Every couple of weeks, the OFCS polls its members with a question related to movies. It can be serious or amusing, but each member is given the opportunity to submit a short response to the question, which we will then post on Thursday mornings. Here is this week’s query.
Essay Question #23:
What was the first film that ever scared you and why?
Question Submitted by: Beth Accomando @ Cinema Junkie
Kevin Carr @ Fat Guys at the Movies
The first real terrifying experience I had in a movie was when my father took me to see “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1956) at the local library. The week before, he had taken me to see Howard Hawkes’ “The Thing from Another World” (1951), and since I did fine with the monster in that film, he thought I’d have no problem with “Body Snatchers.” (Little did he know at the time that I was always much more susceptible to pscyhological horror than James Arness in rubber make-up.) I loved the film, but I couldn’t sleep at all that night… or for the next three nights (for the obvious reason that I had a nagging feeling the pod people would get me). My mother was furious at my father, and she never let him live that down.
About a year later, Philip Kaufman remade the film, and I begged my father to take me to see the 1978 version of the film. He wisely refused, and for years I wanted to see it. It wasn’t until it was broadcast on television that he took me to a friend’s house (who had a color TV, which we didn’t have) to watch the movie. Again, I couldn’t sleep a wink all week afterwards. However, I never admitted this to my parents until I was in college because I knew they would have never let me see another scary movie again.
Robert Cashill @ Popdose
The Blob (1958) when I saw it on TV when I was eight or nine. I was convinced it was living under my bed. I’m still not sure that it isn’t. The 1988 remake gave me the willies, too.
Derek Deskins @ Next Projection
When I was a kid I had a natural aversion to anything bloody or vaguely related to the genre of horror. Had I ever seen a horror movie? Nope. But that certainly wasn’t going to deter the impressively great judgement of a four-year-old. That illustrious track record was all ruined by one hospital television and a handful of extraterrestrial homicidal clowns.
I was visiting my dad in the hospital and one thing that you should know about my dad is that he lives for sci-fi and just can’t help but love B-movies. As I stood in his room, my mother talking to him unaware of the sightline of her small child, my eyes wandered to a small television. On the screen was the film Killer Klowns from Outer Space, the first film that ever scared me. I stood there, mouth agape, just soaking in all of the kills: one police officer’s corpse used as a hand puppet and another bystander consumed by a sentient shadow dinosaur. Because of this little nothing film I spent the next 20 years actively avoiding the horror genre and honestly, I still don’t really trust clowns.
Steve Katz @ The Alpha Primitive
The first time I was scared by a movie was, ironically enough, a comedy. My mother took me (aged 3 and a half) and my brother (aged six and a half) to see Beetlejuice in the theater. This is the earliest cinematic experience I can remember, and what I can remember is being utterly utterly terrified of the sand worms (I also recall us arriving a little late and sitting very close to the screen) and screaming and crying until my mom had to take us from the theater.
I legitimately thought Beetlejuice was a full-on horror film for the next decade.
Andrey Lehnemann @ Clickfilmes
It’s hard to describe the first sensation or even understand it. Perhaps, today, the film that scared me the most is The Blair Witch Project, by the tension and terror of the characters – especially the actors, who don’t know the scripts (only in essence). The authenticity and suffering of the characters are something special. On the other hand, I think the first movie that scared me more than the rest was Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari. Not just the memorable production design, specially for my nine year old’s version, but by the intensity of Conrad Veidt. The scene where he comes out of the shadows and walks over to the woman’s bed is chilling. It’s probably the most shocking experience I witnessed in childhood: the man staring at her and about to attack her.
Kristen Lopez @ Awards Circuit
The first film I can recall giving me actual nightmares was Edward Scissorhands. Something about his makeup and costuming did more to scare me than the actual scissor hands. I was also scared out of my wits by Zelda, the deformed sister in Pet Semtary. Actually, I’m still terrified of her!
Marty Mapes @ Movie Habit
I have a theory that “the scariest movie you ever saw” is almost always “the first movie that scared you.” When you are finally old enough to see scary movies, but still not jaded by familiarity, you will have the ideal reaction.
For me, that was Poltergeist, the PG-13 creep-fest from Steven Spielberg. I think it helps that Poltergeist was well polished, and not a low-budget cheez-fest, because I was the kind of kid who would roll his eyes at what he considered fakey….
I haven’t seen Poltergeist lately, but I bet it looks fakey in 2015. If so, I don’t want to know.
Jared Mobarak @ The Film Stage
The earliest memory I have of getting nightmares (and this is meaningful since I rarely ever remember my dreams) from a film was Poltergeist III. I can’t imagine that I saw it when it came out since I was only 6, but the idea of an evil double existing in mirrors and puddles impacted me whenever I first viewed the sequel at home. It probably stemmed from the fact a neighborhood kid used to shoot out our window with a BB-gun in the late-80s. Reflective glass was therefore already a charged topic …
Ben Nicholson @ CineVue
I wasn’t born when Watership Down was released, but I must have been just three or four when I first saw it on a cracking VHS recorded from the television. Released in the UK with a ‘U’ certificate, it’s a lovely cartoon about fluffy bunnies – perfect for a youngster whose best friend at the time was the family rabbit ‘Rattat’, right? No, not right. Not right at all. Don’t misbehave kids, or “The General will get you.”
There are three distinct elements of Watership Down that terrified me as a child – and, let’s be completely honest, still give me shivers today. First is the trippy, hallucinogenic vision of the future that Fiver has in the opening moments. Once was enough for me as a whipper-snapper and the video was summarily fast-forwarded past the blood seeping over the fields of England and the rabbits perishing in their filled-in warrens. Of course, that still left General Woundwort and Efrafa. When I read Richard Adams’ original novel, many years later, I reached the chapter titled ‘General Woundwort’ lying in bed one night. Even then – older than I care to mention – I decided to turn in for the night, the memory of the devilish eyes and bloody maw bearing down on me through the years. I love Watership Down, but boy did/does it petrify me.
Eddie Pasa @ DC Filmdom
For me, there are three answers to this question:
1) The first film with a single scene that scared me,
2) The first film that started off great, but then turned completely scarred me, and
3) The first film that truly terrified me from start to finish.
The answer to #1 is 1979’s “The Black Hole.” I was three when I first saw it in theaters, and I can remember being captivated by the outer space setting and the funny floating robots. In later years, I’d be more disturbed by the gurgling sound Alex makes as he dies horribly by Maximilian’s whirling blades, but the first scene I remember ever scaring me was the beginning of the vision of Hell toward the end. We see a body floating up from a star-tinged, reddish-pink, swirling mist, only to have it disappear under the camera’s frameline. You think you’re all right for one split second, then MAXIMILIAN SCHELL’S FRIGHTENING VISAGE FILLS THE CAMERA WITH A MUSICAL STING! I remember being in the theater, yelping and covering my eyes, and my aunt had to calm me down a bit. I watch this movie every year and still remember how scared I got, and I laugh at myself in hindsight. “The Black Hole” was the first movie I watched which let me know that some movies weren’t all puppy dogs and ice cream, and it made me feel things I wasn’t used to. Like being scared and frightened.
#2 brings us to “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” As I was born in September, I was still 4 when this movie came out, and from what my family tells me, I was having a ton of fun with it… until the wall falls on Marion in the Well of Souls. The mummified bodies coming out and surrounding her, followed by the one with a snake winding out of its mouth? From what I’ve been told, I started crying in the theater and had to be taken out, only to be brought back in for the scene where they open the Ark, and we all know how that goes. The sight of Colonel Dietrich, Toht, and Belloq meeting grisly ends set me off again, and I didn’t know how the movie ended until its release on home video.
#3 belongs squarely to the 1981 network television premiere of John Carpenter’s “Halloween.” This would mark the first horror movie I would ever watch, and the most memorable. To a five-year-old kid back then, “Halloween” was like nothing I’d ever seen. Here’s a movie that started off with you taking the point-of-view of the murderer, and it doesn’t stop until Michael Myers’ body disappears from the lawn at the end. One of the TVs was in my parents’ bedroom, and I watched it from underneath the bed, with only the bedskirt to protect me from the slow-walking man with the white face. I remember vividly how I reacted to Michael jumping on top of the nurse’s car and shattering the window with his hand; I was so scared, my dad asked me if I wanted to keep watching it, and I said, “YES! Just let me get through this part!” I figured if I could get through that scene, what else could go wrong? Um… yeah. That didn’t quite work out so well. I think at one point I snagged the blanket from my parents’ bed and used that to fortify my space underneath when Michael nails Bob in the kitchen. For the majority of the rest of it, I think I heard more than I actually saw due to hiding behind that blanket pile.
These are the three films seminal to my enjoyment of being scared.
Paulo Peralta @ CinEuphoria
The Exorcist. Anyone who saw that film on an early age is forever marked by that gruesome and memorable Linda Blair make up and those sound effects.
João Pinto @ Portal Cinema
Well, I have to say “Dracula” (1992). I know it’s not the classic horror picture, although it’s one of the world’s most famous movie classics, but I was very young when I saw it so it scared me a lot, but I have to say it was mainly because of the vampire theme and all the suspense the film has.
Jerry Roberts @ Armchair Cinema
The first movie that ever scared me, scared me long before I saw it. When I was about six years old I was staying at my grandparent’s house and there was a commercial for an upcoming marathon of Hitchcock films. It was your standard montage of scenes from the movies they were including. Well, right at the very end they included the reveal of Mrs. Bates’ mummified corpse in “Psycho.” For me, the shower scene was peanuts by comparison. That scene the pee-jiggers out of me and I didn’t sleep that night or the next night. I stayed scared and I didn’t actually see the movie until I was a teenager. And actually, as a postscript, this came right on top of the trailer for “Susperia” in which the trailer opens with another skeleton first seen from the back and then turned around. I was afraid to watch TV for a long time.
Robert Roten @ Laramie Movie Scope
The Return of Dracula (1958) in which Dracula hangs out in a small town in America and can turn into mist, or smoke, and sneak into your room through a partially opened window.
After seeing this (as a kid) I closed my window tight and hid under the covers all night, in the summer heat.
Marcio Sallem @ Em Cartaz
Alien (1979). I was around 8, 9 years old, so I guess the scare and horror are kind of self-explanatory.