[Exclusive Column] SCARRED FOR LIFE – Tony Timpone

In Gruesome’s ongoing survey, see what horror hits left some of our favorite fear personalities—and today’s genre practitioners—Scarred for Life! You’ve been warned!

Joseph Bishara, composer (Insidious trilogy, The Conjuring trilogy, Annabelle, Malignant)

Dawn of the Dead [1979] played at my local drive-in when I was 8. I remember seeing the ads, and the invitation for ‘nobody under 17’ along with an unrated release promised an extreme experience both terrifying and enticing. I don’t remember what film we were there to see, but I was watching Dawn of the Dead out the back window without sound. The imagery of the bikers being attacked, torsos shredded, guts ripped out and eaten pushed my consciousness further than I had experienced before. What I saw would replay through my head for some time.”

Peter Brunner, writer/director (Luzifer, now streaming on Mubi)

“When I was a child, and we just got cable TV, my parents cut the connection and hid the cable at night. Secretly, I had to sneak in and steal the cable to be able to watch forbidden films. One night, I experienced glimpses of Angst [1983]. An unnamed serial killer is eager to kill again following his release from prison. Film director Gaspar Noé has cited Angst as an influence on his filmmaking style. I’ve never forgotten the floating and transcendent visual style, while the narrative itself is more or less an ordinary slasher. They built a rotating body mount: a device that attaches the camera to a rig attached to the body of the person it’s filming. This was an inspiration for us on how to shoot some exorcism scenes in Luzifer, and we built our own 360-degree rig.”

Sarah Zanotti, co-writer/actress (Rattled and Faye, now on VOD and digital)

“I saw Halloween [1978] when I was 9, unbeknownst to my parents. I became paranoid about the idea of a killer in a white mask following me home from the school bus stop. The Halloween theme song became the backdrop to my repeated nightmares. Yes, parts of Faye are based on these influences.”

Kd Amond, co-writer/director (Rattled and Faye, now on VOD and digital)

“For me it’s The Exorcist [1973]. I was 12 when I first attempted it, and I was raised way too Catholic for that shit! I’ve since come to appreciate everything about it, and it’s one of my favorite films. But, if I see Linda Blair’s face without warning, I’m briefly paralyzed. That’s the scariest makeup ever put on film.”

Emerson Moore, co-writer/director (Escape the Field, now in theaters and on digital and VOD)

“The film that stands out for me is John Carpenter’s The Thing [1982]. I saw the film at a young age, and it definitely marked a change in the way I looked at film. It scared the crap out of me, but ultimately set me on a path that led to filmmaking.”

Mick Garris, director (The Stand, The Shining, Sleepwalkers, Nightmare Cinema) and podcast host (Post Mortem, on Apple Podcasts)

“Well, that would surely have to be Psycho [1960]. My family of three brothers and a sister went to see Hitchcock’s masterpiece together at the Reseda Drive-In in the San Fernando Valley (where Peter Bogdanovich shot Boris Karloff in Targets). In those days, horror movies were thought of as being for kids, but this was something very different, of course. It was so deranged and twisted for this little 7- or 8-year-old mind that it burrowed deep into my head and stuck with me forever. I never would have guessed that 30 years later, I would be taking that trip even deeper when I was fortunate enough to direct Psycho IV: The Beginning and submerge myself in a lifelong nightmare!”

Joseph Zito, director (Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, Red Scorpion, The Prowler, Missing in Action)

“I only remember being taken to the movies by my mother twice. It was to one of those grand old Brooklyn palaces with the castle-like marble-looking statues and fountains and the ever fascinating, twinkling stars in the ceiling. Wow! The first time, it was The Wizard of Oz [1939]—creepy flying monkeys and a melting human-looking witch. A melting green person! Pretty horrible if you think about it, even now.

“Sure, I got over the monkeys and the melting witch, but the film that changed my life was the other one Mom took me to—Frankenstein [1931]! A dead thing that walked. Relentlessly coming for you. For many years (a lot of years, actually), I had this recurring nightmare of Frankenstein’s Monster making his way to me on a Brooklyn street (why not?), bathed in daylight but still unstoppably scary—getting very close and then, somehow, just as he was about to grab me, lots of bloody playing cards would fly at him and I’d wake up gasping. Never figured out the symbolism, but that fear of things that wouldn’t stay dead remains with me to this day. Thanks for the opportunity to remember this—and for those dreams which for sure will start again now.”

Anthony DiBlasi, director (Last Shift, Dread, Most Likely to Die, Missionary)

“For me, the film that left a lasting impression was the first A Nightmare on Elm Street [1984]. My parents rented that movie when it was released on VHS. I was like 6 or 7 when I watched it at home, and this was with my folks, so it wasn’t like I was sneaking off to watch it. And I can still remember waking up in the middle of the night and seeing Freddy in the bedroom with me; that’s a memory that will always be burned into my mind. I mean, it’s a movie about nightmares, and it definitely gave me nightmares… so Wes Craven did his job! But then I became obsessed with Freddy. In third grade, I made paper dioramas of all the scenes from A Nightmare on Elm Street 3, so Freddy definitely inspired my creative side!”

Mark Rosman, director (The House on Sorority Row, The Invader, Evolver)

“This wasn’t a horror film at all, but when I was very young, I saw The Nutty Professor [1963]. The scene where Jerry Lewis transforms into a hideous monster that turns out to finally be the suave, cool Buddy Love—that lab scene really freaked me out!”

Ira Heiden, actor (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, Alias)

“The show that scared the hell out of me when I was 9 was the beginning title segment of the horror movie program Chiller [1971]. The hand coming up out of the pool of blood was just so creepy, and the music… I never got past that opening! Check it out: https://youtu.be/YUdlWiK59kc.”

(Follow me on Twitter: @tonytimpone1 and Instagram: timponetony)

Tony Timpone