Over the past few weeks we’ve had some great guests drop by Biff Bam Pop to share the movies that made them love horror. Looking at all of their lists made me start considering my own personal rundown. What were the films in the genre that made an impact on me? Which are the ones that formed my love of spookiness? In considering my list, I had to remember that I’m not thinking of my just my favourites, but the ones that set the stage for me coming back to both them and horror again and again.
The Shining (1980)
It just so happens that The Shining is one of my favourite films of all time, as well as acting as my introduction to the horror genre. I remember vividly my dad having it on the television screen at his house when I must have only been about four years old, maybe five. Regardless of my exact age, I know for a fact that The Shining was my first horror film, and it may be the one I’ve seen the most over the last four decades. It has always offered the perfect vibe of despair and fear, and even though I think I know what lay behind every corner of the Overlook Hotel, Kubrick’s classic still manages to deliver a feeling of discomfort ever time I watch it.
Fright Night (1985)
If there’s a common theme throughout this column, it’s watching horror films with my dad. Up until my 9th birthday, I would visit with him every Sunday. We’d often go for breakfast and then go to the movies, and while I know we saw Gremlins and Ghoulies together, Fright Night was definitely our first vampire movie, and I loved it. Chris Sarandon‘s Jerry Dandridge was equal parts horrific and charming, while William Ragsdale and Roddy McDowell had a great chemistry that reminded me of watching Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein, the film that had introduced me to the Universal Monsters. I also remember having the shit scared out of me by the fantastic make-up effects used on Evil Ed and Vampire Amy. Not every movie we grew up on lasts over time, but Fright Night still remains a favourite.
Another Sunday showing with my dad. Didn’t we all want our own Mogwai when we were kids? And weren’t we all confident that there was no way we would ever get our Gizmo wet? Or feed it after midnight? Gremlins was a great horror movie that also gave us applicable life lessons about responsibility and avoiding getting stuck in chimneys.
A few weeks ago I was putting together a list of my favourite films of all time and I somehow omitted Ghostbuster, which was a huge mistake on my end. Not only is it a top ten movie for me, but it’s one I’ve been able to share with my daughter over the last five years. I remember being scared out of my mind in the movie theatre by the library ghost and the terror dogs. While it may be a great horror comedy, back in 1984 it was as scary as you get for me. I loved Ghostbusters, and then I adored The Real Ghostbusters that followed it. To this day, both of them remain fundamental pieces of my horror education.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Jaws 3-D (1983)
There were a lot of films that I could have put down as that fifth movie that gave me my love of horror – I thought about A Nightmare on Elm Street III: The Dream Warriors and Hellraiser. But, in considering what left me feeling almost irrevocably scared in a way that continues to affect me into my 40s, I’m cheating and doing two. To this day, thanks to Raiders of the Lost Ark, I’m afraid of snakes; and thanks to the wonderful power of those paper 3D glasses I wore for Jaws 3-D, I can’t go in any body of water without worrying about being eaten by a shark (and yes, that includes swimming pools). Now, I know some people may say that these films have caused life-long phobias I should aim to conquer with lots of therapy, and God knows I’ve tried, but they’re also the movies that gave me the exhilaration you can only get from horror films. To be fair, I really do wish I was neither opidiophobic or galeophoibic, but maybe I wouldn’t be the same person I am today if I hadn’t watched Raiders or Jaws when I was a small child. Instead, I’m stuck with hearing John Williams’ score in my head whenever I’m in an ocean.
In what should come as no surprise, I saw both of these films in theatres with my Dad.