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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Want to Know What Scares Me?

After procrastinating long enough, it's only fair that since my worthy Vault of Horror contributors Karl Hungus and RayRay have seen fit to bare their respective souls around here of late, it's time for ol' B-Sol to come clean and discuss what I've found most terrifying in horror movies over the years.

My lifelong obsession with horror is most certainly tied to this fascination I, along with many others, seem to have with that which I find personally frightening. To a certain extent, it's the rubbernecking phenomenon--we find ourselves morbidly drawn to face the very things that freak us out. Some folks can't seem to relate to this personality trait. I'm betting not many of them are reading this blog.

The earliest sense of true fear I ever remember experiencing with regards to horror came from the movies I was exposed to on regular TV. Like many of my fellow GenXers, I got my first taste of genre movies thanks to the wonderland known as afternoon syndicated TV. Growing up in Brooklyn, that meant WNEW Channel 5, WPIX Channel 11 (a.k.a. "11 Alive") and WOR Channel 9. These channels have since fallen prey to the blights of mini-networks and informercials, but back then, it was a veritable wonderland of spaghetti westerns, Planet of the Apes flicks, kung-fu, Abbott & Costello, and so much more.

Allow me to explain for all you pampered millenials out there. See, we didn't have TV channels specifically designed with 24-hour kids' programming. Forget DVD, I'm going back before VCRs here. We could count all our channels on two hands, and we had to watch what was on--which, with the exception of Saturday mornings and a few hours after school, was stuff not particularly programmed with kids in mind. Sure it sucked compared to the choices kids have today. But on the positive side, it was precisely due to that lack of choice that we got exposed to a lot of great stuff we may never have learned to appreciate had it been set adrift amidst a sea of distractions.

I can recall going over my grandparents' house for Sunday dinner, and later in the day, my little tummy full of macaroni, chicken and salad, experiencing the horrors of Hammer Films at the foot of my grandpa's recliner. This was shocking stuff for a seven-year-old--blood, boobs, demonic vampires seeking to transform you into something that wasn't human.

If memory serves, the one that got to me the most was called Lust for a Vampire, the tale of a naive mortal who becomes entangled in the web of a coven of female bloodsuckers. Although now I may realize it is not the most highly regarded of the Hammer canon, nevertheless, at my tender age it affected me profoundly. And despite my pre-pubescence, I can remember somehow vaguely perceiving the sinister sexuality that pervaded the whole movie, even if I didn't have the intellectual vocabulary yet to recognize it as such.

Interestingly, some of the earliest mental scarring inflicted upon me by horror films came from made-for-TV movies. There was Gargoyles, When Michael Calls, and Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, three early '70s cult favorites that I saw as afternoon reruns, and which became instant nightmare material. The latter film stuck with me so strongly that for years (prior to the advent of IMDB), I kept trying to find out if it was a real movie at all, or just a bizarre figment of my childhood imagination. And who could forget Dark Night of the Scarecrow, which I saw when it aired for the very first time, right around Halloween 1981.

Perhaps it's because I had this exposure as a little kid that I take a relatively liberal attitude toward my own kids and their experiences with horror. I mean, in my case it may have meant sleeping with the covers over my neck to prevent Dracula from attacking me in the middle of the night, but hey, if that's the worst of it, what's the big deal? You grow up, you realize vampires aren't out to get you, and life goes on.

More to come tomorrow...

14 comments:

Ross said...

I remember the exact moment I became a horror addict. The scene was both horrifying and an utter delight. Six years old while watching The Dark Crystal, I was shaken by the sights and sounds of a little goblin creature being burned alive in some type of purple incineration chamber. The way he screamed and the way those eyes bugged out gave me nightmares for a year. Since then, horror is all I watch.

gord said...

My ultimate horror moment, in my 22 short years of life, was when I first saw Evil Dead, in grade 5.

My friend and I rented it cause the box looked cool, and before then we'd only rented fairly terrible schlock. Other horror movies sure, but nothing all that scary.

We watched the film late that night, and it seemed innocuous enough at first, however, as soon as Cheryl's demonic face ripped around during the magic card scene, I had my hands over my face the entire rest of the film.

All I could hear were screams and gross noises, and I didn't want to have anything to do with any of it.

A year later, and still with the awful image fresh in my mind, I bought the VHS purely out of curiosity and loved it, and I haven't looked back since.

Look forward to the rest of your story B.

B-Sol said...

YES on both. That moment in The Dark Crystal was a big one for me too, when the poor little podling has his brain erased by the crystal. And Evil Dead will be mentioned when I continue the post...

gord said...

How about in Willow when those people get transformed into Pigs? Christ that was scary.

BJ-C said...

OH GOD WILLOW.
that entire movie is scary.

AndyDecker said...

Ah, Yutte Stensgaard :-)

Terrible actress, but iconic vampiress. I prefer Mircallas resurrection over any of today´s CGI excesses.

Yes, Lust for a Vampire has its problems, it is a typical tale of what if. (What if Cushing had played the role Bates inherited? What if they had thrown the godawful song into the trash?) Still it is fun to watch like most of these Hammer films. Time has been kind to them, today their blood and boobs have a certain charme which so many of todays horror movies just can´t accomplish.

To return to the topic, there wasn´t much horror on tv in my time or it didn´t leave an impression. But there is one scene in a Tarzan movie which really haunted me. I think it was one of Gordon Scott´s, with a cave and giant spiders munching the evil white hunters or so. Of course the imaginary is much more potent in my memory than it is on screen, I guess - never saw the movie again - but I couldn´t forget it :-)

Pax Romano said...

Excellent post, can't wait to read the rest of it.

The first thing in my life that I recall that really scared me, got under my skin, was that final frame during the credits of Star Trek where you see the big head alien. I had such nightmares about him.

It was not until I was about 14 and saw The Exorcist that I was instantly transformed into a horror geek. That movie, while traumatizing my young Catholic soul, also made me love horror.

B-Sol said...

I had a similar reaction to The Exorcist Pax, which I'll get into soon enough...

frgodbeyjr said...

Nice post Brian... I remember watching TV in my grandparent's basement with the lights out and the door closed, and the TV turned to Chiller Theater late Saturday nights. The old school black and white horror of Vincent Price, Lugosi, Karloff, and the like. Great stuff as a kid and still quality viewing as an adult!

Anonymous said...

RayRay - Ya know, I forgot to mention The Dark Night of the Scarecrow. That was a very scary made for TV movie. And it certainly got to me. And, of course, there were many an afternoon when I was frightened out of my wits by the WNEW, WPIX and WOR B-movies. I can now recall this one movie, the name I never learned because I ran out of the room [but you will probably know in an instant, and I think it was "House of Wax" or something], where the villain had a woman tied to a table, slowly placing what looked like cement or mortar all over her face, but not her nose. As he applied the cement the tension rose and rose, until he finally covered her nose, but she dies almost immediately, apparently from the fright.

gord said...

@RayRay, not sure if it was House of Wax, as that sounds fairly 'graphic' for a film of that time. Not to mention I saw the film again about a month ago and don't remember that scene. That being said, I could just have been distracted by Price's maniacal laughter and/or makeup.

pot head pixie said...

I think I was freaked out by the Hammer House of Horror series that was on when I was a kid.

And Don't Look Now scared the shit out of me when I first saw it.

Jonathan "JR" said...

I LIVED on a steady diet of channels 5, 9 and 11 as a kid. WNYW 5 had all the wrestling shows, and 9 & 11 had all the great horror.

Does anybody remember Dr. Morgus? He was a goofy, kid-friendly Elvira-type host on channel 11. It was on his show that I saw the two movies that freaked me out as a kid (and made me a horror fanatic): Phantasm and Night of the Creeps. I still can't watch Night of the Creeps! The thought of those awful slug things flying into your mouth gives me the heebie-jeebies!!

B-Sol said...

Yeah, I definitely remember Dr. Morgus now that you mention it. Had to be one of the last of the "horror hosts".

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