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Old horror movies that scared me.

October 31, 2011

Now that I’m older the things that terrify me have changed. But even fears of probable or more ‘realistic’ horrors like rapes, hijacking, home invasions and terrible things growing under my skin can trace their roots to what I saw onscreen as a child and young teen. When I was around 11 or 12 I had a friend who had a single working mother and consequently, as a sophisticated latchkey kid, got away with bought lunches and alluringly ‘adult’ birthday parties. At one of these I remember seeing a trashy, dubbed slasher movie: I cannot recall the title but it featured a craft knife. It ruined my sleep for many nights and I can recall some of its images still. Unfortunately.

In memory of those days, and other forbidden pleasures like reading the sexy bits in Princess Daisy and Lace, here are my five favourite old horror films that I cannot bring myself to rewatch. Be warned, some of these are a) extremely dated, b) misogynistic in the usual exploitative slasher manner with a maximum of gore, penetration and nudity, c) poor quality (dubbed, cheap, sordid etc), d) horrific and gratuitous torture porn and e) tame.

Yep, the ol' circular saw.

1) Bloody Moon, 1981. Circular saw, enough said. Can you believe someone’s mother allowed a group of well-brought up girls to watch this at 11 years old? (What am I saying? Duh.) But I still cannot believe, recent/current Asian horror films withstanding, that horror films today are as bad as the slashers of the 1980s. This one was, sleaze and gore-wise, probably the ‘cream of the crop’. Few actresses have been so horribly dispatched since. I recall someone’s head inside a pair of scissors/shears…

This is where my fear of childbirth comes from, clearly.

2) The Manitou, 1978. Now this one’s a gem. Often cited as a bad movie par excellence it impressed itself upon a young me for its disturbing images of lumps, growths, skin-sacs out of which a small Native American shaman would emerge, glistening. I still shudder at the memory.

3) My Bloody Valentine, 1981. Crikey, what was it about the start of the 1980s? An early entry into the now-classic masked-psychopath/teenagers-killed-on-camp (while making out) genre. An early slasher and influenced by the 1st Friday the 13th movie (1980) no doubt. Particularly gruesome and memorable for awful scenes of impaling, stashed-away body parts and so on. Especially for some reason since it’s set in a serene and creepy nature. And of course promiscuity is punished with death and dismemberment.

4)Piranha, 1978. There’ve been a few remakes of this old film but after seeing this I couldn’t go into the shallowest water for some time (I still worry!), even in public swimming pools. I’m sure an actual small piranha cannot be that frightening but, like Jaws, images of bloodied murky water did the job well enough without detail (one doesn’t really see the fish in action). Yet again young, naked lovers venture into the water and get dispatched, horribly. There are a few young actors and actresses I would currently feed to genetically modified horror-fish: Shia Labeouf anyone? And are summer camps the only place one found American teenagers in the 70s and 80s? The film is apparently a horror-comedy but I was too young to find any humour in  it.

I've hated christmas ever since

5)  Black Christmas, 1974. I didn’t see this when it came out but a few years later on video. Part of what creeped me out was the fact that gorgeous Olivia Hussey was in it and I had seen her in 1968’s Romeo and Juliet already. I think I over-identified. And the endlessly ringing phone. And the fact he was in the house the whole time. Cliches now for sure, but then!

It’s odd but these kinds of ‘serious’ horror films are almost a thing of the past and one can view them with nostalgia. Now the creature-feature and slasher-horror has gone mainstream, film school and lite what with films within films, pretend reality filming, hand-held, irony, satire, pastiche and intertextuality, etc etc. I kind of miss the straight gore. At least it wasn’t pretentious. (‘Scream as neo-slasher’, etc)

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3 Comments
  1. pallasathena1 permalink

    I have always considered Black Christmas to be the first in the – He’s in the house!, Boyfriend wrongly suspected as being the killer, etc. genre and nothing has come up to make me change my mind. I will always remember the college getting emptier and emptier with the xmas vac, and nobody realising that the coeds are dead. And of course those awful plastic wrapped bodies in the attic, and the awful suggestive ending. I still get the shivers !!

  2. OneStrangeLoop permalink

    meh, forgot to fill in my ‘name’ field

  3. Anonymous permalink

    After a terrific taster last year of the wonderful Horrorfest at the Labia, I’ll be a regular there! The folks hunt up the most amazing variety of niche, nouveau, and not-so-nouveau horror films, many of them subscripted.. like ‘Night Of The Chupacabras’.. it gave me hope that there might yet be ‘life’ in this genre, that not all blood have been tapped from it in the 70/80ies.. that the world of horror film is lurching ahead yet, ready to swallow your soul, and it absolutely will not stop ever, until you are –
    oh, wait, wrong genre. *ahem*

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