[Exclusive Column] Scarred For Life – Haunt Season Edition

The month-long (for us, year-long!) Halloween celebration is well underway. How many scary movies have you curled up with today? Perhaps you can add some of the titles gushed about below. In Gruesome’s ongoing survey, we check in with our favorite fright fiends—as well as today’s new breed—to find out what early screams left them Scarred for Life!

Dario Argento, writer/director (Suspiria, Deep Red, Tenebrae, Phenomena and Dark Glasses, now in theaters and streaming on Shudder)
“When I was very young, I saw the Arthur Lubin version of Phantom of the Opera [1943] with Claude Rains. I saw it in an open-air piazza in Italy while on vacation with my family. It was a very important, positive experience because of the impression it left on me. It scared the other people in the audience, but not me. I loved it very much. I had no problem sleeping; I slept very well that night. I was very happy.”

Christopher Nelson, makeup FX creator (Suicide Squad, Bright, Halloween, Halloween Kills, and Halloween Ends, in theaters and streaming on Peacock October 14)
“I picked two. Reason being is they both have had a lasting impact, and I experienced them both around the same time. The first is Night of the Living Dead [1968]. I grew up in a house outside of Pittsburgh very similar to the one in the film, and the local TV station would air it every summer. I was always terrified every time that my own house would be overrun with ghouls. Especially when the news reporter scroll mentioned my actual town. Chilling. The social commentary also resonates with me today.
“The second was Fiend Without a Face [1958]. I was home sick from school with a fever and awoke from a fever dream to witness the film’s brain/spinal cord creatures flying and attacking people. It was horrifying to me as a child; I couldn’t believe that everyone on the planet lives with these creatures within!”

Alex Vincent, actor (Child’s Play, Child’s Play 2, Curse of Chucky, Cult of Chucky and Chucky, season two now airing on Syfy and USA)
“The first horror film that impacted me was Fright Night [1985]. I was 6 years old and had booked the first Child’s Play and knew I’d be working with Chris Sarandon, so I wanted to familiarize myself with his work. The film and his performance were both utterly captivating. It helped me understand the objective and intention of horror films, and how they can serve to frighten but also allure the audience. This sparked an intrigue in me to both the genre and the art form. Vampires have intrigued me ever since. Not to mention, Fright Night included the first female topless scene I had ever seen. Impactful on many levels!”

Kevin Lewis, director (The Third Nail, Willy’s Wonderland, and The Accursed, in theaters and VOD October 14)
“The horror movie that has been seared into my brain since I was a kid is Burnt Offerings [1976]. I remember that no one was home one fateful night, and I was flicking the channels back and forth trying to find something that would preoccupy my little mind. I quickly stumbled upon a grainy image of this old house, and a family moving in. From there on, it was sheer terror, watching the dad (Oliver Reed) finding the goggles in the pool and trying to choke his son to death, to the big reveal with the aging mother upstairs.
“When I was shooting The Accursed, my stunt coordinator, Charlie Parish, turned to me after we shot the stairwell scene with Alma and Beth and said, ‘Kev, have you ever seen the movie Burnt Offerings?’ I immediately broke the crew for five minutes and discussed that film at length like a kid in a candy store as the crew looked on and jotted down on their phones the title (so many of them had never seen it). That little conversation gave us all the fire power to continue shooting well into the night. The great thing about Charlie’s question proved to me that we were on the right track with finding the heartbeat and voice of our motion picture.”

Jack Dignan, visual FX creator (Friday the 13th, Dawn of the Dead); director (After She Died, now on VOD)
“This answer may not ring a bell for readers outside of Australia, but one of the first things to truly terrify me was an obscure little TV show called Round the Twist. This Aussie show, which was somehow deemed appropriate to air in the prime-time weekday slot for all Australian kids to see, never failed to disgust and delight. One particularly memorable episode [“The Big Burp,” 2000] featured a teenage boy falling in love with a tree woman (you have to see it to believe it) and getting pregnant with her child. It’s a gross body horror-esque episode that managed to make its way into a children’s show. I’ll remember it for the rest of my life, whether I want to or not. Great theme song though!”

Vanessa Winter, co-writer/co-director (Deadstream, now streaming on Shudder and V/H/S/99, streaming on Shudder October 20)
“Back in college, we were browsing a friend’s DVD collection and spotted Don’t Look Now [1973]. Our friend didn’t have anything nice to say about it, but we grabbed it anyway. We had just watched the 1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers and were keen on anything ’70s horror and Donald Sutherland.
“[Husband/co-writer/co-director/star] Joseph [Winter] had a small storage room in the basement of his apartment with a crappy TV in the corner. It didn’t seem like the ideal viewing experience for a beautifully composed, atmospheric slow burn, but somehow it was. And the fact that we had no idea the entire film was an expertly crafted buildup to an unforgettable ending made that final image all the more terrifying. I’ll never forget how hard I was gripping that pleather bean bag!”

Michael Paré, actor (Streets of Fire, Eddie and the Cruisers, Bad Moon and They Crawled Beneath, now available on digital and disc)
“The first nightmare-inducing movie I remember very clearly, though it is not so scary anymore, is Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein [1948]! I was only 4! I woke up yelling many times from that scene where Bela Lugosi transforms into the bat on the balcony!”

Keene McRae, actor/co-writer/director (Shot in the Dark, now on VOD and digital)
“When I was around 7, my family lived just outside of San Francisco. My parents and another couple rented a cabin on the water at Lake Tahoe. My mom, perhaps lacking a little judgment, put a movie on so she and my dad could enjoy themselves. The movie: Jaws [1975]. Once the VHS tape ended and silence enveloped my room, the sound of the tiny Lake Tahoe waves lapping against the dock scared the crap out of me. Suddenly, I heard a high-pitched scream and a loud splash. My stomach dropped; my mouth quickly dried. Do I want to see blood and chunks of body floating in the water? Maybe they need my help! I had never been so scared. I ran outside looking for my parents. My naked mom runs down the dock, splash! My parents and the other couple were skinny dipping. Two horrors, one night.”

Kristoffer McMillan, actor/co-writer (Shot in the Dark, now on VOD and digital)
“I’d have to say it’s a tie though, between the original Child’s Play [1986] and the original When a Stranger Calls [1979]. Both for the same reason: the believability of the main twist and how simply it was revealed. In Child’s Play, the mother had been hearing the doll talking as programmed for weeks, but then sees the box say, ‘Batteries not included.’ The second she checks the back of the doll, its head turns 180 degrees, and says, ‘Hi, I’m Chucky. Wanna play?’ I never touched a toy doll again.
“In When a Stranger Calls, it’s ‘Have you checked the children?’ Then hearing what the police say next: ‘We’ve traced the call…it’s coming from inside the house.’ Yeah, I shat myself, and I was alone being babysat when I saw it. Traumatized.”

Dale Fabrigar, director (They Crawled Beneath, now available on digital and disc)
“As a child, I didn’t grow up going to the movies, let alone was I allowed to watch ‘scary, evil movies.’ One evening, I was at my relatives’ home because they were babysitting my brother and me. My older, teenage cousins rented and brought home a VHS movie to watch. None of us were prepared for what we were about to see… the movie was Friday the 13th [1980]. The part that scarred me was the Kevin Bacon death scene. Wow. It was surprising and graphically visceral. I remember feeling queasy and nauseous after watching it. To this day, as an adult, whenever I bump into my cousins, I always say, ‘Remember that movie? What were you thinking?!’ And we all share a good laugh. That movie changed me. Now I know the price you pay after having sex and smoking weed at a campground! It’s rather obvious the effect it’s had on my life, and my twisted love for horror and practical makeup effects.”

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

Tony Timpone