HOOKED ON HORROR: 10 Films that Shaped Michelle Swope

I feel fortunate to have grown up in the eighties, the most iconic era in horror. Slashers and great practical effects were everywhere. Over the years, the horror that has had the biggest influence on me, as well as my taste in genre film, has evolved. From slashers to cannibals to dark foreign film, almost every subgenre has had some lasting effect on me. For Hooked on Horror, I’m sharing 10 of the films that shaped me and my evolution as a, sometimes eccentric, horror fan over the years.

Halloween (1978)

I was too young to see Halloween in the theater when it was released, so I didn’t see it until I was older, but it is definitely responsible for my love of slasher movies. John Carpenter is the master of horror and I’m still scared of Michael Myers and consider Laurie Strode to be a bit of a role model and one of my favorite final girls.

The Thing (1982)

As much as my stepfather and I didn’t get along when I was young, he took my brother and I to the movies a lot. It wasn’t until I was a lot older that I realized how big of an impact he had on my love of horror movies. He showed us The Thing on VHS without my mother knowing about it, and I was hooked on the insanely gory practical effects.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

A Nightmare on Elm Street will always have a special place in my cold, dark heart because it was the first horror movie I was old enough to go see by myself. Tina’s death is still my favorite death in a horror movie. I didn’t sleep for a couple of weeks after seeing it, and I have to wonder if this has something to do with the fact that I developed terrible insomnia soon after, and still deal with it to this day. Sleep is something I’m not good at, so maybe Freddy won’t get me.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Wow, this movie haunted me when I saw it in the theater for the first time. Hannibal Lector was a new kind of boogeyman and Clarice Starling was a strong, smart female character for me to look up to. The scene at the end with Clarice in Buffalo Bill’s house, in the dark, while he hunted her with night-vision goggles, is one of the most terrifying scenes I’ve ever seen in a movie.

Scream (1996)

Even though I was a little bit older than the target audience for Scream, I was already a Wes Craven fan and immediately fell in love with this witty, meta, teen slasher. The self-awareness and mocking of common horror tropes was amusing to me, and I was fascinated by characters like Stu (Matthew Lillard), Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich), and especially Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), one of my favorite final girls. I don’t how many times I’ve seen this movie, it has to be hundreds, maybe thousands. If I’m flipping through the channels on the TV and Scream is on, I will almost always stop what I’m doing and sit down and watch it.

The Devil’s Backbone (2001)

Every movie on my list has a direct connection to some part of my life and personal memories. I was dealing with being the single mother of a young daughter and decided to move from North Carolina to Miami, Florida. I had never been this far away from my family before. I delved into foreign horror movies like I never had before, and it was during this time that I saw The Devil’s Backbone. This beautiful, sad movie about a little boy who was viciously murdered has stayed with me all these years and I still adore it.

Donnie Darko (2001)

Donnie Darko also came out during the time I just mentioned. Maybe it was because I was going through a period of personal upheaval, but this movie about time travel, death, and the meaning of life, completely enthralled me and I related to the character of Donnie Darko. Like Scream, I don’t know how many times I’ve seen this movie, but it’s a very large number. This movie could be viewed as depressing, but I saw it as hopeful, and anytime I had a bad day, I would usually go home and watch Donnie Darko.

May (2002)

I’ve always felt like a misfit or a weirdo and I’ve never had a lot of friends who enjoyed horror movies as much as I do. When I saw Lucky McKee’s May, I related to Angela Bettis’ lonely, misunderstood character. I’ve been through a lot since the first time I saw this movie and I still return to it when I’m in need of a comfort movie. I promise I’m not going to start collecting body parts.

The Ring (2002)

The Ring might be the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. If the first death in this movie doesn’t haunt your dreams for the rest of your life, you weren’t paying attention. Video stores were everywhere when this movie came out, and the thought of watching a video tape that might kill you seemed plausible. I remember renting The Ring when it went to video and putting on the special features, only to find it was the video from the movie. I ripped the tape out of the player as fast as I could. I’ve never been so freaked out in my life.

Excision (2012)

As I’ve gotten older, my taste in genre film has gotten a bit darker and when I discovered the work of Richard Bates Jr., I was hooked. Much like May, I could relate to Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord) because she saw herself as different and strange. I love how sarcastic and gruesome this movie is and to this day when I’m seeking solace or a comfort movie, I watch Excision. Again, I swear I’m not collecting body parts.