Thinking back at some of the more pivotal viewing moments of my childhood, and i'm thinking of the ones where I was frozen in fear at what was being presented before me on a flickering screen, I seemed to keep coming back to these five movies or moments.
For better or worse these works defined my appreciation for dramatized terror. In most cases they do not have the same effect on me as they once did, but that does not lessen their power. Their ideas and work (as lacking as some might be technically) have been ingrained into my psyche for good.
Children Of The Corn (1984)
Yes, one now looks back at the original Children Of The Corn film has mere child's play, but to this impressionable 9-year-old I was absolutely traumatized. The opening scenes where the adults are killed off in a coffee shop in a picture perfect New England-esque town sent shivers up my spine for the film's entire running time.
The idea of innocent looking kids, some around my age, just deciding to kill off everyone adult around them was completely insane to me. It threw all your sense of security that you have at that age completely out the window.
Tales From The Darkside The Series (1983-1988)
The opening credits alone to this creepy anthology series was enough for me to get under the covers and hide my face into the pillow not peeking until someone told me it was safe.
The opening credit's images now seem fairly cheesy, but that voice-over in combination with that music is still pretty damn eerie. "BUT...there is unseen by most an underworld. A place that is just as real. But not as brightly light...A darksiiide" Yeah, thanks. Is it over yet?
Curtains is considered by fans of horror, slasher film aficionados especially, to be one of the more classic films to come out of the genre during it's time period. The slasher boom may have birthed countless pictures in the late 70's to mid 80's, but there's only one that contains a solitary scene that truly freaked the crap out of me growing up.
Horror fans may have guessed it already, and here it is...
Dolls in general are kinda creepy. And that sure is one of the creepiest i've ever seen. But man, they had to throw in a killer with a hag mask on top of that as well. On ice and in slow-motion no less. What are they trying to do to us?! Whatever it is, it worked.
Salem's Lot (1979)
Like a lot of people, this mini-series from the late 70's freaked me out. Especially because of the window scene. Vampires don't usually frighten me, but this one surely did...
I once bid on something on ebay I had been looking ages for and lost it out to someone with the handle "DavidSoulLover" I entertained the idea of creating a new handle for myself and trying to outbid on something DavidSoulLover was trying to get.
"PaulMichaelGlaserLover" would have been a great idea, but I think sending that floating vampire kid to his or her window would have been much more appropriate.
Tourist Trap (1979)
Tourist Trap was probably the most effecting horror film on me growing up. It's creepiness throughout is punctuated by the fact that there are heaps of mannequins abound and the idea of someone controlling them all with his mind. The movie somewhat downplays the supernatural ideas it might be presenting with a more slasher sensibility that was popular of the time, and I think the combination is stellar.
Chuck Connors as Slausen inhabits his role with a grace not seen by most actors in the genre and he captivates me with each viewing. And the 3 foxy 70's chicks in the movie are not so bad to look at, either.
Now back to the creepy stuff... Two scenes in particular really did a number on me. Early on in the film there is a set piece involving a guy locked inside of a room where things start to move on their own. Eventually the objects in the room start being flung at the man, and he tries desperately to find escape. The scene ratchets up the suspense to an almost unbearable point and then it is released with a moment so devastating to me. The man lets out a (silent) primal scream so tragic that it was forever ingrained in me much like the metal rod was implanted into him.
Another scene happens later where the villain, dressed in absolute freakish costume with voice to match, kills off one of the girls by utilizing his mannequin making skills. He slowly pours the plaster all over her face, completely covering it all the while telling her how she's going to die by her heart exploding with fear. Trust me, I was in likewise absolute heart-pounding fear myself. And this movie is rated PG. How nuts is that?
Here's the scene...