The agony and anxiety of parenting decisions: To redshirt or not?

its-also-about-supporting-her-because-no-matter-what-we-are-in-her-cornerIn my day-to-day interactions with colleagues, I feel confident. I don’t know everything, but I do know a thing or 2 about communications and I have assurance in my ability to make decisions and manage projects to completion.
So why is it that I often agonize over decisions about parenting? I second guess myself all the time, and internally (and externally) analyze the pros and cons of every big decision.

This is exactly what happened after a recent email from my daughter’s preschool. The topic? Kindergarten readiness.

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Let me be clear, I’m not the type of mom who will blindly disagree with every bit of feedback about my children. And my 5-year-old daughter does, at times, behave “young” for her age. If I’m being introspective, a lot of that is probably my fault – I consciously wanted her to relish the carefree days before she started school. I’ve maybe done too much for her at times.

So I knew when this email came that it would not be positive feedback about my daughter’s kindergarten readiness. That was confirmed by a brief and frank conversation with the center director who listed a few issues, mostly around temper tantrums and transitions. Also, my girl has never been a fan of circle time, and sitting still for that specific activity has not been her strong suit. There is no disagreement that academically, she is ready for school in the fall. With a birthday in December, she’s old enough too.
16178608_10210166897721686_3764109366547061810_oSo we set a meeting coming up to discuss these issues. I agonized over this meeting for a solid 8 days.

I endlessly discussed it with my partner in life and crime, Dave. After almost 10 years of marriage, he is well versed in my anxieties and sensitivities. He also knows that I have to get it out of my system – if I don’t get it out by talking, it usually comes out anyway, in the worst ways (night terrors, which I still suffer from in adulthood, often pop up during these stressful moments).

I sought advice from other moms, a friend who is a kindergarten teacher and my best girlfriends who don’t have kids. I pored over countless Internet articles about “redshirting” and its benefits and drawbacks. Everyone (and the reputable Internet sources) had good advice. The general consensus? It will work out. And the fact that I’m so worried about it now (when kindergarten is not until next fall) is probably a good thing.

For the most part, the research says that kids who are a bit behind (either in maturity, academic ability, or both) catch up to their peers by 1st grade. And my teacher friend assured me that catching up in terms of maturity is often easier than catching up academically.

So why agonize over this decision? Why write this post? That’s a complicated question to answer, but if I’m being really honest, it hurts me to think that my child is not 100% “up to snuff.” I have always loved that she is a “square peg,” but I know that being extraordinary can sometimes make life challenging. I don’t want her to struggle, or to feel “less than.”

My decision? Redshirting is off the table. I can understand and respect others who choose differently for their child, but I have decided that holding her back will not help her progress. I don’t like the idea of her being a 19 ½ year old senior in high school. I believe she will benefit from being surrounded by peers close to her own age.
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This blog post is the final stage in my around the clock internal debate. I’m ready to let this one go, and I’m going into the meeting in a good place. I appreciate the feedback and any strategies the teachers might offer.

Dave and I know we will have to do our part to help her mature and do more things for herself between now and late August.

Coat zipping is our current project. Have you ever watched a kid try (but not really try) to zip a coat for 5 minutes when you need to be at work promptly at 8 a.m.? Let me tell you, that’s an exercise in letting go.

It’s also about supporting her, because no matter what, we are in her corner. And that means that when she gives her best effort, we eventually do zip that coat and tell her to try harder next time because we know she can, and will, do it.

4 Shows to Watch on Netflix Right Now

By Andrea Rogers It’s cold and snowy (in some parts of the Midwest, at least), and I have come down with an awful cold. So Hygge Week on The Smart Domestic couldn’t have come at a better time, because I’ve become an expert on what to binge-watch from your soft couch, with the the comfort…

via Netflix and Hygge: What to watch this winter — The Smart Domestic

HYGGE LISTENING: CURL UP, PLUG IN, AND PAY ATTENTION TO THESE PODCASTS

By Andrea Rogers Hygge is all about taking pleasure in the small things and being present, so it might not immediately bring to mind your smartphone and earbuds. But thanks to a boom in podcasting over the last couple years and a trend toward higher production values, better writing, and professional voice acting, I’m just…

via Hygge listening: Curl up, plug in, and pay attention to these podcasts — The Smart Domestic

Buy #beautifulbooks: “Witches and Witchcraft”

So much content, so little time. And so little storage space.

This is a recurring theme in my life — everywhere I look, I’m surrounded by a bounty of great content — podcasts, streaming services, cable TV, Spotify music, vinyl records and CDs, digital and print magazines, blogs, movies, comics, e-books, tree books and more.

I can’t own a physical copy of everything. There simply isn’t enough space in my 3-bedroom, ranch-style home. So where do I draw the line when it comes to books?

A few years back, I decided that I would only purchase “beautiful books.” Of course, this is a subjective term. To me, it means that I only buy physical copies of books that have beautiful images, typography and artwork. In other words, books that cannot be fully appreciated in a digital format.

Today’s #beautifulbook is “Witches and Witchcraft.”

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When I was a kid growing up in the small town of Barberton, Ohio, I lived at the local public library. On those dusty shelves, I discovered so many books, including Time-Life’s “Mysteries of the Unknown” series.

I had not thought of these books in years, but they re-entered my orbit last week when I listened to an episode of “My Favorite Murder” in which the ladies described the books (gifted to them by the mysterious sound-man, Steven).

A wave of nostalgia hit me during their discussion. There are 33 books in the series and they have black hardcovers with ornate cover art. The cover of “Witches and Witchcraft” has a sword-wielding witch worthy of a doom metal album, and for me it will always be the most memorable.

The first part of the book focuses on the history and persecution of witches. There is beautiful typography throughout (like this little goat on the letter V), and silver spot color on the pages.

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The silver spot color is especially lovely on the images of woodcuts.

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The writing is clear and concise, which makes this a fun book to pick up for a short sitting or to leave on your coffee table for guests.

There’s also a cool section on the witch’s garden, which intrigued me as a child. I used to imagine that I could gather the plants and perhaps work some magic of my own.

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The last part of the book focuses on modern witchcraft — new age practitioners, wiccans and other heathens. Again, the images are great.

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If you’re looking for a #beautifulbook to add to your collection, I highly recommend the series. They are all available on Amazon and don’t cost too much.

Hail Zombo: A recap of Theatre Bizarre

From the moment you walk into The Masonic for Theatre Bizarre, you feel like you stepped into another world — a dreamlike, dark fantasy.

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There are sideshow performers everywhere — sword swallowers, suspension performers, fire breathers, dancers, contortionists and more — set in the vast, lavishly decorated Masonic complex in Detroit. The performers interact with you on an almost intimate level — touching your shoulder, whispering in your ear, beckoning you to come closer.

There are 8 floors and about 10 venues within The Masonic, and there’s no way you can see everything at Theatre Bizarre as shows run continuously in every venue. All of the performances are expertly staged and seamless, which is amazing considering the scale of the event.

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Photo Credit: Amy Hronek

Our merry band of revelers (pictured above, left to right: my partner in life and crime, me, and our BFFs Dave and Amy) started the night with a visit to The Dirty Devils Peepshow burlesque revue. Early in the night, the crowds were small, and we were front and center for the show.img_0810

The burlesque performers are a highlight for me — I love the old Hollywood glamour of burlesque.

We stayed for 3 shows — all the ladies were fierce, but Tana the Tattooed Lady stole the show. Tana was mesmerizing, beautiful, exotic, alluring (basically everything you want in a burlesque show).

The Ballroom on the lowest level is the main stage and features bands and dancers all night. The Theatre Bizarre brass band also comes through, and that’s something you don’t want to miss. This is also the best place to “people watch” — the costumes at Theatre Bizarre are incredible and never disappoint.

Although I really wanted to see Mat Fraser (star of American Horror Story Freak Show), The Odditorium where he was performing was jam-packed mid-way through the night, so we moved on.

img_0817Food and drinks are plentiful, which is fortunate, because this event is an all-nighter. There’s even an Ice Screams & Sweet Dreams ice cream parlor, where you can get a free, handmade cup of liquor-infused sorbet or ice cream, served by some creepy-cute soda jerks. I went with the blood orange sorbet, which was quite refreshing.

We had the privilege of watching a full set from Cult of the Psychic Fetus, a gothic rockabilly band from Cleveland. The sound in the smaller ballroom, The Asylum, where they played was great, and there were even seats around the perimeter, which was a huge bonus for my tired feet (I don’t often wear high heels, so I was one tired flapper by night’s end).

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Photo credit: Amy Hronek

We wandered down to a smaller stage called The Beezlepub and my ears immediately perked up when I heard a cover of “Henry Lee,” by Nick Cave and PJ Harvey (on the perfect album “Murder Ballads”). Up next in the set was a quirky version of “Who Was in My Room Last Night” by Butthole Surfers. If I was intrigued before, I was all in at this point. The band, Brunswick Brawlers, played a great set of country-rockabilly covers and originals.

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Weary from a a long night on our feet, our motley band of best buds settled into seats in The Sinema and watched a couple silent shorts, as well as some clips from “The Devil’s Rain.” I found myself nodding off a couple times, which meant it was time to wind down for the evening. My pumpkin turns into a carriage not too long after the stroke of midnight.

As I looked at my Instagram story the next day, I was struck by all the happenings from the previous evening. Theatre Bizarre is grand in scale — and the memories are like a dream — singular moments, strange sights and sensuous characters that leave a strong impression.

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Cinema Wasteland recap: Hitchcock and Psychos

I kicked off the month of October in true form — with my hometown horror convention, Cinema Wasteland. I can’t say it enough, but this really is my favorite convention — the guests, films, event lineup and vendors are perfectly suited to my taste, budget and Midwestern sensibility (I like friendly and easygoing people).

With my time limited by budget and family constraints, I only had Saturday afternoon to do the Wasteland, but I made the most of it.

I had the chance to watch 2 flicks I’ve never seen — “Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Final Performance” and “Psychos in Love.” Both were accompanied by guest Q & A sessions.

“Final Performance” was a pleasant surprise — I haven’t seen any of the episodes of this ’60s Hitchcock series, but if there are more like this, then count me in. It was by Robert Bloch, who also wrote “Psycho” and there are plenty of similarities — creepy innkeeper in an isolated outpost, anyone?

The story goes like this. A TV writer on his way to Hollywood gets stopped by a woman running through the countryside. He picks her up and agrees to let her ride along, only to be stopped for speeding a short while later by the town sheriff. The girl spins a yarn about being kidnapped, and the sheriff tells the writer to come into town. Only his car won’t start, so he gets a tow and is stuck there in town, at a suspicious motel owned by an older gentleman. The tension is high as he realizes not all is as it seems, and there’s a fantastic twist ending.

Following “Final Performance,” actress Sharon Farrell (pictured middle, with interviewers Art Ettinger of Ultra Violent magazine (far left) and Ken, the Cinema Wasteland showrunner) did a Q & A session with the audience. She wrote a book about her time in Hollywood and was candid about her relationships with some leading men from the era, including Steve McQueen and Bruce Lee.

The discussion was intimate and personal, and Farrell broke down in tears when she discussed some of her recent struggles. Moments like this are where Cinema Wasteland really shines — it’s not a cookie-cutter experience. It’s real and personal, and sometimes a bit messy.

After a fun dinner and drinks with friends, we sat down for a Q & A discussion with the star and writer of “Psychos in Love, “Carmine Capobianco (pictured left, with Ettinger). Capobianco was right at home at Cinema Wasteland — he was funny and personable, and shared some hilarious stories.

“Psychos in Love” played immediately afterward. It’s a bloody, low-budget, laugh-out-loud horror comedy. For this murderino, it was a perfect way to wrap the night.

Wasteland memories: H.G. Lewis

I had the pleasure of meeting H. G. Lewis in 2010.

H.G. Lewis died today.

I remember meeting the legendary “Godfather of Gore” in 2010 at Cinema Wasteland. I watched his newest flick “The Uh-Oh Show” and he did a Q&A with the audience. He was warm and funny, and he exuded a love of film-making.

Afterward, we stopped by his table and talked about his movies, and his work outside of the gore business — he also had a career in marketing, and even wrote a textbook on the subject.

What strikes me about this experience, upon hearing of his passing, is that it’s in no way unique for a Cinema Wasteland show. A small, intimate gathering,  Wasteland has a family-feel (not to be mistaken with family-friendly). It hosts a treasure-trove of the best, most unique guests representing the good old days of horror — when drive-ins were plentiful, 42nd Street was grindhouse and practical effects were the only effects.

No long lines and reasonable autograph fees allow fans to meet and make memories with guests like H.G. Lewis.

As we prepare for another Wasteland weekend, I’m looking forward to meeting the cast of “The Evil Dead” (for the second time, actually), as well as Sharon Farrell and Carmine Capobianco. We can only attend on Saturday (parenting duty calls), but here’s a preview of our schedule.

Want to see live tweets from the show? Follow me @andrearogers on Twitter.

3 p.m. Guest event: The cast and crew discus 35 years of “The Evil Dead” after the movie screening.

4:15 p.m. Classic TV on film: “Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Final Performance,” with guest Sharon Farrell.

5:30 p.m. Guest event: Sharon Farrell meets with fans to discuss her long career in film and television.

7:30 p.m. Guest event: Carmine Capobianco shares stories from his fun films released in the video days of the 1980s.

8:45pmMovie: “Psychos in Love,” Carmine Capobianco’s most well known and loved film.

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Is “A Nightmare on Elm Street” the quintessential horror film?

a-nightmare-on-elm-street-main-reviewI noticed a curious thing when all of the those #7favfilms lists were flying around on Twitter earlier this month. Almost every horror list contained Wes Craven’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” including my own.

This gave me pause. What is it about “Nightmare” that makes it so timeless and universally well-received?

The concept is transcendent.

The average person is asleep for about 1/3 of their life. And yet, the Land of Nod remains mysterious. It is a bodily function outside of our control — often compared to death in literature and art.
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Sometimes we recall our dreams, and sometimes we can’t. Often, a dream just leaves us with a feeling — dread, sadness, fright or happiness. By no means a passive act, sleep can be a very physical experience. I’ve had my fair share of night terrors, and believe me, they are real and they are upsetting. When deprived of sleep, the insomniac feels like a shell of a person.

That’s the hook that catches every “Nightmare” viewer — we all sleep. Young, old, rich, poor, black, white or brown, everyone can relate to the vulnerability of being asleep. And Freddy Krueger is a killer who stalks his prey while they sleep, through the vessel of their dreams — the ultimate boogeyman.

The special effects hold up. 

This is when I climb on my soapbox and declare that even the most rudimentary practical effects will hold up better over time than the computer generated imagery from the same era.”Nightmare” was released in 1984. It gave us terrifying, visually stunning special effects scenes like this one.

Know what else was released in 1984? “The Last Starfighter,” which may have been notable for its use of computer generated imagery at the time, but just doesn’t hold up today.

The casting is perfect.

At the time, John Saxon (who plays Nancy’s father) was probably the most recognizable cast member. Johnny Depp (Glen) was a fresh face, with “Nightmare” preceding “21 Jump Street” by 3 years.  Robert Englund became synonymous with Freddy as the franchise expanded, but he wasn’t well known in 1984.

The other actors — Heather Langenkamp (Nancy), Amanda Wyss (Tina) and Jsu Garcia (Rod) — were relatively unknown.

This is important because we can relate to the characters — the actors aren’t larger than life personalities, they are people we care about. We are devastated by their deaths. Like Jamie Lee Curtis, Langenkamp is the girl next door with the out-of-touch parents; the cute, easygoing boyfriend; and the slightly wild best friend.

This is a crucial element that is lost in most new horror movies. Take Ouija (2014), a movie chock full of CW-esque beautiful young people. They are mediocre actors, reading mediocre scripts in movies that rely on jump scares. We don’t care if these kids make it to the final act, and we don’t have any emotional investment in their stories.

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Back to my original question.

Is “A Nightmare on Elm Street” the quintessential horror film? Of course, you could argue that movie preference is a matter of taste. And there will certainly be naysayers out there, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say, “yes.”

It’s as close to a perfect fright flick as you’re ever going to get. It’s scary, gory and young-at-heart, but it has the proper doses of all those ingredients — just enough to take you to the edge, and pull you back. It’s a movie that you can watch over and over, and never get tired of — thank goodness, because who would want to fall asleep after watching it?

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Home of the strange

Note: This post is a re-blog that I wrote for my friends over at The Smart Domestic. I was asked to ruminate on the question: “What makes home feel like home?”

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“Oh, give me a home
Where the boogie men roam
Where the ghosts and the green goblins play”
-Song lyrics to “Home of the Strange” from the book “Sipping Spiders Through a Straw: Campfire Songs for Monsters”

Halloween is, hands down, the biggest holiday of the year for my family. It completely takes over the months of September and October, and is celebrated in spirit year round.

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We transform our yard into a cemetery in late September, with tombstones bearing the names of ourselves, our friends, and our loved ones. My husband, Dave, and I have one that says “Happily Wed and Newly Dead.” We usually have multiple costume changes and every weekend is taken up with some sort of Halloween activity – from family fare like hay rides and pumpkin carving to grown-up stuff like horror conventions, metal fests and masquerade balls.

You see, we’re a creepy family. Dave and I are huge horror genre fans, and through that glorious process of osmosis/parenting/indoctrination (whatever you want to call it) our kids have come to love and appreciate the things we love.

My 4-year-old daughter, Wilhelmina, is the most knowledgeable toddler Godzilla enthusiast on the planet. And yes, her namesake is the lovely Wilhelmina Murray from Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.” She can name all the Toho monsters – and a good deal of those from the Gamera universe as well.

My 2-year-old son, Corbett, is probably the only little guy in his day care class who asks to watch the 1987 cult classic “Garbage Pail Kids.” He just calls it “Kids.”

Of course, they were introduced to all of these things, and more, by me and Dave. But I like to think weirdness is in their genes.

There are a million quotes out there about how the worst thing you can be is boring. I won’t dig up any of those, but I always believed this to be generally true. I never really tried too hard to fit in, and when I did I usually failed. So at some point, I just decided to be me. And I tried to fill my life with people who were strange and interesting.

If I could, I would wipe out “small talk” completely. It’s so dull. At home, we don’t really ever do “small talk.” I get to talk about things I love with people I love. And never have I been more at home being me, than I am at home with Dave, Wilhelmina and Corbett.

After dinner we can run around the house pretending to be vampire bats, then grab some popcorn and watch “Hotel Transylvania 2.” We can read comics as bedtime stories, and tuck the kids in with Japanese robots.

Then, Dave and I can snuggle up and watch VHS classics, now re-released on Blu-Ray – like “Ninja III: The Domination” or a classic Italian gore-fest like “The Beyond.” We can drink craft beer and talk about serial killers or obscure death rock bands. We can be ourselves, and be loved all the more for it.

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#7favfilms: My horror list

I’ve mentioned before that I love lists. So when I saw #7favfilms trending, I had to jump into the fray and add my Top 7 Favorite Horror Films. Here they are in chronological order by release date (I simply can’t rank these movies):

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“The Exorcist” (1973)

This is the O.G. of terror. It starts so softly,  so slowly — with some scratching sounds in the attic. You care deeply about this mother and daughter, and the troubled priest who they turn to. Expertly crafted, the story is intense and realistic and the scenes are still shocking today.

True confession — I once stayed up half the night with the lights on after watching “The Exorcist.” I even called my now-husband, Dave, to try to get un-scared.

For the record, I like the version without the spider-walking Regan best — practically, it’s a good effect, but it is too much and it takes away from the intimacy of the confrontation in her bedroom.

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“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1974)

“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is a visceral experience. It punches you in the gut and then backs you into a corner for an all-out assault.

TCM is gritty. To this day, my most memorable viewing was on public access on my tiny dorm-room TV in college. It was so dark, I couldn’t even see what was happening in that chase scene through the woods, but the roar of the chainsaw and the desperation of the characters conveyed everything.

Alien (1979) Directed by Ridley Scott Shown: Sigourney Weaver

“Alien” (1979)

Ripley is a boss. Period. She is the perfect heroine — she’s relatable, she’s smart and she wants to survive. For anyone who ever said that horror movies aren’t kind to females, we can hold up Ripley as a shining beacon of all that is right in the genre.

We could argue classification all day with this one (it fits just fine in the sci-fi genre too), but the sheer artistry of H.R. Giger’s xenomorph and the incredible set design give it more than enough horror cred to make my list.

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“The Evil Dead” (1981)

For being a lifelong horror fan, I came to know “The Evil Dead” rather late in life — I was introduced to it at around age 18 by my now-husband (I think I’m going to start call him that on the reg for fun).

The distinctly low-budget feel of “The Evil Dead” is precisely what makes it so scary — and it’s got this raw, weirdness to it that is very off-putting (yes, I’m talking about that assault-by-a-possessed-tree scene). All that being said, it is highly re-watchable.

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“The Thing” (1982)

Like “Alien,” John Carpenter’s remake of “The Thing” is driven by the isolation of the protagonist. Also, Kurt Russell is everything — sexy, sexy, sexy.

“The Thing” is the gold standard of practical special effects, and it’s one of the few remakes that easily surpasses the original (Cronenberg’s “The Fly” is another notable exception). It also has a wonderful score that was a collaboration between Ennio Morricone and Carpenter.

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“A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984)

Do you remember the first time you met Freddy Krueger? This movie showed up on almost all the horror lists I read. And I don’t think that’s a coincidence — I think there is something transcendent about this monster — a killer of children who haunts our dreams with a glove of knives.

Time hasn’t softened the effect of the kills in “Nightmare” — Tina’s death is just as brutal today as it was in 1984. And although Freddy eventually became a rapping pop tart, repeat viewings of the first installment in the franchise remind me that he was first and foremost the stuff of nightmares.

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“Hellraiser” (1987)

Clive Barker’s masterwork, “Hellraiser,” is a deep well. It’s visually stunning and artfully shot, the acting is razor-sharp, and the story is something out of a fetishistic fever dream.

The first time I saw “Hellraiser,” I was terrified of the cenobites, and to be sure, they are still pure horror. But it’s Julia and Frank who are the real villains in this story — explorers in pleasure and pain, devoid of morality and grotesque in their pursuit of the flesh.

What are your #7favfilms?

Just for fun, I asked my friends to share their #7favfilms in the horror genre. Here’s a list from my friend, Jess Hicks: “The Shining,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Hellraiser,” “Suspiria,” “Candyman,” “Creepshow,” and “The Exorcist III.” 

I asked Jess to add a little snippet of commentary (you can read more from her at Bloody Disgusting and Blumhouse, where she is regularly featured), to which she replied:

“Nightmare on Elm Street” will always be the first movie to scare the shit out of me. Pinhead is a little sexy. “Candyman” is proof the ’90s didn’t suck for horror. I will always feel bad for Shelley Duvall no matter how loud she screeches. “The Exorcist III” is the most underrated sequel of all time.

I also asked my now-husband, partner-in-life-and-crime, Dave, for his list. Here’s his Top 7: “The Evil Dead,” “Burial Ground,” “Ghoulies,” “Dolls,” “Terror Vision,” “Zombie” and “Creature from the Black Lagoon.”

This is a list of 7 of my favorite horror movies. It is most certainly not a list of horror movies I consider to be “the best.” Nostalgia’s a powerful thing.
“The Evil Dead” and “Creature from the Black Lagoon” were shown to me by my older brother sometime around 1987/1988 when I was 7 or 8. My brother’s taped VHS of “The Evil Dead” with the title hand-written in red magic marker was murky, dark and by today’s standards quite poor, but nevertheless stands as the best viewing of the movie I’ve ever had. It seemed scarier and more dangerous. We both wish that tape still existed.
Around 8 or 9 years old, I saw “Ghoulies,” “Terror Vision” and “Dolls” on “The Son of Ghoul Show” with hilarious sound effects thrown in. That VHS copy of “Ghoulies” that I taped was viewed dozens of subsequent times. I actually started recording it late so I always missed the first 5 minutes.

Want to join the fun? Share your own #7favfilms in the horror genre in the comments below. 

Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that choosing just 7 was a painful process. If I could add 3 flicks and make it an even 10, I would add “Scream” (1996), “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (1992), and the aforementioned of “The Fly” (1986).