Gruesome Reviews


We’re halfway to Halloween, and by August the stores will already be selling their spooky wares for the fall season. For we horror fans, however, Halloween is every day. But what movie lit the spark? We all remember the one which cemented our love for the genre. In Gruesome’s ongoing survey, see what horror hits left today’s genre practitioners Scarred for Life!

Rich Ragsdale, director (The Curse of El Charro and The Long Night, now on disc, digital, and VOD)

“I had a big coffee table book of horror movies I bought at K-mart. It had this one picture in particular from The Incredible Shrinking Man [1957] that obsessed me, of a miniature man fighting off a giant spider with a needle that was the size of a spear. I had to see this movie!

“I must have been 7 or 8 when I found out it was coming on TV and had planned my whole weekend around watching it, only to find out my mother had accepted an offer from a friend’s mother to have me spend the night at their house. Panic set in, but he assured me we could watch it at his place (we didn’t have a VCR at the time)! Cut to that weekend; we were getting ready to watch the movie when his mom told us we had to play outside—no TV! I was apoplectic, but my buddy had a backup plan…

“He lived way out in the country, so we ended up walking what seemed like a mile down an old road until we ended up at a cinder block nursing home. We went in, and it was even more depressing inside—dirty linoleum floors and drab gray walls, with old folks sitting in chairs looking like they were waiting to die. My friend adopted a cutesy little voice and asked if we could watch TV. They were overjoyed that two little kids had come to visit (I got the sense he did this a lot!), so they agreed.

“We scooted way too close to the set and watched the movie. And it was great; the shrinking dude did battle with a spider in his basement, fighting over a crumb, just like the picture in my book. But then a strange thing happened. After a whole movie of struggling against his shrinking condition, the hero accepts his fate. He’s so tiny he can climb through the mesh of his basement window and walk into the jungle that is his front yard. He stares up at the night sky and basically accepts that he will shrink out of existence. THE END (sorry… SPOILER!).

“This was not the ending I expected! It was here where I, a little kid surrounded by a bunch of old folks at death’s door, seemingly resigned to their fate, had my first existential crisis. This was the moment it really occurred to me that I would not go on forever.”

Jeff Pinkner, executive producer (Lost, Fringe, Cowboy Bebop, and From, now airing on Epix)

“I could easily say David Cronenberg’s The Brood, which I saw in high school, messed me up for life. (Those terrifying, freakazoid kids!) But the film that had the most lasting impact is actually [The Devil’s Hand, 1961]. One night when I was very young, maybe 6 or 7, a babysitter let me stay up past my bedtime, and a black and white movie was playing on TV. The only scene I remember: A man was in some kind of shop that had a wall of shelves behind the counter filled with dolls. When the shopkeeper left for a moment, the man looked up at the dolls… and one of them winked at him. Ever since, if I’m alone in a room with a doll, I need to muster up courage to even glance at it. (Magic is also problematic for me, for the same reason. ‘Hey, you know what I think? We’re gonna be a staaaaaaar!’)”

John Griffin, writer (The Twilight Zone, Magic: The Gathering); creator/writer (From, now airing on Epix)

“For me it’s a tie. The first will probably come as no surpriseit was the Salem’s Lot miniseries [1979]. There were a number of moments that haunted me for years afterward, but in particular it was the scene where the boy wakes up and sees his friend outside the window asking to be let in. To this day, I’m afraid of seeing faces in the window at night. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say the ‘Grandma’ at the window in the opening of From was an homage of sorts to that uniquely traumatic childhood terror.

“The second was the clown in Poltergeist [1982]. For anyone who saw Poltergeist as a child, I doubt that goddamn clown requires any further explanation.”

Brendan Muldowney, writer/director (Love Eternal, Savage, and The Cellar, in theaters and streaming on Shudder April 15)

“Growing up in the ’70s, I was exposed to all the Hammer movies of the time, and they had a huge impact, but it was a small TV series they produced in 1980 that had the biggest impact… It was called Hammer House of Horror and had 13 episodes. I can remember a few of them still now, but the one that had the most impact on my brother and me was episode 12, ‘The Two Faces of Evil.’ It was a ‘doppelgänger’ story, which was similar but less sophisticated than Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which I hadn’t seen at that stage. So, it was my first exposure to the doppelgänger concept. For a child, there is something inherently creepy about the idea of those closest to you not being themselves, or worse… being an evil copy. However, it was the mood and atmosphere of a rainy day on the motorway as a family picks up a hitchhiker in a yellow oilskin fishing coat with the hood up, who very quickly causes them to crash by sticking a long black fingernail into the father’s neck.

“This set up two scares that I will never forget—the return of that long black fingernail during an intimate moment in bed, and the climax where we as the audience are convinced that everything is now OK… until the father smiles these black and rotten teeth! I can still remember the weeks of night terrors that followed, but also a strange attraction to the genre that could evoke such strong emotions. I have bought the box set of the Hammer TV series, but not watched it for fear that it doesn’t measure up to my memories. Though I like having it on my shelf as a reminder of those terrors.”

Alexandra Loreth, co-writer (The Yellow Wallpaper, now available digitally)

“I was sheltered as a child—really. One time, I watched Grease at a sleepover and was forbidden from ever going to the friend’s house again. So, it’s not surprising that I grew up not watching horror movies. One time, though, in high school, a new friend invited me over to watch a movie, and I accepted the invitation without giving it much thought. It was The Human Centipede [2009]. I was in shock—I didn’t know that people were even allowed to make movies like that. It was a heck of an introduction to the genre. Fast forward to the present day, and we’re still great friends, and I’m an avid horror fan. It’s funny to say, but I look back on the memory (not the viewing) fondly. I think.”

Kevin Pontuti, co-writer/director (The Yellow Wallpaper, now available digitally)

“I’ll never forget the first time I saw Hitchcock’s The Birds [1963]. It was a really powerful experience that I may have never wholly recovered from [laughs]. Something about the pecking and the idea of being swarmed by so many of them.

“The last time I saw it, though, I was most infatuated with the scene on the playground when the actress is smoking a cigarette and one by one birds arrive and perch on the monkey bars. The children’s song that accompanies this works perfectly through here and creates one of the most poetic and dreadful scenes of the movie. I could watch it again and again.”

Ale McHaddo, co-writer/co-director (Deep Hatred, now on digital and VOD)

“The scariest movie I have ever seen is the first A Nightmare on Elm Street [1984]. I was 10 years old, and I managed to find a way to sneak into the theater, by going through the exit after the doorman told me I was too young to see that movie. He was right! I had the most frightening two hours of my life. The scene where Johnny Depp was transformed into a blood geyser is still in my mind today. And, of course, I spent a month with sleeping issues.”

Daniela Carvalho, co-writer/co-director (Deep Hatred, now on digital and VOD)

The Shining [1980] represents so many images that scarred me until this day. Everything works perfectly: the cinematography, the acting, the script, the directing. The twin girls asking Danny to come and play still gives me the creeps.”

Randall Okita, director(The Lockpicker and See for Me, now on Shudder)

“Watching Misery [1990] completely twisted my brain. I loved reading Stephen King’s work and experiencing his story brought to life was absolutely mesmerizing and so much fun!”

Giovannie Espiritu, actress (D-Railed and Titanic 666, premiering on Tubi April 15)

“My parents were teenagers when they had me, and so they didn’t really know how to be parents or what was age-appropriate. They used to pop in a VCR copy they had of Faces of Death when I was really young. They thought that I wouldn’t remember it, but I do remember bits and pieces, here and there. I did love A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Master, though. I used to have night terrors as a kid, and I loved the idea of overcoming whatever it was that would be chasing me… I just didn’t want my friends to have to die in order to assimilate their skills.

“But one movie I looooooved was Jennifer’s Body [2009]. That movie had my heart. The sapphic nature and frenemy of Needy and Jennifer was so on-point, and the social commentary about being a young woman in society was a ‘chef’s kiss.’ I could not get Megan Fox turning into a sexy demon out of my head for weeks, and I still don’t know if I’m scared or titillated—maybe it’s the same thing.”

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

Tony Timpone