[Exclusive Column] SCARRED FOR LIFE – MAY 2024 – Tony Timpone

For followers of this Scarred for Life column, the go-to decade for many has been the 1980s. Those prime years have haunted many generations. But this month, in a refreshing change, our contributors dig back a little deeper (the 1970s, ’50s, and even the ’20s!) and forward (the current millennium) in an effort to exorcise past cinematic traumas.

Yeardley Smith, actress (The Simpsons, Dead Like Me, Toys, Maximum Overdrive, and Possessions, now on VOD)

“When I was about 12 years old, I saw the silent film Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror, and it scared the shit out of me! The film was made in 1922, and the appearance of Count Orlok, the evil vampire, haunted me for years. He wasn’t the handsome Dracula we’ve all come to expect. He was tall, with sunken eyes, bad teeth (ironically), and a creepy, I-want-to-poison-your-soul vibe. He could have been your creepy uncle. He would also appear at your window in the dead of night. No thanks!

“As a child growing up in Washington, DC, my bedroom was on the third floor of our skinny row house, and there was a huge tree outside my window. There were no curtains, and the tree branches would cast thick shadows across the walls and slap against the window during storms. My worst nightmare was that one night I would look over and see a stranger in the window staring back at me. After I saw Nosferatu, Count Orlok’s face haunted me for years.”

Sébastien Vanicek, writer/director (Infested, now streaming on Shudder)

High Tension [2003]: I remember being a teenager, watching the channel Canal+ at a friend’s house, not knowing what this movie was about. Just two girls finding a place to study … and then everything exploded! I was blown away by the tension, stuck in my chair, and couldn’t get my eyes off of the screen even if I was so scared. I remember feeling the movie through my stomach. It was really physical. The first time I was experiencing a movie through my body. I remember the sound, the music, especially in one of the most crucial scenes with [the song] ‘New Born’ by Muse [playing]. That scene still haunts me. High Tension made me discover the famous ‘French Frayeur’ and some other intense movies like Martyrs. I’ve never rewatched them since. I like to keep them as body memory.”

Kimo Stamboel, director (Headshot, DreadOut, The Queen of Black Magic, and Dancing Village: The Curse Begins, now in theaters)

“The one film that really affected me when I was around 6 or 7 years old (and traumatized me a little!) is 1983’s Twilight Zone—The Movie. I watched it with my brother at night on VHS, and he left me alone for a toilet break when the segment on the plane (“Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”) started. That scene, with the creature outside on the plane’s wing, has stayed stamped on me for life. I rewatched it again when I was older, and it still gave me the same fun, thrilling experience. It’s such a classic movie!”

Erik Bloomquist,co-writer/director (Ten Minutes to Midnight, Night at the Eagle Inn and Founder’s Day, now on digital and VOD)

“Almost certainly past my bedtime (and when I was way too young), I stumbled into my dad watching the end of Misery [1990] on TCM around the time of the final fight. As things escalated from fire catching to eyes gouging to forced paper eating, and the language they used increasingly violent, I saw adults in a way I never had before. I couldn’t reconcile and make sense of what was happening, which disturbed me in a very deep and significant way.”

Jenna Kanell, actress (Terrifier, Terrifier 2, Renfield, and Faceless After Dark, in theaters and digital May 17)

“I’ve never been quite the same after watching John Carpenter’s The Thing [1982]. The use of environment to create a crushing, isolating claustrophobia. The subtle burn of a paranoia that spreads and contaminates like an oil spill. The dance of acting and writing that crumble a community. The motivated lighting. The score. And, of course, those unbelievable practical effects. Everything about that film was a powerhouse at the time and continues to inspire and terrify all these decades later.”

Dan De Luca, actor (The Wire); writer/producer/actor (The Night Watchmen, A Comedy of Horrors, Volume 1 and A Town Called Purgatory, screening at Monsterpalooza June 2)

“I was way too young when I first saw Cannibal Holocaust [1980], but even now, I can’t bring myself to rewatch it. This gritty, hyper-realistic Italian horror film by Ruggero Deodato captures an anthropologist leading a rescue mission into the Amazon to find a film crew that vanished while shooting a documentary. It was essentially a found footage film 20 years before our friend, Eduardo Sanchez, turned the concept into a global phenomenon with The Blair Witch Project.

“The violence is visceral and unflinching: a woman impaled on a stake, a man gruesomely emasculated, along with rampant animal and human mutilation. The realism was so pronounced that Deodato was actually charged with murder, and as a kid, I felt I was watching just that. Of course, Deodato was eventually exonerated when the supposed victims appeared in interviews on Italian TV. The film left visuals in my mind, too intense to revisit.”

Ken Arnold, actor (Satanic Hispanics); writer/producer/actor (The Night Watchmen, A Comedy of Horrors, Volume 1 and A Town Called Purgatory, screening at Monsterpalooza June 2)

“When I was a little kid, my parents would drop us off at Grandma’s house on the weekends to spend the night when they would go out and have some fun. Well, Grandma loved scary horror films, and my grandfather wouldn’t watch them with her. He was a Western guy. So, she would make us stay up with her because she was afraid, and watch all kinds of horror movies. From the old Hammer horror films, the Universal monsters, the Godzilla flicks, to the ones we all know and love. But the one that I still have nightmares about is the 1975 Karen Black Trilogy of Terror segment, ‘Amelia.’ The aboriginal warrior, named ‘Zuni, He Who Kills,’ scared the living daylights out of me. I first watched it when I was 6 years old and had terrible nightmares about it for weeks after, always waking up saying I was being chased by a doll with googly eyes. To this day, I sometimes dream about that doll with the pointy teeth chasing me, my legs feeling like lead and I can’t get away.

“Fortunately, Grandma lived to be 99 and got to see some of the horror films I appear in and produced, always stating when I hit the screen, ‘There’s my Kenny!’ She watched scary/horror movies all the time, even just before she passed. She was a true lover of horror, and she was that influence on me that made me fall in love with the genre. She was a cool, horror-loving lady.”

Deborah Ayorinde, actress (Them, True Detective, Luke Cage and Them: The Scare, now streaming on Amazon Prime Video)

The Hills Have Eyes [2006]! I don’t know what it was about that film. Maybe it was the historical aspects of it, but I had to literally walk out of the cinema and take a quick break and come back in to finish.”

Marc Zammit, co-writer/co-director (Witch, now on digital and VOD)

“The scariest film is The Ring [2002]. Every time I watch this film, I’m like, ‘Ahhhh!’ I think it’s the whole style and eeriness of it too! I find ghosts scary, so the thought of something being there, right in front of you like an old tortured soul deciding to take its shit out on you, terrifies me. Every time I watch that film, I get that feeling something is behind me going up the dark stairs, so I go faster. And that night I am sleeping and think, ‘Yeah, I bet she’s standing right over my bed,’ and I switch on the light to just make sure. Yep, I’m that guy! The Ring is a very cleverly crafted film! My girlfriend Stella and I were flicking through some films to watch, and as soon as it came on screen, she was like, ‘Ahhh, no. I can’t watch this. It’s my scariest film.’ To which I said, ‘No way, me too! So do we get scared together?’ We whimpered out that night!”

Craig Hinde, producer (Hosts, Frankenstein’s Creature); co-writer/co-director (Witch, now on digital and VOD)

“The horror film that definitely stayed with me was The Fly, the original one from 1958 with Vincent Price and Patricia Owens. I’ve always been a big fan of truly tense horror narratives, the ones that don’t rely on jump scares, and The Fly is one of the most chilling horror stories ever told! The end scene, when the fly is trapped on the spider’s web, is truly one of the most disturbing moments in cinema history, and it’s the one that never left me.”

(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