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

Death never takes a holiday, even if it’s Christmas! This celebratory season welcomes a plethora of cinematic Yuletide nightmares and Merry massacres. Our first six Scarred for Life contributors below all directed horror flicks set during Christmas time…and you can catch them all month long! No humbug here. Just a little blood to go with your egg nog. 

Damien LeVeck, director (The Cleansing Hour and A Creature Was Stirring, world premiere at NYC Horror Film Festival www.nychorrorfest.com December 7; in theaters Dec. 8; available on digital Dec. 12)

“I was particularly affected by Making Contact [1985], directed by Roland Emmerich. A boy develops telekinetic powers and finds a ventriloquist doll that comes to life and wreaks havoc. I was maybe 8 when I saw this movie, and it scared the daylights out of me. There’s nothing scarier than an evil talking doll (except clowns and politicians).”

Jennifer Wexler, writer/director (The Ranger and The Sacrifice Game, streaming on Shudder December 8)

“The movie that scarred me for life was 2000’s Final Destination (and its sequels), which I first saw as a young teen. Unlike other films that have simply scared me, the Final Destination movies actively affected my day-to-day habits and how I physically move through the world. For instance, I will never walk under a fire escape. I will never drive behind a log truck, and water bottles are not allowed on the floor of my car. I’m very wary about elevators, roller coasters, and escalators, and the opening sequence from the original film is one I emotionally revisit every time I get on a plane. So, thanks, Final Destination franchise, for successfully freaking me out about most things.”

Adam Marcus, co-writer (Texas Chainsaw and Momentum); director (Jason Goes to Hell and Secret Santa, now streaming on Screambox)

Art by Adam Marcus
Art by Adam Marcus

“It’s the late ’70s and I’m not even 10 yet, and my family had a tradition of watching horror films together on television. And someone at ABC thought it would be a great idea to put the television network premiere of Burnt Offerings [1976] on at an early hour so all the kiddies could watch. And yeah, that movie is fucking terrifying! I mean, it’s creepy as hell until … yeah, you know the scene … the moment after Bette Davis’ aunt character dies and in comes the hearse driver! Now, his first appearance scared me, but his second—when he came into the kid’s bedroom in the middle of the night—well, that did it. I spent the next decade scared to death of that guy, and I’ve spent the rest of my life chasing that feeling both in my real life and in my filmmaking! What’s worse is that my mom started dating a dude who looked just like him, but that’s a story for a therapist.”

Benjamin Edelman, co-writer/co-director (Santastein, streaming on Screambox December 19)

“Nicholas McCarthy’s The Pact [2012] paralyzed me. I remember not being able to blink the entire film—unable to move once it ended. The longest-lasting sensation of fear a movie has given me. I recommend going in completely blind.”

Manuel Camilion, co-writer/co-director (Santastein, streaming on Screambox December 19)

Freddy vs. Jason [2003] was the gnarliest movie 11-year-old me had ever seen. The raw power that Jason emanated clashed against the imaginative killings of Freddy Krueger in a way that, to this day, has me afraid of sleeping near a lake. Best of its kind.”

Zac Locke, director (Santa Isn’t Real, on digital and VOD December 8)

A Clockwork Orange [1971]. I was 16 years old, and I’ve never been more scared to walk alone at night than after watching this one at my friend’s house. It’s the kind of horror that stays with you forever and makes you believe that the scariest things in the world are not ghosts or aliens or zombies, but other human beings. Which is true, by the way.”

Andrew Bowser, writer/director/actor (Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls, now on digital and streaming on Screambox)

“I snuck downstairs late one night and turned on the TV (I couldn’t sleep). Immediately, a garish image formed on the screen of a man with a bandage around his arm being cut open by a toy sword … At least that’s what I remember. Then, as his bandage split, a snake head shot out and began hissing loudly. His arm … was a snake? I turned the TV off and promptly went back to bed. I was 8 at the time. I wouldn’t find out until 30 years later that the movie was Curse II: The Bite [1989].”

David Hebrero, co-writer/director (Everyone Will Burn, now in theaters and on digital)

“A movie that terrified me as a kid was Takashi Miike’s One Missed Call [2003]. I had a broken leg when I was around 13, and all I did was watch movies since I couldn’t really move. One Missed Call had a massive impact on me. Tonally and atmospherically, the supernatural aspect was approached with such naturalism that stuck with me. And that late-night show scene!”

Thomas Sainsbury, writer/director(Loop Track, now on digital and VOD)

“I watched The Hand That Rocks the Cradle [1992] when I was too young. It is a glorious B-grade thriller starring Rebecca De Mornay and Julianne Moore, but it packed such a punch for my little mind! The horror images that are seared in there are Moore’s death scene (an elaborate glass-house murder), De Mornay breastfeeding a baby that wasn’t hers, and also De Mornay sabotaging an asthma inhaler.

“Can I also do a shout-out to the terrifying Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds concept album [1978]? I know it’s not a film but, my goodness, the sound the aliens made led to many sleepless nights.”

Dominic Ross, writer/director (You’re All Going to Die, now on DVD and VOD)

“The one movie that scared the life out of me as a child has to be John Carpenter’s The Thing [1982]. I was way too young to be exposed to this level of horror, but it left an indelible impression on my taste in cinema. I always hoped to give audiences the same visceral reaction.”

(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