Ready your nightlights — today marks the release of The Dark, a wonderful children’s book written by Lemony Snicket and illustrated by Jon Klassen. Irreverent and gorgeous, this book might just be a way for your little one (or you) to conquer an elemental fear. To celebrate the book’s release, we asked Lemony Snicket about some of the things that have scared him, and he sent us this list of the movies that terrified him the most — as a little kid and as a larger kid. Check them out after the jump, and let us know what scares you in the comments.
White Zombie (1932)
Summary: Bela Lugosi turns Madge Bellamy into a silent, obedient zombie, presumably for erotic reasons.
Age Seen: 7, a good age for the new Lemony Snicket book The Dark, in stores now.
Circumstances: Watched in horror on TV with older kids while our parents drank wine and laughed their asses off upstairs in the living room.
Lasting Effects: Never liked that stupid band.
Hush Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)
Summary: Bette Davis driven mad by assorted relatives for motivations too convoluted to recall.
Age Seen: 7
Circumstances: Watched with my parents on television; freaked out when Bruce Dern’s head rolled down the stairs.
Lasting Effects: Occasionally suspect my wife is trying to drive me mad, because why else would she put my perfectly good cup of cold coffee in the dishwasher? Mad! Mad, I say!
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Summary: San Francisco beset by pod people, one of whom is Leonard Nimoy.
Age Seen: 8.
Circumstances: Taken to see the film in the theater. At age eight. By my mother. In San Francisco. Invasion of the Body Snatchers. A movie in which they get you when you fall asleep. Eight years old.
Lasting Effects: Whenever my mother asks me why I treat her so poorly, I remind her that she took me to see Invasion of the Body Snatchers when I was eight years old.
Love at First Bite (1979)
Summary: George Hamilton plays Dracula looking for love in Manhattan discotheques.
Age Seen: 10
Circumstances: Watched on local TV. Didn’t realize it was a comedy, which meant the ending seemed nihilistic rather than romantic.
Lasting Effects: My sister gave me the DVD last summer and it’s just as scary, albeit in a different way.
Oxford Blues (1984)
Summary: Rob Lowe goes to Oxford or something.
Age Seen: 14
Circumstances: Misread the cable TV schedule and so thought it was a slasher film. Watched in continuous, unbearable suspense, particularly during shower scene.
Lasting Effects: When watching boring movies, I like to pretend an axe murderer could arrive at any minute.
Mommie Dearest (1981)
Summary: Joan Crawford was a bad mother, whodathunkit.
Age Seen: 16
Circumstances: Watched with my mother, who kept saying Joan didn’t seem that bad.
Lasting Effects: And then sometimes I say, “And it wasn’t just the Invasion of the Body Snatchers thing.”
The Shining (1980)
Summary: Jack Nicholson doesn’t like his caretaking job and gets all cranky about it.
Age Seen: 19
Circumstances: Played at my college moviehouse. Was drunk. Kept screaming.
Lasting Effects: Sometimes old college friends say, “Remember that showing of The Shining where that drunk guy kept screaming like a little girl?” and I say, “No, I do not. I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Also: I hate Bed & Breakfasts.
Summary: Tattoo artist scalpels an enormous design into a woman’s back while she is having sex with a young man.
Age Seen: 20
Circumstances: College girlfriend’s favorite movie. It turned her on.
Lasting Effects: Married an Umbrellas of Cherbourg girl.
Summary: Oliver Reed something something scary people in a house.
Age Seen: 29.
Circumstances: Clutching my wife in our apartment.
Lasting Effects: Sometimes when I get up in the middle of the night I think that masked figure is hiding in the bathroom ready to get me.
The first ten minutes of Experiment in Terror (1962)
Summary: Lee Remick drives across the Golden Gate Bridge while Henry Mancini’s music plays. When she pulls into her garage a guy grabs her.
Age Seen: 30.
Circumstances: My charming wife: “Is this too scary for you? It might be too scary.” Me: “Let’s wait five minutes…..OK, it’s boring.”
Lasting Effects: A deep love for Henry Mancini. But I had that anyway.
Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends (1984)
Summary: Trains won’t stop bickering with each other.
Age Seen: 36.
Circumstances: Listened to my toddler son’s endless delight while feeling my reason depart forever.
Lasting Effects: Still shudder at the word “cheeky.”
The last five minutes of Rec (2007)
Summary: A really scary skinny zombie thing is in a dark room and a woman is quite upset about it.
Age Seen: 42.
Circumstances: Fell into a YouTube hole when sick one day.
Lasting Effects: Writing my congressman re: YouTube suggesting scary things to tax-paying citizens. Moveon.org, can’t you get with me on this?
Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)
Oh, don’t get me started.