It’s a Horror to Know You:: Joanna Wilson of Christmas TV History!

It’s a Horror to Know You: Joanna Wilson of Christmas TV History!

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

I can easily point to Jaws (1975) and tell you that that movie scared me so bad, decades later I still live with the consequences! I’m horrified of natural stuff in the water. Since I’m a triathlete, I need to regularly swim in lakes to compete and my heart rate maxes out before I even step into the dark water. That movie changed my life. I can’t tell myself sharks only live in salt water–my fear is beyond reason. I’m terrified of sea weed, minnows, turtles, and whatever floats. Don’t tease me about it because it’s not funny.

2. What is the last film that scared you?

Communion (1989) I grew up frightened by Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), TV episodes of Project UFO and late night viewings of the TV movie The UFO Incident (1975). So when I finally saw Communion, it just took me over the top. I tried to get over that movie by watching it over and over–it didn’t work. Then I read the book but that didn’t help. Next, I read all of Whitley Strieber’s books–then I had trouble sleeping. Mostly, I’ve resigned myself to welcoming the aliens when they eventually come for me.

More recently, I saw 2007’s No Country for Old Men and Javier Bardem’s character–a monster, really–gave me nightmares. Some of my friends have suggested I read the book, and I have responded the same way to all of them: “F*ck YOU!”

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

Night of the Hunter (1955)–Robert Mitchum is so macho and hot (I’m thinking 1958’s Thunder Road) but here, he’s a child stalker hiding behind a minister’s collar. His fire and brimstone, anger and self-righteousness really frightens me. I always shout out loud at the two adorable children on screen to keep running! I can’t help it.

Elephant Man (1980) I begged my mom to take me to see this at the theater when it came out. I was clearly too young because it haunted me. It was hard for me to bear how much pain and isolation this man endured. Years later, Blue Velvet became my favorite film and I learned David Lynch directed Elephant Man as well. I actually became proud of my earlier psychological trauma.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) This movie is especially terrifying because it was inspired by an actual person. Actor Michael Rooker was a little too convincing.

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

Poltergeist (1982) I’ve seen this movie so many times it shouldn’t have any effect on me but it still does. I hate it when I can hear stuff move or fall in another room. Another movie that changes your life.

Pet Semetary (1989) I read the book before I saw the movie so I remember the terror from the book. The movie isn’t nearly as scary to me as the book but I’m still entertained by it. Actor Fred Gwynne is the icing on that cake.

Silent Night, Deadly Night 5 (1991) Yes, you read that right. I’ve debated this movie’s merits at parties so many times, I think I’ve talked myself into loving it. Mickey Rooney is such a Hollywood institution–he has seen it all. I love him for being in this ridiculous movie.

5. Send us to two places on the Internet!

Made for TV Mayhem — Amanda By Night knows it all when it comes to TV movies.

Awful Library Books — library discards make up at least half of my personal collection.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Dylan Donnie-Duke
Dylan Donnie-Duke (@dylan-donnie-duke)
9 years ago

Thank you so much for bringing up “Night of the Hunter!” As more and more of these have poured in I have been rethinking mine and the only amendment I have really wanted to make is to add that movie. I actually considered emailing it to Unk begging for special consideration to amend, but knew I needed to stick to my guns and live with my regret. It is such a tremendously scary film. It even plays well today. My 14 year old son forgot his usual parental aversion when we watched it together, and he ended up snuggling himself firmly between us whenever Bobby M. was doing his thing. The child actors were so, so good in that. So often weak performances from child actors can turn a good movie cheesy (I’m looking at you, “The Bad Seed.”), but I believe that these kids are frightened of the preacher man. And who could blame them?
SN,DN 5 will be heralded years from now as a groundbreaking film. Don’t worry, we few who find it’s merits now will someday be exulted as prophets. Whether I use my power then for good or ill will be decided by how many more times I am chided for liking this film.

JGregal (@jgregal)
9 years ago

I’ve never actually seen COMMUNION and only just read the book for the first time a few years ago, but I’ve contemplated submitting a Traumafession for the cover of the book alone. As a kid every trip to my local library wasn’t complete until I went over and scared the shit out of myself by looking at that cover. Ugh.

cmcmcmcm (@cmcmcmcm)
9 years ago

Joanna I love your IAHTKY (and your blog btw)!! If the first question of IAHTKY had been what are the first 5 or 10 movies that scared the crap you I would have not only been able to name at least 10, but Jaws would have def been in the top 5. I was so scared of sharks and dark water when I was a kid that I used to be afraid of drinking out of a large blue cup with white frosty swirls on in that I used to brush my teeth when I was a kid. The top rim of the cup went over my eyes when I was drinking out of it and it looked like a dark ocean and sky to me and I had a really hard time with it. Fortunately I’m past the blue cup phase, but I do have the insanely irrational shark-in-a-dark-lake fear. As well as the something-touched-my-foot! freakout. I will never make fun of you.

Oh, and Pet Semetary still creeps me out.

Eric Eddy
Eric Eddy (@fb100000792125902)
9 years ago

Poultergeist and Pet Sematary are classics! Henry is great and really shows us what Michael Rooker is capable of as an actor. Also, Elephant Man isn’t really horror, but I can overlook that as it is a masterpiece and very, very sad.

Apocalypsejunkie (@apocalypsejunkie)
9 years ago

I feel your pain about unseen things in the water. I’m creeping myself out just thinking about how sea weed feels when it brushes the bottoms of your feet. Or at least you hope that was sea weed, eeeek!

bdwilcox (@bdwilcox)
9 years ago


Sharks can, and do, live in fresh and brackish water. Ultra-aggressive bull-sharks are notorious at this, often inhabiting rivers and estuaries; sometimes lakes. A bull shark was the most likely culprit in the New Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916 that inspired the novel Jaws. Many of the victims were killed in the Navesink River where the shark was previously spotted but alarms were subsequently ignored.

Many rivers in Australia are absolutely chock full of bull-sharks and freshwater Ganges and Irrawaddy River sharks in India are suspected in quite a few human disappearances.

There is a freshwater lake on a golf course in Australia that is infested with bull sharks and there is Lake Nicaragua in Central America that hosts bull sharks. For the Australian golf course, the bull-sharks became trapped in the lake after a flood receded but for Lake Nicaragua, they found bull-sharks swimming upstream from the ocean, often leaping like salmon over rapids.

Australian lake on golf course

Lake Nicaragua

There have been bullshark sitings thousands of miles up the Amazon and Mississippi Rivers and they have also been found all the way up to Lake Michigan.

cmcmcmcm (@cmcmcmcm)
9 years ago

oh god.

Rockwater (@rockwater)
9 years ago

Thanks so much for mentioning The Elephant Man. So much of childhood trauma is wrapped in sadness, and this is one sad movie. It opened up parts of me I was unfamiliar with as a child, centers of empathy and grief. I watched this movie over and over again as a child, wrapped up in its beautiful black and white atmosphere. When it was over, I’d go in my room and just weep until I was exhausted. Strange that Lynch has never quite touched this kind of humanity again. Maybe a little in The Straight Story.

tistheseasontv (@tistheseasontv)
9 years ago

Did you HAVE TO share that sharks live in fresh water? Really? Oh crap.