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There always seems to be that ONE movie that scared the crap out you as a kid. Maybe it was The Legend of Boggy Creek, maybe The Omen, or maybe The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. For me, however, it will always be Herk Harvey's 1962 "Carnival of Souls" starring Candace Hilligoss. Not only is it eerie and scary as hell, it also has one of the creepiest-looking dudes ever seen on film:
See what I mean?
The story is about Mary Henry (Hilligoss) who is out one day driving with friends. They're challenged to a drag race and during the race her car careens off a bridge and into a river. She's the only survivor. A church organist, she moves to a new town, new job, so she can start over.
But then she starts to ... see things, including the man above. Strange events begin to happen to her, like one moment she's in a busy department store and then it's suddenly empty. The only people she sees in these strange, surreal moments are zombie-like, staring at her as she passes by. I can't tell you more, as I don't want to spoil the film, but needless to say, it's a VERY effective horror flick. I can still remember watching it one Sunday afternoon on Channel 5 KTLA in Los Angeles, and how I had nightmares all that night and rest of the week. There were nights where I would wake up, the San Fernando Valley winds howling, the trees outside my window scratching and clacking on the glass, seeing that man's face in the corner of my room, watching me.
Carnival of Souls. If you've never seen it, get ye to The Netflix!
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I have always been drawn to stories that frighten me. It's like an addiction; I can't get enough even though I know I'll get very little sleep afterward. Most movies I watched as a child were the old, campy B movies; Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolfman, the Mummy, something I watched on television to kill a Saturday afternoon. It wasn't until I saw the movie CHILDREN SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS (1973) that I was truly scared.
Actors led by Alan Ormsby go to graveyard on remote island to act out necromantic ritual. The ritual works, and soon the dead are walking about and chowing down on human flesh.
Part of the flesh-eating zombie trope that exploded in the early '70s, by today's standards it's campy and stupid, but for a ten year old, it gave me nightmares for three months. I learned to jump from the doorway to my bed in one leap and I am proud to say that I can sleep with the covers over my head and not suffocate! It should be a part of any ghoul's zombie collection!
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Movies don't scare me. Not in the Friday the Thirteenth and Nightmare on Elm Street-murderer-on-the-rampage-for-no-reason sense. These are child's play. Fiction at its finest, yet fiction none-the-less. Actors can shake their hockey sticks all they want and I remain unfazed.
The movies that strike terror into my heart are psychological thrillers.
When a movie could be reality? That's when the goosebumps pop and I literally shiver from the inside out. Only one honest-to-God-teeth-chattering movie stands out in my mind. Cape Fear.
Childhood fears: One Halloween when I was about six, my sister and I had to visit our biological father. After dinner, he watched a double header of B-rated horror flicks.
Terrifying shadow creatures lived in the basement and drug people down the stairs to brutally torture and kill them in the first movie. With no place else to go, my sis and I cowered behind the couch and listened to the screams of the dying victims. That night we had to sleep in the glass-walled library with the door closed off to the rest of the house. My sister never recovered, and to this day she cannot go down into a basement without every single light on.
The second movie was about scientists injecting liquid into people's brains, turning them into mindless killing machines. Something about the glazed expression in their eyes and the personality flips caused by the drug scared me far more than the basement creatures ever did.
I guess that night killed all hope of Freddie Krueger terrorizing me. However, it left the door wide open to the darkness residing in the depths of the human mind.
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Like many people, when I think of scary stories, my first thoughts tend toward movies, where the images are so evident. There was a movie whose name I quickly forgot, but its opening scenes have remained with me ever since. Picture this: I’m a small boy, age 7 or 8, getting his last few minutes of television in before summer vacation. My family owned a home toward the eastern end of Long Island, where the TV reception was awful (or my parents knew that television and summer vacations were a bad mix.
It didn’t matter what I watched, as long as it was TV. I turned it on and found the beginning of a movie. A young woman receives an unexpected package. She opens it and finds a set of binoculars. For reasons lost to the young boy I was, the woman was excited and immediately went to look through the binoculars. The she let out a blood-curdling scream as her eyes were impaled.
Just then, my father rallied the troops and I turned off the TV, but that confusing moment of horror remains.
In a sense, I hope some reader here knows the name of the film so I can view it as an adult and possibly understand that it wasn’t what I thought it was. Perhaps it was acid around the rims of the eyepieces. That would be much easier for me to handle.
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How about you? Any super-scary stories to share?