An Ode To The Films That Made Me Creepy…

I was fortunate to be raised in a household where creativity and the arts were encouraged by both of my parents.

My father is, to this day, my best friend and I’ve always viewed him as a character in himself- a human canvas of ink that has fascinated me for as long as I can remember, Pops is also one of the funniest people in the world and he himself was a writer throughout his school days. I still remember a tale he read me from an old sheet of paper about a man falling into a cave filled with blood and cow’s heads. Pops has always kept it “funny side up” as he puts it and his humor combined with his love for the classic horror films like Jaws, Halloween and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein taught me that horror could be fun as well as creepy and terrifying.

My mother introduced me to monsters by ways of a film that, even at the age of 25, remains one of my favorite ever. Little Monsters, starring the Savage boys and Howie Mandel, was my favorite movie as a pre-kindergartener and I still watch it any chance I get. Mom was also the one who showed me The Exorcist before I was tall enough to get a popsicle out of the freezer. Good ol’ Ma, the root of my tortured childhood, might sound like a meanie for the films she let me watch as a youngster. But hey, no one ever put a gun up to my head. The fact was, I loved these films- they pulled me in and didn’t let go. They kept me awake for hours on end during countless nights and I couldn’t walk down a dark hallway to save my life throughout most of my youth. Ma showed me the real wild horror that has since become some of my favorite films of all time- Evil Dead  and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre leading the charge. 

Ma in her zombie get-up this past Halloween.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t tip the horror hat to my Grandma for showing my sister and I Poltergeist on a rainy weekend while we were sleeping over. Grams made us promise not to tell our parents that she let us watch the film, but little did she know her own daughter was already destroying our sleep pattern with the likes of Regan MacNeil and Freddy Krueger.

My Grams is the coolest person ever.

With that little biopic done, here’s a look at five films that helped shape me into the horror fanatic I am today.

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Poltergeist

Seriously, what doesn’t this film have? Tobe Hooper directs a film Steven Spielberg wrote. Craig T. Nelson is the star- seven years before he became the world’s coolest Coach

You’ve got creepy kids, a muddy burial ground swimming with corpses, a creepy ass doll and monsters coming out of closets. I haven’t even given props to Zelda Rubinstein yet.

I remember seeing this film and playing ‘ghost hunter’ at home for weeks afterward. It was the best fun a kid could have sitting next to a family member who smoked constantly- pretending the smoke was someone from the great beyond.

This film is now 30 years old, and it’s still just as awesome today as it was back then.

Little Monsters

This cover makes me want to give Fred Savage a noogie. A noogie of awesomeness.

Not only do we get Howie Mandel in some wicked cool make-up, but we get both Savage brothers AND Daniel Stern plays the uptight father if the boys!

The film looks like something out of a Sesame Street nightmare, and I remember instantly falling in love with the idea of monsters living under my bed. Although there was no way in Hell I’d ever look to see if there was a portal to a place where I could plot ways to pee in my enemy’s apple juice and put cat litter in his tuna sandwich.

This film may have my second favorite face melt scene of all time.

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

I watched this film for the first time in roughly five years a few nights ago and don’t remember the last time I laughed so hard during a movie. This is quite possibly my favorite movie of all time. Good ol’ Bud and Lou always bring the goods, and this film is such a classic, even the National Film Registry selected it for preservation in 2007.

Not only is this film hilarious, it’s also got a pretty cool Universal Monsters story going on- all the classics are here. The Wolf Man, Mummy, Dracula and Frankenstein cross paths, while the Invisible Man (voiced by none other than Vincent Price!) makes his, erm, appearance at the end of the film.

You’ll be hard pressed to find a more hysterical scene than when Wilbur (Bud Abbott) is reading the legend of Dracula, which awakens the nocturnal creature. As the lid to the monster’s coffin raises and Wilbur’s eyes grow to the size of saucers, the tears roll down my cheeks every time. You’d also find it hard to find a better impression of this scene than the one my Pops can do.

Halloween

Best horror movie ever? You won’t get an argument out of me. The film succeeds on so many levels, it’s truly a horror guilty pleasure.

The beautiful Jamie Lee Curtis and the dynamic Donald Pleasence steal the show. Director John Carpenter spins a yarn that everyone in the world can relate to- the boogeyman hunting the babysitter.

I remember seeing this film as a youngster and being astonished at the simplicity of it- even at such a young age, I knew I was seeing a basic, horrifying story that wasn’t wasting time with anything. My affinity for Mr. Carpenter was planted within me the day I saw Halloween for the first time and it’s stuck with me ever since.

The Birds

It’s not the birds that scare me about this film- it’s watching as the people involved begin to deteriorate from the alpha dog in the world’s life cycle to survivors. The same impact that The Mist had, Hitchcock’s classic brought to the forefront of cinema almost fifty years ago.

As terrifying as it would be to have a sky full of crows chasing you down, you would hope your fellow man would be able to keep their cool in this situation. But then again, if I saw a woman with her eyes pecked out and had a pelican chase me, I’d probably shit a brick, too.

The Birds really hit a nerve with me because it took that Norman Rockwell Americana feeling and twisted it upside down. Who doesn’t enjoy a nice society breakdown now and then?

So now I ask all of you- what are some horror films that have left a lasting impression on your life?

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2 thoughts on “An Ode To The Films That Made Me Creepy…

  1. Justin, I think you caught a few of my favorites. I used to watch Poltergeist all the time and Halloween – ah, love that film. I also love the old original Dracula and Frankenstein. What classics! The other I really like is Amityville Horror. That was one book that I couldn’t read at night. I had to put it down when it got dark. I loved the movie also. Thanks for a great article.

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