Happy New Fear to all you horror aficionados out there. Any resolutions for 2024? How about reading more books? That’s my goal. Instead of watching Halloween for the 29th time, I’m gonna crack open as many of those old tomes gathering dust on my shelves as I can and enjoy the printed word.
I’m also peppering in some notable horror authors into my monthly column to find out what TV and cinematic chillers left them Scarred for Life! Boo!
Michael Libling, author (Hollywood North: A Novel in Six Reels and The Serial Killer’s Son Takes a Wife, now available in bookstores and here)
“I grew up in the small town of Trenton, Ontario, where Saturday matinees at the local Odeon were a weekly ritual, right into the mid-’60s. It took a lot of whining until my mother allowed me to attend the horror screenings. She was certain I’d get nightmares. I did, of course, but somehow managed to hide my night terrors from her.
“For me, the most traumatizing of the lot was Horrors of the Black Museum , starting with the opening scene. An unexpected package arrives at a woman’s door. She’s delighted to discover a pair of binoculars inside and promptly runs to the window to try them out. No sooner does she adjust the focus than two spikes pop from the eyepieces and into her eyes. I have never held binoculars to my eyes since without adjusting them first.
“The movie version of Capote’s In Cold Blood  also got to me in a way that still sits in my brain. It’s where the oldest daughter lies tied to her bed, whimpering, pleading, ‘Please don’t. Please,’ before the shotgun blast ends her life. Real-life horror is the worst horror.”
Barnaby Clay, writer/director (The Seeding, in theaters and on VOD January 26)
“My friend’s dad used to show us horror movies, and he also lived in a really old, huge, scary house. That combination was pretty, pretty, pretty terrifying [laughs]. He used to show us these movies at night, and then I had to go back to my bedroom, alone, and just freak out. Once he showed me John Frankenheimer’s psychological horror film Seconds  when I was really young, maybe 11, definitely too young for a film like that. And I just did not know what to make of that. It was just such a freaky film. That Rock Hudson movie was definitely something which stood out for me at a very young age. Actually, I’m writing a film now, which will hopefully be my next film, and it has shades of Seconds.
“For his son’s birthday, another dad—it’s always someone’s dad!—took us to this place called the London Dungeons, which is basically the horror version of Madame Tussaud’s, but horrifically frightening. And then he took us to the ICA [Institute of Contemporary Arts] in London, and we saw Captain Clegg [a.k.a. Night Creatures, 1962], which is a Hammer horror film with Peter Cushing. And it is not scary at all if you watch it now, but it scared the living shit out of me. The combination of that and London Dungeons was too much for my 7-year-old mind [laughs].”
Kyle Butenhoff, actor (Mayans M.C., Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story) and actor/writer/director (Laced, on digital and VOD January 12)
“My parents had a very loose grasp on the parental rating system. My father thought The Godfather  was excellent viewing for the whole family, including his 9-year-old son. So, needless to say, it was very hard for any film to throw me after a particular scene involving a horse’s head. However, the first time I watched The Silence of the Lambs  my world changed for the darker. Men wanted to abduct you for your skin. People would eat you just for sport. Heads floated in glass jars in unassuming storage lockers! Ever since that film, serial killers and crime became a macabre comfort to me, and my taste in movies forever shifted to the evil that lurks in people’s hearts.”
“The movie that permanently rewired my brain was Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama  on USA’s Up All Night with Gilbert Gottfried. The movie had everything! An insane rubber puppet named Uncle Impy. Nerds. Babes. And, of course, Bride of Frankenstein shoving a guy’s head into a bowling ball cleaner.
“I have a few core memories of my father, and this might be my favorite. It felt like we had uncovered hidden treasure or opened a portal to another dimension. This felt less like a movie and more like a dream. I’ve been chasing that high ever since.”
Andrew Baird, director (Zone 414, One Way, and Sunrise, on digital, VOD, and in theaters January 19)
“I saw Ken Russell’s The Devils  in art school in Ireland in 1996. My late uncle Roy co-produced this for Ken, along with several other pictures including Women in Love. I was writing a thesis on Ken’s body of work. The extraordinary and haunting world that Derek Jarman’s white sets created left an indelible mark on me. The visionary brutality and catharsis in the film, unforgettable.
“I saw the picture again at the Silent Movie Theatre on Fairfax Avenue in LA, Summer 2016. Seeing it on the big screen a decade after first seeing it on the small screen was like viewing it afresh with elevated intensity and emotional impact. A seminal, iconic, unforgettable film about faith. The experience of The Devils has never left me and has always influenced my work.”
Lars Janssen, co-writer/producer/director/ (Underground, now streaming on Screambox)
“One specific episode of The X-Files traumatized me as a child. I was completely unaware of what to expect and saw it on television. It’s episode two of season four called ‘Home’  I’m not entirely sure if I saw it during the year of its original release, but around that time, I was just 9 years old.
“The episode was particularly controversial for its graphic content and disturbing themes, even leading to it being banned from network reruns. The story revolves around an incestuous family with severe genetic abnormalities (think The Hills Have Eyes). I don’t remember too many details, but what I do remember is the very unsettling image of a dimly lit room and an old grimy bed being turned over with a woman strapped to it. Let’s say it wasn’t a pretty sight at all.
“Until this day, I haven’t rewatched the episode. When I look up screenshots, I immediately get goosebumps, and when I encounter beds that have a gap underneath, I have to resist not looking underneath just to make sure that this time fiction hasn’t turned into reality.”
George Pavlou, director (Little Devils: The Birth, Rawhead Rex, and Underworld, now available on 4K UHD disc from Kino Cult)
“My earliest trauma watching a film was The Brave One  when I was 4 years old. I had never seen a film or TV show when I was taken to the outdoor cinema screening in our small seaside town in Cyprus by my mother. Although sadder and more emotive than horror, the emotional scenes of the young Mexican boy watching his beloved bull tortured in the bullfighting scene was horrifying as I felt a deep connection with the boy’s suffering. Although only 4 years old, I still remember the tears and also anger I felt for my mother for bringing me to experience this as I thought what I was watching was real.
“We were very poor and didn’t own a TV until I was around 13. However, I was a boarder in a Catholic convent school, and the nuns allowed us to watch TV for a couple of hours on weekends. One of the shows featured Doctor Who’s Daleks and probably this was my first horrifying experience which gave me sleepless nights. That cry of ‘We are the Daleks’ terrified me.
“The supernatural always touches a nerve with me, which was probably caused by a Ouija board experience gone horribly wrong as a teenager. Subsequently, Night of the Demon, Rosemary’s Baby, and similar supernatural films of the 1960s terrified me. Although a sci-fi film, 1967’s Quatermass and the Pit’s final ending of the implied devil outlined as a shimmering shining light had a similar disturbing effect on me.
“As a teenager, I still hadn’t shaken off the deep religious indoctrination I received from my time at the convent and, coupled with the fear of being possessed after the bad Ouija board experience, maybe it was a mistake to attend a screening of The Exorcist  while high. As a Greek person myself, the connection I had with the Greek priest Father Karras created in my mind that this was the most disturbing film I had ever seen, and it traumatized me forever. I have never been able to watch a possession film since—well, not alone anyway, and I will have to sleep with the lights on!”
Andy Edwards, writer/director (Midnight Peepshow, Graphic Desires and Punch, on digital and VOD January 16)
“Growing up in 1980s Britain, life-scarring experiences were a daily occurrence. From milk-snatcher Margaret Thatcher to the Public Information films that showed children dying in fires, being trapped in discarded refrigerators, or getting their kites stuck on electricity pylons.
“But the one I’ll go with for the greatest impact is Watership Down . At first glance, it’s a charming tale of animated rabbits you could happily let your kids sit in front of. But Disney this is not. Instead, the bright crimson blood flows like a Sam Peckinpah film, and the haunting phrase, ‘There’s a dog loose in the woods,’ still sends a shiver up my spine. A genuinely traumatic experience that means I can never listen to Art Garfunkel’s ‘Bright Eyes’ ever again.”
Gabe Torres, director (Scariest Places on Earth, Brake, and The Windigo, on digital, DVD, and VOD January 9)
“As a kid, I vividly remember watching The Haunting  on TV and being too scared to turn away. It was brilliant at not showing too much, and that’s where the fear came from. I remember a sequence where a face appears in the wall plaster design and maybe it’s a face, maybe not, but it freaked me out and for months, I saw faces in the wallpaper of my room at night. I finally covered the walls with posters, so I wouldn’t be scared.”
Bret Nelson, author (Murder Garden / Bog Fiends: An Encyclopocalypse Double Tap https://www.encyclopocalypse.com/product/murder-garden-bog-fiends/149?cp=true&sa=true&sbp=false&q=false)
“For my 11th birthday, I was given A Pictorial History of Horror Movies by Denis Gifford. The book is full of sharp, great shots, and the two that made me dread their pages were: 1) The chlorophyll monster from The Mad Doctor of Blood Island  and 2) And (believe it or not), a shot from the Edison Studios 1910 version of Frankenstein. The monster’s hands still haunt me.
“This book about horror films hollowed out part of my brain and has nested there ever since.”
(See here http://gruesomemagazine.com/author/tonytimpone/ for a link to past Scarred for Life columns. Follow me on Twitter: @tonytimpone1 and Instagram: timponetony)