1. Invaders From Mars
What was the first film that made me… paranoid, terrified, scared of my own parents? Yes, it has to be Invaders From Mars, 1953, directed by William Cameron Menzies, starring Helena Carter, Arthur Franz, Leif Erickson and Jimmy Hunt.
The plot: it’s a dark and stormy night. Thunder and lightning wake up a little kid called David, who looks out of his window and sees an alien spaceship landing in a nearby corn field. He tells his Dad, who goes outside to investigate. Dad comes back later and he is WEIRD. He also has a strange tiny wound on the back of his neck. Dad takes Mom to the field to show her what he found. David hears eerie Theremin-like music, spots Mom dropping out of sight (just like she’d been sucked down into the ground by a giant vacuum cleaner!) and realizes that his parents have been taken over by aliens. He runs to the police station to tell the cops, but then he notices that the police chief has been drilled in the back of his neck as well. David is put in a holding cell and that’s when we can start to relax for a bit, because a pretty psychologist wearing amazing high-heeled correspondence shoes believes David enough to summon his friend, who just happens to be a scientist and astronomer from the local university.
The Martians take over more people, the nearby rocket base is compromised and finally, the US Army is called in to blast the aliens back to Mars. But not before our young hero is sucked down into the Martians’ lair to confront the creepy little Martian Leader (charmingly portrayed as a large silvery-green head in a goldfish bowl) and the Leader’s weirdly choreographed, slavish minions, who look like scary big teddy bear monsters with no ears (called “Mu-tants” in the film).
In spite of budgetary constraints, the atmosphere of this movie was quite dreamlike and surreal. Camera angles were set low to give us the feeling that we were seeing everything from David’s perspective and some of the scenery was deliberately distorted and elongated. The ending is ambivalent: David wakes up and does a Dallas-like “was it all a dream” thing. Then the eerie music starts up again, he goes to his bedroom window, looks out and sees the Martians landing. Again. Is he locked in some kind of Star Trekian space-time continuum loop, or was his dream a premonition? Well, to my screaming 10-year old brain, it was the worst way to end a movie.
For film geeks: in the UK, the “was-it-all-just-a-nightmare?” ending was dropped in favor of a more straightforward conclusion. The Brits might have been wimps, but no doubt they saved a generation of children from suffering the resulting paranoia.
Fun set design fact: instead of using balloons to adorn the walls of the Martian underground hideout, which had a tendency to explode when exposed to the hot lights on the set, the ingenious designer used hundreds of inflated condoms, which no doubt caused an immense amount of merriment and bad jokes.
The aftermath: when I was a kid, my father used to go down to the basement to read his science fiction novels during the summer holidays. After seeing this movie, I would ALWAYS check the back of his neck when he came upstairs to see if he’d been drilled by Martians. This wasn’t easy, as I was a very small child and he was 6 feet tall. Much jumping up and back-of-the-shirt-collar-grabbing was involved. Years later, I told him about my obsession and he said: “I always wondered why you pulled the back of my shirt when I came up from the basement!” Yikes! Retroactive embarrassment!
Disclaimer: I would like to point out that my parents were never taken over by aliens (as far as I know anyway) and were absolutely adorable to me. However, they probably should have noticed that my big brother was making me watch inappropriate-for-my-age films on the Saturday Afternoon TV Creature Feature – with diabolical delight at scaring his little sister.
Fast Forward to 1980s London: I took my boyfriend of the time to see this movie when it was playing at the ICA. I told him that it was one of the scariest movies I’d ever seen IN MY LIFE. However, I hadn’t watched it since I was a kid. My boyfriend was not impressed by the Mu-tant costumes (you could clearly see the zippers in the back) and the special effects weren’t that hot, but he could understand why a small child would have been scared by this venerable flick.
In the end, I’m grateful to Invaders From Mars (to name just one horror film or book out of many that I loved and loathed over the years) for firing up my imagination to the point where I can use my fears and paranoia to create my horror fiction now. Indeed, my short horror story, “Botophobia” (an irrational fear of basements, not bottoms) is an affectionately creepy homage to Invaders from Mars and it’s featured in my full colour, illustrated collection, Voices of the Damned, published by SST. Each story is accompanied by an artwork or illustration by one of the top artists in the genre, such as Clive Barker, Nick Percival, Daniele Serra, Vincent Sammy, Ben Baldwin, Tara Bush, Steve McGinnis and Eric Gross. “Botophobia” was illustrated by Tara Bush.
Be sure to check back soon for more posts from Barbie Wilde!
Can’t wait for more? Don’t Miss VOICES OF THE DAMNED featuring artwork and illustrations by:
“In this impressive collection of short stories, actor Wilde (who played the Female Cenobite in the film classic Hellbound: Hellraiser II) reveals a world of beautiful fear. The most delightfully terrifying entries form the Cilicium Trilogy, which reveals the complex origin and destiny of Sister Cilice. This character-focused exploration is sensual in its brutality. In “Writer’s Block,” Wilde combines the psychological torture of an unknown artist with the erotic egotism of fandom to create a fascinating sexual horror. She creates a dreadful family legacy in “Botophobia,” in which there are not merely skeletons in the closet but unworldly powers hidden in the basement. Wilde’s mastery of shocking violence is given full rein in subjects ranging from reclusive self-imprisonment to the exploration of European nightmares. As much a chilling collection of frightful fiction as a delight for the darker senses, this is a satisfying triumph in a befitting, unforgiving, style.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Barbie Wilde is best known for playing the Female Cenobite in Clive Barker’s classic British cult horror movie, Hellbound: Hellraiser II. Before moving to the UK, Wilde attended Syracuse University in New York State, majoring in Drama and Anthropology. She continued her education in London, studying Drama, Classical Mime and Art History.
Wilde has danced professionally at the top nightclubs and rock venues of New York, London, Amsterdam and Bangkok with her group, SHOCK; robotically danced in the Indian blockbuster, Janbazz; was a vicious thug in Michael Winner’s Death Wish 3; and played a drummer in the so-called “Holy Grail of unfinished and unreleased 80’s horror”: Grizzly II: The Concert, which also featured then unknowns George Clooney, Laura Dern and Charlie Sheen.
Wilde wrote and hosted eight music and film review TV programs in the 1980s and 1990s and interviewed Iggy Pop, The Sisters of Mercy, The B-52s, Johnny Rotten, Nicolas Cage, Hugh Grant and many more.
In 2009-2017, Wilde contributed short stories to 16 different horror or crime anthologies and publications. In 2012, Comet Press published Wilde’s debut diary-of-a-serial-killer novel, The Venus Complex. Fangoria called Wilde “one of the finest purveyors of erotically charged horror fiction around.”
In late 2015, SST Publications published an illustrated collection of Wilde’s short horror stories called Voices of the Damned. Each story is accompanied by an artwork or illustration by one of the top artists in the genre, such as Clive Barker, Nick Percival, Daniele Serra, Vincent Sammy, Tara Bush, Steve McGinnis, Ben Baldwin and Eric Gross. Publisher’s Weekly gave Voices of the Damned a starred review, saying: “As much a chilling collection of frightful fiction as a delight for the darker senses, this is a satisfying triumph in a befitting, unforgiving style.”
In 2017, Wilde returned to acting in the horror short, The Offer, which also featured former Hellraiser and Hellbound alumni Ken Cranham, Simon Bamford, Nicholas Vince and Oliver Smith. Wilde is also co-writing and co-producing a horror feature film called Blue Eyes with director, writer, producer and composer Chris Alexander (Blood for Irina, Female Werewolf, Queen of Blood, Blood Dynasty). Blue Eyes is based on a short story by Wilde.