[EXCLUSIVE COLUMN] – Scarred for Life / June 2023 – Tony Timpone

Many a New York City audience has found themselves Scarred for Life while attending the annual Tribeca Film Festival’s well-curated Midnight programming section. Just a few genre highlights that the fest unspooled over the last 20 years include Hatchet, The Endless, Hounds of Love, My Friend Dahmer, Rabies, Sint, Werewolves Within, Come to Daddy, In Fabric and Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.

Tribeca’s 21st edition, running June 7-18, will launch another slate of eagerly-awaited Midnight discoveries, including the new H.P. Lovecraft-inspired Suitable Flesh and the French zombie mash Final Cut. Peruse the entire Tribeca lineup here https://www.tribecafilm.com. And see below for comments from a trio of Tribeca filmmakers who name the movies that left them Scarred for Life!

Tim Story, director (Ride Along, Barbershop, and The Blackening, screening at the Tribeca Film Festival, June 13-15; in theaters nationwide June 16)

Ben [1972]. My parents always played the song, so I knew it was for a movie because we always had the album around the house. So finally, it appeared on some late-night horror show or bootleg cable channel. I couldn’t have been more than 7 or 8, and it completely scared the crap out of me. Rats eating people!!! Never forgave Michael Jackson for that.”

Dennis Paoli, screenwriter (Re-Animator, From Beyond, Dagon, Body Snatchers, The Dentist, and Suitable Flesh)

The Mask [1961]—not the Jim Carrey mug-fest, but the Canadian psycho-thriller. It was a William Castle-esque 3D freak-out that really did freak my 13-year-old self out. When the actor put on the mask, you put on the 3D ‘Mystic Mask’ glasses and shared visions that were ghastly in every sense—absurdly grotesque and genuinely troubling to me. The character’s obsession controlled your actions. If Lucio Fulci had made the film, I would never have recovered.”

Hugo Ruiz, writer/director (One Night with Adela, screening at the Tribeca Film Festival, June 8-9, 17; streaming Tribeca At Home June 19-July 2)

“The movie that had the biggest impact on me when I was a child was Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining [1980]. And I could not separate myself from the TV when they showed Tales from the Crypt [1989-1996] and Amazing Stories [1985-1986]. In fact, I still enjoy these wonderful classic series with my son.”

Alexander Whitrow, writer/director (Roadkill, now on digital and VOD)

“The scariest thing in a horror film is an element of realism; events that actually could happen or actually have happened. When I think of a film that scarred me for life, I always go back to Snowtown [a.k.a. The Snowtown Murders, 2011]. A curious young me sat down to watch a film about one of my country’s darkest crimes, and holy hell, there was nothing I could have done to prepare myself for the gruesome brutality, dark tone, and mentally disturbing imagery and story of the film. But between scenes like the murder of an innocent dog, the grooming of young boys, and that rape scene, the scene that always sticks with me is the lead watching his bloodied and tortured brother being forced to make a confession before being brutally murdered. Dark stuff. And while I’m sure the filmmakers took some creative liberties, the scariest part of the story is that it all happened not so far away [in South Australia].”

Ryan Whitaker, director (After, now on VOD and DVD)

“Charles Laughton’s southern Gothic masterpiece The Night of the Hunter [1955] is a film I’ve never been able to shake. It contains some of the most memorable and haunting images ever committed to film, many of them featuring a menacing Robert Mitchum as the homicidal preacher Harry Powell—but the one that remains forever etched in my subconscious is the unsettling (and, dare I say, hauntingly beautiful) image of a murdered Shelley Winters strapped into the seat of a car at the bottom of a lake, throat slit from side to side, hair suspended above her head like the gently undulating reeds wreathing her watery grave.”

Scott Leberecht, director (Midnight Son, three-disc collector’s edition releasing on June 27)

Salem’s Lot [1979] scarred me. Specifically, the infamous scene where Danny comes to Mark’s window and asks to be let in. As this creepy whispering vampire scratched at the glass, pleading, I was driven over the edge. I did not sleep that night, even though my curtains were pulled. To this day, the scene haunts me. Reflecting on it as an adult, I think I was triggered by the danger of ‘letting people in’ and how our own actions are usually to blame when we are consumed by ‘monstrous humans.’ That thin membrane—our personal boundaries—are maintained by the decisions we make when others test our willingness to be vulnerable. As Mark began to unlatch the window, an overwhelming horror shook me as I realized he could not control himself, despite the obvious danger. Most likely, the fear of my own ability to resist a monster begging to eat me is what lies at the core of my wound.”

Tom DeNucci, director (Vault, Almost Mercy, and Johnny & Clyde, now on VOD)

Friday the 13th [1980-2001] is the horror franchise that really got me hooked on the genre! I was way too young to be watching it, but something about Jason Voorhees drew me in. Maybe it was the iconic mask? Maybe it was his unique methods of hunting his prey? Whatever it was, for the first time I found myself rooting for the bad guy. I’m cheering him on as he tracks down and dismantles all the happy campers.  There’s a lot of ‘root for the bad guy’ vibes in Johnny & Clyde.”

Jay Burleson, writer/director (The Nobodies; The Third Saturday in October Part V and The Third Saturday in October, now on digital and VOD)

“Out of all the classic horror films I saw as a kid, the one that left me with the most emotional damage was Tommy Lee Wallace’s It miniseries [1990]. I can still recall pacing the rooms of my childhood home during the commercial breaks, fearful of what might be lurking in them and needing to know there was nothing there. It didn’t leave me with a lifelong fear of clowns, but perhaps reinforced something I was already learning in life: These adults really can’t be trusted.”

Justin M. Seaman, director (The Barn, Cryptids and The Barn Part II, now streaming on Screambox)

“The first horror film I ever watched as a kid was Trick or Treat [1986]. There was something terrifying but awesome to me about the character of Sammi Curr. How the film mixed rock ’n’ roll with horror definitely influenced my ever-growing taste for metal and genre films. Looking back now, the film isn’t scary at all, but will forever hold a special place in my monster heart. It was also the film I used to introduce my own son into the world of scary movies.”

Paul Dudbridge, director (Fear the Invisible Man, on digital, VOD, and DVD on June 13)

“A film that scarred me for life was The Fly [1958], which I watched with my mum when I was about 10 on holiday in our caravan. It was the ending with David Hedison as the fly caught in the spider’s web calling out for help to Vincent Price and Herbert Marshall. To me, it was terrifying on many levels; the fact that he was about to be eaten by a big spider, plus his distress and helplessness. Both these things made the scene work so well, but also made the 10-year-old me not sleep that night. Years later, I watched the remake with Jeff Goldblum and loved it and it’s one of my favorite horror films to this day.”

(See here http://gruesomemagazine.com/author/tonytimpone/ for a link to past Scarred for Life columns. Follow me on Twitter: @tonytimpone1 and Instagram: timponetony)

Tony Timpone