[Exclusive Column] SCARRED FOR LIFE – November 2023 – Tony Timpone

Halloween may be over, but let’s make November a month to dismember! Check out the latest lineup of film favorites that left this month’s genre writers, directors, and actors (and one notable drive-in movie host!) Scarred for Life!

Joe Bob Briggs, host (The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs, now streaming on Shudder)

“The movie that had a lifelong effect on me is not really a horror movie, it’s more of a film noir, called The Big Carnival [1951]. Or at least that’s the title they were using when I watched it on television as a boy. I see that it was originally titled Ace in the Hole. It’s the story of a cynical, ruthless newspaper reporter, played by Kirk Douglas, trying to save his career, who latches on to the breaking news story of an average guy named Leo, who’s been trapped in a cave that caved-in, in New Mexico. Douglas stage-manages the rescue operation, manipulating Leo’s estranged wife and the local politicians, so that the rescue operation will last as long as possible so that he can go down into the area where Leo is trapped and do an exclusive interview with him every day. If claustrophobia is your greatest fear, as it is mine, it’s the story of a man plotting your slow death. It’s also a great movie that, as I later learned, was written, produced, and directed by Billy Wilder.”

Eric Griffin, co-writer/co-director (HeBGB TV, now streaming on Screambox)

“For me, the earliest film to actually scare me was probably Pumpkinhead [1988]. It wasn’t only the terrifying design and sheer scale of the titular monster that invaded my nightmares. The oppressive atmosphere of the setting, the overuse of wind machines and lightning flashes, the weight of guilt, regret, and vengeance, and, of course, the unsettling look and sound of the witch has left a lasting impact on my soul to this day. No monster is cooler than Pumpkinhead, and no movie sends a chill up my spine that takes me right back to the Halloweens of my youth quite like this Stan Winston masterpiece.”

Jake McClellan, co-writer/co-director (HeBGB TV, now streaming on Screambox)

“A moment in film that shook me to my core, and many others my age, were the slender aliens in Signs [2002] at that birthday party. If you know, you know. Signs terrified a generation of millennial kids and their parents. Personally, I can never look into the reflection of an off CRT TV alone again. The anxiety and tension built into this film is stellar and straight-up freaked me out for years. I grew up in Pennsylvania, and so the fact Signs was filmed a few counties away made it too real. Thanks, M. Knight!”

Adam Lenhart, co-writer/co-director (HeBGB TV, now streaming on Screambox)

“I was a kid in the mid-’90s, and it was all going so well until I saw a TV spot for Child’s Play 2 [1990] on USA Network and had to bring back the nightlight. I didn’t even need to see the whole movie to know that this murderous doll would now be my new childhood tormentor and the cause of many sleepless nights.”

Zeph E. Daniel, writer (Society, Bride of Re-Animator, Girl Next, and The Quantum Devil, now on digital and VOD)

“The film that scarred me for life was Invaders from Mars [1953]. I was very young, 6 years old the first time, then 9 when I saw it on TV the second time. The mind control, the implants, the underground location—and especially the changes in behavior of the Martian victims resonated with me as something real and completely freaked me out. Could not sleep. It affected me as an allegory about society in general. The more recent version [1986] did not affect me like that. The reason I was affected so emotionally and literally with pure terror was that I believed it could happen. Anyway, never forgot the experience.”

Ellen Adair, actress (Bull, Homeland and Herd, now on digital and VOD)

“I saw Event Horizon [1997] as a very young person, at a friend’s slumber party. When it was put on, I thought it was going to be a sci-fi movie—and I wonder if my host friend thought that, too. Without question, my friend’s parents did not closely vet the DVD box when it was rented. And without question, I was completely horrified. Scarred. Traumatized. What I remember most clearly is the unscrambled footage of people in Hell, and Sam Neill, possessed by the Devil, with his eyes gouged out. Sam Neill with his eyes gouged out was present for me every time the lights went out for years. To this day, I have a really hard time with horror movies that deal with possession.

Mitzi Akaha, actress (Dark Side of the Moon, Bull and Herd, now on digital and VOD)

“I was a hopeless wimp when I was younger (avoided bathtubs for months after seeing The Little Mermaid for fear that Ursula would tentacle-sucker me through the drain), but in college, I saw Kwaidan [1964] and was bewitched. It’s a series of short ghost stories by Masaki Kobayashi, based on a book from 1904 by Lafcadio Hearn, as an introduction to a then still-exotic Japan. It soaked me in this feeling of rapturous awe. I was so overcome by the atmospherically dreamy and rich imagery and the spell-casting pace of it. It was a kind of horror I didn’t know existed; it was spiritual, ancestral haunting, and I saw it at a time when I was actively trying to own the repressed half of my Japanese-American heritage. I cry thinking about it.”

Andy Armstrong, writer/director (Squealer, now in theaters and on digital and VOD)

“My answer to which movie or TV show had a lasting impact on me would have to be Hitchcock’s Psycho [1960] and its shower scene. Like many other people after seeing that movie, the act of taking a simple shower was never the same again. However, as well as having a great impact on me, it also caused me to analyze the movie to find out why that scene had such a profound effect.

“My conclusion is that even though Hitchcock used absolutely no shots with knife and body combined, the total vulnerability of Janet Leigh was emphasized by her nakedness, running water, an opaque shower curtain, and the stark, cold whiteness of the bathroom. The lack of clear identification of the assailant slashing with a large sharp knife only added to the shocking violence. There was no reason, no compassion, and absolutely no way for the victim to defend herself or in any way prevent her murder. She was truly a random and innocent victim.

“The fact Psycho takes place in a relatively ‘normal’ setting of a motel clearly suggested: This could happen to anyone on a road trip looking for a place to rest for a night. For me, the most terrifying horrors are those which can take place in an otherwise ‘normal’ world.”

Jared Allmond, writer/director (The Hive, now on digital and VOD)

“When I first saw the movie Persona [1966], the scene where Elisabet sees the Vietnam War protest on TV really struck me. Ingmar Bergman has a knack for making the viewer viscerally feel the character’s emotions. There is no exception to this idea when Elisabet sees the disturbing images of the monk burning alive. The editing, sound design, and, of course, the performance by Liv Ullmann made me feel terror in the pit of my gut the way Elisabet felt it, and it still does whenever I see it.”

Jeremy Holm, actor (Brooklyn 45, The Ranger, Mr. Robot, Don’t Look Back and Herd, now on digital and VOD)

The Mummy [1932], which I saw on a tiny TV on a Saturday afternoon in the mountains of Colorado. The movie gave me persistent and terrifying nightmares in which a mummy stalked me from the mountain caves where I lived, into my house, and then my darkened room. I could even smell the cold death on the Mummy in my nightmares.”

(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