The scenes that scare/scar us, part 2
San Diego’s spookiest musicians share the film scenes that traumatized them
In the first half of this spooky two-parter, I asked San Diego journalists about the movie scenes that scared them the most. Now, let’s look at the scenes that terrified San Diego’s spookiest musicians.
But first, I just realized that I haven’t talked about the scene that terrified me yet, and it’s not fair asking people to expose their own vulnerabilities without giving up some of my own, right?
When I was about 10 or 11, I was at a sleepover at my friend Collin’s house. At the time, my family really only had a few channels—whatever we could get through the antenna—but Collin had a satellite, which seemed like a magical portal to dark, uncensored, and thrilling entertainment.
During our sleepover, Collin put on a movie called The Mangler, a b-grade film based on a Stephen King story about a haunted laundry press. At the beginning of the movie, an old woman working near the press drops a few pills on a belt that pulls them toward the steamroller. She reaches for them and...
For a long time, I never knew what happened. I mean, I knew what happened, but I didn’t see it, because when that old woman reached for her pills, I turned away from the screen. The set-up was just too awful. Instead, I watched Collin’s horrified reaction. And behind him, reflected in a window, I could see the distorted action of what was happening on screen. Those images—paired with the sickening sounds of an old lady screaming as she was pulled into the steamroller—were seared into my memory. The scene ruined me without even having witnessed it.
Later in life, after my senses had been dulled from too much horror, I finally watched The Mangler and it’s not great. The scene that horrified me so badly is actually pretty dumb, but the version in my memory still remains, and it still scares me.
Okay! Here are the scenes that scared some of San Diego’s spookiest bands:
Blood Ponies’ goth post-punk is the perfect soundtrack for Halloween. Their debut album Hoax is coming out next month and it’s great. They also just premiered a new video today over at Post Trash. Go to their album release party on Nov. 16 at Vinyl Junkies.
Jeff Terich (vocals, guitar): I don't have strong recollections of watching horror movies or being scared by particular scenes in movies as a kid, though I kinda remember being a little freaked out about the dude who gets his heart ripped out in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. That was pretty wild. As an adult, however, I've made it my mission to seek out That Which is Most Likely to Give Me Nightmares. Though most of the time it rarely does. Until I saw Eraserhead.
David Lynch is known for some psychologically twisted moments in his films and in TV (I'll never look at creamed corn the same way again), but Eraserhead, one of his earliest and most lo-fi films, uses its sparseness and small-scale production to its advantage. And I don't think I'll be quite as disturbed by anything in film as I have by The Baby. It's a mutant, oozing, horrific looking beast, but it's not actually a threat to anyone. It's the protagonist's offspring, and he has to take care of it, but it's basically a monster, and well, things don't get much better from there. There's been a lot said about how this movie is really about the anxieties of young parenthood, but what stands out to me is the mystery of how the baby was made. It's something of cinema lore, in fact, leading to rumors that Lynch actually used a calf's fetus to make it. The truth I'm sure is much more banal, that it's a puppet of some sort made of latex and foam, but the grainy snuff-quality of the film leaves you to wonder, and one's imagination will always go toward the most extreme explanation.
Candice Eley (drums): Ok, first of all, Jeff has taken the best one. The baby scene in Eraserhead still freaks me the fuck out. If you put it on right now, I probably couldn't watch it. But...
I was deeply horrified by a particular movie as a child, and it wasn't even a horror movie—it was Cocoon. I'm not sure how old I was when I first saw it, but I would have been 3 years old when it was released. I have this vague sense that I saw it in a movie theater, but that really just opens up a lot of questions about why my parents would bring a 3-year-old to sit through a movie, so more likely they were watching it at home. Anyway, there's a scene (or two, maybe) where the aliens peel away their, uh, human suits and reveal their alien bodies underneath, and I've pretty much never recovered from seeing that. I don't know if it just triggered a primal uncanny valley instinct or if it's a more psychological fear about people not being what they appear...maybe that's why to this day I don't really trust anyone. I'm still just waiting to see if you're going to peel away your human skin and reveal an alien underneath. Also, all the old people swimming in a pool with a bunch of creepy pods really freaked me out, too.
Hexa specializes in darkness. The haunting four-piece makes soundtracks for rituals, sacrifices and ritual sacrifices. They put out their fantastic debut album earlier this year, and I reviewed it a few weeks ago.
Carrie Gillespie Feller(vocals, keys): ThePoltergeist films. As a kid I looked exactly like the main character, Carol Anne, so I was certain we would share the same fate and I would be sucked into the TV and my family would be tortured by Reverend Kane who was terrifying with his stupid, fucking hat and skeleton face. Poltergeist III really got to me too, when Carol Anne moves to the highrise in Chicago with the mirrored interiors, and all of their reflections start wandering around independently. Ugh. Nope. And then there was the whole Poltergeist Curse, where several cast members died unexpectedly, including Carol Anne, so I was certain that I too would die an unexpected death at 12 years old.
Megan Liscomb (bass): The movie that really fucked me up as a kid was Return to Oz. The whole thing is pretty terrifying, but especially the part with Princess Mombi in her hall of heads. Mombi wants to keep Dorothy to harvest her head, and she has this long hallway where she keeps a bunch of ladies' heads because she, like, switches heads all the time to suit her mood! So dark!
Acacia Collins (drums): There's a scene in Leprechaun where Jennifer Aniston is standing next to a truck and feels someone caress her leg. When she realizes it isn't who she thinks it is she screams and falls and her leg is all bloody. This movie came out in 1993, mind you, so I was about 6 when I saw it (thank you, older brother) and I just remember that ruining any dark space for me for quite awhile. There was suddenly this possibility I had never considered before and that shit shook me to the core. If I had to get off my bed in the middle of the night I would leap, like, 3 feet off the side and run for the door. I think I sprained my ankle twice doing that.
Erika Marie (guitar): The scene in a Christmas Story when Ralph's tongue gets stuck to a pole. My preschool was showing it on TV, and I was about 5 years old. I was immediately freaked out from that scene, and ran away before seeing its end. I couldn't stop seeing it in my mind. I had no idea winter could do that to people, and there I was living in the bitter Midwest winter. I was scared to touch anything metal, or drink anything cold outside for years.
Justin Pearson is the singer for a number of influential bands that scare normies, including Retox, Deaf Club and The Locust—who’ve just embarked on a long-awaited tour. He’s also the founder of Three One G Records.
As much as I would assume I could just ramble off the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I think the truly frightening things are the tangible and common subjects that affect everyone, not just some well-off, mildly attractive, naive younger kids in some rural area. Off the top of my head, the first thing that comes to mind is Earthlings. Go ahead and try to throw out a suggestion about some unrealistic storyline of arrogant humans dealing with issues among themselves—I'll roll with how fucked up us "civilized" people are, and find true horror in culture, capitalism, and a lack of empathy. As for a specific scene, I could say the trailer itself is hard to even get through, let alone the entire film.
There are a lot of goth nights in San Diego, but none are as scary Javi Nunez’s brainchild, Hemlock—a gritty, all-encompassing night of horror punk and deathrock. In addition to killer DJ sets, Hemlock always showcases a dark band and unique, commemorative merch, which is a great way to remember the night that you lost your soul.
Here's the thing...As a kid I was exposed to a lot of horror movies early on, movies I probably shouldn't have seen at that young of an age. I'm sure they didn't leave a lasting impression on me though, I mean, I turned out great! *Heavy on the sarcasm there*
Although some movies stick out more than others, there is one scene that to this day still gives me that terrifying wave of goosebumps when I think of it. Off the top of my head some close calls include The Shining, The Omen, Nightmare on Elm Street, Puppet Master, In the Mouth of Madness, IT, Candyman, Chucky, Sometimes They Come Back...The list goes on, as all of these films have a scene or two that kept me up at night as a tiny tot.
The one that takes it for me though, was an X-Files episode I saw called "Home" about the Peacock family. It has been stated that this particular episode has been since banned due to its graphic nature. The scene that got me was when the infamous Peacock brothers, in the middle of the night, calmly walk over and pack into their old Cadillac. The lights turn on, the car slowly starts to move, the radio turns on, and then you hear it, "Wonderful Wonderful" by Johnny Mathis. That alone adds an element of terror, because although they are on their way to brutally bludgeon to death a cop and his family, the song sets a calm and peaceful tone, as if what they are about to do is just another day at the office for them. Because of this episode that song will forever be associated with this brutal scene. But wait, there's more! The episode also involves incest, a dead baby, and deformities, along with violence in it's most barbaric, raw, and primitive form. I have yet so see a movie or show since that has been able to create that feeling of terror for me.
Honorable mention goes to Rod Sterlings Night Gallery episode "Cemetery" where a painting in an old mansion changes to reflect what is going on in the cemetery across the street, showing the owner of the mansion rising up out of his grave and slowly approaching the mansion to take revenge on those that have wronged him!
Warsaw’s music is the musical equivalent of a Nicolas Winding Refn film: dark, sad, scary and sexy. Their EP Magick—released earlier this year—is a cinematic descent into the same musical underbelly that’s populated by The Cure, Interpol, Joy Division and Chromatics.
Rebecca Antuna (vocals, keys): When I was nearly 4 years old, my mom took me to the movies to see the original Ghostbusters when it had just come out into the theaters. I was a super shy, quiet, and sensitive kid who took everything in and held it all inside, so I was really apprehensive about this movie from the beginning. I did not make it very far in the movie—the library scene is what did me in. You know the one, when the Ghostbusters happen upon a peaceful white ghost quietly reading down one of the library aisles, but then she turns into a scary, mean-looking ghost as soon as they say “let’s get her!” Well, I freaked out and cried and made my mom leave the theater even though she kept telling me it wasn’t even a scary movie and that that was the only scary part in it. Lies. I totally would have freaked over Zuul. Ghostbusters is definitely not a comedy no matter what your mom tells you. Moms lie. I know this.
Demetrius Antuna (vocals, guitar): I don't know if I'd call this scared or scarred, maybe both, but there were two instances that stand out to me, both from the same film—Blue Velvet. My dad took me to see this in the theater when it came out, I think I was 11 or 12 years old. At this point I'd already been pretty scarred by Jaws and The Shining (elevator scene makes this list too), but the surrealness of Blue Velvet really fucked with my head. The two scenes in-particular were first when Frank Booth is first introduced and Jeffrey Beaumont is hiding in the closet. We see Frank Booth with Isabella, he pulls out his oxygen mask saying "don't you fucking look at me" and "baby wants to fuck" and then loses his shit yelling "you fucking fucker..." The second one was toward the end of the movie when Jeffrey finds the dirty cop shot in the head but still standing in the middle of the living room. For years I could not get that out of my head, I always thought to myself "could that really happen"?
John Mattos (bass): The scene that scarred me most was definitely one from The Road. It’s when Viggo Mortensen’s character goes into the basement of a house they come across in their travels and find a bunch of people being held captive to be harvested for food by a group of cannibals who were staying there. When he panics and runs back up the stairs, the people start begging him to free them. He takes his son and runs out and then later you hear the cannibals return to the house and start beating the captives for trying to escape... It seems to represent the most horrific state human beings could possibly descend into. That whole movie fucked me up for like a week.
Sean Taugher (drums): The scene that scared me the most as a kid was from Star Wars, where they fall into the garbage shoot, and there's that thing in the water that tries to kill Luke... it took me a long time to be okay with getting into water that wasn't clear, especially with all that kelp in the ocean that used to brush up on my leg, or get twisted around my ankle. That used to make me scream until I was about 11 years old.
Becky DiGiglio is a photographer that shoots San Diego’s scariest, most extreme musicians through her Instagram account, @yourethenight. Follow her... if you dare.
When considering this question, two scenes simultaneously came to mind, but I will go with my earliest memory. I was about four years old by my estimation when I first saw it, and it's a classic scene from Nicolas Roeg's The Witches. Adapted from the Roald Dahl novel of the same name (who would quickly become my favorite author as a young child), the whole damn thing is pretty messed up for a kid's movie, when I think about it now. But man, it was one of my favorites. I watched it over and over. If I tried to trace my love of horror back to a few artifacts (though I think this was billed as "fantasy"), this film would certainly be one of them, along with The Crypt Keeper from Tales From The Crypt, whom I found to be utterly delightful at around five years old.
Anyway, the scene was the iconic unveiling of the Grand High Witch, as played by Anjelica Huston. If you've seen the movie before, that's all I need to say. If you haven't: the context is basically that there is a witch convention in which witches plan to turn all children into mice. At first, they appear like normal people to outsiders. But there's this point in the film where the Grand High Witch finally unveils her true witchy self by ripping off her human-looking Anjelica Huston face, and revealing this monstrous Jim Henson creation. She's slimy with a huge, jutting nose, long, dangling earlobes, and simultaneously bald where she should have hair and hairy where she shouldn't be. I remember so clearly covering my eyes and watching through the spaces in my fingers—you know, that classic move that somehow feels like protection despite the fact you're still fully seeing what's happening. It was a straightforward that's gross and scary looking! gut reaction. I mean, you can't get too deep into psychological fears at that age, but it sure stuck with me. And I loved that feeling—the thrill of being scared and the idea that these gross monsters might be hiding among us.
I didn't realize until I was much older (and feel reminded of it daily, as of late) that there really are ugly-on-the-inside creatures masquerading all around us, only they aren't as cool as witches, and they don't get to shed their skin to reveal some wild-ass, goopy-looking puppet underneath—at least, I don't think they do.
Thanks to all the artists and journalists that took part in this. Please watch more horror. Happy Halloween, everyone.