Compiled by The Black Glove Staff
This is without a doubt the largest Top list we’ve ever attempted for THE BLACK GLOVE MAGAZINE. I knew going into this that there would be some challenges inherent in trying to put together such a large number of titles.
I wasn’t disappointed.
When I asked each staff member to give me the top 10 films that influenced or changed their lives, I know enough about human nature that I figured two things would happen.
First, given our similarities in cultures—likes and dislikes—there would be cultural landmark titles which would appear over and over again, like mental and emotional scars that had somehow transcended sex, age, creed, religious beliefs and environmental upbringing. Because, whether we’re aware of it or not, there are certain primal things which we do fear, like darkness, disease, the unknown. So it was no surprise to see titles such as “Night of the Living Dead” (1968), “Dawn of the Dead” (1978), “Halloween” (1978), “The Exorcist” (1973), “Hellraiser” (1987) and “Star Wars” (1977) appearing on more than one staffer’s list. It was actually more surprising to see the movies that weren’t picked, or were named by only one person on staff, such as “The Shining” (1981), “The Omen” (1976) and “Phantasm” (1979), which are generally regarded by most horror fans as some of the best of the genre. It almost stunned me to see no one picked any Universal horror films from the Silver Age of Horror (1930s-1940s), although, in all honesty, where would any of us be without those films to have influenced the films which are on the list?
Second, because of the inevitable vast differences in our individual worldviews—how what we see and feel in the world is filtered through our own personal emotional and mental views—that there would be some strange films to pop out of seeming left field to appear on the list. And that happened plenty.
To make sure that would happen, one of the rules which I instituted for the process was that any title could be chosen; the choices weren’t limited to just horror, science fiction or fantasy. If someone felt that a romantic comedy, documentary, drama, etc., etc. deserved to be on their list, then so be it. I sure didn’t want to wind up with nothing but the same ten movies. I wanted diversity. I wanted oddity. But, most importantly, I wanted honesty. And let’s be honest, even for someone steeped deep down in horror 24-hours a day there still has to have some outside contact with non-genre flicks, and there are times when those non-genre films will hit you just as significantly as any of the well known genre films have generations—in fact, at times, even more so. I know that’s been the case with me several times. In fact, you’re sure to be as surprised as me at the movies that appear on this list.
You'll find such a variety on this list that you may question how did these people become such ardent horror fans. There's movies that are so far removed from the genre that you'll be scratching your head in bemusement (I know I did on a few of them). You'll also find obscure films which staffers chose for professional, more so than for personal reasons. And you will find some which have utterly shaped someone's life from the moment the film was viewed. In any case, I'm sure the list will at the very least give you something to think about, and how certain films may have shaped your own life. Because when you really think about it, it's almost impossible in this modern age not to have been greatly influenced by at least one film you've seen in your life.
In an effort to edit this massive list for ease of reading, I alphabetized the titles of the films, followed by the same name order as seen in our monthly Staff Profile page, with their particular essay for that film. I hope it makes it easier to read. If not, then please, blame me. It was a huge undertaking, but I thought there was no way, once this was suggested by staff member Bill Breedlove as a possibility for our magazine, that we could pass up the chance at giving it a shot. So our thanks go to Bill for the suggestion. It was a giant labor of love, but I see lots of merit in having tackled it. In fact, who knows? I may reach out to our readers as well to do something similar to this one day.
Also, besides my thanks to Bill Breedlove, I’d like to offer my gratitude to each one of our staff members who decided to participate in this massive undertaking. Your patience and spirit of fun were very much appreciated, folks.
I encourage readers to leave your own top ten most influential films on your life in the comments section. Personally, I’m always intrigued by the different films which people find have changed or influenced their lives. So list ‘em below, Horrorheads!
Without further ado, our very first ever Top Ten Movies That Influenced My Life from The Black Glove Magazine’s Staff.
THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI ACROSS THE 8TH DIMENSION (1984)
My introduction to fandom. I’d never seen something so absurd, goofy and simply fun in my life. I mailed off and joined the fan club and I was so proud of all the pamphlets, booklets and newsletters I got. I was a part of something dedicated to a movie I adored. It was wonderful.
Alien was one of those films that destroyed my pure and clean vision of the future created by Star Trek. At its core, the film is a haunted house in space with a deadly alien as the monster, but it rises above the clichés and delivers a solid knockout punch. Who could forget the chest-burster scene?! And the alien designs and locations by H.R. Giger blew me away! One of the first aliens that genuinely felt alien.
ALL THAT JAZZ (1979)
It was the first “adult” movie I ever saw. Not adult as in porno, but the first one aimed toward grown-up sensibilities. I must have been seven or eight. Saw it with my family on the early days of cable. This was the first time I had to consider things like subtext and symbolism. It set the tone for my movie-watching to come. And no matter how many times I’ve seen it since then, I still tear up at the ending.
ALMOST FAMOUS (2000)
In high school I was the metal kid who did a lot of drugs and played a lot of guitar. When I got a little older this actually melded with my love of writing and for a time I was thinking a life as a rock journalist wouldn't be such a bad gig, and followed that idea all the way to college, where I promptly filled my weekly newswriting queues with band interviews, CD reviews, and pro wrestling features. I read "Let it Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs" shortly before seeing this film and was floored by everything about it; the characters, the life, even the writing. I'll never be a rock journalist (I've found I love crime reporting even more than I love music) but if there was ever a film that would change my mind again…it's this one.
BLACK SABBATH (1963)
Three horror stories directed by Mario Bava and hosted by Boris Karloff, who also stars as the vampire in the final tale. In the first tale, “The Drop of Water”, written by Anton Chekov, follows a female caretaker who watches after a dying woman lying gaunt and skeletal in bed. The nurse steals the ring from the helpless woman and vengeance from the grave ensues. The second tale, “The Telephone”, concerns a ghost making phone calls. The final tale, “The Wurdalak”, based on a story by Aleksey Tolstoy, has a family killed by their patriarch who is turned to a vampire by the vampire he tracks and kills.
The Influence Factor: That dying woman on the bed haunted my dreams for days and has become an icon of Horror to this day. I also learned that movies imported to the US are often edited for American consumption. When I saw the original Italian version, L Tre Volti Della Paura (The Three Faces of Fear), I learned that “The Telephone” was not a ‘ghost’ story and that the line-up had been changed, with “The Drop of Water” more appropriately placed as the final story. Since then I have gone out of my way to see every version I could of foreign horror movies, and even domestic ‘director’s cuts.’ My appreciation of Horror across the globe was expanded.
BLADE RUNNER (1982)
Not only my favorite vision of L.A. ever put on film, but it turned me into a lifelong (Philip K.) Dickhead
Again the cyberpunk mix of sci-fi and horror gets me. I have always loved the atmosphere of this film, and it holds up like few can. The book is brilliant, but I think this is one of the rare exceptions where the film surpasses the novel. It's simply a masterpiece. The director's cut, which moves the story a little closer to the novel, is the one you want to see if you've never seen this movie. And if you haven't, drop me a line, and I will personally come to your house and slap you in the mouth.
THE BLOB (1958)
Viewed on television as a young child, this movie inspired about five years of nightmares. I don't think a week passed without at least one night featuring the formless horror. I was an imaginative kid; it didn't take much for me to extrapolate backward from the creature's growth to hypothesize on a microscopic blob which could be passed along as it consumed in the same way as a virus or bacteria. The difference would be that it would hit a breakover point where it would grow to a distinguishable size... at which point it would be far too late for the victim. Or to realize that if it didn't dissolve in water and didn't need to breathe, it could travel silently through piping. As a five year old, I was terrified of having to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. The adult me has to say: Screw you, Irvine Millgate.
BLOOD FEAST (1963)
A caterer of Egyptian background seeks out beautiful young women and butchers them for various body parts that he will need to revive a dormant Egyptian Princess or such. Directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis and starring Playboy Playmate Connie Mason. At the showing I attended at a kid, there was a ‘nurse’ in attendance for those faint of heart in the audience. The first ‘slasher’ movie and my first gorefest.
The Influence Factor: I began my quest to see every ‘slasher’ movie in the hopes of finding something to top that gory extravaganza that I enjoyed as a kid. August Underground?! Ha! Few filmmakers have come close to matching that experience of awe I felt when I saw that girl get her tongue cut out. The wheels of Horror Cinema were set in motion for me thanks to Mr. Herschell Gordon Lewis.
BLUE VELVET (1986)
Taught me how I could plumb the depths of my own subconscious and place the nuggets pulled forth into usable, narrative form
BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960)
As with the previous entries, almost any of the Hammer films from this period—HORROR OF DRACULA (1958), CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957), THE REPTILE (1966), THE GORGON (1964)—could probably fit here, but of them all, I have a tremendous soft spot for BRIDES. For one thing, it’s a very lively film, one of the best of the whole “Dracula” series. Let’s see if we can adequately sum up all the crazy stuff that happens in its breezy 85 minutes: There is a very original plot—our heroine, Marianne (Yvonne Monlaur, who, according to the trailer, is “France’s newest sex kitten!”) is a schoolteacher traveling from Paris to teach some classes in Transylvania (of course), and instead at staying at any of the strange inns, in the quaint creepy village, she instead decides to bunk at the local derelict castle (of course) where the lady of the house—Baroness Meinster (of course) gives her the willies, and then she comes across a fey-looking blonde guy who is chained up and tells the (not-too-bright) heroine that his evil mother the Baroness keeps him locked up because she is a w-a-c-k-o, cleverly omitting the part that he is a ravening vampire. But, he is kinda cute (in fact, much will be made throught the entire film how “devastating handsome” Baron Blondie is), and besides, slight fellows with a side-parted, spit-curl haircut aren’t vampires, right? I mean, there’s not a widow’s peak in sight. So, he gets loose and the fun begins.
Peter Cushing shows up as Van Helsing (of course). One of the interesting things about this film is this vampire—he is technically “Baron Meinster” regardless of the title—is greatly motivated by peevishness and spite. Once freed, the first thing he does is put the bite on his mom as a thanks for chaining him up. Once Van Helsing ruins all the fun in the quaint creepy village, Baron Ricky Schroder turns up at Marianne’s private all-girls’ school and confesses he wants to marry her since she freed him from his captivity. Now, I am no expert on whirlwind courtships back in ye old England Transylvania, but just because you gave a guy whose mom had chained him in the basement of a castle the key to the chain, then been forced to look at a corpse with vampire bite marks in the neck by someone who claimed it was your fault for freeing said vampire, and then suddenly Baron RS shows up at your place of employment and asks you to get hitched, wouldn’t you at least want to take a few days to “think it over?” Nope, as genius Marianne says “absolutely!” to our metrosexual Baron Meister. However, again for no other reason than pure spite and malice—or perhaps prefiguring behavior to become common on American college campuses over the next few hundred years—the exfoliating nosferatu decides, even with all of the teachers and students at the school, he wants to bust a move on his fiancée’s roommate. This ends badly for the roommate, but not before she confesses the Baron’s extracurricular activities (of course) AND also spills the beans that he is holed up at…The Old Mill! (of course)
Van Helsing heads over The Old Mill, and confronts the eponymous Brides, and just when things seem to be well in hand, he drops his cross into a…well. (The expression on Peter Cushing’s face at this is absolutely priceless.) The Baron shows up to his super-secret-hiding-place (where half the village seems to be), and proceeds to lay a beat down on Van Helsing. But, curiously, he refrains from killing the vampire hunter and instead just gives Van Helsing just a “wee nip” and then departs. The audience doesn’t have too much time to consider this baffling development, because as soon as VH wakes up, he realizes he has been tainted by the bite of a dandified blonde Beau Brummel fearsome vampire king. So, he does what any upstanding vamp fighter would do, and heats up a branding iron in a fire until it is red hot, and then cauterizes the bite with it, and then—for good measure—cleans the whole mess with a liberal dosage of his handy vial of holy water. (NOTE: When you are twelve years old, this in the very definition of “badass.”). Right then, the Baron sashays back with Marianne in tow, it turns out that the reason he didn’t kill Van Helsing when he had the chance was he wanted to show off by putting the bite on Marianne in front of Van Helsing, thereby proving who’s the big bad Baron after all. Alas, this is one spite and malice usage too many, since Van Helsing has saved some of his holy water, and flings it right in the kisser of our crowing-a-bit-too-soon vampire. Since holy water reacts to a vampire’s complexion much like acid, the Baron begins screaming like Joan Crawford in a 1940s weepie, but whether from pain or the loss of his “devastatingly handsome” looks is not explained. However, in a fit of pique, he does kick over the glowing hot coals left over from Van Helsing’s impromptu surgery, which instantaneously alights all of the hay in The Old Mill. I guess the Baron’s strategy at this point is to block the doorway of The Old Mill and watch Van Helsing and Marianne burn to death in the conflagration. Van Helsing has other ideas, and he and the Baron’s bride-to-be climb the stairs to the top of the windmill and crawl out where the large X of the arms are. Since a) the Baron did not see this development coming; and b) The Old Mill’s interior is collapsing in flames and in fact kills the remaining “Brides,” the Baron decides to do what any clear-thinking vampire would at this point—run for it. Indeed, he could have turned himself into a bat as he had done earlier, or perhaps a puff of smoke, but instead he opts for a wind sprint across the field in front of The Old Mill.
And, what happens next my friends is why this film will forever earn my admiration and be on any “Top” list I ever make: Van Helsing, sitting on the roof of a burning, collapsing mill (The Old Mill) sees Baron Blondie hoofing it away and, IN ONE INSTANT—turns, looks at the full moon, does some quick mental mathematical calculations in his head, and leaps onto one of the arms of the windmill, causing it to turn under his weight, which in turn causes the shadow of the arms (cast by the light of the full moon, natch) to move from a giant “X” to a giant cross, right on the lawn where Baron Can’t-Believe-My-Bad-Luck runs right into the shadow and gets fried. The end.
I MEAN ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME? That is—hands down—the coolest way to kill a vampire…EVER. In fact, I will confidentially predict that will remain the coolest method of disposing of a vampire from now, more than 40 years after the movie was made, until, oh, EVER.
Director: So, how will we kill off the vampires in this film?
Writer: Let’s see…stake to the heart…
Director: Been done a million times.
Writer: Some get killed by burning debris falling on them…
Director: Ho hum.
Writer: Oh, wait…the lead vampire runs in front of a flaming windmill and the hero leaps onto the arms to cause the full moon to cast the shadow of a giant cross on the ground and the vampire runs right into it to his doom.
Director: Now you’re talking!
All this…in only 85 feverish minutes. Wow.
BUBBLEGUM CRISIS (1987-1991)
There was a time when the only anime commercially available in the US had been edited for young children by Carl Macek, and they were simply called cartoons. The bootleg market at conventions changed that, because it inspired companies like AnimEigo and AD Vision to release official subtitled editions of a handful of popular titles through the only venues that would carry them, comic book stores. I know this because I was there at the beginning, having been introduced to the world of anime by a grainy secondhand tape of female Iron Man types fighting homicidal android servants in a dystopian future. It's become a huge media subgenre, and I've been involved for twenty-five years.
I think more conversations have been started around this movie in my life, along with my other favorite comedy, MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL (1974), than any others. Both comedies are extremely quotable, and thus began discussions which inevitably moved in other directions. I've used other movies for similar effect: Airplane! (1980), The Princess Bride (1987), Friday (1995), Stripes (1981), Blazing Saddles (1974)... but those two are the best for me.
CATALINA CAPER [aka NEVER STEAL ANYTHING WET] (1967)
Rifftrax. Cinematic Titanic. It all started with Mystery Science Theater 3000, and this was the first episode I saw. I have spent more time than I care to think about since then either riffing on movies with friends or watching the professionals do it.
CARNIVAL OF SOULS (1962)
After an accident where some girls drive off a bridge and into the river, one of the girls walks out of the water and goes about her life. But she is trapped between life and death represented by an abandoned carnival and the ghostly apparitions that ‘dance’ there. One ghostly figure in particular follows her throughout the movie and appears in reflections, mirrors, or as a face in the crowd. The surprise ending (SPOILER!!) is that the girl has been dead all along. When the car is dragged from the river, the girl’s dead body is found inside.
The Influence Factor: That trick ending. Wow. Okay, “The Sixth Sense” (1999) runs a close second, but the original surprise ending was back in 1962. M. Night Shamalamadingdong wasn’t even born yet. I always share this movie with friends, students, and family. I picked up the Criterion Edition of the movie for all the extras and interviews. I also must give a nod to “Night of the Living Dead” (1968), the George Romero original for its surprise ending as well. I’ve been on the prowl for twist endings ever since.
CHILDREN OF THE CORN (1984)
When I was a child, I was terrified of horror movies. Sure, I’d watch them now and then but then have horrible nightmares. When I saw this at 12, it was so goofy that it made me realize there was nothing to be afraid of.
CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982)
I'm putting this film on the list first and foremost and would argue the merits of this being a fantastic example of horror and fantasy mixing on film. First of all, take away the swords and magic…let's say, give them guns, and you still have a revenge tale seen through the eyes of a boy who watched his parents butchered by cannibalistic doomsday cultists controlled by a snake demon in the guise of James Earl Jones. I know. Fuckin' scary, right?
This is one of the most important movies in my life and a film that ties me closely to my grandfather. I have seen this film hundreds of times without embellishing at all, and have been forbidden from watching it with most friends and family because I have the annoying tendency of reciting dialogue, humming along to the music cues, and even copying the bloody gargles, sword swipes, and grunts as they come up. Yes I know this isn't what Howard intended for Conan, but the stark brutality is pretty damned close to the Conan I've always loved through the art of Frank Frazetta.
DAWN OF THE DEAD [aka ZOMBIE] (1978)
I saw this movie when I was nine years old. Me and my little brother watched it from a fenced in field of dead summer grass which ran behind the local drive-in theater, The Reef (where I saw most of the movies on my list of movies, when I was a kid) and it blew me away. I have never felt such disgust and excitement at the same time, up to that point. I came away with the sure knowledge that Romero was God and zombies were the coolest goddamned monsters to hit the screen since I saw “Godzilla” (1954) on a late night horror movie show. Later on, when I was eighteen or so, I sat down and watched it again, not thinking it would have as strong an impact as it had eight years before when I was “just a little kid”, but I was so wrong. I walked away from that VCR feeling the same sense of disgust and excitement and it was then I knew I had to do something in horror—movies, books, comics—I didn’t care, but I had to make other people feel what I felt watching “Dawn of the Dead”. It also reasserted for me that Romero was still God.
Not only is this a great movie, in my opinion it's George Romero's best, but it is the only that firmly cemented my love of zombies. Yeah that's right, I was a zombie fan before it was cool to be a zombie fan, back in the 80s when everyone else was gaga over vampires and serial killers. And while “Night of the Living Dead” (1968) is a classic, this is always my go-to zombie flick.
--Brian M. Sammons
The only movie that ever really shocked me and disturbed me, deeply, and watching this movie still makes me uncomfortable. So of course I watch it at least once a year. Someday I hope to fully understand why it bothers me.
PADDLE FASTER!!!! I HEAR BANJOS!!!! Being from the South, I have a great appreciation of this movie. Yes it’s very influential in my life. It represents a true concept of “us” down here yonder in the South. While I’m sure there are inbred families in the North, it seems that most people in the nation think we are all inbred down here. While this may or may not be true, I do know some cousins that have married each other. The joke down here is that we go to family reunions to find dates. With that being said, Burt Reynolds is a bad ass! When he shoots the hillbilly with the arrow, it’s like, “Man! Burt is a bad ass.” I also like the line, “let me hear ya squeal, squeal like a pig...Weeeeeeeeeeeeee!” I love this movie; it is a horror movie in the aspect of being ass raped by hillbillies while canoeing down a river just trying to have fun.
I remember seeing this and thinking, “What the hell??” When Demons came out, the draw for me was it was about demons. This foreign flick changed my idea about Italian horror movies. Yeah the dubbing was bad but the camera work to me was visceral. When passes are given out to see a movie, it makes you think,” Some heavy shit is about to happen.” When the girl gets the scratch from putting on the mask in the lobby, you know some shit is going to happen. When they start playing Iron Maiden and the girl starts oozing green viscous fluid, you now know that you were right. To me the movie is like a roller coaster ride. It starts out slow and it starts coming up on an incline and then you drop and all hell breaks loose.
When I first saw this movie, I so thoroughly hated Ann Savage's character that I almost turned it off ten minutes after she came in...and that, of course, is why it's a masterpiece and why I co-wrote a book about the actress.
DIARY OF A MADMAN (1963)
Vincent Price plays Simon Cordier, a judge who visits a prisoner on the day of his execution who pleads his innocence and blames an evil spirit for forcing him to commit the crimes of which he is accused. As he speaks the invisible demon, called a Horla, forces the prisoner to try to kill Cordier, but he fails and ends up dead. Without a host, the Horla possesses the judge, who goes on to commit multiple murders. Cordier figures out the Horla’s weakness and sacrifices himself to kill the demon. This story is based on the short story, “Le Horla” (1887) by Guy de Maupassant.
The Influence Factor: I learned that you didn’t need special effects to create a creature of pure evil, and with Vincent Price’s superb acting, which we would later see again in movies like “The Conqueror Worm” [aka “The Witchfinder General”] (1968), I fell under the spell of the Horla and had the crap scared out of me. I searched out the story that the movie was based on and read it: the world of foreign horror in literature was opened up for me. I would later in life include the de Maupassant tale into my Master’s Thesis on the Grotesque in German, French and English Romantic Literature.
DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK (1973)
The undisputed champ—forever—of STBOOMWIWALK. Who was the genius that cooked up this concept and then showed it on network television—where any kid at all could watch it??? Forget that Kim Darby was adult in her role in this film—this is THE CLASSIC kid fear: you KNOW there are effing monsters all around you! In your effing fucking house! And no one will effing listen to you! I mean, come on, how much more of a perfect terrifying premise is there for kids? The monsters want to GRAB you, and TAKE you, and can only do it WHEN IT IS PITCH BLACK. I am willing to bet this film spiked the sale of nightlights by, oh 10,000%. And, if you were a child with any imagination at all, well, you know that you were going to be wrestling with those little evil gnomes every single time the lights were out.
What also was so genius in this movie was the give-and-take between the monsters and poor Kim. Remember the shower scene? Kim is trying to take a shower. She knows the little bastards can’t stand the light, so she has turned on every light. To mess with her, they start turning off the light. She turns it back on. What follows is a horrific version of the children’s game “red light, green light” where each time the lights go out, the monsters creep a little closer, so that each time she gets the lights on again, they have moved just that much closer. And then, they start breaking the light bulbs. This kind of sadistic torment could only have been thought up by the wicked mind who would think OLD YELLER (1957) would be “good, wholesome family entertainment.” WTF.
EASY RIDER (1969)
This happens to have been the latest movie to influence my world view, despite the fact that it’s the oldest title on my list. There’s something that happened to me recently that caused a complete turnover of my life. It led me to reassess my values and what I considered success. Lo and behold, Dennis Hopper’s landmark movie about the lost innocence of the 60s generation hit home in a big way with me during this time. I could empathize completely with Peter Fonda’s character when he and his road companion (also played by the director, Dennis Hopper) are sitting in the middle of the woods after barely escaping death and finding drug addled release in a New Orleans cemetery: “We blew it, man. We really blew it.” That line hit me in a soft spot in my psyche and I could understand it on a spiritual, political and societal level at the same time. It gave me a chance to redefine my own value system for all of those things once more at this late stage in my adult life, and it made me turn back to the old me who would have been more wary of the obvious “success” traps so long ago. And maybe it’s no accident that this was made the year I was born. I truly believe “Easy Rider” should be required viewing in high schools and colleges across the country. Look and listen, what’s that sound…
EL TOPO (1970)
My introduction to collectable movies and bootlegs. I remember seeing the cover of SANTA SANGRE (1989), where in big letters it said, “From the director of EL TOPO”. I figured if it was a big enough deal to mention on the videotape then that movie must be a big deal. I had to do serious research through the Videohound guides and at the library because it was nowhere to be found. Turns out that it was never released in the US, and I would have to find an alternate way of watching it (because by that point I was so curious I had to see it). The notion of bootlegged videotapes hadn’t occurred to me before then. But from then on…if you really want to see a movie, there are ways.
Henry Spencer (Jack Nance) and his girlfriend have a monstrous child that drives a wedge in their relationship. Simple story is told with surreal acting, grotesque imagery, and black and white film. The result is a “dream of dark and troubling things” from David Lynch. I attended the premiere at a Midnight Showing at the Nuart Theater in Westwood, California. I was blown away. My friends wanted to blow me away for taking them to this weird movie.
The Influence Factor: I was weaned on surreal animation: Felix the Cat, Betty Boop, Tex Avery. But this level of surreal filmmaking was an event for me and many other fans of the movie. I couldn’t wait to see what Lynch would come up with next and haven’t been disappointed yet. I also found his use of sound and music fascinating and followed the bands that scored his movies, from Julie Cruise to Angelo Badalamenti. In addition, I discovered the world of Midnight Movies and to this day follow the latest late night flicks with gusto.
THE EXORCIST (1973)
The movie that scared me the most, bar none, and the one that still scares me the most today. This is the Mt. Everest of horror movies, there's nothing else quite like it, and I don't think there ever will be. It's as close to a perfect horror movie as I can think of.
--Brian M. Sammons
The Big One for me. I was 15 when I saw it, in a packed theater full of people screaming, fleeing, and fainting. When I went in, I wanted to be an anthropologist; by the time I walked out of the theater, I knew I'd be a writer, because I wanted to affect people
that deeply...or at least try to.
Despite seeing this film in an edited-for-TV version, the idea that an innocent child could be possessed and corrupted by demons disturbed me for weeks. The exorcism scenes were masterfully done and, as this film was really my first exposure to this genre, it set the bar pretty high for all the other horror films I would watch.
THE EVIL DEAD (1981)
What can I say about this movie and its influence on me? It’s got Bruce “The chin” Campbell and demons. The campy low budget feel of the movie is one of its draws. Sam’s own personal car was used because of the budget. The camera work is a character in its self. The dodgy camera angles and the camera’s ability to seem like a first person point of view, is well, AWESOME AS HELL! When I think about a movie with Bruce Campbell, the first one that comes to mind is this one. Yeah he has others but this one sticks in my mind.
THE FABULOUS BARON MUNCHAUSEN (1961)
No, this is not the Gilliam film, but one made in the early '60s by the brilliant Czech animator Karel Zeman (although this is actually a mix of live action and animation). I was obsessed with this movie as a child (when it was aired a lot on television), and it just gets better with age. It's an absolute tragedy that Zeman's not up there with Disney, Miyazaki, and other great fantasy filmmakers, and even more shocking that this film is not available on a Criterion DVD.
My grandfather showed this one to me, also. It walked the fine line between exploitation and humanity. I learned about respecting all your characters, no matter who they are (as a side note, my grandfather confided to me that he had a crush on the Hilton Sisters, the conjoined twins in the movie. “Which one?” I asked. “Doesn’t matter,” he responded. I’ve been traumatized ever since.)
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART IV: THE FINAL CHAPTER (1984)
Now I won't say this is the best movie on this list, not by a far shot, but it is the one that introduced me to horror films for real, and literally from the night I watched it, I was a changed person. I loved this movie, and still do today; it is easily my favorite slasher of them all. I guess it's true, you never forget your first. This is the flick that handed me my horrorhead for life membership card, and for that reason it will always be number one for me. Yep, my big buddy Jason will always be my homeboy.
--Brian M. Sammons
GHOST STORY (1981)
First off, the film is really nothing like the book, but the movie did terrible things to me as a kid as well. First off, I'm not sure, but I think this was my first exposure to female nudity..thanks, Alice Krige. The first time I watched it I was sitting beside my uncle and they were talking about how she was a ghost. Suddenly my uncle shouts, "GHOSTFUCKER!" and they all laughed…I didn't, because I had no idea what the hell he was talking about. It scared the hell out of me though.
As for my first memory of the female form…well, Alice turned into a rotted monster, and I swore if I ever got married I was going to sleep with a nightlight. Just in case.
THE GODFATHER (1972)
I know, one of the best movies ever and it's only #10 on my list? Well that's because I've always been a genre kind of guy. The movies that most trip my trigger have monsters, aliens, boobies and blood in them. Straight-up dramas just didn't do anything for me when I was younger, and then I saw this movie. This was the first film I watched exclusively for the engaging story and compelling characters. I loved it and it convinced me that there just might be good movies out there that didn't feature murderous masked machete-wielding madmen.
--Brian M. Sammons
GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER (1966)
Again, this could really be any “Godzilla” movie from the first one through, say, “GODZILLA VS. MEGALON” (1973), which I saw at a drive-in when I was in 7th grade (and was—inexplicably—sharing a double bill with “MANDINGO” (1975), so once that film got going, my mom hastily fired up the engine to our Dodge Coronet and shot some gravel and I stared goggle-eyed at the giant boobies on the rapidly receding screen). But, from as long as I can remember, I have loved Godzilla. I don’t know how old I was when I saw my first Godzilla movie, but I do recall seeing “DESTROY ALL MONSTERS” (1968) in a movie theater(!) that was full of screaming kids (and, now that I think about it, weary parents—but at least they could smoke back then, I know my mom did). The reason I am picking one of the “lesser” of the Big Guy’s exploits also involves a memory from childhood that is as clear as a bell, even to this day. In Chicago, where we lived, the local affiliate that showed most of the horror movies (although not ALL of the horror movies, as we shall see a bit later), decided for some reason to show GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER, not once, not twice but EVERY SINGLE NIGHT OF THE WEEK at 10pm for an entire week! Only in the fun 70s, I guess. Needless to say, I was beside myself with excitement, and somehow worked out a deal where I got to stay up late each night and watch the movie, which, even after the sixth or seventh viewing, I found endlessly fascinating. But, what I really must acknowledge here is my mom’s yeoman effort. She was, at the time, working a difficult job with long, long hours, and only got home in time to have a late dinner with me, maybe watch a bit of TV and then hit the sack to get up the next morning at 5:30. To her eternal credit, however, she stayed up with me and sat there, dutifully watching Godzilla battle the giant lobster, who many years we would come to find out had a name—Ebirah. (and, by the way, WTF was Mothra doing in the movie—just hanging around with nothing better to do?)I distinctly recall looking away from one of the more boring (for me, at least) scenes of dialogue (badly dubbed dialogue, I might add) to see my mom soundlessly mouthing the lines along with the characters, almost as one would the refrain from a particularly catchy tune that was stuck in one’s head. Yet, never once did she complain or not express anything but pleasant surprise when Godzilla emerged victorious at the conclusion. Another thing I clearly remember about this movie is the scene where the female lead is “captured” by Godzilla and he stashes her on some rocks and while he is otherwise engaged, she attempts to sneak away, only to be caught by the Big Guy, who sternly waves his finger in the familiar “no-no” gesture to her. For some reason, that always cracked my mom up, and her and my grandma would laugh and laugh, and I would laugh, too, although I wasn’t too sure why it was so funny. Seven days straight of that movie. My poor Mom.
GREEN SNAKE (1993)
I almost can't even describe what this film did to me. Just suffice to say that it made me write a book on the director.
I didn’t see this movie for the first time at a theater or drive-in. I saw it on television in 1979. But I remember being so damned excited to finally get to see it that I recorded most of the movie on a little tape recorder I had gotten the year before for a Xmas gift and I listened to that tape over and over again, until it finally just broke from overplay. I had the movie memorized at the tender age of ten. Because of this movie about a speechless masked killer stalking a bunch of babysitters on Halloween night, Carpenter became a hero to me. I read everything I could find about him and bugged the hell out of my parents to see every movie that came out. It didn’t always work, so I had to wait for video for some of his movies. But they still hit home for me, despite the fact I had to watch them on the small screen at home. Later, as I grew older and was trying to make friends at school, mentioning Carpenter’s “Halloween” in any discussion with new people became a kind of signal for those who were like me. If they loved “Halloween”, then we were fast friends. The pacing and ambience of the film still finds their way into my own fiction. And there are times when I feel down that all I have to do is put on my DVD of “Halloween” (sans the goddamned commentaries, thank you!) and sit back and let the years roll back to that night when I sat glued before the TV, with a tape recorder, and feeling such terror and awe.
What else can be said about this movie. The original, and still the best. Similar to THEM! (1954), not just a great, well-made horror movie, but a great, well-made movie, period. The wide-angle shots, the suspense, the score, and, perhaps the greatest exchange in horror movie history:
Laurie: It was the bogeyman, wasn’t it?
Dr. Loomis: As a matter of fact, it was.
I saw this the day it came out, the first showing in the afternoon. My grandmother took me (thanks, Gram!). There were not too many people in the theater, since most would be coming in the evening. Remember, back then, no one really knew what, exactly, this movie was about. The poster just showed a pumpkin face with a butcher knife and the tagline line “The night HE came home!” and that was about it. To say I sat nailed in my seat for the next 91 minutes would be an understatement. I was thoroughly and totally mesmerized. I don’t recall if I was truly terrified, but I was certainly entranced. One of the most satisfying cinema experiences of my life. (My grandmother, not so much.)
I was in my late teens the first time I saw this on video. It had been many years since I had seen any horror film that actually left me disturbed. Clive Barker’s directorial debut left me more than disturbed; I was convinced it could actually happen, given the right circumstances. There was something about the pseudo-sexual overtones to the dire promise/threats laid out by Pinhead that struck a chord with this young man back then. And then to add the splatter-gore on top of all that…well…it left me confused, for sure. I remember after seeing the movie, I went to every bookstore I could find to buy every single thing I could find by Clive Barker. Years later, back in 2008, I got the chance to interview Mr. Barker for a magazine I was helping to edit (Dark Recesses) and I was able to tell him what the movie did for me at that age and how it helped to cement the fact that I wanted to write horror for a living. That was, of course, before the horror fallout of the late 80s and early 90s, as the market became oversaturated with shitty books and movies and people stopped paying attention to things like Friday the 13th XXII or whatever, and before I discovered that writing anything for a living was problematic, at best, and downright impossible at least. “Hellraiser” stayed with me for years and became a sort of template for the type of fiction I would write as a young man, mixed in with liberal sprinklings of H.P. Lovecraft. I still recommend this movie to anyone who is looking to watch the high points of the genre on film because I truly believe it led a new revolution in gore horror, once studios saw you could have intelligence and gore together in a film, that is.
This was one of our 80’s horror movies. Clive’s vision of Hell and the caretakers of it is absolutely brilliant. Clive has captured a tortured, hopeless but sexual vision of one of the most feared places in religious history. The thought of being pulled to hell by Pinhead or the other Cenobites is terrifying. Side note: Cenobites exist. They were a sect of the Catholic Church back in medieval days, possibly dating back as far as 4BC. When Uncle Frank comes back, that is the thing that I remember. To actually escape from Hell, that is a concept worth thinking about, however, having Pinhead coming after you…makes you wonder if all of those hail Marys and our fathers are worth it. I love the different types of Clive’s Cenobites. They are imaginative in the concept of torture and pain. The sheer terror of the tortured flesh is almost poetic in Hell.
Before I'd ever read anything by Clive Barker and become a fan of his work, I watched a film called Hellraiser and saw, for the first time, an order and beauty to the concept of Hell. The rebirth of Uncle Frank is still a beautiful piece of cinema, and always reminds me of melting candles for some reason. The film also gave me my first real glimpse into SM/bondage, but at the time I didn't realize what I was looking at. The film has the same kind of dark beauty that I later found in Barker's early writings (Especially his “Books of Blood” (1984-1986), which should be required reading for any horror writer).
HORROR HOTEL [aka THE CITY OF THE DEAD] (1960)
In what will become an ongoing refrain for this list, this is one of those films that Scared The Bejesus Out Of Me When I Was A Little Kid (STBOOMWIWALK.) The plot concerns a pretty young coed who is encouraged by her professor to travel to the spooky old village of Whitewood, to further her studies of witchcraft. And, predictably, the shit hits the fan. First of all, as a kid I was very impressed that one could have cool cats like Christopher Lee as a college professor, and secondly, even more impressed that, apparently, in college one not only got to study “witchcraft” as a major, but one also got to take off and go visit spooky old villages—all for credit hours! Of course, that was during the first twenty minutes of this very creepy little film. As a child, I was not used to the types of plot twists which were coming, and as a result, after the big shocker, I was pretty much in a permanent state of unease throughout the rest of the picture, so much so in fact that I completely missed the total obviousness of the other big surprise.
THE HOWLING (1981)
This movie isn’t your parent’s “Wolfman” movie. This movie is up there with “An American werewolf in London” (1981). The effects were awesome for the day and the storyline was a very good one. When the dude started turning and Dee Wallace threw the acid in his face, which stuck with me. Those damn smiley face stickers stuck with me, even to this day, I think about that movie when I see them. Movies nowadays try to rival the movies of the 80’s but they just don’t have the solid effects that the 80’s movies had. Everything now is CG and the special effects artists are being replaced by kids out of high school. These movies starting back with our Saturday “Creature Feature” are the very essence of what made me want to become a special effects artist, to love monsters, to want to create nightmares.
No titles listed
Yes, this is obvious. Yes, this a cliché. In 1975, I was ten years old. I sat in the front row. That’s all you need to know. Ok, want more? If I had a nickel for every time I considered certain implications of this picture upon entering a body of water—any body of water: ocean, sea, freshwater lake, lap pool, waterslide, hot tub, etc. etc.—I would definitely be on the other side of that whole “I am the 99%” thing.
This movie scared the shit out of me. I live in Florida. I’m forty-two years old and I hate swimming in the ocean. I’m surrounded by water and it terrifies me. We have shark attacks off and on but the thought of being attacked by a huge white, I would rather walk through Detroit at night. I think it was last year; we had a white sighting off the coast of Miami. WE DON’T HAVE THOSE HERE. When I see the pictures of the massive schools of sharks off our coast, it makes me even more convinced to stay in the shallow end of the pool. Give me Freddy, Jason, hell, even vampires but sharks. A shark is real. A shark can’t be reasoned with. A shark will eat you. Nuff said.
THE KARATE KID (1984)
I don't have too much to say on the Karate Kid, other than it is probably the most perfect film ever made. I've seen it dozens of times and it always kicks ass. It's the ultimate underdog story. This is what the 80s should have been like for everyone. Hell, this is what any decade should have been like for everyone.
THE KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE (1977)
A rare comedy on the list, this was THE funny film for me and my friends in high school. Yeah it hit the theaters a bit before our time, but we discovered it on VHS and man, did we watch the hell out of it. I guess the fact that it had two of the most amazing bare breasts in it that I have ever seen before or since might have helped with that.
Hey, I was about 15, so sue me. Regardless, it's random and off-the-wall brand of humor helped me develop my own weird sense of humor and my school buddies and I still toss mad amounts of quotes from this film at each other twenty or so years later.
--Brian M. Sammons
THE KILLER (1989)
The first Hong Kong movie I saw, passed to me by a friend in a grainy VHS tape, and it still blew me away. What was this style? Who was this insanely charismatic star? This was the start of my Asian movie obsession.
THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE (1976)
I saw this film as a little kid and had nightmares for years about it. And not because pedophile-Martin Sheen creeps me out, because he does, but do you remember the scene where the wicked landlady goes down into the basement to retrieve her jam jars and Jodi Foster kicks the leg out of the door just as she's coming up the stairs? Well, a little later on the door is opened and there's a brief scene of that bitch lying at the bottom of the stairs, face bloodied, neck broken.
For years that broken women was under my bed, just waiting for me to put a foot out or my hands, so she could grab me and drag me under the bed. I imagined her clacking around under there like a spider, and I'd roll up in a tight ball until I fell asleep. The idea of her still bothers me, even though I’ve seen the film as an adult in an attempt to shake her off. She won't go.
THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (1976)
When I was thirteen, PBS made a huge brouhaha and played this one fully uncut. I watched it and was in love. Not just with David Bowie (although he was a pleasant addition to the movie) but with the non-linear format. Time and place were fluid and, although the plot itself wasn’t straightforward, the movie told a complete and satisfying story. I learned that there was more than one way to tell a tale.
MEET THE HOLLOWHEADS (1989)
A great film? Nope. But personally influential for me? Oh HELL yes. My first professional writing sale, and my screenwriting education.
I watched this one with my Grandpa. It was my first silent film. It hadn’t occurred to me before then that an entire story could be told using almost all visuals, and wow, this one had amazing visuals.
MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL (1974)
I think more conversations have been started around this movie, like my other favorite comedy pick, CADDYSHACK (1980), in my life than any others. Both comedies are extremely quotable, and thus began discussions which inevitably moved in other directions.
THE NAKED PREY (1966)
A group of men are on safari. One of the party refuses to give a gift to a tribe they encounter. The tribe is offended, seizes the party, and one-by-one, kills all but one of the safari members in various creative and horrifying ways. The last surviving member is given "The Lion's Chance" by the tribal leader to be hunted down by a party of tribal warriors. Naked and weaponless he is set loose, the hunters hot on his heels, beginning a life-or-death hunt through wild Africa.
The movie starred Cornel Wilde as the ‘prey,’ but he also directed and produced the film. Ken Gampu, a former African police officer turned actor, also stars. Later we see Gampu again in Zulu Dawn. Ken Gampu, Senior makes a brief appearance as the chieftain of the insulted tribe.
Influence Factor: This film for me established the creative killing style developed later in the ‘slasher’ films like “Friday the 13th” (1980) and “Halloween” (1978). The safari members die gruesome but intriguing deaths: one is covered with clay then baked alive over a rotisserie; another is tied up, dressed as a chicken and must hop away as fast as he can to escape the women who have been loosed upon him with long sharp sticks, which they use to stab him repeatedly as if it were all fun sport; another is tied to the ground where a large venomous snake is place in a circle of fire, its only escape covered by the face of the leader of the safari party who insulted the tribesmen; the snake of course bites him in the eye. These gruesome deaths lead up to the ‘prey’s’ release into the wild so the hunters can track him down and kill him, thus making the hunt more suspenseful. I’ll always be grateful for “The Naked Prey” starting me off on my Horror movie crusade to find imaginative killings.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)
HOLY SHIT! Monsters get you in your dreams now? Wes’ concept of a burned, dead pedophile coming after the children of the people that killed him is absolutely brilliant. Wes has created an “Alice in Wonderland” that is lethal. Dreams can be an outlet for a lot of people but those that suffer from night terrors and nightmares can find themselves wanting it to end. Freddy has an influence on a lot of people from young to old. He is very identifiable and yet he is almost worshiped. Back in the 80’s he was one of the most recognized people in society. People couldn’t tell you the capital of the US or even who the president was but they knew Freddy.
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968)
The first time I ever saw this one was late night on a Halloween, when I was thirteen years old. I watched it with my parents and my little brother. Again, this just helped to solidify the fact that Romero was God for me. The political subtext hit me hard, but it was that damnable sense of nihilism again which drew me in. I know, I know: there seems to be a running theme to the movies which have influenced me most, right? It also led me to start writing zombie stories at a young ago, something I still do now and actually make money doing so. Although this movie had hardly any gore and hardly any real violence, when compared to his later sequel, “Dawn of the Dead” (1978), which I’d seen years before at the local drive-in, The Reef, it still left me feeling very disturbed and a little physically ill by the time the final scenes appear as the credits are rolling: Ben’s dead body being hauled to the fire by meat hooks. Having grown up in the Deep South, there was something symbolic to that moment which hit me hard. As the years have gone by, I still watch this movie and still feel that same sense of frisson I felt that Halloween night, sitting with my family as the witching hour came and went.
True story: When I was a kid, back in the 70s, there was no cable (yet). We have the 3 network stations, plus local stations. In Chicago, there was WGN (which would soon become the first “superstation” to go nationwide, therefore bringing the hideous horror of the Cubs to households all across America, but that’s another story), WFLD (which was like WGN’s little brother, but it did have “Svengoolie” hosting monster movies on Saturday afternoons), the Spanish-language channel, and WSNS. WGN and WFLD got all of the good TV series that were in syndication at the time—The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, Bonanza, etc. WSNS got the lower-tier shows—Sgt. Bilko, Rat Patrol, The Rifleman and so forth. One thing that WSNS had, though, was “Shock Theater,” where they would show horror movies far different from the ones on “Svengoolie.” They would not only show some of the real stinkers—“Octaman” (1976)—but they would also occasionally show some of the early grindhouse pictures…uncut. How they got away with that, I have no idea, but trust me, they did. My mom watched some of one forgettable movie with me one night, and the shocking level of violence depicted caused her to get up and turn off the TV (this was pre-remote days, kiddies) and issue an edict banishing “Shock Theater” from our home.
So, one night my mom and grandma were going out somewhere, and it was decided that I was old enough to look after myself. (hey, it was the 70s). I distinctly recall having to promise that I would not—under any circumstances whatsoever—watch “Shock Theater.” Of course, I readily agreed. And, of course, as soon as their car taillights disappeared from view, you can guess what I channel I turned on as fast as I could. The movie that evening was NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Somewhat surprisingly, at this point in my life, I had never even heard of NOTLD. Why that is I don’t know. I think perhaps I was still in my “big-bug-Ray-Harryhausen-Hammer-Films set as far as monster movies went. Whatever. Anyway, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD came on. Uncut.
So, I sat home, alone, watching the movie. I cannot describe the sheer terror I felt watching it. It was almost a physical reaction. Certainly, I had NEVER seen anything like this film. All of the things combined—black and white grainy images, realistic news reports, the zombies effing eating people!, the “hero” getting killed in the end—to overload my internal circuit board. I remember sitting on the couch after the film was over, too…something—scared, frozen, enervated—to get up and change the channel. And then, the lights went out.
No joke. At that point, I was 100% convinced that the movie was coming true and the reason the power went off was that the undead had come back to life and were attacking the living. Our house at the time had an attic door built into the ceiling with a cord you pulled and a drop-down ladder. I grabbed a flashlight and a butcher knife from the kitchen, lamented not being able to thing of a way to get the dog up the ladder (but thinking that the zombies would probably leave him alone anyway), and went up into the attic. Where I remained, as my increasingly worried mom and grandmother tried to talk me out of the attic once they realized where I was. They were unhappy that I had disobeyed their orders, but I was so freaking upset that I skated by on that. Even with my mom’s assurances that “we have much more to fear from the living that the dead” I remained convinced that the dead were going to rise. I don’t remember how long after watching NOTLD that I would get up after bed and creep in my mom’s room and lay on the floor next to her bed (by the dog), because I was too scared to be alone in my room. It did go on long enough for my folks to become concerned enough to wonder if I needed to “see somebody,” but I must’ve calmed down after that, because I never did get any professional help (insert joke here).
When, a few years later, the commercials started airing on TV for DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978), I didn’t even bother asking my mom if I could go see it. Actually, I was terribly divided—I really was still traumatized by NOTLD, but I was also insanely curious about the new movie and the awesome trailer. Because, again, this was the 70s, our family saw most of our features at the drive-in, where you could pay one rate, and see two movies. Because times were tight, my grandmother would make popcorn in a big paper shopping bag, and bring some Kool-Aid for me and a thermos of coffee for her and my mom. As happenstance would have it, at the drive-in by our house (which had three screens) was playing DAWN on a different program that the one we were seeing. So, I spent the entire evening either watching the film from the back window of our car, or else standing outside listening to the gunshots and moaning zombies echoing over the numerous tinny drive in speakers in that section where they were showing the movie. It wasn’t until a few years later, when I was in college, and a bunch of guys on my dorm floor chipped in and rented a laser disc player (it was 1983) and a bunch of typical 18 year old guy films—ROAD WARRIOR (1982), EXCALIBUR (1981), A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971), THE EXTERMINATOR (1980) and…DAWN OF THE DEAD, that I finally got to actually see the film. Naturally, with that particular audience, I was totally cool, and, in fact, I wasn’t that frightened by the movie. I watched it a couple more times before we returned the equipment, and I (mostly) cured my debilitating conviction that the zombie apocalypse was imminent. Today, DAWN is probably my favorite film, but it is NOTLD that still, after all these years, still manages to give me the willies when I catch it on cable during the Halloween season. That raw, totemic, horrifying power it has still exists somewhat for me, and definitely has influenced me to try and make something that powerful myself someday.
This movie was scary as hell when I was a kid because of the fact of being eaten by zombies. Up to the point of seeing this movie, I always thought that zombies were made through Voodoo like the Bela Lugosi movie “White Zombie” (1932). Zombies are now a staple in modern society and to think it started with the line, “They’re coming to get you Bar-ba-ra.”
THE OMEN (1976)
This movie scared the crap out of me as a child without me ever seeing it. I remember as a small child, lying awake in my bed while my family watched this movie on TV in the living room and just hearing the music, that creepy monk-like Latin chanting freaked me the hell out that I avoided horror movies for many, many years afterward, literally scared to be scared. It wasn't until my early adolescence that a big guy in a hockey mask would change that for me, but more on that later.
--Brian M. Sammons
PARADISE LAGOON [aka THE ADMIRABLE CRICHTON] (1957)
Based on the J.M. Barrie (‘Peter Pan”) play, “The Admirable Crichton”, the film follows the butler, Crichton, as he serves his masters, the aristocrats of English society on a yacht voyage. But after the yacht is disabled, and the passengers take to an island to await rescue, the rich society folk soon find that the butler is the only one who knows how to survive. Soon, Crichton becomes ‘master’ of the island with the rich folk following his orders; he even takes the daughter of his former master as his ‘queen’ of the island. But come the wedding day, a naval ship is spotted. Everyone decides to ignore the ship and continue their commune life on the island, except for Crichton, who does the right thing and signals the naval vessel. In a second, he becomes the butler again. He does not marry the girl who loves him, and leaves his employment so his masters will not be shamed by the memories of the island. Although this is a comedy of social class, that ending for me was tragic. From butler to king to butler. Shades of “Charly” (1968), based on the novel, “Flowers for Algernon” (by Daniel Keyes, 1966).
The Influence Factor: When I saw the rise of Crichton, from butler to island emperor and back again, it broke my heart. When he dons his butler’s uniform as the shipwrecked castaways are rescued by the naval ship, I understood social class and civilization a bit better. This movie/play is the social equivalent of “Lord of the Flies”. Only the kids were stopped after they had gone feral; Crichton sacrificed his ‘royal’ place to return everyone to their proper social status. And don’t even think “Gilligan’s Island” for a nano-second. “Paradise Lagoon” taught me about the fallacy of social manner and the pretense of social civility. It ruined Disneyland for me: I never could look at the workers there the same. When the Disney fantasy ended, the workers punched the time-clock and went home. So much for magic.
Without a doubt, along with “Dawn of the Dead” (1978) and “Zombie” (1979), this movie has to be the third most influential movie on my life. I saw it at the same drive-in mentioned in my other selections on this list, The Reef, with my family on a dark and humid late summer night. I don’t remember the second feature that played because once I saw Don Coscarelli’s nightmarish vision come to life on the big screen, I was ruined for life. As I mentioned, if there were three movies which turned me into a Horrorhead for life, this one, and the other two films mentioned above, did it. I will never forget the sense of doom and excitement I felt as I watched this movie. There was such a weird logic to the narrative that I think every kid who ever suffered through an illogically paced nightmare got why this movie was terrifying on several levels. I still watch this one when I get down and it brings me back to that warm summer night with my family again and I can almost forget all the years between we’ve grown apart.
THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961)
Seeing it taught me the delight that could be found in a moody horror movie, and began my lifelong appreciation of Vincent Price.
THE POWER (1968)
This is a somewhat obscure film from 1968, produced by George Pal. Don’t worry, I did not include it as one of the prerequisite “showoff picks” lists like this typically include. I did it simply for the aforementioned STBOOMWIWALK. factor. Starring everyone’s favorite genre star George Hamilton(!) as that most exciting and overused profession—a biochemist—this movie mainly features a bunch of other scientists walking down long corridors, close-ups of them concentrating REALLY, REALLY HARD and centrifuges murdering people. Other than that, I really can’t say, because I haven’t watched this film since I was about 10 or 12. Frankly, I am surprised it doesn’t come up in conversation more, if not because of being a George Pal production, then for the “all-star” genre cast that will be familiar to all genre lovers: Richard Carlson! Yvonne DeCarlo! Earl Holliman (who, here, bears a marked resemblance to Michael Rooker), and Michael Rennie. Yes, Michael Rennie from THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951). (Notice I did not say “the original version of TDTESS,” because we’re just going to pretend that that other hot mess never, ever happened.) I remember being impressed with Micahel Rennie, who is just as cool here as he was as Klaatu, but again, I don’t recall a lot, except for how unpleasant and flat out terrified I was at the end of this movie. I know one guy cracks into a million pieces, which was kinda scary, but I think the main thing was this loudly beating heart on the soundtrack for like the last twenty minutes of the movie. It really got under my skin, and it scared me so much I have wanted no part of THE POWER ever since. Someone watch it and tell me if it is scary (or even good), but I am going to sit this one out.
(Bonus extra story: I grew up in Chicago, home to many world-class museums—The Art Institute, The Shedd Aquarium, The Adler Planetarium, The Field Museum and The Museum of Science and Industry. Usually, we would hit 2 or 3 of those a year as field trips for school. So, not long after seeing THE POWER, we went as a class to the Museum of Science and Industry. One of the exhibits they had (and still have, as far as I know) is a set of jars with embryos and fetuses in them, showing the development of humans from conception to birth chronologically. Good idea—but babies in jars??? Lots of my fellow students were creeped out by this, but not me. However, my laughter came to a screeching halt when we came to the two-story tall human heart that you walked through the ventricles. You could hear it beating from twenty feet away, and when you got inside, it was (as one would except of one was actually inside a giant heart) deafening. Well, since I had seen THE POWER, I had a perfect Pavlovian response, and got all freaked out and wouldn’t go near that giant, beating heart. Needless to say, I took a lot of subsequent teasing for that. So, thanks, POWER, you rotten fucking piece of shit movie.)
PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1987)
Another Carpenter film that changed my perception of the genre. Being 16 or 17 years old when I saw this, it blew the barn doors off my view of the horror films in that they could competently address deep philosophical issues. The thought that Jesus and the Devil could have been space aliens fueled my imagination for years. Although with Jameson Parker acting, I was always expecting his brother from Simon & Simon to rush in and save the day!
This was the first Hitchcock movie I ever saw, and the first time I ever really noticed the skill that moviemakers employ in their craft, and how much a difference a talented director can make in creating a film. Further, interest in this movie lead me to the author of the book, Robert Bloch, who has since became one of my all-time favorite authors.
--Brian M. Sammons
PULP FICTION (1994)
This one is the newest movie on the list, but no less impacting on me for its young age. I saw this movie during a very formative year of my young adult life (along with another scripted film by Oliver Stone, NATURAL BORN KILLERS (1994), which also helped shape my creative influences at that stage of my early adulthood). In fact, I went back to the theater every day for two weeks to watch this movie over and over again. I listened to the soundtrack over and over again, until even my most “Pulp Fiction” zealous friends were begging me to stop playing the goddamned CD. It influenced how I talked, dressed, but most importantly, it influenced how I began to write dialogue in my fiction. I sometimes feel that Quentin Tarantino is the modern day equivalent to Howard Hawks in the dialogue department, because his characters speak like real people, and he isn’t afraid to give them time on the screen to do so. It helped me realize what I was missing most in my writing: realistic characters, with realistic speech patterns and actions. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve sat down to watch this one again. But that’s okay, because I still have the whole thing memorized, line by line, shot by shot. At one time, this movie made me want to become a filmmaker instead of a writer. In fact, I actually left my hometown of Yulee, Florida to move to Orlando, Florida so that I could attend film school there. That wasn’t what eventually happened, but without this movie’s strong influence on my life back then, I may never have left my hometown and seen what a real city was like, nor lived hundreds of miles away from my family and childhood friends, to see what being an adult was all about.
No titles listed
RADIOACTIVE DREAMS (1985)
This movie helped demonstrate conclusively to my to-be-wife that I was at least partially familiar with odd cinema. I was able to introduce her to the Disco Mutants, and the rest is history.
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK [aka INDIANA JONES AND THE RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK] (1981)
Not much to say to justify why this film is on my list. Moving along...
I stumbled upon this movie quite by accident one night while flipping through the cable channels, and its over-the-top antics in both black humor and gore blew me away. It fostered my appreciation for splatter, because even all the slashers I had seen before it, combined, could not equal the gore gags in this flick, and I loved it for that. It was also the first black humor movie I can remember, a subgenre that has become one of my favorites since.
--Brian M. Sammons
RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985)
I remember having to sneak over to friend’s house to watch this film as my parents wouldn’t let me come close to it. A wonderful B-horror flick, which cleverly scares you and lets you have fun at the same time.
THE ROAD WARRIOR [aka MAD MAX 2] (1981)
Mel Gibson was doing the apocalypse before it was cool, and he was getting it right. Racing across the Australian wastelands hunting for Gasoline and fighting freak-out punk rock marauders, Mad Max is another film that holds up. I'm still pissed off about what those bastards in Gastown did to him at the end of the film. Don't worry Max, I'm sure they got what's coming to them. The movie helped spawn a generation of writers and comic book artists in love with western-themed cinema in apocalyptic settings.
ROGER AND ME (1989)
This film had a twofold influence on me. First, it showed me the power of the documentary. For the first couple of years after I saw it, I would not merely recommend it to people, I would push it on them. I didn't agree with the filmmaker's political views, but I greatly respected his efforts and presentation. Second, it showed me the power of false propaganda. A few years after seeing it, I read an article denouncing it. I had been promoting the movie, so I attempted to refute the arguments in the article. Instead, research showed that most of the movie was false: timelines were skewed, events were shown out of order, false statements were presented as fact, and even the basic premise was a lie, as Moore had been able to get an interview with the titular CEO. I have never blindly trusted a "documentary" since.
THE SERVANT (1963)
Dirk Bogarde and James Fox star in this Henry Pinter film adaptation where Master and Servant perversely reverse roles in a surreal tale of debauchery, incest, and ennui. Bogarde plays the servant who takes over the household, keeping Fox, the master, drunk and incapacitated. He moves in his ‘sister,’ played by Sarah Miles, and forces out Fox’s girlfriend.
This was my first Bogarde film and I was amazed by this actor. I went on to see all his films and loved all of them, especially the Nazi Noir, “The Night Porter.”
The Influence Factor: Besides becoming a Dirk Bogarde fan, I became a fan of Perverse Noir films Bogarde liked to find roles in. I also followed other P Noir in movies like “Who Killed Teddy Bear?” (1965) and “The Children’s Hour” (1961), drama with sexual tension with themes like incest, lesbianism, homosexuality and child abuse—themes tackled only by the brave in the Sixties. These films began to crop up in the US, mostly by way of England, but they went straight to late night television and my brothers and I stayed up late to see the latest sex film that talked sex but never showed any. Nonetheless, I was hooked by the genre. The Indie movie “Terri” (2011) is a perfect example of this genre, where young teens discover sex and booze in this maudlin drama P Noir style. I’m always on the lookout for old and new Perverse Noir movies.
THE SHINING (1980)
This is going to be on everybody's list and with good reason (NOTE FROM EDITOR: Alas, it wasn’t, but I know it was a close one on at least my list, and it probably was on others’ as well). It's the most perfect horror film ever made, written by a master and filmed by another master. Jack Nicholson never got it as right as he did with Jack Torrence, even though he seems campy when you watch it now. He was a brilliant dry drunk, and we all know how he is at playing psychopaths.
I was scared shitless as a 9 year old kid watching this film with my grandfather. I’ve viewed it many times since and still think it’s one of the most creepy and disturbing horror films ever. And don’t forget those lovely twins!
A movie I never saw, but taught me about advertising, and about the difference between child and adult entertainment. I knew only that I wasn't allowed to watch it. My first grade teacher allowed us to go to the library and check out what we told her our favorite book was, so we might read it in class. I knew it had been a book first, and thought I'd be clever. Thus began the first of many disciplinary problems of my school years.
STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982)
This sequel soared above the franchise’s mediocre first film and put a darker slant on the Star Trek genre. It was a wonderful revenge story that had a dramatic cost for the protagonist, Admiral Kirk.
STAR WARS EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE (1977)
I think this movie has influenced a lot of people. While being a very low budget movie, it shows that imagination outweighs the dollar. I always loved the original Star Wars because of all of the creatures. I wanted to be a Jedi fighting the dark side while being in the middle of all of the creatures that fill this universe. The creativity and overall execution of all of the inhabitants of “The Star Wars” was mind shattering. How could somebody think up all of this? While having a lot of reference to several historical events and religions, George has made it his own. It seems that this movie actually lets you be part of the movie. It has parts and characters that you can truly relate to. I remember hearing the music at the opening epilogue and the almost giddy feeling I got. It was very spiritual. To this day, I still get that feeling when I hear the music.
The first movie I saw that transferred the science fiction I'd been reading onto the screen. I was seven years old. I didn't care that you couldn't hear explosions in space, explosions were COOL.
First movie I saw in the theatre. I was three. All I remember was being terrified when Princess Leia’s planet blew up. I thought it actually happened. Hey, I was three!
STAR WARS EPISODE V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980)
I was a bit too young to see the first STAR WARS in the theaters, but when this sequel came out, you can bet your bubby that I bugged my folks until they took me to see it, twice. This was the first movie I ever went gaga for, and like many (most) kids my age, I collected all the toys and had countless backyard space battles. While I don't watch it much anymore, for a while, this movie was my world.
--Brian M. Sammons
My cousin and I were close enough in age that we liked all the same shit as kids. I remember seeing this movie some years after it came out and then marveling as my cousin not only collected all the toys, but orchestrated our park sessions so they closely matched scenes from the film. I never got my parts right so I was often relegated to the weird headed alien bits, and he ALWAYS got to play Han Solo. Now he works in film. I could have seen that coming from a mile off. I don't have to explain why this was the greatest film EVER for a kid growing up in the 80s.
Another sequel that bests its first film. A solid screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan who also wrote Raiders of the Lost Ark.
STRANGE CARGO (1940)
Prisoners from Devil’s Island break out of jail, struggle through the jungle and swamps to reach a boat that will take them to freedom. A stranger joins the escapees and as the prisoners die one by one of horrible deaths, the stranger convinces each of them to accept salvation before they die. Naturally, if you pay attention during the movie to the allusions, double-entendres (“You gonna kick me out of your little paradise here?”), and allegorical metaphors, you realize that the stranger is Christ, the evil prisoner is Satan, Clark Gable and Joan Crawford fill in for Adam and Eve, Peter Lorre is Mammon, and the others are various symbols for sins (homosexuality, child abuse, wife killer, etc). This is a movie layered in meaning and the all-star cast makes the religious angle more dramatic than preachy.
The Influence Factor: This fantasy story plays out as a prison escape movie, but it’s about right and wrong, good and evil, and the choices one makes given that he has free will. The first time I saw it, I was awed by the layers to the story. Ian Hunter plays the Christ-like figure who teaches each man to find his good side before facing their death. Only the Satan-like figure refuses his teachings. Without the incredible cast, this would have been just a preachy born-again Christian movie proselytizing to the popcorn crowd, but each man’s death means something; it is touching to see these tough-as-nails convicts find goodness right before they die. And when Gable reaches his epiphany, you’ll be in tears. I love religious movies, stuff like the “Left Behind” series or “The Omen” trilogy, but “Strange Cargo” is sly in its religious message. When the fisherman crosses himself as the Christ-figure disappears into a shadow, it’s easy to believe that we are all capable of good acts, that there is goodness in this world, even if it is there amongst the evils of daily life. And when that tear rolls down my cheek, as it does each time I see this movie, my faith is renewed in that goodness.
SUPERMAN II (1980)
Having spent most of my childhood devouring comic books, seeing Superman come to life on the big screen in 1978 was an amazing experience. One of the great parts of this film was the villains who were delightfully cast, especially Terrence Camp as General Zod. The plot idea of having a father’s actions haunt his son was also well done and forever altered my ideas of storytelling.
I remember the first time I saw this movie was on an old VHS tape at a friend’s house one late night. I was suffering from a mild fever that turned nasty during the viewing, so all those nightmarish images became engrained in my skull by the end of the film. This movie taught me the value of using color in my writing, and the use of violence as a pressure on the narrative. This was the first Dario Argento film I ever saw, as well, and I’m glad it was the first. I don’t think his other films, no matter how much I love them now, would have made such an impact as “Suspiria” did that first time around, in my feverish condition. I count this as one of the 20 best horror movies ever made and I don’t see how it would ever not be on my top 20 horror films of all time list. It has such a nihilistic, nightmarish sense about it that it can’t help but disturb me even now.
Until I saw this film, I was a bit nationalistic as a teen when it came to horror movies. If it wasn't made in America, or by extension Canada or England, as the spoke the same language as me, then I just didn't care about it. Oh, I tried, but foreign turds like BURIAL GROUND: NIGHT OF TERROR (1981) turned me off of anything subtitled or dubbed. Sure, later those schlocktastic flicks might fall into the so-bad-they're-good category that today I love so much, but at the time I was such a serious little thing. Anyway, I watched this movie on a lark and was blow away by it. Sure, it didn't make heaps of sense, but its visual style was so striking and memorable that it was one of the first movies I noticed that color and manipulation of images could be used artistically in film, even in a fright flick. It also began my love affair Italian horror and Giallo films, and for that I'm very grateful to it.
--Brian M. Sammons
A TALE OF TWO SISTERS (2003)
Just when I was thinking that the horror film was dead and there was nothing left to say in the genre...this one proves that there is always room for a new masterpiece, and that gives me great hope.
Similar to the Kaiju or Harryhausen grouping, another sub-set of genre films I loved as a kid were the “big bug” movies. I loved them all. Heck, I even loved BEGINNING OF THE END (1957), and that might have been the worst bug movie ever. I don’t care how many people make fun of the whole “Tonka” incident in the tunnel, I absolutely adore THE DEADLY MANTIS (1957). When, in MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (1961), a guy and a girl are trapped by Volkswagon-sized honeybees and sealed in a honeycomb, that was a dream come true—combining giant bugs AND Ray Harryhausen! And, as a kid at least, I far preferred Bert I. Gordon’s EARTH VS. THE SPIDER [aka THE SPIDER and EARTH VS. THE GIANT SPIDER] (1958) to TARANTULA (1955), mainly because at least THE SPIDER admitted it used a superimposed tarantula, whereas TARANTULA had that prop spider than NEVER appeared in the film. Yes, I was a weird and bitter kid.
But, far and away the best of all was THEM!. A great, spooky start—with the little girl who had lost her family to the giant ants and was in shock and could only say “THEM!” over and over (A great way to get the title, which is much preferable to “ANTS!” [aka IT HAPPENED AT LAKEWOOD MANOR and PANIC AT LAKEWOOD MANOR] (1977)—sorry, Suzanne Sommers—or “BIG GIANT ANTS!” And, the only thing cooler than the furry ants (who were all puppets, no hazy blown-up real ants here) was the weird, unique “chirping” sound they made. Now, while I love big bug movies, I will be the first to admit it is extremely difficult to make a SCARY big bug movie. I can’t offhand think of many truly frightening or suspenseful scenes from big bug movies. But, in the climax of THEM!, the heroic policeman played by James Whitmore has gone into the tunnels beneath Los Angeles to save the little boy and his dad who picked exactly the wrong place to practice flying their air glider. They think they have got some time as the main ant colony is (loudly chirping) somewhere else in the tunnels. So, while Whitmore is boosting everyone else up to safety, they show us a large, ant-shaped shadow stealthily creeping toward the place where our heroes are. They cut back to it several times, and you know it’s not going to be good when that creeping—not chirping—ant shows up. Just plain awesome.
PS. If you get a chance, check out the 3-minute trailer for THEM! on YouTube. It does a masterful job of selling everything good about the movie—but never once using the word “ant.” Even when they are showing the ants running amok on the screen, the breathless narrator only refers to them as “unknown invaders” or “monstrous creatures.” And, at the end, they even give a helpful “Terrifying Horror Excitement Mystery” to even further cement the whole THEM! concept. Which reminds me of another reason why this movie is so special. A lot of time with the big bug movies, everything was sort of second-rate—cast, crew, special effects. But, with THEM!, everything was first-class all the way—sort of like a “real” movie produced by Warner Brothers. And—and this is probably the most important key to success for any big bug movie, perhaps any horror movie at all—as far as the audience could tell, everyone involved in the production took it totally seriously. There are no winking jokes to the audience, no ruinous “comedy relief “When Edmund Gwenn says that these ants may portend the end of mankind as the dominant species—“and the beasts shall reign over the earth” you get the sense he means it.
THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS (1971)
I’ve never been able to get into romance movies. They’re usually too sappy and either have me ready to roll my eyes or vomit. But I watched this with my now husband and, wow, I had such a fun time with this little flick that I didn’t realize it was a romance until it was near the end. If all love stories were like this, I could stomach more “chick flicks”.
THE THING [aka JOHN CARPENTER’S THE THING] (1982)
Another John Carpenter film that hit home with me at a young age. It was, even then, such a tightly made film, filled with such an overwhelming tension and paranoia, that it had me mesmerized for the entire film. But one can’t talk about the impact this movie had without talking about the special effects by Rob Bottin. At that point, the only movies I had seen that could come even close to them are the awesome transformation effects in “The Howling” (1981) and the splatter gore effects by Tom Savini in Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” (1978). The nihilistic feel of the movie, along with Ennio Morricone’s low-key ambient, synth-heavy soundtrack, made me feel small and terrified.
“The Thing” is a wonderful depiction of humanity when it’s isolated and up against the unknown. Great characters that you fall in love with despite knowing deep down inside that there will be no happy ending. It also featured an amazing soundtrack that haunts you for days afterwards.
20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH (1957)
In reality, I suppose this could be any one of the pictures featuring the unbelievable stop motion animation of Mr. Ray Harryhausen. Sure, THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958) had that iconic Cyclops, and JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963) had the famous skeleton swordfight, and who could forget the five tentacles (because eight was just too costly) of IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (1955)? But, I have to say that for me, 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH was the best of all. Not necessarily the best made, or with the coolest monster—but the Ymir was very cool. But in 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH, I first felt that same emotional tug that other folks had gotten the first time they saw the original KING KONG (1933). The Ymir started out small and scared of where he was, being in a strange place and all (Earth instead of his home planet of Venus)—and what kid couldn’t relate to that? Then, he starts getting picked on by different authority figures—eventually getting locked in a cage. But, at the same time, he is getting bigger and bigger and pretty soon he escapes, and then the just sort of wanders around. He is not mean, he doesn’t want to kill anyone or eat anyone or ever bother anyone, he just wants to go home, or at least make some sense of this strange place where people stick him with pitchforks and shoot him with rifles. So, in the end, as the poor Ymir makes his last stand on the Coliseum, I was bawling my eyes out. I cried when they shot the radioactive isotope into THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953), and I wept when Gwangi got locked in the burning church, too. It remains amazing to me to this day that Harryhausen was able to infuse those little lumps of clay with their articulated skeletons and wide eyes with such personality that I felt for them as I would for any homeless animal—be it a lost bunny or a Ymir.
UN CHIEN ANDALOU [translated from French AN ANDALUSIAN DOG] (1929)
We saw this in a high school art class. Between this one, and ERASERHEAD (1977) which I’d seen around the same time, I learned that movies don’t have to tell a story to be good, but can give you an amazing ride through visuals alone.
No titles listed
WHEN THE SCREAMING STOPS [aka THE LORELEY’S GRASP] (1974)
This movie was another foreign movie, and, yes, the dubbing sucked, but it was a movie that made an impression. The movie’s storyline is weak, but it had some good shock to it. I remember when the woman comes home and her husband is in the kitchen with an electric knife and his arm looks like a holiday ham. Him saying, “I just wanted to know how it felt,” has stuck with me for close to thirty years now. Also, the scene of the woman going down to the river on full moons and lying in this creature's undulating tentacles was very sexual, especially to a thirteen year old boy. Oh, and I got to see nudity! A woman’s breast was ripped off. That is also a point about this film which has stuck with, too, for all these years.
No titles listed
No titles listed
ZOMBIE [aka ZOMBIE 2 and ZOMBIE FLESHEATERS] (1979)
I saw this at the same drive-in, The Reef, when I was ten years old. It was the second time I ever felt the same sense of disgust and excitement I felt when I was watched George Romero’s original “Dawn of the Dead” (1978). Lucio Fulci became another horror God for me at that moment when the wood pierces lovely Olga Karlatos’ eyeball. It was the first time I can remember forcing myself to watch something dreadful happen on the silver screen (but it would be far from my last when I later discovered the cannibal films that were popular in the 70s and 80s). Plus, there was the absolute lunacy of the infamous ‘zombie vs. shark’ scene that has yet to be topped in zombie filmdom since. As far as I’m concerned, Fulci’s “Zombie” left such a mental and emotional mark on me that it still holds a dear place in my heart, and if horror fans haven’t seen this, then they can hardly be considered a true Horrorhead in my opinion. I think of it as a sort of horror baptism for that younger version of myself and I can’t fathom what my life would have been without having seen it at exactly that age. It truly, along with “Dawn of the Dead” (1978) and “Phantasm” (1979), made me what I am today, as a writer and a film fan.
Zoo is comprised of five stories by Japanese author Otsuichi (“Goth”). One involves twins; their mother loves one, hates the other with disastrous results; two tells the tale of captives in seven rooms who are butchered one a day like clockwork; a brother and sister team in one room plan a daring escape but a sacrifice must be made; three is a sad story of a young boy whose parents have a car accident and right after the accident, the boy can see his parents, but the mother cannot see the father, and vice versa; is one of them a ghost? Which one? Four is an anime story of a little girl with a surprise ending; and five follows the story of a man who lives underground after some cataclysmic event and finds a photo a day by his front door of a dead girl who is decomposing; in flashback mode we find out who the girl is as we watch her decompose picture by picture.
The Influence Factor: Besides discovering the talented Japanese Horror writer Otsuichi, whose books I bought and read right after seeing the movie, I was haunted by his story-telling. Although this movie is called a ‘horror’ film, it is not in many ways. The story “Seven Rooms” is a good example. We never see any killings, but we watch the older sister and her little brother piece together the situation they are in and we the viewers come to understand that there is a person in each of the rooms and at 6:00 p.m. each day, someone is killed in numerical order, and the victim’s empty room is replaced by a new victim who is now the seventh victim to be killed. I fell in love with this metonymic story structure, almost a minimalist narrative with an emotionally strong payoff—without a need for gore—the gore is all implied. I show this segment of the movie to my students now and then to teach them metonymy, the structure I learned to apply in essays and reviews.
--List compiled by the staff of The Black Glove Magazine/edited by Nickolas Cook