Okay, it’s Halloween, so I had to write a post on moments (mostly from TV) that scared the crap out of me. I’m not talking about scary movies that I liked or enjoyed watching (I wrote another post about that on a different blog that you can read here). I mean moments that either had me hiding my eyes behind my hands or creeped me out for days afterward. This list is in no particular order and not all of the entries are from horror movies (some of the scariest things are real). And let me know: What movie, TV show, or book kept you up late at night with the lights on?
The Exorcist – “We Are Legion!”
When the Exorcist first premiered on TV years ago, my brothers and I gathered around the little TV set to watch it. But the movie freaked me out so much I couldn’t even bear to look at it. My mom told me, just turn your eyes away if it’s scaring you (why she didn’t change the channel, I have no idea. But that’s my mom for you). I looked away during the whole movie and listened to it, but that only made it worse. The scene where Father Damien listened to the taped interview of Regan/Devil growling, hissing, and shouting “We Are Legion” backwards was scarier than anything they could’ve shown on TV!
It’s Alive TV Trailer
This was a cheesy, 1970s grind house movie about a killer baby. But the ads that ran on TV when it was released were spooky. The ad was simple and stark: a rocking carriage, a black backdrop, a baby crying, and then a claw sticking out. That ad creeped me out every time it aired on TV.
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Jack Palance Tells A Scary Story
Jack Palance was creepy enough on his own. He made a career playing bad guys back in 1950s Westerns. But he really upped the creep factor when he hosted the 1980s proto-reality TV show, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Based on the odditorium museum founded by Robert Ripley, the TV show was pretty popular with audiences, especially kids. But it created a minor controversy when Jack Palance, the show’s host, decided to tell a little story about the death of Rasputin, the Mad Monk who served in Tsar Nicolas’ court. With only his raspy voice to set the stage, Palance stood in a catacombs, dripping with condensation and lit only by torches, as he told every gruesome detail of how Rasputin was poisoned, stabbed, shot, tortured, then thrown off a bridge into the cold waters below. After the episode aired, ABC received complaints from parents across the country that the segment scared their kids. And who can blame them? The mad glint in Palance’s eyes was enough to give me nightmares!
Dark Night of the Scarecrow – The Twist Ending
This 1981 TV movie starring Charles Durning was about a mentally disabled man named Bubba who comes back from the dead to get revenge against the small mob which executed him for assaulting a young girl. Since the accusation was false––Bubba was the girl’s friend and was only helping her when she was injured while they were playing––and he was pretty defenseless when he was murdered (he was hiding as a scarecrow), his vengeance was perfectly justifiable. So watching him dispense with the rednecks who murdered him was more just desserts than scary. But the twist ending was enough to creep me out so much that I remembered it years later when I’d forgotten everything else about the movie. I won’t spoil the ending, but if you haven’t seen it already I recommend you check it out.
Trilogy of Terror
Trilogy of Terror is a legend among TV horror movies that were made in the 1970s. An anthology of short films all starring the late Karen Black, Trilogy of Terror is known mostly for its final film called “Amelia.” The story is about a woman living in a high rise who buys a Zuni fetish doll for her mother. The doll has sharp teeth and menacing eyes and an amulet strung around its neck. When the amulet falls off, the doll comes to life and begins chasing Amelia through her apartment. I saw this movie when it first aired, but most of the time I had my hands over my eyes. What made it so frightening was the relentlessness of the attack. No matter what Black did to protect herself–stab the doll with a knife, burn it to a crisp in the oven, drown it in the bathtub–it always came roaring back to attack her with its little, sharp knife. But the real kicker was the ending when the spirit of the Zuni doll went into Karen Black. Now that was scary! I was checking under the couches and bed for weeks!
The Day After
There were several movies back in the 1980s that were all about a possible nuclear holocaust, but none of them hit as hard as The Day After. Airing on ABC back in 1983, The Day After went through every gruesome detail of what the aftermath of a nuclear attack might look like. But it was the attack itself that was the most effectively scary: people being incinerated by the nuclear blast, cars hulled by bursts of flames, buildings and trees crumbling and toppling by the sonic waves. The movie was equally relentless in its hopelessness as even the survivors of the blast dealt with cancerous tumors, hair falling out, quick and painful deaths, and a nuclear winter that made the burned and ashen landscape look nightmarish. This wasn’t Freddy Kreuger or Michael Myers slashing their way through a bunch of horny teenagers. This was real shit! We were in the middle of the Cold War, so a nuclear attack was still very much possible. A decade ago, I had a chance to watch the movie again on TV. It wasn’t as scary, but back in the 1980s, nothing scared me more than looking out of my window and watching a mushroom cloud appearing on the horizon!
Devil Dog: Hound From Hell
Just the title alone ought to tell you that this movie was network TV cheese! And yet, when my brother and I came home from trick-or-treating one Halloween night, this movie happened to be on TV while we spread our goodies on the floor, and it…well, what can I say? Devil Dog: Hound from Hell! Bwahahahah!
- Which Horror Films Really Scare YOU?!? (slog.thestranger.com)
- My Five Must Watch Horror Movies For Halloween (descentintoslushland.wordpress.com)