Nick Antosca is the creator of Channel Zero, Syfy’s horror anthology series (season four premieres Friday, October 26 at 11 pm EST). Prior to that, Antosca wrote on Hanibal and Teen Wolf. He’s also a published author and, unsurprisingly, a horror aficionado. Since this is prime season to revisit horror favorites, we asked Antosca to think back on some of the influences on his career and on the new season of Channel Zero (which, like some of these, will lean heavily on relationship horror) and give us the rundown on some of his go-to horror movies.
Warning: there are spoilers ahead.
Night Of The Living Dead (Amazon)
George Romero’s zombie classic has stood the test of time despite advances that have improved greatly on the look of zombies in more modern zombified films and shows. What is it that allows it to still resonate?
It’s so elemental. It’s about a group of people who represent a microcosm of society and they are beset by something external that forces them into a pressurized situation. They turn on each other and then they destroy. It’s really powerful social commentary and it’s just terrifying. The black and white cinematography is also so visually striking, it’s almost expressionistic and because of that, because of the very kind of basic low budget style, the effects still work. It still feels gory and real. But part of the effect actually might be because I saw it when I so young. I saw it when I was probably 9 or 10 years old and it was the movie that made me want to tell horror stories.
It Follows (Netflix)
David Robert Mitchell’s ‘It Follows’ has a clear reverence for the horror movies of the past, but there’s something that sets it apart from other horror films that trade on nostalgia.
What It Follows did, which very few movies have been able to do in the last couple of decades, is create a new monster. Like that’s a monster that we haven’t seen before and the brilliance of it is it can take any face. The roles are clear and the writer/director has said that he based it loosely on a dream that he had when he was younger. It feels like a nightmare. It feels familiar and at it’s really raw and shrewd and terrifying.
My favorite horror movies don’t all necessarily make sense and some of my favorite horror movies are David Lynch horror movies or David Lynch movies which I consider horror movies and they don’t necessarily follow a clear mythology or rules. But they feel true. They feel like they capture the feeling of a nightmare and that, to me, is the most important thing about how to construct a horror movie. When I’m trying to make something whether it’s horror TV or a horror movie or write a horrific story. What I’m really to do is capture the feelings that I have in my most vivid nightmares.
The Shining (Netflix)
Hallways filled with blood and creepy twins may inhabit your own Shining-inspired nightmares, but Antosca is fixated on a different element.
I saw the movie before I read the book ’cause that was another one that I saw when I was quite young. I’m not sure why my parents let me into these movies because they were fairly restrictive parents but somehow I saw most of these around like age 9 or 10. I think both the book and the novel are masterpieces and they’re both relationship horror, too. Right? Like the first thing was so powerful about The Shining or about the foundation of The Shining is that it’s the story of an abusive father. Your father’s supposed to protect and take care of you, your mom, and kind of protect the family but he becomes less stable and he drinks too much and then tries to kill you. It’s scary. And that’s scarier than any sort of boogeyman. All the greatest horror movies or most of the greatest horror movies are built out of an amazing fear like that. I feel like the book is one of the great American novels about marriage along with Revolutionary Road. It just happens to be a horror novel.
Rosemary’s Baby (Amazon)
The themes and villains in ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ are oft-used, but there’s an added level of effectiveness due to the intimacy of the betrayal at the heart of the film.
In Rosemary’s Baby, I feel like the true villain and the true horror is the trust in the marriage. The betrayal in the marriage. The use of the occult and Satan and witches — it doesn’t have to be that. It could be something else. It doesn’t have to be a Christmas story. It doesn’t have to be specifically about the occult the way that it is but it really has to be about betrayal, trust, and Rosemary’s sense of what her family is and what her husband should be to her. The betrayal that she experiences when she finds out what he’s done to her.
The Thing (Amazon)
Those looking for a more typically structured story with a conquering hero are best to steer clear of John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing,’ though its ending may be part of its charm.
I love ambiguity in an ending and I also love endings that feel happy but there is a storm brewing in the distance. The best existential horror ends with a sense of the abyss, right? Like it’s never over. It’s never over. Even when there’s a moment of rest, whatever the monster is, is still out there. At the end of The Thing, according to the rules of the movie, it seems unlikely that either of those guys is The Thing. I think that they’re both human but they can’t know and they’re almost certainly gonna die right there and it’s just sort of beautifully bleak and this existential ending. It’s one of my favorite horror movie endings of all time.
You can catch the season premiere of Channel Zero on Fridays at 11PM ET on Syfy and you can catch the first two seasons on Shudder.