I have the honor of being a Younger Brother. Moreso, my sibling is an Older Brother, not an Older Sister, which has deep ramifications. My childhood was full of farting contests and instruction on masturbation and being made to feel like an insignificant worm, while an Older Sister might have simply made me feel like an insignificant worm and left it at that. One dubious benefit of having an Older Brother is that I got to hear music and watch movies that, at the time, I was probably too young to fully comprehend. My particular Older Brother was a big fan of the horror genre, which is why, when my age was still in single digits, I saw a lot of movies that kind of fucked me up.
When A Stranger Calls, 1979, color
Of all the movies I watched at grade-school age that I shouldn’t have–A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Sleepaway Camp–When A Stranger Calls is arguably the least scary from an objective viewpoint. However, it made a big impact on me because it was the first horror movie I ever saw. It may have been the very first time my parents went out for the evening and left my brother in charge, but it was certainly during one of these initial expressions of parental trust that I saw the movie, which ultimately led to me not sleeping for two weeks. The plot to When A Stranger Calls is the same as that campfire story about the prank caller who ends up have called from inside the house all along, a trite, old yarn that I had never heard before seeing the film. I can recall a scene depicting a bloody guy in a bathtub that I don’t believe is actually in the movie. Though I was terrified of When A Stranger Calls and had lingering nightmares because of it, I don’t think I ever explained as much to my parents. I guess I thought they’d be pissed off if they knew my brother let me watch it.
Phantasm, 1979, color
My brother was able to traumatize two family members with this film: my mother first, when she took him to see it in the theater and then never took him to see another horror movie again for as long as he lived. Then again, much later, when he and I watched it one evening that my parents were out. The plot, as I understood at age nine, is about a horrifying tall man that scares the shit out of everyone just through his sheer existence. There are also little Jawas that kidnap people and send them to another dimension through a portal hidden within a mausoleum, but what I mainly remember is the Tall Man, played by Angus Scrimm. How good is that name? Angus Scrimm. With a name like that, you’re either going to be a bagpipe player, or someone that scares the pants off of little kids without much effort. But there’s no way you could be both.
The Last House On the Left, 1972, color
I’m closing in on forty years old at the time of this writing, and I still don’t think I’m old enough to watch this movie. Arguably one of the most disturbing theatrical releases in history, Last House On the Left is about two thrill-seeking teenage girls who go to a rock concert only to get raped and murdered. Parents of one of the teens take their opportunity to enact (a sort of convoluted) revenge when the killers show up at their doorstep due to car trouble. I saw this movie when I was nine years old. The song that plays over the closing credits is one of my favorite songs of all time–a kind of freewheeling country tune that basically outlines the plot of the movie. If you’ve got a strong stomach, I recommend you watch this movie because it’s definitely an interesting juxtaposition of gore, psychological horror, and slapstick comedy–yes, you read that right, slapstick comedy. However, if you’re a nine year-old boy who pisses himself when highly anxious, then you should put this flick on the back burner and watch something more tame like House.