Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Above: A candid photo my Mom snapped of me watching movies, circa 1984. I had longer hair back then.

Horror movies were alternately the best and most disturbing memories I have of my childhood. They made me laugh, they scared the shit out of me, and they opened my eyes to the world of Horror, a world I have remained submerged in ever since. There was really nothing better than a sleepover at your bro's pad, staying up late after a long bout with the 8-bit Nintendo system, waiting for the parental units to crash out so you could watch some seriously fucked-up R-rated(!!!) movie that your buddies had told you about at recess a couple days before. Procuring said films was always a task, but occasionally you lucked out with the parents who didn't give a shit what movies you watched, to the point that even something like "Faces Of Death" was a possibilty. God bless those negligent mothers and fathers for their contribution to my damaged psyche, God bless 'em all for opening my eyes to the raddest movie genre out there (rivaled only by 70's sci-fi), Horror in the 80's and early 90's.
Here's a quick breakdown on what I consider to be the films MOST unfit for juvenile consumption, films that gave me horrible, beatiful nightmares and changed the way I look at life.

5) GHOULIES (1985)

I'm not even sure I've ever SEEN "Ghoulies" all the way through. The issue here was solely the case, sitting on the shelf at the video store. I mean, look at the picture above. To my 7-year-old mind, imagining a little fucker like that popping up out of the toilet and biting a chunk out of my ass was somehow the scariest thing possible. Seriously. Just THE COVER on the box majorly scarred me. I spent at least a year without letting my ass touch the toilet seat, perching 6-8 inches above it every time I took a dump so I could keep a line of sight on the water in the toilet bowl. I wasn't gonna let one of those "Ghoulies" (whatever they were) get me. FUCK no. And the terrible tagline didn't help either. From what scattered images I have of actually SEEING this movie, it was utterly terrible, poorly made and not scary at all. Amazingly, they actually got to "Ghoulies IV" before someone pulled the plug (above). Fuck you, Ghoulies!


4) HELLRAISER (1987)

Jesus Christ! What a completely insane, fucked-up gem of a movie was the FIRST "Hellraiser"? Pinhead wasn't the scariest bad guy, but the death scenes were the goriest, most brutal thing I'd ever seen at the time, and kept me awake many a night, praying that evil demons wouldn't tear me to shreds in my sleep. Awesome! Clive Barker actually did some great stuff in the 80's, not just "Hellraiser", but another all-time classic, "The People Under The Stairs", and the weaker but still suprememly entertaining "Night Breed".

"Hellraiser" was one of the first movies to completely, genuinely scare the ever-loving SHIT out of me. The gore levels were unparalleled, the vaguely sci-fi-tinged plot was impeccable, and the special effects were off the goddamn chain. In addition, Thrash Metal album cover artist Ed Repka worked as a designer on this film and its sequels, increasing their coolness by linking them to the world of Metal.


3) JACOB'S LADDER (1990)

I remember watching this with my old man right after it came out on video. Thanks alot, Dad. "Jacob's Ladder" is a movie that STILL scares the Hell out of me to this very day, a flick that I keep in the back of my closet on a battered video cassette to use as punishment when I do something bad or shameful. The ultra-twisted plot quickly spirals out of control on this one, climaxing with a confusing surprise ending that leaves the viewer feeling sick and hollow. Plus you get pre-"Home Alone" MaCauley Culkin playing a dead kid. Rad.
I think what messed me up the worst were the creepy, eyeless zombie dudes that the protagonist (Jacob) sees fleetingly on the subway. I flash back on that shit almost every morning when a train passes me in the BART station. The giant hypodermic needle to the forehead was no bowl of cherries, either.

Above: Tim Robbins awakens from another tripped-out fever dream. Below: The OTHER Jacob's Ladder, often pictured in the laboratories of mad scientists in other horror and sci-fi movies.


2) THE SHINING (1980)

I consider Stephen King to be the Metallica of literature. In the 80's he could really do no wrong, pumping out novel after novel of epic horror, a seemingly bottomless wellspring of cool ideas and horrific imagery. But the last 20 years or so haven't been so kind to him, idea-wise. Like Metallica, he has spewed forth naught but trite drivel, R.L. Stine-esque panderings with no place in the world of Horror. Sad.

From fourth to sixth grade, I consumed King novel after King novel, sitting in my family's isolated mountain home, alone, over the Summer, immersing myself in his world. At a relatively young age, I digested awesome books like "It", "The Stand", "The Dark Half", "Skeleton Crew", "Misery", "Cujo", and what seemed like dozens of others, my favorite being his dark tale of isolation and insanity, "The Shining".

As far as film adaptation goes, the book couldn't have fallen into more able hands than those of The Master, Mr. Stanley Kubrick. He took a brilliant story and somehow managed to improve it tenfold, his stark imagery and amazing cinematography adding a whole new dimension of creepiness to an already super-creepy book. There are so many scary and damaging scenes in this movie I can't even begin to list them. Let's just say it fucked me up REAL good.
I can't believe they remade "The Shining" as a TV miniseries. Fucking vultures.

Above: An outtake from the little-known alternate ending of "The Shining". Below: Where's Jack?

A way better version of the trailer from "The Shining":

1) PET SEMATARY (1989)

I rented this movie so many times between the ages of 10 and 13 that the guy behind the counter at Video Connection in Eureka must have known me as "the Pet Sematary kid". Populated with a cast of revolting characters, from the fatally head-wounded Pascow (left) to Church the Zombie Cat to the most psychologically damaging diva to ever hit the silver screen, Rachel Creed's moribund sister, Zelda, this flick really had it all. It disturbed me deeply every time I watched it, and as a result, I watched it again and again, constantly freaked out by its twisted weirdness. Alas, a Horror Junkie was born.

The second-freakiest part of this movie (next to Zelda's hoarse croakings: "Raaaaachellll.... Raaaachellll...") was the scene when the zombie Gage Creed (who defeats Chucky for the all-time Scariest Tiny Person Award) slices the old man's Achilles tendon as he bends down to look under the bed (below). I was unable to look under my bed for a LONG time afterward, and still hesitate to do it as an adult. Something about the old razorblade-through-the-back-of-the-ankle seemed like the most painful, horrible wound one could suffer, one of the cringe-worthiest moments I've ever experienced while watching a movie. And I've seen A LOT. That INCLUDES "The Phantom Menace". Ouch.

"Pet Sematary" tops this list not because it was the scariest film EVER, but because it was the absolute scariest movie possible through the eyes of a ten-year-old. Absolutely brutal. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go rent some R-rated horror movies and watch them with my kid.

Above: Church, the first(?) undead-kitty film star. Below: In a major breakthrough for both of us, my psychiatrist has finally convinced me to open up and share my long-hidden feelings about Zelda. Let the healing process begin.


Honorable Mention: "Sleepaway Camp" (if you've seen it, you know why) and "Nightmare on Elm Street", which for some strange reason I didn't see until I was about 20. If I'd seen it at half that age, I'm sure it would be on this list, too.


Erik Del Tigre said...

Dude. This post is dead on. Seriously, it takes me back. The part about playing nintendo until midnight and then checking out awesome r-rated movies with your delinquient buddies? So fucking true. Every kid who grew up in the 80s should be able to relate that how much fun that was. Staying home alone and freaking yourself out with cheesy horror flicks? Oh yeah. Man, I'm getting all nostalgic now. Thanks douchebag.

Anonymous said...

Everytime I drive by it I think Willits High = the school in Pet Semetary

Steven said...

I've only seen 'Jacob's Ladder' once. That was enough. Freaked the bejezus outta me, and I was 23 when I saw it.

I saw John Carpenter's 'The Thing' when it came out. I'm old. Amazing film, though not a pleasant experience at the time.

TMM said...

Shelby, I love your Top should have been a top ten. Without a doubt P.S. is one. I still fucking cringe when I think about being 8 and seeing her decrepit carcass float across the room. It had a wicked 3d feel to it. I work graveyard shift and I hear that bitch cackle when I walk down the train tracks to get to work. And you're damn right, Nightmare on Elm St would have fucked you up good too. My insane kleptomaniac aunt stol that one and the first Return of the Living Dead and gave them to me for my 7th birthday. While in hindsight it was possibly my best gift ever, that first scene in the boiler room with the lamb bleating and the first murder scene were awesome. I walked around the schoolyard bragging about what I saw and next thing I knew I was in the school counselers office for a little sharing time.

Seriously though, the list rules but I would add Return of the Living Dead especially for the scene where Freddy saws through the cadavers neck and his screams start gurgling. I almost shit my little pants on that one......Have a good day!!!!!!

Shelby Cobras said...

erik: you are a pussy
anonymous: willits high = most depressing place in the world
steven: 'the thing' = amazing fucking film, though i didn't see it til i was 18 or so. good call.
tmm: return of the living dead should be on this list too... i remember the scene when he chick gets naked in the graveyard and starts dancing totally blowing my mind as a kid... punx in horror movies = a whole new realm of awesomeness to a 12 year old!!!

Erik Del Tigre said...

Oh, I'm a pussy? Meet me by the swing set at recess and we'll see who the real pussy is, pussy.

Anonymous said...

Return of the Living Dead is absolutely killer. Love it when it starts raining and the ominous music starts.

Shelby Cobras said...

Sorry, erik. I'm a lover, not a fighter.