[Exclusive Column] Scarred for Life – August 2022

Take heed, fright fans. The calendar inches closer to Halloween every day! Not that there’s any shortage of genre movies to choose from at any given moment. In Gruesome’s ongoing survey, see what horror hits (and a couple of non-horror classics) left today’s genre practitioners Scarred for Life! You’ve been warned!

Scott Mann, co-writer/director (Heist and Fall, now in theaters)

“I watched RoboCop [1987] when I was around 10, and the visceral violence really had a huge impact on me. Seeing Murphy’s hand blown clean off was a sinful delight that myself and my friends would dare one another to watch. The film’s macabre exploration of death, life, and self really resonated then and still does now. One of my top three films to this day.

“The other honorable mention would be Ghostwatch, broadcast on the BBC in 1992 on Halloween night. My brothers and I huddled upstairs in the dark to watch what we believed was just another mundane live lifestyle TV show, with the usual presenters trying to sniff out any spooky goings-on in a regular British street. The filmmakers were clearly ahead of their time as they pulled off an exceptional (pre-Blair Witch!) fake documentary, slowly twisting the audience through its kitchen sink horror mastery.”

Grace Caroline Currey, actress (Annabelle: Creation, Shazam! and Fall, now in theaters)

“You’re not gonna believe this, but I used to be afraid of the animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas! [1966]. I used to be afraid of the Grinch, which is not a horror film but was something that spooked me as a little kid. Thankfully it doesn’t haunt me anymore. There was a split personality situation with the Grinch in my mind as a kid. When he does his really swirly scary grin, for some reason, as a kid, it creeped me out even though it was animated [laughs].”

Alice Krige, actress (Ghost Story, Sleepwalkers, Star Trek: First Contact, Gretel & Hansel and She Will, now in theaters and VOD)

“I don’t know what my parents were thinking, but when I was a 6-year-old little girl growing up in a remote village in South Africa, my parents wanted to go out, which they rarely did. So, they took me to see The Bridge on the River Kwai [1957] with them because they couldn’t get a babysitter. At one moment, a prisoner of war is put in an oven, and I stood up and said, ‘I think you have to take me home now.’ My poor mother never saw the end of the movie. It wasn’t a horror film, but it might as well have been. It left a lasting impression on me.”

Charlotte Colbert, director (She Will, now in theaters and VOD)

Misery [1990]…what didn’t haunt and scar me for life? It’s so brilliant. I can’t remember the first time I saw Misery, as I’ve watched it so many times since. It’s an amazing piece of work with a perfect script, phenomenal. The movie is frightening because it is so realistic and delicately underplayed. Each character’s narrative is distinct and so incredibly real.”

Addison Henderson, writer/director (The Forgotten City and Givers of Death, now in theaters and on digital and VOD)

“The one horror film that scarred me for life was Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds [1963]. When I was a young boy, my cat used to kill crows and leave them outside of my bedroom door. It was very frightening for me as a kid. Then, my mother showed me the movie, and it took me over the edge. To this day, I don’t look at birds the same. And, I stay clear of blackbirds particularly because I fear that I’ll have to pay for some karmic price for my cat’s misdeeds.”

Chloe Yu, actress (Jane, in theaters August 26 and streaming on Creator+ September 16)

“My friend and I chose to watch Midsommar [2019] for a movie night about two years ago, not really knowing what we were getting into. Some of the content was extremely detailed and graphic, and the contrast between the tranquil settings and the petrifying rituals made the film all the more chilling. It’s a movie I still think about from time to time.”

Andrew van den Houten, producer (Offspring, The Woman, The Block Island Sound, Good Samaritan, and The Ranger, now on Shudder)

“I’ve always loved Rosemary’s Baby [1968]. Having grown up in the building that inspired the story and where it was written by Ira Levin, I constantly felt my neighbors were always curiously creepy at times. Additionally, the prewar Upper West Side building and large apartments lend themselves to a creepy atmosphere that I could undoubtedly relate to, having grown up in the Apthorp [apartment house]. You do feel at times the presence of ghosts and such. One neighbor seven floors down from our apartment would hold seances. Strange indeed. Polanski always knows how to build great tension.”

Pat Healy, actor (Station 19, Cheap Thrills, The Innkeepers, Compliance and We Need to Do Something, now on disc)

“I’ve gotten over it, but Poltergeist [1982] really messed me up because I was 10 [when I saw it]. It was the idea that [this evil] could just come into your house, and your parents couldn’t do anything about it; they were just completely ineffectual. That’s what really got to me at that time. Now when I watch it, it’s fun for me to see, and I could see what scared me so much about it. I am still a very sensitive person, but I certainly was a really sensitive kid. That stuff really scared me. Movies like Poltergeist and John Carpenter’s The Thing, I couldn’t watch those for years. I just had to stay away from them. Now they’re my favorites.”

Buddy Giovinazzo, writer/director (Combat Shock, Life Is Hot in Cracktown, and The Theatre Bizarre, now streaming on Indiepix Unlimited)

Berserk [1967], with Joan Crawford. I was 10 years old and sitting in the theater alone. My father used the movie theater as a babysitter back then (that wasn’t considered child abuse in 1967). It was so creepy and disturbing, the whole atmosphere of the film, but what traumatized me for life was a scene where a spike is hammered into someone’s head, and a piece of their brain matter gets stuck on the point of the spike. I remember being shocked and horrified by that; it’s an image I’ve not forgotten 50 years later. Only a horror film can do that.”

Steve Barnett, director (Hollywood Boulevard II, Scanner Cop 2 and Mindwarp, now streaming on Tubi)

“On a Thursday in May 1979, I was walking past the Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard and heard this loud, ungodly hissing. I headed down the courtyard and into the lobby where a technician explained that the sound was pink-noise being used to tune up the theater speakers for the next night’s opening of Alien. So, my friends and I chose that theater, and we lined up early for the Friday night show. We walked past a strange foam creature outside the door as we entered the lobby where we were handed buttons that read ‘You are my lucky star.’

“When the movie began, no one knew what to expect. We sank into our seats muttering ‘No’ and ‘Don’t’ as John Hurt’s Kane bent over the opening egg, and then we leapt out of our chairs when the facehugger erupted into his helmet. But nothing, not even that shocking moment of terror, could prepare us for the chest-bursting scene. The screams, yells, and shouts rang through the auditorium when the blood and guts and gore exploded from Hurt’s quivering body on the table, and the baby alien escaped into the ship. They continued for what seemed like minutes over the exterior shot of the space freighter that Ridley Scott had cut in for the needed audience release. By the time Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley blasted the Alien into the void, we were emotionally spent.

“We all walked out of the Egyptian stunned and terrorized and elated by the experience. The foam alien in the courtyard was the actual H.R. Geiger-designed ‘Space Jockey’ from the marooned alien spaceship set with the ribs broken outward from its chest. I heard later that it was burned up when someone tossed a cigarette on it. But to this day…I still have my button.”

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

Tony Timpone