It’s a Horror to Know You:: Nancy Strickland Author of Landfill!

It’s a Horror to Know You: Nancy Strickland, author of the book Landfill!

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

Scary movies rarely got to me – such are the perks of being a horror buff’s spawn. Sure, I sometimes buried my face in my hands when scenes turned gooey (Hostel; Haute Tension), but it wasn’t until I watched Paranormal Activity while home alone that I found myself properly terrified. The film put me in a regressive state: I was a spooked 5-year-old again, afraid of monsters in my wardrobe and ghouls under my bed. Not caring that I was going to wake her up, I called a friend and tearfully asked her if I could come over and spend the night at her place. Had she said no, I would have roamed the empty streets until daybreak. Nine, ten, never sleep again.

2. What is the last film that scared you?

It’s an oldie, but I didn’t catch it until recently: The Begotten, Elias Merhige’s 1990 unnerving cinematic experiment. Inspired by the book of Genesis, the film’s prologue features a bandaged deity that goes into convulsions and then disembowels itself. Begotten got under my skin and made itself comfortable there.

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

1. The Ruins. This adaptation of Scott B. Smith’s novel came and went without fanfare, but what a nasty little winner it is. The leads aren’t your run-of-the-mill stock characters that make one stupid mistake after another, but resourceful and likeable pre-grads. You won’t find a vampire lusting after their blood or a cannibal gnawing on their limbs here. No, these young adults are forced at gunpoint to climb atop a Mayan temple and stay put until they’re, well, pushing daisies…and a whole assortment of creepy flora. It packed a real punch to witness the physical and mental deterioration of people who reminded me of my friends.

2. Rob Zombie’s Halloween. Providing Michael Meyers with a background story and a flimsy motive demystifies the iconic character, true, but getting to know the chap before he embarks upon a murderous rampage DOES add to the tragedy: when adult Michael mercilessly butchers the sympathetic orderly (“I was good to you, Mikey!”) it becomes obvious that “Mikey” has now become “The Shape,” an impervious, unstoppable force of nature. Not too shabby either: Scout Taylor-Compton’s fine turn as Laurie Strode. A real teenager playing a teenager? Stop the press! Stop iiiiiiiiit!!!

3. Cloverfield. Despite being too epic, too grotesque, and simply too big-budgeted to ever be mistaken for actual found footage, Cloverfield is still a classic of the subgenre thanks to its characters’ palpable despair. I whimpered audibly when the evacuation helicopter with our heroes on board is about to crash and cameraman Hutch goes into a panic-fueled mantra (“Oh, God…Oh, Jesus…I’m so sorry…so sorry”).

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

1. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4. On the one hand, it’s the saga’s scariest entry as it encourages us to start rooting for the undead child molester. On the other hand, director Renny Harlin’s decision to shoot the bulk of the film in broad daylight is detrimental to the film’s potential to make our skin crawl. I agree with Ben S. that Alice’s journey, though never exceeding the level of a soap opera storyline, IS enjoyable – when our Final Girl makes the transition from wallflower to Warrior Woman (“Fucking A”), I uttered some approving grunts. I am woman, hear me roar!

2. The Prince of Darkness. John Carpenter’s first foray into pure horror since The Fog is wonderfully bonkers. Professor Birack, whose college lectures don’t make a lick of sense, asks of his middle-aged students to assist him in conducting a series of tests down at ye olde mucho spooky abandoned church. It never becomes clear what they’re testing and how they’re going about it, but there’s a lot of expensive equipment on display – I guess that was all some people needed to laud PoD as “scientific horror.” I love PoD because it never fails to make me laugh long and hard. The “this is not a dream” and “entrapped in the other-side-of-the-mirror dimension” sequences, however, are genuinely eerie.

3. Diary of the Dead. I have a love-hate relationship with this film. I love that George A. Romero’s popcorn flick consists of The Death of Death, a tragic documentary by the fictional Jason Creed. I love the bit with deaf-mute farmer Samuel. I love the celebrity voice cameos. What I hate is narrator/editor Debra’s early announcement that the documentary will feature incidental music “to scare [the viewer].” In the world of The Death of Death, the zombie apocalypse is a global reality. Me thinks a real disaster needn’t a soundtrack to make it frightening or dramatic. Can you imagine news footage of the collapsing twin towers accompanied by a Bernard Herrmann composition? What we have here is an obvious discrepancy between Debra’s intentions and those of puppet master Romero. It’s Romero’s Diary of the Dead, not Creed’s The Death of Death that’s in need of a score. I tried to rationalize Debra’s editing room shenanigans by considering possible ulterior motives: her family died and came back to life right in front of her – adding music enables Debra to put some distance between herself and the images. Fictionalizing reality is something many of us are prone to in this digital era: we videotape a day at the beach and add songs and credits in Windows Movie Maker (“Nancy Film Enterprises presents ‘The Strickland Family Trip’; music: Californian Gurls by Katy Perry”). Anyway, I maintain that it’s Romero who needs the scary music – his film is curiously lacking in the suspense department. But it’s still loads of fun.

5. Send us to five places on the Internet!

Visual Memory. Official Stanley Kubrick site featuring rare interviews and articles. The pages devoted to The Shining are a must for self-respecting horror fans.

Despite the gods. Promotional site for an upcoming documentary chronicling the making of Jennifer Lynch’s horror turkey Hisss. This could be the 21st century’s Lost in La Mancha.

WKIT 100.3. Visit the website of Stephen King’s radio station for horrifyingly good rock tunes.

Gorehounds. The best Dutch horror film never made: Worst Case Scenario.

Red Letter Media . Yet another site most of you already bookmarked ages ago. One day I will take you, Mike Stoklasa, to be my lawfully wedded husband.

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11 years ago

What! You like PoD “against your better judgment”?!!! Them’s fightin’ words! Are you sure that you don’t mean to say that it is “criminally underrated” instead?

Just kidding – I’m glad that you liked it in any case.

I’ll also throw in on The Ruins. It really turns the whole “hostile foreigners” trope on its head when we find out why the locals are so adamant about keeping the unlucky heroes of the story trapped on the pyramid. I was impressed.

Ben Sher
11 years ago

Thank you for the shout out! *Such* a good point that NOES 4 is actually the scariest film in the series…

11 years ago

I totally dug Rob Zombie’s remakes of both Halloweens. I think showing some what was going on in Michael’s head is what made the movies great .