Monday, October 15, 2012

My First Horror Movie

by Erika Bromley
I wish I had a really cool -- maybe even scary -- story regarding the first time I really watched a horror movie.

I could tell you about the time my beautiful and loving grandmother was babysitting for me (I was maybe 6?), and as I cuddled in her lap while she flipped through cable channels (we were one of the first families on the block with cable), I saw a brief shot of a woman on a conveyer belt-type table, strapped down, with a man and a chainsaw awaiting her at the end of the belt. Screaming was heard. My eyes closed quickly, but I never forgot that shot. I don’t think I really knew what the horror genre was all about, and at the point, I was too terrified to care.

Flash-forward to years later – 6th grade, to be precise. My friend Tina had a sleepover, and like most sleepovers in the 1980s, the night ended with movie watching – each girl to her own sleeping bag. This time was different, though. We would be watching TWO scary movies (Rated R! R for “Run home!” R for “Raid the Blockbuster! There have to be other movies!” R for “Raspberry chocolate birthday cake! Yes, I will have another piece!” That last part relates more to my love of sweets than to my fear of chainsaw-wielding men. Let’s move on.) – and not only did I not have any positive experiences with a scary movie, but I knew I was not allowed to watch R-rated movies per my parents.

I should have called home, right? Heck no. We were all in it together. If Tina’s parents rented the movies, it had to be okay? First up, Silent Night, Deadly Night! Next up, I don’t even remember! I think SNDN was enough for the 11 year old set to handle that night. And sooo many images from this movie have creeped me out ever since.

Two words: antelope antlers.
Silent Night, Deadly Night starts with a RAPE and MURDER that involves PARENTS at the hand of SANTA on CHRISTMAS. The kids are then raised in an ORPHANAGE including one terribly mean NUN who emphasizes the need for all things bad to receive proper PUNISHMENT.

The movie mixes religion, murder, teen sex, babysitting, mental institutions, and SANTA CLAUS. It’s enough to make any kid not want to watch another scary movie.

We had no idea that the film had been pulled from theaters due to a controversy over its basic premise (Man in Santa Suit Kills). We just knew we were getting away with something, since we mostly had strict parents but somehow were alone with a VHS copy of an R-rated slasher flick.

But eventually, we all did. Every sleepover became a trip to the video store (RIP). Sleepaway Camp, Candyman, The Exorcist (we were all Catholic or Greek Orthodox, so the religious films really worked for us)…

And then I grew up, became more afraid of local news, political scheming, and Nancy Grace stories, and I lost a little of my zest for horror… until Rob Zombie came along with a certain film in 2003. Loyal readers/podcast listeners will learn more about that soon enough.

F This Movie! friends, what is your first horror movie memory?


  1. Oh man, I can't think of my very first horror movie, but I knew I started watching them when I was around 5 or 6? And I mean going to the movie rental and picking them out with my sister and dad and having a good old fashioned movie night with microwaveable popcorn. We rented Nightmare on Elm St, Exorcists, Candyman, Friday the 13th, Child's Play, all the classic 80's horror films. However, I couldn't watch Exorcist again until I was 15.

    I don't think watching those types of movies harmed me in anyway and I didn't grow up to become viciously violent. I just have an avid fascination with serial killers and Crime Library (hey it's a good ice breaker and got my first college bf, kinda). And I was probably the preppiest Rob Zombie fan sophomore year of high school!

    Now I just have the daunting task of when to introduce these movies to my future kids...any ideas?

  2. I'm pretty sure my first horror movie experiences, much to JB's horror, I'm sure, had to be the Friday the 13th movies. I had a friend who was really, really into them in the early to mid 90's. Specifically, I think Friday the 13th part 3 was the first one I ever saw, and I thought it was awesome at the time. Now it's just kinda funny and bad.

    On a similar note, I remember, as a fairly young person, watching many of the others on TV. There used to be a show on TNT called MonsterVision hosted by film critic Joe Bob Briggs, and I remember watching that back in the day. They had a Friday the 13th marathon, I think.

    Good times.

    1. I remember when Joe Bob Briggs was still on pay cable on TMC (I think it was Drive-in Theater back then?) and could show movies uncut. I saw so much trash for the first time that way.

      I'm such a sucker for those marathons. AMC is running a Ft13th marathon this week, and I KNOW I'll tune in for at least part even though I know those movies aren't very good. I love when they do MonsterFest, commercials and all.

    2. Oh believe me, I already have my DVR set to record some of them. It's been a while since I've revisited a few of the movies, so I'm maybe a little more excited than I should be to watch them again.

  3. I don't remember my very first horror movie, but I remember being freaked out by this TV show called Northstar from 1986. The basic premise is that an astronaut flies through a weird magnetic field during his re-entry to Earth, and then discovers whenever he looks at the sun, it creates superhuman powers in him.

    It's very middle-of-the-road sci-fi, but what freaked me out was the "life-size" mockup that the team of scientists in the show created to demonstrate what had happened to the astronaut. It's a cut-away, so it looks like a vivisected mannequin, showing where his organs would be, and when they demonstrated the effect of the sun on his body, his brain and his eyes start glowing and pulsating and the mannequin thing moves. Yick. Yup, stuck with me.

    1. It's funny how some of the scariest pop culture we absorbed as kids had nothing to do with horror movies. Just ask Doug about the episode of Benson that still gives him nightmares.

  4. My love of Jaws (which was technically my first horror movie but I'm thinking it's a bit soft for the purposes of this article) frequently brought me into the horror section of our video store from a young age and the covers alone were enough to freak me out. Halloween (which I used to assume featured killer pumpkins), Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things and even Silent Night Deadly Night (which if I'm not mistaken, featured the little poem "You better not pout, you better not cry, you better not shout, or you MAY DIE!") are all movie covers that made a strong impression on my 5-year-old mind - I was also smart enough to know I didn't want to watch them...yet...

    Fast forward all of 3 years - I'm 8 and I've got cable in my room (spliced from the living room - again, my parents were the WORST/the BEST) and I've discovered that if I get up around 5am on a weekend morning, I can pick up the late-night movie from a channel on the West Coast. Thus began my early fascination with women's boobs - oh, and horror movies. I'm pretty sure that my first (or at least the one that made an impression) was House and it scared the hell out of me. 8-years old, all alone, in the dark, with the added tension of worrying my parents would wake up - the only thing that got me through were the friendly faces of Norm from Cheers and Major Dad. Funny thing is I never watched it again so I should probably revisit it this month! Anyway, I would soon start checking out all of the classics that Jessica mentioned - I guess my parents figured if I wasn't waking them up in the middle of the night screaming, they weren't doing me any harm!

    Jessica - I'd suggest you'll know when your kids are ready - my parents apparently did. I know I had friends at that age who weren't ready so every kid's different I guess!

    Nice article, Erica and thanks for taking me for a trip down Memory Lane!

    1. Just noticed I spelled your name wrong - sorry Erika!

    2. I also think that because it wasn't the "forbidden" section of the movie rental place it made them a little less scandalous/tempting and we were less likely to seek them out on our own because we weren't rebelling ha. I mean watching a slashers at 6 was a lot less traumatizing than watching the opening scene of Y Tu Mama Tambien as a teenager with my mom in the room...

    3. Maybe it's a protective thing, too, since I would always rent movies with friends and that's the first section we would hit up. It was safer to watch them in numbers.

    4. No problem, Sol! Thanks for reading. :)

  5. There was this guy I went to primary school (elementary school) with whose parents would let him watch the adult movies that i wasnt allowed to watch. He would come to school the next day and try to explain what the movie was about that he had just seen. It may have been due to my poor comprehension skills or his poor ability to explain things but I would always get a very skewed perspective of what the movies were about. For example, for years I thought Jaws was about a group of mad scientists who create a giant robot shark that they send out to eat people.
    His explanation of of Nightmare on Elm street left me more scared than the real thing would have done because I believed it meant that if you had a dream that bad things happened to you then those things would happen to you the next day, leaving me on guard the day after having a nightmare.
    Maybe this is one of the reasons why I am so fond of Nightmare on Elm street, because it was actually a relief to finally see that if you woke up alive then you were ok, but also that my what the movie actually did was far FAR cooler than what i thought it was all about.
    I had one of the rarest of raries...a 3 HOUR video tape (for some reason 2 hour videos were much more common in my house growing up) and I managed to tape the Freddy Kruger marathon they had one night as i was still mesmerized by this poorly told story I had heard. I managed to get Part 1 and 2 on the video and I watched the heck out of it. This was quickly followed by renting part 4 (my favourite), and surprisingly enough it wasnt until much much later that i ever saw part 3.

    So to cut a long story short (or more accurately tell the long story than do a short story summary at the end), my earliest scary movie memory was the Idea of Freddy Kruger and then actually being more blown away by the real thing.

  6. The first Rated R horror movie I remember seeing might have been A Nightmare on Elm Street at a friend's house, because, like Brad, I had that scene with the blood geyser described to me over and over again). I know my first "sanctioned" horror movie was Creepshow, which my parents decided I could watch as long as my Dad was with me. Our VCR broke when the time came to watch it, and he went out and tried to rent a VCR from 7-11 (back when they were renting videos) so I could see it. I think we were unsuccessful, so it was another week or two before I actually saw it, but it always meant a lot to me that he did that.

    I handled the movie well...until the cockroaches.