Black Sabbath – That Face

51EJR6GZX9LI’ve loved scary stuff for as long as I can remember.  Not that I was into extreme horror when I was very young, I just always loved the thrill of being scared.  As a kid, I loved the monsters on Scooby Doo and I was especially fond of the Halloween episode of The Blunders.  Really, any horror themed episode of a show had me completely enthralled.  It didn’t hurt that I was pretty easy to scare.  ALF had me nervous when he though his neighbor was killer and Punky Brewster had me damn near traumatized when she explored that cave.

My transition to more R-rated fare was an easy one due to the fact that my mother was the oldest of twelve.  That meant that I had aunts that were only a few years older than me; they were more like older cousins.  They were teenagers in the 80s and were willing to let me tag along most of the time.  They also made great babysitters – they told scary stories and rented scary movies.  Particularly memorable at that age were Hellraiser and Halloween III.  It wasn’t just the movies that got to me either.  The TV spots for A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 made me nervous any time I had to go in a dark room (or a school bus).  Another aunt had the novelization of Friday the 13th Part 3 lying around.  I listened in as they discussed how “they killed him with his own axe!”

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You could get a lot of weird ideas from this book… Is he drooling blood?

Unfortunately, those feelings start to fade as the wonders of childhood stop being so wondrous.  I never stopped loving the genre and I don’t think I ever will.  What did happen though, is I started to become interested in different aspects of the genre.  I liked the stories, the mythology, the make up, the music, and the style.  There was so much to love, but nothing else felt quite like that nervousness I got from scary moment that really struck a nerve.

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Like Punky Brewster

There were moments here and there that creeped me out, but nothing that sent chills right up my spine and made me a little uneasy about turning off the light before going to sleep.  After a while, I just sort of conceded that this aspect of the genre was lost for me.  I figured it happened to all fans.  That’s why so many people grow out of horror movies as they get older, they don’t find anything else to latch on to after the thrill of being truly scared wears off.

All of this figuring that I did plays a part in why Black Sabbath is such an important movie for me.  Most of my favorite scary moments have a huge nostalgia factor.  They take me back to when I first saw them as a kid.  I can usually remember where I was and who I was with for the more trauma-inducing cinematic experience.  Black Sabbath stands out because I didn’t see this movie until I was in my early 20s.

The late 90s DVD boom saw a lot of Euro Horror was finally getting respectable releases.  All I had seen from Mario Bava at this point was an old VHS of Bay of Blood.  I picked up Image’s snap case of Black Sabbath and settled in.  The movie is an anthology and the first two stories were visually pleasing and quite interesting but the third, one called The Drop of Water, was something else entirely.

It started off pleasantly suspenseful and had a tangible sense of dread.  Then it happened.  The event in the story wasn’t much of a surprise – the dead medium appeared to the nurse who had stolen her ring.  This was obviously what the entire story had been building up to.  What I wasn’t ready for was what she was going to look like.  Her grimace was horrifying and I was instantly a little kid experiencing his first horror movie again.  It was thrilling but uncomfortable enough that part of me wished the movie was over (or at least that every light in the house was on).

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It got worse though.  The corpse didn’t just appear, it physically came to get her.  The effect was hardly convincing.  The thing was obviously a mannequin and glided in a very unnatural way.  This didn’t matter one bit though.  Being flat out terrified isn’t a rational reaction.  In fact, the unnaturalness of this whole thing is a big reason why it was so unsettling for me.  This is the stuff nightmares are made of.

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In fact, I took a few years off of my life just inserting this picture.

That whole thing happened over 15 years ago and hasn’t occurred with that intensity since.  I won’t ever concede the ability of an expertly crafted visual to take me back there though.  I know that there are still movies out there that will touch that primal nerve in me.  They are admittedly few and far between now but it happened before and it can happen again.

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16 Responses to Black Sabbath – That Face

  1. Chris says:

    There are many movies/shows that scared (traumatized) me as a kid and a few images still stick with me (the wheel chair from The Changling), but I have lamented over the fact that I don’t get that same good scare from movies as an adult. I certainly jump a lot at modern movies, (the Ring and Insidious are two good examples) and enjoy myself but the fear is never deep seeded. As I reflected on your article, I realized, it is probably for the best. Living alone, I don’t have the luxury of waiting in the tv room until others arrive home before walking down the darkened hall way passed the hopefully-empty dinning room to go to the kitchen, or waiting until someone else is going upstairs so I can coincidently decide it is time to go to bed. And yet,I still seek out a good scare hoping for that child-like fear to come back…

    Liked by 1 person

    • drhumpp says:

      I think modern technology has made jump scares so easy to produce that filmmakers can’t resist. That, and the masses tend to want that from horror movies. The casual fan that watches only a handful of horror films a year probably wants a fast paced punchy story with lots of jumps. I remember the false alarm jumps were getting out of hand in the mid to late 90s. I Know What You Did Last Summer was so full of them it was exhausting.

      I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy a good jump. You’re right though, it doesn’t stay with you. You could leave those movies and not even be tempted to check the back seat of your car!

      I remember being scared when I was all alone by a few movies when I was a kid. It wasn’t fun at the time, but I still kind of look back on them fondly. I’ve only lived alone for a short period of my life, so your stories are so foreign to me. For the last decade, I’ve spent more time worrying that my movie will wake up a kid than I have about worrying about the darkened hallway.

      Thanks for sharing – I love reading your insights!

      Like

  2. angryscholar says:

    Great post! I’m totally with you. Actually I have some similar childhood memories of Friday the 13th. I remember a sleepover at a friend’s house when I was maybe seven, when the other kids were all watching one of the Friday movies and I was so scared just at the IDEA of watching the thing that I had to leave the room. It’s a wonder I didn’t end up loving slashers.

    That was a different kind of fear, though. It was a child’s fear of the boogeyman. I’m not a fan of slashers in general, but at that unsophisticated age Jason Voorhees was definitely an effective boogeyman. That’s a fear that I don’t think I’ve ever been able to recapture since, though I think it would great if a horror movie could manage it now.

    That deeper dread, the kind that stays with you–that’s still elusive. It does pop up from time to time, but it seems increasingly rare, with jump scares being the default for most contemporary horror–chock it up to the Wanfluence.

    I’ve really got to see Black Sabbath. I put it on the list after your comment on my blog a couple months back but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • drhumpp says:

      I remember a friend was having a sleepover when I was younger and they were going to rent Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. R rated horror was still a bit much for me, so I was actually frightened at the idea of watching that one too. I think a bunch of us might have been, because we ended up renting a video game instead…

      It was your blog post back then that got me thinking Black Sabbath again. I usually focus on sillier moments, but this one was striking.

      I would love to hear what you think of BS when you get a chance. There are two common versions, US and Italian. I prefer the Italian, but for this story in particular, it won’t make a huge difference. There are some differences aside from the spoken language. I think the Italian one is more effective.

      If you’re region/code free, I would suggest the Arrow Video release from the UK. Both versions are included and there’s a good feature about the differences.

      Thanks again for coming by. Your thoughts are always appreciated!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Jay says:

    I can’t watch scary movies. I have this bad feeling that I’ll pee in terror. And I have NEVER peed in terror, so where does that even come from?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. markmc2012 says:

    A truly memorable face. I also love Bava films because of all the candy colored lighting everywhere.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Tony Parsons says:

    I wonder if it’s because it’s obviously a real dummy that could exist in real life that makes it frightening, and not an optical effect? The fact that it floats along in a real way (ie on some sort of line or wire) gives it added realism, and thus, terror?
    I still can’t watch the Exorcist without squirming in my seat and sweating palms, and I still have nightmares about that film. I remember listening to ads on TV for while I was in bed as a kid and being absolutely terrified … basically I have a phobia for the Exorcist like no other film. Yet my 15 year old son saw it on the sly with friends and said “it wasn’t even scary” … how is this possible?

    Liked by 1 person

    • drhumpp says:

      I think you’re right about the opticals. I don’t ever remember being unsettled by a cgi effect. I even felt like they ruined movies like Event Horizon. I just could not get into it.

      It’s funny, but The Exorcist has never struck the same nerve with me that it has other people. I think it’s a great horror movie, but I’ve talked with people I work with that are completely unnerved by it. There’s actually a jump scare in Exorcist 3 that scared me for a lot longer.

      That happens to me a lot when I talk to younger kids The stuff that worked on me just doesn’t seem click with some younger people. As a kid, I was seriously scared by Trilogy of Terror….nightmares and everything! Now that thing looks ridiculous.

      Like

  6. Dr. Jose says:

    Another solid write-up.

    Reading it conjures up my OWN nostalgic memories (of course), and how I handled my own burgeoning fascination with horror, and constantly tip-toeing that balance of “scary enough” and “too scary”. It makes me think of how, at one point early on, along with the general excitement of watching something scary, there was the fear of CORRUPTION from watching something “too” scary. This happened as a teenager, when I forced myself to finally watch “Faces of Death”. I’d heard so many awful things about it; I wasn’t scared of watching the movie with the fear that I might jump or be startled, but that I might be forever changed from watching it. As if watching it meant there was no turning back, like a rite of passage. Of course, by the end I was fine (and probably rolling my eyes), but I kinda miss that feeling. The feeling that something I’m about to see could be a real threat.

    You mention the “unnaturalness” of the mannequin is what made it so unsettling, and this is another great point that I couldn’t agree more with. I do think CGI has its place and creates some real magic, but there’s nothing like watching an old horror movie and seeing latex skin masks, or hacked up mannequins to give a scene a tactile and unsettling vibe.

    Keep up the killer work, dude!

    Liked by 1 person

    • drhumpp says:

      That reminds me of two stories.

      It was almost 22 years ago exactly when I tried to go see Jason Goes to Hell with my older brother. They wouldn’t let me in because it needed to be a parent. Anyway, he felt bad and so I suckered him into renting Faces of Death for me. It was funny though, because there was music that played in the JGTH tv spots that sounded like the music that played in the opening of Faces of Death. I was a bit nervous at 13-14 but I felt that, as a horror fan, I needed to see the most extreme stuff. The legend built around this stuff at the time was incredible.

      I had a similar feeling when I was much younger and my brother and I used to rent wrestling VHS tapes. We once rented a GLOW video and there was an ad at the end of the tape where the women were talking about tearing off each other’s clothes. I never saw the tape but I am 100% sure of this ad. Anyway, I was so afraid to see this (for reasons you mentioned, but also because of the prospect of my dad walking in) that I contemplated running out of the living room. I stayed in, but I was on my feet ready to make a quick escape if necessary.

      As for CGI, I rag on it a lot, but it’s just a tool. If it’s used well (check out The Ninth Gate, there’s a ton of stuff there that I had no idea was cg) it can be effective. Peter Jackson was quite innovative with The Frighteners. I will always prefer practical fx though.

      Thanks for the support. I really value your insight.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Aaron says:

    I’ve been meaning to come back and comment on this one ever since you posted it because I really like what you’ve hit on here and you covered it really well. Those big, overt scares can be fun, but sometimes it’s the more subtle not-quite-explainable moments that stick with us. My “that face” moment is from an old Twilight Zone episode where a lady keeps dreaming she’s in a hospital and a nurse walks out and says, “Room for one more, honey”. At the end of the show, the lady is getting ready to board a flight when a stewardess comes out WHO IS THE NURSE FROM THE DREAM AND SAYS, “ROOM FOR ONE MORE, HONEY”. This causes the lady (and me) to go into hysterics so that she doesn’t get on the plane which promptly explodes on takeoff and so the dream saves her life. The description makes it seem fairly innocuous but to this day, it’s still the most terrified I’ve been from something onscreen. It’s really interesting to think about how all the variables fall into place to make one image or event have this sort of lasting impact.

    Liked by 1 person

    • drhumpp says:

      That’s a great memory – thanks for sharing. Something is bothering me though…Why can’t I remember that episode. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen them all. Do you remember the title? It sounds like something I should revisit.

      I used to have nightmares about the Trilogy of Terror Zuni doll, but it wasn’t until I was a teenager and caught it again that I remembered the inspiration for my dream. How could I have completely blocked that memory out?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Aaron says:

        Haha, well sorry I ruined the ending for you.It appears to be called “Twenty-Two” and you can watch it here:

        I’m deciding if I want to watch it again and potentially be disappointed or just let it live in my memory. I’m sure curiosity will win out. I remember seeing that doll as a kid too, and it was only recently that I figured out what it was from. I have an image in my head of someone reaching under a couch or bed and the doll sticking them with its tiny spear. I want to watch that one again to see how accurate my memories are. Again, it’s really interesting how particular images stick with us for that long. Hope you enjoy that Twilight Zone. 🙂

        Like

      • Aaron says:

        Well, crap. The link didn’t show up, but I found the episode on Hulu for free.

        Like

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