That messed me up as a kid!

Everyone has that one VHS rental that fucked them up as a kid, made them sleep with the light on or wake their folks up in the middle of the night.

Mine was When A Stranger Calls from 1979.By the time I watched it, it was an urban legend type horror film that people always referred to in my company. In 1992 I was, like, 11, and told everyone I was this bad ass who wasn’t scared of horror movies. I was the weird kid with the Freddy Krueger poster on his wall, who wrote scary stories… there was no way this film was going to scare me, right?

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So one night my Aunt called my bluff. I was sleeping over at her house and she dug this out of her collection (she was a horror freak too) and the lights went out and the film came on…

If you think you don’t know this movie, you’re wrong. We’ve all heard the story.

(SPOILER) Babysitter in a lonely big house, phone-calls from a weirdo asking ‘Have you checked the children?’ and the twist is, he’s upstairs calling from inside the house. The kids are dead. The opening of this movie is so damn scary it makes my skin crawl right now writing about it. There’s nothing in this movie you haven’t seen before or since, but the atmosphere is so… old. Creaky. VHS. It almost embodies that time when you had to fix the tracking to see what was actually lurking in the shadows. Carol Kane (Rocky Horror) plays Jill the babysitter. Her quirky, vulnerable, fragile performance sucks you right in. Sure she does all the wrong things. But you can’t help but love her and hope to God she DOESN’T CHECK THE CHILDREN.

(she does)

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From the opening, it goes off on a tangent where we’re actually following the killer. Released from his mental institution considered fully rehabilitated, he tries to strike up a friendship with a whiskey-swilling, grizzled but fabulous middle-aged loner played by Colleen Dewhurst. Suffice to say… it doesn’t end well.

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To this day it scares me to think back to it. The opening 20 minutes especially, but then other moments like the killer hiding in the closet, his flashbacks to being in a padded room with those maniacal staring eyes, and then the ending where he’s actually in bed next to the heroine all along. I’ve since bought it on Blu Ray but STILL haven’t watched it…

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So we’ve all got that movie that we’re still daring ourselves to watch again as adults. Will they still scare the shit out of us? Or will we watch it and go ‘Uh, what was I so scared of, this is shit?’ Is it better to leave it a fuzzy, grainy, chilling memory? So that’s mine… what’s yours? Tweet me and tell me. @jonnylarkin

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SCREAM QUEENS

The term ‘scream queen’ is thrown about these days with about as much thought as the term ‘gay icon’. You only have to get your tits out to be a gay icon now, and to be a scream queen it’s pretty much the same.

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But what about the ladies that really put the hours in? Tits in or tits out, there’s no shame in the game. But to me a scream queen is somebody who has grafted, who has proudly become a figurehead of the genre and stuck by it through thick and thin. Granted, the queen of horror Jamie Lee Curtis did turn her back on the genre for all those years, but she came crawling back. And when she got back she’d seen the error of her ways. Speak to anyone who’s been to a horror convention and they’ll tell you she does not leave until she’s signed her very last autograph. So her dedication might have arrived late to the party but she made up for it with gusto… So the question is… who is your scream queen?

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Over the coming weeks I’ll be compiling my definitive list. And then we’ll podcast about it so all of your responses will be mentioned on air. Whether we agree with them or not will be another matter, and regular listeners should know by now… if we don’t agree, we’re gonna tell ya.

I’ll get the ball rolling with one of my favourite under-rated ladies of horror and that is (drumroll please)

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Dee Wallace Stone

DEE WALLACE STONE

She put in the hours with The Hills Have Eyes (1977), The Howling (1981) and Cujo (1983). But before that we got her in The Stepford Wives (1975), another genre favourite.

Married three times, the second marriage to her Howling co-star Christopher Stone (who sadly passed away in the 90s), Dee’s also a mother and, as American as can be, a self help author.

But more importantly she’s an expert screamer, and brought a quality to her roles that was both tough and vulnerable. Cast as the heroine in Cujo, you were with her for every sweaty, tense minute as she tried to keep herself and her toddler son alive when trapped in an overheated car by a St Bernard with rabies. Through blood sweat and tears and finally getting her hands on a gun she took that dog on and won, and you felt every bite she took to do it.

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In The Howling, she could be accused of being a little ‘wet’. A bit weak by comparison to some of the other women in that movie – the roving reporter or the nymphomaniac she-wolf… But that came with the writing. Dee’s performance elevated the part, infusing scenes that could have been drab with emotion, heart and vulnerability. I particularly love her final scene where she transforms into a werewolf on live television, sacrificing herself to expose the truth – that werewolves walk amongst us.

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In more recent years she’s done the rounds with cameos in Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake, Lords of Salem, and she also appeared in Ti West’s House of the Devil. Personally nostalgia has a big role to play in the horror ladies I love. Dee Wallace Stone represents the 80s all American mother. Not just for horror fans – she was famously the mother in ET, too. Not to mention Critters, and she appeared all over TV, everywhere from Murder She Wrote to General Hospital.

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I’d personally love to see her do more genre work now, and choose better movies than the Rob Zombie misfires. I live in hope. Maybe I should just write her a vehicle.

You can hear more of my love for Dee in this episode of the podcast looking at The Howling, and, hilariously, the Wes Craven misfire ‘Cursed’. It’s a hoot, give us a listen.

Screaming Queenz – The Howling Podcast

Send me your Scream Queen choices on twitter @jonnylarkin.