At last it’s October, and we’re celebrating Halloween all month long. To kick things off, several of our writers have each agreed to share what freaked them out the most – as it relates to movies, TV, comics, books, or pop culture, naturally.
J. Nisen: Pim & Francie: The Golden Bear Days
Without a doubt, the scariest thing I’ve ever read – comic book or otherwise – is Pim & Francie: The Golden Bear Days. I reviewed it six years ago for Under the Radar magazine, and every time I think of that book, I still feel a little like throwing up. Basically, Al Columbia masterfully juxtaposes comics drawn in a classic animation style (think early early Mickey Mouse) with just revolting, disturbing, horrific creatures and images, sometimes in a similar art style, but often employing more-realistic looking maws and eyes, implements of terror, spittle-spewing creatures and maniacs.
The book itself isn’t a narrative in anything but the loosest sense, yet the fever-dream-like collection twists and turns your sensibilities with every page and the book is definitely more horrifying than the sum of its quite terrifying parts. Not for the squeamish.
Tabitha Davis: Stephen King’s IT
The question at hand, to share a memory of something that really creeped me out. The skeksis and their quest? The hanging Lost Boys who opened their eyes and talked? Perhaps the pods opening in V? No, none could compare to the adventures of my first reading of Stephan King’s iconic book IT. It was 1994 and I had just finished my first King book, The Eyes of the Dragon, one of his tamer novels. How did people even think this guy was a horror writer? I found the book at a thrift store and sneaked it into my room, sure my parents would never let me read it. Tim Curry’s pale face adorned the cover, but who could be afraid of clowns? Not even Curry’s performance as a demon in Legend could have prepared me for the horror in the pages of that book. At 14, it was the last of my childhood, as it was for the kids in the book. With every chapter I left more lights on when I went to bed – and the cover of the book? I could swear that Pennywise’s eyes were glowing in the dark. I started sleeping with the cover down because I knew, KNEW, that creepy clown was watching me sleep. As I finished the final chapter in the last hours of the night I worried that I might have nightmares. I had just fallen asleep when the ground began to shake. In my stupor, for maybe five seconds, I was absolutely convinced that somewhere underground a giant alien creature was rising from its slumber to destroy us all. Of course, it was only an earthquake.
A few years later, I finally saw the famous mini-series based on the book. While the whole thing seemed almost laughable compared to the book, which had made showering alone a challenge in the weeks after I finished reading, that clown will always haunt me. To his credit, Tim Curry has been the guest star in many dreams since then. His perfect embodiment of the alien clown will always be, for me, the last terrifying part of my childhood, the last monster I almost believed in.
Daniel Capelluto-Woizinski: The Devil’s Rejects
When I was 16, my mom had a coworker come to Toronto from New Jersey on business, and she brought her son and daughter with her. Because we were about the same age, my mom assigned my brother and I tour-guide duty for the kids. And let me tell you, these New Jersey kids were cool as hell. So when they suggested going to a movie I enthusiastically agreed and, several seconds later, when they suggested that movie be The Devil’s Rejects I agreed again, this time with notably less enthusiasm. Wanting to impress my new American friends, I avoided mentioning that I was incredibly scared of horror movies, and had a history of walking out of even PG-13 action flicks if things started to get a little too spooky. My brother failed to mention this too, so off we went. I didn’t think I’d be able to sneak off and run home without anyone noticing, so I resorted to plan B and pretended to fall asleep shortly before the movie, and kept my eyes closed for the whole runtime. What followed was two hours of the most horrifying sounds of murder and gore that I could ever have imagined. I am absolutely certain that I made The Devil’s Rejects much, much worse than if I’d just sat and watched the goddamn thing, and I don’t think anything in the world of horror has stuck with me as vividly as that radio play of gunshots, screams and blood splatters.
Joel Arellano: Zombi 2
What freaked me out the most? Zombies and porn. Years ago, I was visiting relatives as a pre-teen. A slew of us kids were all packed in the same room, sleeping on the floor. Or well, trying, anyway. The adults watched two movies: Zombie 2 by Italian director Lucio Fulci, followed by some lesbian porn. Anyway, I kept periodically peeking at both films throughout, effectively traumatizing me. While I’m okay with the latter (thank you, adolescent hormones!), I steer clear of the more gory types of movies these days.
Jeremy Ponti: Creepy Crawlers
I don’t scare easy anymore. Horror films, haunted houses, gore… none of that fazes me. But I will tell you, bugs and insects give me the heebies. I think the amount of legs a creepy crawly has, directly affects the proportion of fear I feel. I would never be able to make it as a survivalist if we were tasked to survive by eating bugs.
You know, I’m good… I’ll just wait for a steak.
I think it’s the main reason why I don’t do nature. My friends always want to have a picnic or walk in the woods or hike… That’s okay. I’ll stay right here with a controller in my hand playing video games. I’m good.
What freaked me out the most? Thinking back, there are a few things that scared the heebie jeebies out of me. The original Evil Dead has more than one hide-behind-the-couch moment, and Flyboy’s tragic death in the original Dawn of the Dead still gets me today. But stuff that gets under your skin is different. The Last Horror Movie is an intense look at a serial killer who talks directly to the camera and films his killings on an old horror VHS tape that you, the viewer have found in the video store. The still shots of him hiding in his victims’ homes, then slowly killing them while we watch is just horrific. The marrow-sucking scene from Necronomicon makes me feel queasy every time I see it. Moving to TV now we have Urban Gothic, a series of shows showcasing various monsters and all linking in to the idea that the city of London is alive. Each one had their own disturbing scenes. But by far the most unsettling thing I have watched so far has to be American Horror Story, so much so that I am only on series one as I have to keep stopping it and having a fright break!
Bob, NRQ Podcast: The Shining
I can remember many instances from childhood where my brothers and I found ourselves staying up all night to defend each other from some monster we’d seen earlier that evening. But the one that stands out the most would be the dog suit scene in The Shining. It’s such a small, almost insignificant shot, but good lord did it wreck me at the time. I had just turned 9 years old that Halloween night; my younger brother and I were standing in the hallway as my father was watching The Shining. We paid it no mind until we both happened to look up and watch the scene where the man in a dog suit is performing fellatio on a man in a tuxedo. At first we thought it was hysterical, laughing and asking our father why the man “was dressed like a squirrel” and “what was he doing?” But then suddenly, at the exact same moment, it was like we both simultaneously and spontaneously recognized the horror that lay in the disturbing ambiguity of what we had just seen, and all hell broke loose. We lost our absolute minds, screaming and running in all directions while my father just cackled in our faces at how ridiculous the scenario that had just played out before him was. Thanks Dad.
Scott Fraser: Childs Play 2 Poster
Yeah, that’s right. A poster scared the shit out of me when I was a kid. Don’t look at me like that. You don’t know me. If you want to throw down, I’ll throw down. Where was I? Right, posters. As a young child with older brothers I was often subjected to movies and videos that were way above my age group. IT, An American Werewolf in London, the theme song from Unsolved Mysteries, the oldschool UFC videos that you had to be 18+ to rent from the video store (remember those?), all of these had a negative impact on my fragile adolescent mind. This may or may not have taken years to overcome (it did), but eventually resulted in a deep seated love of all things horror. Which makes my scariest thing even more ridiculous.
My older brother, not content with showing me IT and watching my developing fear of clowns, decorated his room with a number of movie posters. Predator and Total Recall are a couple I remember, but those didn’t bother me at all. No, it was the poster for Child’s Play 2, which featured the menacing doll Chucky preparing to cut the head off of a terrified jack-in-the-box with garden shears. Pretty tame stuff nowadays, but back then it freaked me right out. Walking past his bedroom door Chucky’s eyes would follow me, clearly wanting to lop my tiny head off with those shears. Eventually my brother acknowledged my fear as probably not a good thing and put 3D glasses over the poster’s eyes, ending the apparent threat. Kids are weird. Now, let’s never talk about this again.
Brian Kronner: The Amityville Horror
Much like Tabitha, that goddamn clown will ALWAYS give me chills, and as much as I love Clue, Stephen King’s It is what I’ll always think of first when I hear Tim Curry’s name. As kids, my sister and I had It taped off of the Lifetime channel, and every year, after trick ‘r treating, we would pop it in and see how far we could get. Beep Beep indeed.
But the most vivid memory of being terrified was my freshmen year of High School when I checked out The Amityville Horror from the school library. Prior to this point, I didn’t know that book could be scarier than any movie, but it’s a lesson I now will always carry with me. Sitting in my room, late at night reading this weathered old book, and dreading the fictional clock striking 3:15 am, signaling George Lutz’s unnatural awakening gave me chills. The part where he goes in the yard to investigate a strange noise and finds pig hoofs leading to a vandalized garage door, then looks up to see his daughter staring out at him from inside a barricaded room – I tossed the book across my own room, and from that point on only read it during the day. So good.
Images: ABC, FX, Viking Publishing, Universal Pictures,
Fantagraphics, Prentice Hall, Variety Films, Lionsgate, Atari Inc.