The Movies that Messed Me Up

by Gabino Iglesias

When I was in the 8th grade, my English teacher asked us to create a magazine and fill it with content. Since I was already writing stuff back then, I decided to create some ads, write a couple of short articles, and fill most of my mag with a short story. The tale I wrote was about a family who kept a horrendously deformed, inbred son locked away in a basement. The point of the narrative is that the little monster escapes and proceeds to kill half the neighborhood in a plethora of nasty ways (and by nasty, I mean Cannibal Holocaust-worthy ways). My parents were called in because apparently the story pointed at severe psychological issues. The school feared I would end up on the news with their blood on my hands and that I would soon become the youngest man to join lists with folks like Ed Gein and Ted Bundy. Luckily, my parents were cool about the whole thing and told the school the grammar was good, which should be their main concern, and that they'd take care of the rest. After that, my mom regularly told me that my steady diet of Stephen King, Richard Laymon, and Bentley Little paperbacks was rotting my brain. In a way, she was right, but the horror/writing education I was receiving from those paperbacks was being absorbed by a young brain already putrescent thanks to a bunch of movies that had already compromised it.

You see, I had two things in my early life that, when put together, opened many horrific doors: a Blockbuster card and freedom to watch whatever the hell I wanted. This meant that by the time I reached my teens, I had biked across a huge government housing project to reach the Blockbuster countless times and was already a fan of some pretty fucked up films. If I listed them all here, this piece would be 20,000 words long, so I'm only going to give you a few and tell you why they contributed to the development of the brain that now produces bizarro, horror, and noir literature, usually mixing all of these in the same story:

 

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Scarface

Yes, I'm aware that this is not a horror movie, but if you give it to an eight-year-old, people chopping each other to pieces with a chainsaw and filling bodies with bullets is as horrific as it gets. My Tony Montana impression was gold by the time I was ten. I knew that killing your friend was okay if he kept secrets from you and banged your sister. I knew that women and children were not on the menu. I knew that the world was yours if you were willing to kill your way to the top.

 

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Alien

I think I was ten or eleven when the magic that is Alien came into my life. At the time, it was probably the most claustrophobic film I'd ever seen. Add to that a slimy, fast-moving monster from the brain of H.R. Giger, squirming facehuggers, and bursting torsos, and the end result is a messed up kid dreaming of space terror and hidden alien eggs for weeks. This became the first movie that I'd watch two or three times before returning it. It also marked the beginning of my love affair with gory/scary outer space stories (something H.P. Lovecraft largely contributed to).

 

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Pet Sematary

This movie freaked me the fuck out. Tiny Miko Hughes with a scalpel? Nightmares for days. Victor Pascow's busted head? Sheeeeeeeit, man. The whole movie is steeped in an atmosphere of inevitable doom and desperation that's as thick as the fog in those woods. This was gore and blood, but it was also emotional grit that cut to my core and left me shaken, pondering what I'd do if faced with similar circumstances. That made the film personal, and that's the best kind of horror.

 

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The Exorcist

The internet is a weird, dangerous place where everyone has an opinion and is just dying to share it with you. Lately, it seems like hating on The Exorcist is "in." Well, fuck those people. Here's why this one's on this list: I watched The Exorcist when I was 12 or so. Period. Young child's fragile eggshell mind and all that. The movie stuck with me. Sure, I'd seen a hundred movies with bad language in them, but gems like "Your mother sucks cocks in Hell, Karras, you faithless slime" and "Stick your cock up her ass, you motherfucking worthless cocksucker" were on a whole new level. The green vomit, the piss, the crawling down the stairs, and the violent bed shaking were impressive, but the language coming from Linda Blair's mouth tattooed this movie in my brain.

 

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Hellraiser

The effects were a little cheap, but they were bloody enough to get to me. Almost a decade would pass between watching the movie and me reading Clive Barker for the first time, and I'm pretty sure the movie is still the first thing I think about when his name comes up. No, I'm not ashamed of that. Pinhead lives in my head, and his voice tells me things. When I sit down to write, I sometimes whisper to future readers: "I have such sights to show you." People at the library usually move from my table.

 

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Buy Cannibal Holocaust from Amazon US

Cannibal Holocaust

If someone paid me a bit of dough, I would write a 10k word piece on my three-year quest to track down a VHS copy of this movie. Yeah, it was not a film you could walk into any Blockbuster and rent. At least not back home. I finally tracked one down and got a card at an indie video store 40 minutes from my house just to rent that thing. I sat down and enjoyed every flesh-tearing minute of it. I know I was supposed to be horrified, but I was so damn happy to finally get to watch it that I felt like a hardcore sports fan watching his favorite team winning a championships. I love guts.

 

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The Serpent and the Rainbow

WARNING, PLUG AHEAD. If you read Zero Saints, my latest novel, you'll know I have thing for syncretism, spirits, dark arts, voodoo, and supernatural violence. My interest in these things started at a very early age (grandma and her ghosts/candles/prayers/stories are to blame for that). However, this movie made me feel like someone had pulled some of my own fears out of my head and made them into a movie. Years later, I read Wade Davis' book and eventually studied voodoo, santeria, and other Afro-Caribbean religions seriously (I even became somewhat of an expert on Marie Laveau and visited her grave in New Orleans soon after moving to Austin). However, the impact of that movie was undeniable. I still watch it if I get the chance.

 

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Buy The Shining from Amazon US

The Shining

I've lost count of the times I've seen this movie, but I know the first time was very special. The weird architecture, the twins, the emptiness, the colors, the blood, Danny's finger, the decomposed back of the woman in the tub, and the slow descent into insanity are all part of it, but there's something else, something my young brain couldn't understand at the time, that makes this gem by Kubrick one of those movies that rewired my brain just a little bit and showed me that isolation breeds insanity, and that great stories are always packed with secrets. It also made Jack Nicholson's performance my go-to when older folks started talking about acting.

I fondly remember The Fog, The Fly, Basket Case, Creepshow, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Friday the 13th, The Thing, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Child's Play, Poltergeist, Night of the Living Dead, Re-animator, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and many, many others. However, these eight movies are different for me; they helped, in varying degrees, shape my understanding of horror, and that means their DNA will probably show up in every horror story I ever write. I'm fine with that.

 

 

 

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About The Author
Gabino Iglesias
Staff Writer
Gabino lives in Austin, Texas, where he reads an inordinate amount of books and pens down reviews only for the big bucks he makes doing so. When he was about 12, his mother would tell him that reading all the H.P. Lovecraft and Poe would not lead to anything good. Being on the staff page at HorrorTalk is the confirmation of that.
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