[Exclusive Column] Scarred For Life – Holiday Edition – Tony Timpone

It’s the cheeriest of seasons, but can you hear them? Yes, slaybells are ringing, and just in time for the Holidays, we gift to you another grab bag of horror movies and TV shows that left this month’s contributors Scarred for Life! Put a few of these on your Christmas wish list.

David Prior, director (The Empty Man and Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities [“The Autopsy”], now streaming on Netflix)

“The influence on me of movies like Jaws, Alien and The Shining can’t be overstated, and I received deep and cherished youthful scars from things like Piranha, The Wolf Man and Dark Night of the Scarecrow. The first story I ever attempted to write was a rip-off of Creature from the Black Lagoon. But the earliest feeling of crawling dread that I can recall—and I know it sounds insanecame from The Gumby Show [1956-1969]. There was something so strange and ominous about the tone of it that just gave me the willies at 3 or 4 years old. It was a similar feeling I would get from the soap operas I’d have to watch in a neighbor lady’s trailer while waiting for my mother to pick me up after work—just a weird, confusing atmosphere.

“Years later, I tried to explain it to an incredulous friend, and the best I could come up with was that it seemed as if [creator/animator] Art Clokey was an alien trying to mimic what a show for human children should be, but he accidentally made the funny parts scary and the scary parts funny. Or maybe it wasn’t accidental at all…”

Mike Hill, FX designer (Nightmare Alley, The Shape of Water, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities)

“I was approximately 8 when I watched The Blood on Satan’s Claw [1971]. I was so scared. The opening of the pagan-era ploughed field…the discovery of a strange skull with a human eye… Totally foreboding. It had that ambiance of dread, that certain feeling only a few movies achieve. It got worse. The youth in the film, sacrificing their friends, literally cutting the devil’s flesh from their bodies, besides other horrific crimes. The scene where a lady sleeps in an old attic room, becomes mysteriously ill and has a devil’s claw instead of a hand was an image that stuck with me for years! Linda Hayden was perfect as Angel, the satanic cult leader. The movie still stirs those childhood terrors when I watch today.”

Alison Star, writer/director (The Apology, in theaters, Shudder and AMC+ December 16)

The American Nightmare [2006] was a documentary that made a big impact on me, in that it opened up my mind to what horror could accomplish, introduced me to a bunch of my favorite films and scared the crap out of me through a series of terrifying clips. The most scarring was the slow stabbing of a teenage girl in Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left [1972]. This movie is notoriously mean, but at the time, I had never heard of it. I thought I would face my fear and watch the movie and be cured of how absolutely traumatized I was by that clip. But it didn’t work. That film so effectively puts you right in there with this girl, embodying the fear women have of being randomly raped, tortured and killed, all in the most hopeless and humiliating of settings—right next to your home turf. I avoided it for years afterward and wouldn’t even recommend it to other horror fans, but over time, I came to realize how much it meant to me and my drive to tell stories about these awful acts of violence against women in a visceral, grounded way.

“A few years ago, I recorded an episode of the Hold Up podcast, where I finally rewatched Last House on the Left and talked about what the film did for me as an artist. It was a trippy, moving experience, but yeah, not planning on rewatching it any time soon.”

Steven LaMorte, writer/director (The Mean One, now in theaters)

“I was definitely Scarred for Life by the TV show Are You Afraid of the Dark? [1990-2000]. Something about the very scary ghost stories told by kids my age broadcast at what was at the time late night (for a 9-year-old) on cable always used to keep me up. I enjoyed Goosebumps, but Are You Afraid of the Dark? was definitely more mature and spookier. Looking back on it now, watching those old shows, they are super hokey and fun. I can vividly remember watching Are you Afraid of the Dark?—even though I was definitely not supposed to—and being terrified all night thinking about the campfire and the magic dust.”

Olivia Luccardi, actress (Channel Zero, It Follows, The Deuce, East New York and Candy Land, opening in theaters and on digital January 6, 2023)

Requiem for a Dream [2000] affected me and a lot of people. That film goes to such a real dark place when it comes to addiction. [Writer/director] Darren Aronofsky did a really great job seeping into that dark world of what people will do to get their hands on drugs. The ass-to-ass scene was pretty traumatizing too.”

Owen Campbell, actor (Super Dark Times, My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To, X and Candy Land, opening in theaters and on digital January 6, 2023)

“When I was a kid, I wasn’t allowed to see horror films or TV shows. One night, I snuck downstairs and someone was watching the TV show Angel [1999-2004]. I have a very distinct memory of a scene that featured someone cutting into their hand. I was like, ‘Nope! I’m too little to be watching that!’ It fucked me up! I’ve never been an aficionado of horror films, and that’s why.”

Eric Pennycoff, director (ABCs of Death 2.5, Sadistic Intentions and The Leech, now on Arrow SVOD)

“As a kid growing up in the Midwest, I was terrified of tornadoes. So, seeing Twister [1996] at age 9 only made it worse. And while the film kept my heart racing from scene to scene, there was one moment in particular that actually disturbed me. A scene from another film being projected on a drive-in movie screen while a storm stirs in the distance. A mere fragment of this film haunted my adolescent mind for years to come. And what really messed me up was seeing the film continue to play as the eventual tornado tears it to pieces! That film was The Shining [1980]. A film I never saw in its entirety until many years later. A modern horror masterpiece in its own right, but I don’t know…there’s just something about seeing a twister swallow a smiling Jack Torrance that I’ve yet to shake.”

Graham Skipper, actor (Bliss, Almost Human, VFW, Dementia and Christmas Bloody Christmas, now in theaters and streaming on Shudder; and The Leech,now on Arrow SVOD)

“When I was around 9 or 10 years old, my father bought me a book of all the movie monsters, and I was obsessed with it. But I was a big scaredy cat as a kid, so while I was fascinated by the images in those pages, I knew I was way too scared to actually watch any of those movies. So, my thinking was, if I watch the scariest movie ever made first, then all the other ones will be pieces of cake, so I should just jump into the deep end like pulling off a Band-aid. So, I asked my dad what movie he thought was the scariest ever made, and he said The Exorcist [1973]. So, one night when I was about 10 years old, my parents showed me The Exorcist, and it absolutely wrecked me. Completely traumatic and horrible. But after that first sleepless night, I found myself wanting to watch it again, and the next day I watched it three or four more times to try to dissect how this thing that I knew was fake had scared me so much. That was the birth of my love of horror.”

Michael Berryman, actor (The Hills Have Eyes, Deadly Blessing, The Devil’s Rejects and The X-Files)

The Exorcist [1973]. When her head spun around the first time, it reminded me of being raised Catholic and how it was a religion all about fear, punishment, pain and guilt…all part of their brainwashing tactics. After I saw The Exorcist, just in case, I got on my knees and prayed for the last time in my life as, if you will, an ‘insurance policy’…”

Gary Griffith, co-writer/director (Satan’s Menagerie, now on Blu-ray from VHShitfest/Vinegar Syndrome https://vinegarsyndrome.com/collections/frontpage-partner-labels/products/satans-menagerie)

“The first movie that pops into my head is an oldie but goodie named Horror Hotel [1960], a.k.a. The City of the Dead. I saw it originally at age 6 or 7, and it really had an impact on me. The witch coven and their eerie chanting, the foggy town, sacrifices and, oh, yeah, Christopher Lee! Really creeped me out. Still does!”

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

Tony Timpone