Gruesome Reviews

[Exclusive Column] – SCARRED FOR LIFE – November Edition – Tony Timpone

It’s the gift that keeps on giving: Horror is not just for Halloween anymore. As I write this, October 31 passed 10 days ago, but four (!) fright flicks (Smile, Prey for the Devil, Halloween Ends, and Terrifier 2) are still in the Top 10 national box office, with another two holdovers (Barbarian and Don’t Worry Darling) not far behind!

And Netflix is still killing it! Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story has had people talking since September, while October drop Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities has emerged as the best horror anthology in many a full moon! Speaking of COC, both show creator del Toro and “Graveyard Rats” director Vincenzo Natali weigh in this month on the movies that left them Scarred for Life!

Guillermo del Toro, writer/director (Cronos, Crimson Peak, Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Shape of Water); writer/producer/host (Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities, now streaming on Netflix)

“David Cronenberg’s They Came from Within [1975; a.k.a. Shivers]. I saw that film right at the cusp into my teenage years, and it made me briefly reconsider chastity as a virtue. It is the foundational film of body horror in my mind, and a film where no one is safe—not even the audience.”

Vincenzo Natali, director (Cube, Splice, The Strain, Hannibal, and Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities, now streaming on Netflix)

“I was actually scarred by Wild Strawberries [1957]. That’s right, Ingmar Bergman’s genteel portrait of an aging professor. It opens with one of the most vivid nightmare sequences ever filmed. I haven’t seen it in some years, but this is how I remember it: Victor Sjöström is wandering through eerie abandoned Stockholm streets. He sees a stranger standing some distance away, back turned to him, he taps him on the shoulder, and when the man turns around, his face is disfigured. Then he falls on the ground, and the body disappears leaving just the clothes, with liquid oozing out. This moment is interrupted as a runaway horse-pulled funeral wagon slowly passes by. The wagon hits a lamp post, and a wheel comes off. The coffin falls out, leaving the lid partway open with the corpse’s hand exposed. Victor goes up to it and is grabbed by the hand, only to discover that the body inside is himself.

“I saw this on TV when I was around 11 years old while I was sick at home in the middle of the day. I was already feverish and kind of delirious. I had no idea what I was watching, and the effect of it haunts me to this day. Actually, it’s gotten worse as I now fully relate to poor old Victor.

“I haven’t heard it said often, but few directors are as effective as Ingmar Bergman at creating a sense of dread and the supernatural. For anyone who is interested, his full-on horror film Hour of the Wolf is an absolute fantasmagorical nightmare of a movie. Strongly recommended.”

Howard Berger, makeup FX artist (From Dusk Till Dawn, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Walking Dead, Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire); co-author (Masters of Make-up Effects, now in bookstores)

“I was 5 years old and my father let me see Dr. Phibes Rises Again [1972]. There is a scene where we are in the desert and sand is blowing across the dunes, to reveal a face buried in the sand. I was horrified, and then to make things worse, a scorpion crawled out of the mouth! This was so horrifying to me that I had nightmares for weeks. Every night I would wake up screaming as I saw that image play in my head over and over again. At one point, my mother stormed into my room, pointed her finger at me and declared, ‘YOU WILL NEVER SEE ANOTHER HORROR FILM AS LONG AS YOU LIVE!!!’ Well, that did not work out so well, and my fascination with horror has never stopped.”

Justin Benson, co-writer/co-director (Resolution, Spring, The Endless, Synchronic and There’s Something in the Dirt, now in theaters)

“In Poltergeist II: The Other Side [1986], Reverend Henry Kane is walking down the street toward the Freeling family’s door, whistling that song… The brilliant performance by Julian Beck is unfortunately not as discussed as much as it should be. It truly is something profound. So much so that his scenes are burned into my childhood memory, yet I couldn’t even tell you what that movie is about. I was so little when I saw it that I remember nothing else about the movie besides those moments, which I may not even be remembering correctly. But the spirit of them was enough to shape my childhood brain. Whatever mental real estate it holds in my mind, no doubt it was a big influence on the girl in the cabin window moment in our first movie Resolution, and probably an inspiration beyond that.”

Aaron Moorhead, co-writer/co-director (Resolution, Spring, The Endless, Synchronic and There’s Something in the Dirt, now in theaters)

“It’s about 11:00 pm, I’m 5 years old, and my parents have put us to sleep and gone to bed. My sister runs into the room, sobbing that she’s scared, can’t sleep and wants to stay in their room.

“‘What’s in your head that’s keeping you up tonight?’ my parents ask. ‘Freddy Krueger! Freddy Krueger—!’ But she’s barely done when I run in, wholly taken by a new level of absolute terror than my sister was presenting, and answer for myself: ‘Unsolved Mysteries, Unsolved Mysteries!’ It wasn’t any individual story from the show [1987], it was the concept of a dark and mysterious world that got in my tiny little brain. Plus, that legendary, unforgettable theme music (can you hear it now?) and Robert Stack’s straightforward delivery, trustworthy tenor, all made an evil horror stew to scar me for life.”

Mena Suvari, actress (American Pie, American Beauty, American Horror Story, and The Accursed, now on VOD)

“Ironically enough, one of the scariest films I saw that ruined my life as a child was Dolls [1986], directed by Stuart Gordon. Many years later, I ended up working with him on a film called Stuck, which I never, in a million years, would have ever thought would happen! Dolls made me deathly afraid of all the collectible dolls that my great-aunt used to keep in her home. She would give me that room to sleep in, and I absolutely hated it!”

Noah Segan, actor (Deadgirl, Starry Eyes, Looper, Knives Out); writer/director/actor (Blood Relatives, now in theaters and exclusively streaming on Shudder November 22)

“When I was barely 7, my father took me to see what I’m sure he thought was a fun fairy tale. The filmmaker’s last movie was Batman, how spooky could it be? [The title character of] Edward Scissorhands [1990] was born for companionship, his whole purpose a design for family. From the start, you root for him, only to stand by as he’s gawked at, shunned, and vilified. The thing is, he is legitimately grotesque. He’s not simply a monster, he’s an unfinished monster. Dude can’t even wipe his own butt. Tim Burton’s funhouse mirror, his chopped and skewed version of a bucolic reality, forced me to face my own fears of being ostracized, alienated. But it also made me a huge Dianne Wiest fan, so that’s cool.”

Charlotte Kirk, actress (Ocean’s Eight, Vice, The Reckoning, and The Lair, now in theaters and on VOD and digital)

“I was maybe 11 or 12, staying at a friend’s house for a sleepover, and we wanted to watch a horror film. They had this DVD of a film called Witchery [1988] starring David Hasselhoff. It was so eerie and scary to me then but is very ’80s now. There was me trying to be brave up until the moment in the film where the characters are told that if you look in the mirror and see the hideous witch in the reflection, it means you are going to die. Like calling out Candyman five times, this totally scared the shit out of me. I was so scared if I looked in the mirror and saw this woman’s face, that was it… her bright yellow hair and black eyes. I remember vividly a scene with a woman’s lips being sewn together whilst she’s alive, then she’s hung by her ankles down a chimney above a fireplace, and her friends, not knowing she is hanging there, light the fire, and she’s slowly burned alive. Later, a man gets nailed to a cross and dies a slow painful death. It may seem tame now, but as a kid, I was absolutely petrified, and it played on my mind for months. Any time I saw a fireplace, I had to look up to make sure there was no one hanging there. Basically, any living room I entered, if I saw a fireplace, it totally freaked me out. And of course, I was always nervous about looking in the mirror!”

Dale Resteghini, director (Shady Grove, now on digital)

“I have such tremendous respect for the storytellers and filmmakers that came before me, and no matter what era a film is made in, if it’s executed properly, the impact will be with the viewer for years and years if not a lifetime.

“Twin horror films at a young age that impacted me were The Omen [1976] and Phantasm [1979]. Coming from a humble working-class family at that time, to see evil of any kind be able to penetrate the wealthy, was something very curious to me. Seeing how an infant, just born, seen in one frame could turn out to be such a monster was shocking. The revealing of the 666 on the skull had me go look in the mirror making sure I didn’t have the mark of the beast on me!

“The score and the visuals effects from Phantasm were something that also stood out for me from horror films being made at that time. The floating shiny steel ball with blades blew me away and had me constantly afraid of walking down long hallways for years.

“Also, the readings of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories all had me scared to sleep!”

Zach Koepp, writer/director (The Willowbrook, now on digital)

“I grew up in a small town in Iowa. When I was 5 years old, my babysitter brought over a copy of the Stephen King adaptation Children of the Corn [1984]. For those unfamiliar with my home state’s claim to fame, Iowa is known for its corn… and I was surrounded by a sea of it. I watched my contemporaries portray evil fanatics on the television screen, but it wasn’t acting to me—it was real life! It took children my age for me to realize how terrifying human beings can be. My neighbor was a pastor, and thanks to John Franklin’s portrayal of the sinister preacher, I had nowhere to go.”

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

Tony Timpone