E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial is a beloved family classic, the tale of a lonely young boy and a lost alien who form a deep, psychic connection and who, ultimately, have to say goodbye. Sweet, right? Touching. Tears. For Ronald Malfi, however, the film was a harrowing experience, akin to other Spielberg horror classics like Jaws or Poltergeist. Who knew that weird little alien with the glowing finger could be so terrifying?
Mercedes M. Yardley was only eight years old when she read her father’s copy of Stephen King’s It. Pretty intense material for someone so young, wouldn’t you say? But years earlier, Yardley had been introduced to what i09 referred to as “The Most Horrifying Children’s Movie Ever Made.” Perhaps she was better prepared to handle the horrors of Pennywise the Clown after repeatedly watching a scary movie starring….a pink-haired unicorn?
Yardley is a Bram Stoker Award-winning writer residing in Las Vegas, Nevada. A self-described dark fantasist, she is the author of multiple books and short stories, including 2013’s Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love and 2014’s Pretty Little Dead Girls. We had a video chat about her first fright, and her choice was unexpected, to say the least.
I’m a big fan of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, the horror/fantasy TV series that ran on Nickelodeon back in the ’90s and early 2000s (if you’re unfamiliar, think Tales From The Crypt Jr., or The Twilight Zone for kids). The show wasn’t my first introduction to horror, but it definitely helped fuel my then-burgeoning interest in the genre. Seen by millions over the last few decades, Are You Afraid of the Dark? is likely the first fright for more than a few writers pounding out spooky fiction today. So, I couldn’t help but wonder, what would it be like to interview the brain behind the show, an architect of First Frights himself, and find out what, in turn, inspired him.
As you get older, you find that many of the things that scared you when you were little are actually so tame, so silly, that it was crazy that they ever frightened you to begin with. For example, I used to dread the 1988 version of The Blob (the part where the titular monster devours this kid Eddie in the sewer was particularly traumatizing). Now I can watch it and laugh at the dated effects and ridiculousness of it all, at least with the light on….
Paul Tremblay, whose 2015 novel A Head Full of Ghosts “scared the hell” out of Stephen King, had a similarly mortifying experience as a boy. While Tremblay sees that film as “pure cheese” today, it did help instill a love for horror in this award-winning author, and for that reason it’s worth looking into.
As horror fans, we all have that book, movie, comic book, etc. that served as our entry point to the genre. For me, it’d have to be Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, the Young Adult book series written by Alvin Schwartz and boasting nightmarish illustrations by Stephen Gammell. There was something about those books that left a huge imprint (scar?) on me as a child and helped spark a lifelong interest in the macabre.
I often wonder how other horror writers first became interested in the genre. Was it after watching the IT miniseries or reading dad’s old Tales From The Crypt comics? “My First Fright” is a new interview series where we look at one work that provided horror authors with that initial spark.
Tales from Vallyeview Cemetery by John Brhel and Joseph Sullivan
Cemetery Gates Media (November 2015)
158 pages; $10.00 paperback; $2.99 e-book
Reviewed by Meredith Durfy
“Angel Music”— The first story in the anthology is about a woman who walks into a graveyard after hearing music coming from there, and then bad things happen to her. I found it painful to read at times. I felt it was poorly written and not scary. I didn’t identify with the main character, I didn’t feel I knew her. All I know about the main character is that her name is Brenda and she is not from Lestershire (the town) originally. It seemed as though the author was more interested in describing everything in detail than setting up the main character. The monster was a problem as well, as creepy children are just cliché at this point.