We all have a handful of horror films that helped shape us into the horror-loving fans we are today. Recently, I was thinking about the films that I grew up with that really sparked my love of the genre, and ten films immediately sprung to mind. I admit that not all of these are great films, but they are films that I can still remember engrossing me and making me want to delve deeper into the horror genre. These are in any particular order (I jotted them down as they sprung in my head).
Attack of the Mushroom People (a.k.a, Matango) (1963)
I grew up right outside Philadelphia, and in the 70s and 80s there was an extremely important channel on UHF (look it up kids)–channel 48. To this day I couldn’t tell you what aired on this channel from Sunday through Friday, but starting on Saturday mornings at 11am, channel 48 aired their weekly Creature Double Feature program. This is exactly what is sounds like. They would show two classic horror films. This is what I cut my teeth on and was my introduction to the world of horror. Best yet, after Creature Double Feature was over, channel 48 would always show two or three more horror films. Channel 48 kept me a pale, pasty boy due to holing myself up in the basement watching horror movies all day.
Attack of the Mushroom People is one of the films that sticks out in my mind. It’s a really simple story: A group of people out on a yacht get shipwrecked on an island and slowly turn into mushrooms. I watched this film recently and this holds up remarkably well over the years. This one is still creepy and has some great make-up f/x. This one creeped the s**t out of me as a boy!!
Scream and Scream Again (1970; my review)
Another Creature Double Feature flick on UHF channel 48!! This one really got under my skin as a young kid. Besides the complete fever dream-like plot, what really grabbed me with this film was the opening. Scream and Scream Again will grab you from the first frame and has perhaps the creepiest openings of any movie. During the opening credits we see a man jogging. He has a heart attack and wakes up in a hospital bed. A nurse comes in and without saying a word sedates him.
The man wakes up and discovers one of his legs was amputated.
More credits roll.
He wakes up again to find an arm amputated.
More credits roll and this pattern keeps going until he is just a torso laying in the bed with no limbs. It was creepy, scary, and beautifully sets the tone for the rest of the film.
Videodrome (1983; my review)
No other film had a bigger impact on shaping me as a horror fan than David Cronenberg’s Videodrome. This film is the perfect blending of gross out special f/x, body horror, and a really smart script. This film mesmerized me and showed me just how intelligent a horror film could be. I used to obsessively watch this film just to try and understand what the hell was going on in it, and once I got it, I felt as transformed as Max Renn. I still watch this film three or four times every year. Long Live the New Flesh!!!
Friday the 13th (1980)
Growing up, my house was the house where all my friends would play. Why? Because I had all the best toys? Nope. Because I had all the best snacks? Not really. Because my parents were cool and let us watch whatever horror film I picked up at the local ma and pa video store? Bingo!! I can still remember huddling around the TV with my friends watching all the camp councilors getting slaughtered. At the time, this was fresh and new and it completely engrossed me. I can still remember watching this film with my friends and the end scene where Alice (Adrienne King) is in the canoe trailing her fingers in the water. Me and my friends just about collectively s**t our pants the first time we watched little deformed Jason jump out of the water!! Good times.
Evil Dead II (1987; my review)
I saw this one in the theater with my mom. From reading Fangoria, I knew what to expect with this film. My mom, on the other hand, did not. But she ended up loving this film as much as me!! What’s not to love? Bruce Campbell stars and is in just about every scene in the movie. There’s horrifying demons, amazing special f/x, great dialogue, and an ending to end all endings!! I return to this film at least twice a year and have recently introduced my kids to it–yes, they loved it too.
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
It was around 1980 or 1981. I rented Dawn of the Dead from my local ma and pa video store and my parents, my brother, and I settled in to watch what I referred to as a classic horror movie. Again, thanks to Fangoria, I knew what I was about to watch, but the rest of my family didn’t. I almost wish I didn’t know because to this day I can remember all their reactions to the classic scenes. We had a blast watching it. That night, after my parents went to bed, I snuck downstairs (I didn’t have a TV or VCR in my room) and watched Dawn of the Dead two more times in a row. I instantly fell in love with this film and this one will always have a special place in my heart!! This is another film (along with Day of the Dead) that I just introduced my kids to. They absolutely loved the gore in Day of the Dead, but liked Dawn of the Dead much better overall.
Re-Animator (1985; Buzz’s review)
After my parents had the basement re-done to make it into another family room, I started watching all my horror films I rented and my channel 48 Creature Double Features down there. Re-Animator was the first horror movie I watched in the newly re-don basement. What’s not to love? Barbara Crampton is beautiful and wildly sexy; Jeffrey Combs is just about the best mad scientist I’ve ever seen; and the special f/x are mind-blowingly gory. And of course who could forget the “head giving head” scene?
I had just graduated from middle school and my parents let my brother and I stay up late watching TV. On one of the UHF channels (not 48 for a change), the station was airing Phantasm. I read about this one in Fangoria, but the premise never really grabbed me. But since it was on, I decided to watch it. The four of us settled in. My dad hated it due to the bizarre, “indecipherable” plot, but I was pretty taken in by the whole thing. The low production values made it feel almost real and more creepy, and when Angus Scrimm’s Tall Man started fucking s**t up, I was hooked. The end scene when the Tall Man grabs Mike through the mirror made me jump fifty feet in the air. I slept with the lights on for weeks after my first viewing of Phantasm. To this day, I can’t explain why this film scared me so much, but it did, and it shaped me as a lifelong horror fan.
The Creeping Flesh (1973)
Yup, you guessed it. This is another one I first saw on channel 48’s Creature Double Feature. This one has Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee starring, which is the main reason I wanted to check it out. What I didn’t know at the time is that this is directed by Freddie Francis, a man who has a long and notable horror pedigree including Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, The Evil of Frankenstein, Son of Dracula, Nightmare, The Deadly Bees, Torture Garden, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, and They Came From Beyond Space (to name a few). The Creeping Flesh is about the bones of a creature that is discovered, but once it is introduced to water, the flesh begins to grow back, almost resurrecting the creature. Great flick!!
Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)
Yeah, I know. Anything directed by John ‘Bud’ Cardos and starring William Shatner shouldn’t be on anyone’s list, but this film freaked me out!! This film tapped into a never-known-before fear of spiders that has lasted with me to this day. That final scene when the entire town is covered in spider webs still haunts me. Damn, I hate fucking spiders!!
What are some of the films that shaped you as a horror fan? Sign off in the comments section below.