1 + 2 Aliens/Species
I was 11 and Jamie was by far my worst friend. His parents gave him free run of their swanky Hampshire new-build and at school he would regale me with shot-by-shot retellings of the impossibly nasty films they let him watch at weekends. Chief among these was something called Aliens, a semi-mythic slice of space gore in which acid blood and severed heads were chucked around with the sloppy impunity of a Bugsy Malone pie fight. When we eventually sat down to a screening he clung to the remote, fast forwarding the talky bits and rewinding entire sections until I agreed that the surround sound was much better than anything my parents could afford.
Throughout all this, I was fixed to my leather seat with excitement, experiencing for the first time the ambiguous pleasure of wanting the scares to be over but desperately longing to see what might come next. However, that was nothing compared to the weird stirrings I felt during Species, the second part of our double bill, in which Natasha Henstridge’s sexy alien shags and skewers her way across America, pursued by an improbable cast of slumming thesps (stand up, Ben Kingsley). Probably the first onscreen nudity I’d ever seen and most of it was followed by a bloody come-uppance. Way to fuck a kid up, Jamie. Thanks a bunch.
3. What Lies Beneath
15 and unusual, my parents stage-managed a trip to the cinema for myself and a group of my primary school contemporaries, now convent school girls of impeccable moral standing. Intent on demonstrating my new found sophistication I smuggled in a bottle of vodka and supped approvingly throughout Robert Zemeckis’ sub-standard spookathon, chuckling at each weary jumpcut. God, I thought, sucking down drafts of £5 muck, I must look so cool. There were to be no further dates arranged.
4. Evil Dead 2
While op ed columnists berate today’s youth, complaining that they’ve never felt the lash of a cane or the grinding indignities of national service, I rue the fact that they’ll never know the agony of sitting up past your bedtime and praying that the video will stop grinding and squeaking as it kicks into record. I first watched Sam Raimi’s comedy splatterfest on just such a night, cross-legged in my pyjamas and muting the volume whenever anyone got up to go to the bathroom. It’s fair to say I haven’t been the same since.
5. Dawn of the Dead
Bruce Campbell’s deadite bashing sparked my taste for gore and I soon built up a library of illicitly recorded shockflicks. I decided to screen George Romero’s zombie classic for some of my classmates and we occupied the school TV room one rainy Wednesday afternoon. There was an impossibly tense passage in which my hated housemaster wandered in and sat out one of the rare lulls in gut chomping. While we’d chatted and marvelled our way through the opening reel, now none of us dared look at each other and we sat in a thick and awkward silence. Satisfied that nothing immoral was taking place, eventually he continued on his rounds. Moments later, when an onscreen shotgun blast popped a skull like a bloody watermelon, a triumphant cheer rose from the assembled crowd.
This was a wonderfully mis-directed bit of pastoral care from my 6th form tutor, a briefcase clutching conservative who sensed growing dissent among my peers as we gradually outgrew the rugby worship and snobbery of my ever-so-minor public school. He arranged a showing of Lindsay Anderson’s 60s classic and bought in a crate of cut-price supermarket beers, hoping we’d sense the futility of Malcolm McDowell’s rooftop showdown and mend our ways. Instead, we wandered back to our boarding house hugging squiffily and plotting revolution. A particularly treasured memory.
8. Bad Taste
Much of this list can trace its origins to Empire magazine and their endless features with titles like ‘The 50 Most Shocking Moments in the Movies.’ I was a sucker for those sorts of things and I’d read all about the sick-drinking excesses of Peter Jackson’s splatterpunk debut. So, when I chanced across a copy in a reduced pile at my local HMV, naturally I pounced. There was some awkward chat with the cashier in which I tried to pass myself off as a mature adult by stroking my incipient stubble and nodding sagely. He didn’t twig and I soon I was riding the bus home, clutching my new find like so much treasure.
This was something that needed to be shared and I resolved that I would share the experience with my two younger brothers, then 8 and 14. Naturally we needed a cover and we developed the cunning ruse that, should we be interrupted, we’d simply present our questioner with the video box for Uncle Buck. Being ignorant fossils, they’d find it impossible to spot the difference between a popular 90s comedy and an excessive blast of comedy gore made for tuppence in a New Zealand backwater. Thus, when were rumbled 20 minutes in, I thrust the aforementioned box into my father’s hands. He surveyed the back cover blurb and looked up at the screen, where a frantic Mr. Jackson was desperately piling his seeping brains through a crack in his punctured skull.
‘Hmm,’ he said, ‘where exactly is John Candy?’
I suppose he had a point.
7. National Treasure
Apparently this Disney romp actually has some sort of plot, pitting treasure hunter Nicholas Cage against Harvey Keitel in a rare ‘trousers on’ turn as a dodgy FBI agent. My only memory from a viewing at the Guildford Odeon is of being woken from a boozy snooze by an usherette who hoped I might identify my then girlfriend. She had gotten impossibly lost while returning from a stomach purging visit to the bathrooms and was clinging to the edge of my seat for comfort. Ah, young love.
9. Bad Boy Bubby
In my third year at university, my friends and I took it upon ourselves to induct the freshers into the rigours of student life. We bought a copy of this weirdo Australian flick online and tonnes of Polish apple vodka. The new intake were bound to be impressed by our cosmopolitan ways and we spent ages draping the walls of our sitting room with ropy blankets. Half an hour in, as the titular character clingfilmed his incestuous mother to death and escaped the grotty bunker in which he had been cruelly imprisoned, a girl started crying hysterically and had to be taken home. An excellent introduction, I thought.
10. A Matter of Life and Death
Just before graduation I broke my knee falling down a 13th century spiral staircase (we’ve all been there, right?). Bizarrely, I wasn’t prescribed any painkillers until I found myself convalescing at home some months later. The pills I was given were custard yellow and fiercely effective and I spent a wonderful afternoon watching the Powell and Pressburger classic, medicated to my eyeballs and oozy with relief. I vividly remember Kim Hunter‘s red lips swimming somewhere in the haze as she talks David Niven through his opening earthward plummet.
By Nick Garrard
Nick Garrard writes about books and films and tweets tiny stories as @nevervane. He is also unemployed. These two things may not be unconnected.