had nightmares for weeks. Sure, it’s the blob, but there’s something about this movie–maybe it’s the black and white scenes or prehistoric curse kind of stuff–that makes it very effective, even if the story is more Swiss cheese than robust munster when the military shows up. The creature effects are still quite effective, and squishy gooey, too.
The Video Dead is sublimely inane and so evocative of the 1980s. Really, I can’t defend this one at all, but it’s so damn watchable! Zombies terrorize by stuffing little old ladies in washing machines and turning on the spin cycle; a television set is the portal to another dimension where goofy looking zombies–how they actually crawl their way through the small set beats me–enter to wreak mayhem; to save herself, one woman dances with the zombies because they like music. The acting is cheesy, the story is lame, and the overall effect is ingenuously satisfying.
Trumping The Video Dead for WTF! craziness is Spookies (also 1980s), an incoherent amalgamation of half-baked ideas and nonsensical set-pieces, which include a gloating evil sorcerer with a bad Bela accent, a deserted house by a cemetery, a purple werewolf, a dead bride, and a car load of New Jersey “kids.” The car winds up at the house, the kids find a Quija Board–gripped tightly by a corpse, no less–and decide to play anyway. All hell ensues and the purple werewolf spends much time holding doors shut from one side while the kids scream and pound the doors trying to open them from the other side. Practical effects take over as each dumb-ass victim meets a suitable demise via a nasty monster. Nastiest being the fart monsters that spring up from the mud floor in the basement. Yes, read it again, that’s what I wrote. This is one movie you root for the monsters because the people are so damn stupid and annoying. This is THE horror movie party movie. Trust me.
5. Send us to five places on the Internet!
First, you’ve got to go to the League of Tana Tea Drinkers for the sine qua non of horror bloggers who know their stuff. Then there’s the Internet Archive for hours of scintillating discovery to be had on lots of stuff, including horror. (I also get a kick out of using the Wayback Machine to see how my blog looked years ago.) Next I recommend i09, where the genre coverage is always insightful and informative. For recent horror fiction, The Horror Zine is a good bet. Jeani Rector publishes an anthology of stories from her webzine every year (I should have one of my zombie stories in the 2013 anthology, actually), and the contributions from known and unknown authors is impressive. The site’s early web design look (long scrolling pages, large font, etc), is too retro, but look past that and you’ll find a lot of solid reading. Finally, the AMC Filmsite is a reference gold mine for movie addicts. There’s so much here to keep you busy, you better get started now.