While I normally wouldn’t go in for this kind of thing, something about Freddy in Space’s recent list struck a chord with me (most likely the fact that I too am a child of the 80s). So I present for your reading pleasure my own list of horror bric-a-brac, most of it from a bygone era, but some more recent stuff, too. And yes, since it’s me, there’s a disproportionate number of video games. They’re presented in no particular order.
Also, let’s assume that my hypothetical treehouse has a hypothetical cutting-edge entertainment center. While we’re dreaming, we may as well dream big, no?
Thanks to Freddy in Space for the idea. And of course, don’t be afraid to make your own.
Lego Monster Fighters
I actually have the set pictured here, and in case the pic doesn’t adequately convey this, it is awesome. The whole Monster Fighters theme totally appeals to the Castlevania fan in me: classic monsters, creepy settings like graveyards and dilapidated castles, and a bunch of vaguely steampunk people fighting said monsters. Plus the ghosts glow in the dark.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
I posted about these horrifying stories from American folklore once before. They are so deeply entwined with my bizarre childhood that I’d be remiss if I didn’t include them here. Easily the scariest thing on this list, just by virtue of the illustrations, these books would form the backbone of many a long night in the Treehouse of Doom. Seriously, look at that freaking clown thing. They sold this stuff to kids. My elementary school teachers read these to us in class. Also, folklore!
The port of the original Resident Evil to Nintendo’s GameCube was a watershed moment, if not in terms of sales, then in terms of sheer awesome, for the survival horror genre of games. The one thing lacking from the original PlayStation versions of the classic horror series (arguably) were decent graphics, something the GameCube version offered in spades. The remake also included a new mega-zombie, Lisa Trevor, who remains one of the scariest monsters in survival horror history, at least in my opinion. Like Jason Voorhees, Lisa kept a shrine to her dead mother. Unlike Jason, Lisa took her undying love a step further and wore her mother’s skin like a sweater, which her mutated body promptly absorbed and turned into flailing tentacles of despair. Brilliant.
Fatal Frame series
My favorite game franchise of all time, the series that started my obsession with ghosts and, to some extent, encouraged me to become a folklorist, Fatal Frame is simply too wicked not to include. Refining familiar J-horror imagery to a lump of pure terror, the whole series, which was released in the US on PlayStation 2, manages somehow to be more terrifying and simultaneously more beautiful than the huge majority of horror media. These games would always be playing in my horror treehouse… even when nobody was around. Oooooooo. Because ghosts.
A brilliant and underrated cartoon from the ’80s (and yet another instance of the hilarious accidental traumatizing of millions of American children), Inhumanoids was about the consequences of humans tampering with the environment, failing to respect the balance of nature, and giant-ass zombie dragons and shit. It was basically GI Joe with more monsters–same studio, same voice actors, everything. I wrote about its unbridled awesomeness once already, but I don’t think I adequately represented the pure bitchin’ factor of the toys. Of the ones pictured above, I only had the middle guy, Metlar. His power was that he could reach into his stomach through his mouth and pull out a handful of lava, which he would then throw at you. (Consider, for a moment, why you have not seen this. Now go YouTube it.) In the Inhumanoids universe, even the good guys were scary, like these sentient tree guys (I had one of these toys too, and it was wicked). Everything a kid needed to be screwed up for life, in the best possible way. These guys would be prominently displayed, maybe on little shelves built into the branches of the tree where they can glower down on intruders. Because I’m the coolest guy you know.
Super Naturals toys
These are fairly obscure action figures that I vaguely recall from my youth. I had one of the little ghost guys shown in the video. They were pretty simple: medieval-style sword & sorcery guys who happened, apparently, to be dead. Each figure had a flat front section with a holographic decal which, viewed from one angle, would show a more or less normal human-ish image. Turned slightly, it would reveal a spooky undead image (at least the bad guys would–apparently the good guys were lions or some shit). I only had one of these, but it was pretty sweet. My treehouse would feature the whole collection of them lined up in badass battle poses, possibly involving the much more intimidating Inhumanoids. That would be a hilariously lopsided fight.
Another surprisingly frightening book for kids, with a ghostly encounter towards the end that is legitimately scary despite the Harry Potterish tone of the rest of the story. I read it once when I was very young, but I can’t say if I finished it or not–I may have been too scared. But I revisited it a few years back (I still have the copy my mom bought for me when I was a kid), and it held up. It’s a good story and further proof that scary stuff can be warm and ultimately life-affirming. But mostly scary, which is what matters. If you’re going to join my kickass horror treehouse club, you have to read this first.
What, you don’t remember Splatterhouse? The generic beat-em-up with a generic horror theme and crazy amounts of gore? There’s not a lot to say about this game, except that I vaguely remember it having a sort of forbidden fruit aura, due to the aforementioned gore. It wasn’t a good game by any stretch, but it stands out as one of the first horror games I can remember encountering in the arcade, and I think its freaky sound effects and gross character designs would add a pleasant ambience. Also, I can’t help but love the look of old arcade cabinets. All but extinct in the US, arcades used to be a big part of the cultural landscape, at least for gamer nerds like myself. Since the whole treehouse thing has a markedly ’80s vibe, I think this would be a good fit.
Ghosts ‘n Goblins arcade cabinet
Now this is a true classic. Ghosts ‘n Goblins was Capcom’s insanely difficult side-scrolling platformer that had you play as Arthur, a knight who is, understandably, a bit miffed that his ladyfriend was kidnapped by some demon guy. So upset is Arthur, in fact, that he forgets to wear anything under his armor beyond his stylish heart-patterned boxers. You get to see those boxers a lot, as every time the hapless knight takes damage, his armor explodes into a million pieces, leaving him to face the undead hordes in his knickers. You can see why I love this game so much. It’s horror-ish, but with a cartoony lightheartedness that I appreciate. And just listen to that music.
The pinnacle of ’80s horror games, Castlevania remains one of my favorites to this day. It’s probably what started me on the path to horror fandom–I think I mentioned in a previous post how I used to own a toy bullwhip, and played a sort of live-action Castlevania with my younger sisters (no humans were harmed, I hasten to add). The whole Castlevania aesthetic is just great: the noble-but-ultimately-demonic vampires, the emphasis on undeadery (in contrast with contemporary ultra-sexy crap like Twilight), and the hero who alone has the power to stop them (in contrast with much contemporary horror where the heroes basically fight losing battles against unstoppable supernatural forces). These things have had a major influence on the kinds of supernatural stories that I like and the kinds of things I expect in good horror. Even the music and sound effects are iconic and underly much of my horror-ific (as opposed to horrific) imaginings.
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Well, so much for my list. That was actually a great deal more difficult than I expected it to be. I’m wrecked, but it was fun thinking about what a younger version of myself might want in a horror-themed hangout.
Actually, if I’m being honest, this is all stuff I want now.
Actually, if I’m being really honest, I already have a number of these. I’m really only lacking a suitable tree and basic carpentry skills.
And if I’m being extremely honest, a lack of skill or necessary knowledge has never stopped me before. So if I don’t post again, you know what happened.