Horror directors spooked as kids

Andres Muschietti.
Craig Anderson.
Craig Anderson.PHOTO: NYTIMES
Annabelle: Creation.
Annabelle: Creation.PHOTO: WARNER BROS
David F. Sandberg.
David F. Sandberg.PHOTO: AFP
There was this doll and it was always sitting on this chair (above).
There was this doll and it was always sitting on this chair (above).PHOTO: NYTIMES
End of a hallway in our house.
End of a hallway in our house.PHOTO: NYTIMES

Five directors with horror films out this year recount the things that scared them when they were growing up

NEW YORK • Sharks or other animals. Clowns. Parents. It is a foundational principle of horror that what frightened us as kids will inevitably come back to horrify us in movie theatres as adults.

In the case of Annabelle: Creation, the new prequel to the popular horror film Annabelle (2014) - itself a prequel to The Conjuring (2013) - the childhood scare is a common and catatonic one. In other words, a doll.

Now in theatres, Annabelle: Creation is an origin story that recounts how the title doll - a murderous, demonic and life-size figure - terrorised a group of orphaned girls, eventually possessing one of them.

Its director David F. Sandberg said the movie, set mostly during the 1950s, embraces the horror convention that objects from the past are inherently ghoulish.

"If you go to an antique store and see old pictures, there's always something creepy about them," said Sandberg, who is set to direct the superhero film Shazam. "There's nothing scary about a chair from Ikea."

What scared today's horror movie directors when they were kids? Here are remembrances from five with films out this year.

1 Andres Muschietti, It (due in Singapore on Sept 7)

A print of a Modigliani painting at my house in Buenos Aires (Argentina) terrified me. He does these portraits of elongated people with empty eyes and a crooked head. For a child, it's a monster. For me, it was something spooky and haunting and I couldn't shake it off. To this day, I still find it very scary.

2 Craig Anderson, Red Christmas

Growing up in suburban Australia, my grandmother had a ventriloquist doll in her dark, musky lounge. She had inherited it from her mother and told me that it spoke.

What scared me the most was that someone had given it a "wig", which wasn't a proper wig, but rather the jaggedly cut scalp off another doll. Its face was decaying and its eyes had hollowed out. I was scared to go into the lounge, but it was also right next to my grandma's lolly jar so I was faced with a horrible temptation, almost like the price of pleasure was confronting fear. It's probably why I like horror movies so much now.

The doll was inherited by my mother, who hid it in her doll shelf. Then when I moved out, I asked her if I could take it and put it in my office. She was happy for me to. Now the doll sits on the shelf watching me as I write ideas for horror movies.

3 David F. Sandberg, Annabelle: Creation

I can't think of a toy or an object that scared me because I was usually the one scaring people. But there was one event that was probably the scariest. I grew up in Sweden and one night, it was very foggy in the winter, when it gets dark fast. A friend and I were like, "Let's go out and walk in the fog." We walked into this remote wooded area and there was this guy in a hood standing in the fog, and we were like, "That's weird," but we figured it was just a guy. But then he pulled out a sword. We just freaked out and ran the hell out of there. I was maybe eight.

I think it was an older teenager who wanted to scare two kids. But at that age, we didn't have an explanation. Our parents didn't believe us.

4 Jason William Lee, The Evil In Us

When I was eight, I watched this movie called It's Alive. It was done in 1974 so it's horribly cheesy. It's about a woman with a baby who's a mutant, and who goes on a murderous rampage. My mum, at our home in Edmonton, Alberta, used to decorate certain rooms of the house with themes - a Mickey Mouse-themed room, a dog-themed room - and she had this ancestors' room, with really old furniture and photos of my great-grandparents. There was this doll and it was always sitting on this chair. I had to put the doll in the closet because I didn't like it looking at me. It became a big joke to the family, but I was creeped out.

I remember watching The Blair Witch Project, where you hear a baby crying in the woods, and I could have sworn that when I went home, I heard that baby coming from the ancestors' room.

5 Roxanne Benjamin, Don't Fall, part of the anthology XX

I was terrified of the end of a hallway in our house. There's a painting that I drew when I was seven that was hanging in the hallway. It was this landscape painting of a prairie with, like, weeping willows at the end of this road. I knew that if I looked at it, that whatever it was - it was always a woman - would crawl out of the painting and get me. This was in rural Pennsylvania, in the middle-of-nowhere, no-one-will-hear-youscream Allegheny Mountains.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 14, 2017, with the headline 'Horror directors spooked as kids'. Print Edition | Subscribe