News Column

Film fears: Movies that give you nightmares

October 17, 2013

YellowBrix

Oct. 17--What scares the scarers?

In this season of the witch, which movies still terrify?

We rounded up some of Tulsa's local authorities on chilling audiences -- horror writers, a master of murder mystery theatrics, a "Creature Feature" expert -- and asked each one the same question.

What was the movie that first spooked you? Which film gave you nightmares? What still haunts you today?

P.C. Cast is the best-selling author of multiple book series and perhaps best known for her "House of Night" vampire novels set in an alternate-reality version of Tulsa (Cast resides in the far-less-colorful Tulsa, where she co-writes the books with her daughter, Kristin). The latest book in the series, "Revealed," has just been released.

"When I was fifteen my brother and I went to see 'Jaws,' and the theater was packed and the only two seats left were in the middle of the front row. This movie scared the bejeezus out of me, up close and personal," Cast said.

"The shark looked real (to me in 1975) and I had not seen the ocean yet, but every pond, lake, or swimming pool I got into for decades -- yes, decades, as embarrassing as that is -- terrified me. Especially if I was treading water...playfully...at night...Da da! Da da! Dadadadada! Yep, it still has the power to terrify. I love that movie!"

The name is Jim Millaway to his friends, but his fans know him as his character Sherman Oaks from the 1970s Tulsa TV legend "Mazeppa" show, which he revived for the "Creature Feature" late-night show in the early 1980s, which combined horror movies with off-the-wall comedy.

"You know, I'm from the generation that always saw the 'Dracula' and 'Frankenstein' movies and they weren't that scary, and then came 'Psycho,' which I saw in the movie theater during high school, and that was frightening. It has stayed frightening," Millaway said.

"There is still something creepy about getting into a shower in a motel, or in any strange place."

He remembers how much the film's fright factor changed audience reactions.

"You have to realize there wasn't anything like it in 1960. People were screaming in the theater and back then people didn't make a noise at the movies. There was a certain decorum. It was not polite to talk in the movies. So I'd never heard screaming before and I've never forgotten it."

Teri White has for a decade been serving as a guide for Tulsa Spirit Tours (sorry, but her bus tours this month are already sold out). For even longer she has been investigating Tulsa's homegrown ghost stories as leader of the Paranormal Investigation Team of Tulsa. Those tales can be found in her book, "Tulsa's Haunted Memories."

Then she has her own personal memories.

"I remember my mom not letting me watch 'The Exorcist,' and I really wanted to see it so bad, and I was like 7 years old. So one night I stayed up late watching the TV in my room, and when that little girl's head started spinning, I had to call my mom downstairs -- I had my own telephone line in my room, I was so spoiled -- and ask her to come up and turn off the TV.

"I couldn't touch it. I was under the covers afraid that (Linda Blair's character) was going to come out of the TV and get me. I've still never watched it again, but I think I'm ready."

Sacheen Platten is the co-owner of Spot Lite Magic & Costumes, 4946 E. 21st St. Cell phone: 918-724-4607, where superheroes like Spider-Man and Batman are dominating the costume sales, along with a longtime favorite: the Michael Myers mask from the horror classic "Halloween."

"It's funny but when I was really little, I loved to watch 'The Wizard of Oz,' even though at age 5 or 6 I would have nightmares about the wicked witch," said Platten, who also sells a wide variety of 'Oz' costumes.

"The nightmares were strange, because it was like the witch was trying to get me as I'm going down a conveyor belt, not even anything to do with the movie," she said. "But you just have to ask my dad if he remembers me waking up screaming, and he'd say, 'It's always the "Wizard of Oz" with her.'"

Longtime Tulsa World entertainment writer John Wooley is well-known for having written not only books but also comic-book series and films. In the field of terror, he has been contributing articles to the horror magazine "Fangoria" for decades.

"Even though I was only 5 years old, I knew something was up when my teenaged cousin Judy took my hand and hustled me past the marquee of the small-town movie house that was running some B-western -- the picture my mother had thought we were going to see when she'd dropped us off a few minutes earlier," Wooley recalled.

"Instead, Judy led me to another picture show in the middle of town, where she was meeting her school pals for a viewing of a giant-ant movie called 'Them.' It was my first horror film, and I had no idea of the sucker punches that awaited, including protracted scenes of young boys like me trapped in the sewers of Los Angeles, screaming and crying as they ducked the clacking arachnid mandibles."

Wooley isn't afraid to admit that he both screamed and cried at this 1954 experience. A lot.

"...Enough to force (my cousin) to haul my bony posterior out of the audience and into the lobby several times during the course of the picture. She got even by explaining to me later that those ants actually lived in caves around our rural home, and they did her bidding. If I gave her the slightest trouble, she told me, I'd be ant chow. I've loved horror movies ever since, probably because the ants never got me."

Jim Fields is the mastermind behind the popular, long-running "Ultimate Murder Mystery" series of audience-participation shows, like the "Vampire Prom Night" event Oct. 26 (more details about this karaoke-infused dinner theater event can be found at the Ultimate Murder Mystery website).

"I was 8 years old, and the movie was 'Hush Hush, Sweet Charlotte.' I saw it on TV at my grandmother's house, which had a window next to the bed where I slept, and I kept seeing Joseph Cotten at the window, and that head rolling down the stairs, and it scared me to death," Fields said.

"It was so brutal from the very beginning -- someone being dismembered in the first reel -- but I always had such an appreciation for that brilliant cast after that. And now here I am doing murder mysteries."

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