PJ: Hey guys, so we have something new and different for you this week. It is not an episode of Reply All. It’s an episode of a new podcast that Alex and I and the Reply All team have made while in quarantine. It is called The Scaredy Cats Horror Show, and the premise of that is I am very scared of scary movies as we’ve actually talked about on the show.
For a long time we’ve wanted to do this thing where Alex would basically curate a list of scary movies starting at not-that-scary and getting progressively scarier to see if it was possible to cure me of my fear. Um so that is what we are doing on this podcast. We’re watching a bunch of scary movies. It’s brutal. And if you’re somebody who either enjoys scary movies and just wants to hear someone be scared of them, well, they are discussed, you could listen to this podcast, also if you’re someone like me who’s a scaredy cat, this could possibly be an act of public immersion therapy. Hopefully, maybe.
So what you’re about to hear is the first episode of this new podcast. If you like it, it has its own feed. If you don’t like it, that’s fine, we’ll be back with normal, Reply All programming next episode. Um one last note, so episodes of this show are gonna come out on every other Tuesday on Spotify and then wide release everywhere else on Friday. Everytime we do anything that has to do with putting a podcast on Spotify, people sort of freak out. We promise this is not, we’re not moving in a direction of Spotify-exclusivity. It’s just like, if you ever wondered about how to support or help the show, literally just listening on Spotify, it actually helps us. You don’t have to do it, we’re not gonna make you do it. We’re not gonna make things really annoying for you. But it helps.
So anyway, here we go. First episode. Let’s go.
PJ VOGT: So the reason we're here today, Alex...
ALEX GOLDMAN: Yes?
PJ: Is because, for a very long time, something that we've talked about, is that I am too scared of scary movies and have always been too scared of scary movies to watch them at all. Like I derive no pleasure from them. Forever, I was just like, "Okay, that's fine. That's gonna be a thing that just skips me." Then a couple years ago, Get Out came out.
PJ: And it became such a zeitgeist-y thing that everybody was like, "Oh, it's so great. You gotta see it. It's not that scary," which is what people always say about things that, in fact, are that scary. But I think for the first time I felt left out and I wanted to be able to watch it. And like also, it seems to have sort of augured in this era of really smart, interesting horror movies. And I feel like I'm missing out for the first time. So I started looking into it. I read a study that said that you can actually kind of habituate yourself to horror movies by watching them.
PERSON: That's so cool that you read a study.
ALEX: Maybe we should introduce our guest, Jason Mantzoukas.
JASON MANTZOUKAS: Such a cool dude thing to do.
JASON: Zeese are zee horror movies. You know what I should do? Read a study.
ALEX: Um, but the reason that we're doing this is because I actually love horror movies. I consume horror movies the way some people consume popcorn, when they're at the movie theater. Like I will—if I'm having trouble sleeping, I'll put on a horror movie and lay on the couch and watch it. They're just—I find them norishing and like..
ALEX: Nourishing. Norish..Nourishing...
JASON: I find them Nu-ro-shell..
ALEX: And just like a joy and I feel like this is the moment I was born for, was just to teach PJ how to love horror, also.
PJ: Right. And the other reason I'm excited to try to do this—and I use the word "excited", very loosely—because as soon as we decided to do this, I was like why did we decide to do this—but we've talked about this on the show and when we have I've heard from a lot of people, who are also in my boat. And my hope is that we can make something that's like for people who are like, "Oh, I want to check out scary movies," it actually gives them a road map.
ALEX: We'll see.
PJ: We'll see. So we're gonna watch a movie every episode. You're gonna pick it and we're gonna have guests, some of the time at least. And today our guest is comedian and film buff Jason Mantzoukas...
PJ: I don't know, Jason. Are you a scaredy cat or not a scaredy cat?
JASON: I am not. I will say this. I am not a scaredy cat, in that I don't shy away from horror movies for being afraid or easily scared. But I am neither like Alex, horror isn't like one of my genres.
PJ: Got it.
JASON: It's not like one of my goto—I'll watch stuff. Especially stuff, like you were saying, like that kind of percolates through pop culture. But I won't seek out—like I won't go and watch, you know, Annabelle. The you know...
ALEX: The doll movie? Yeah.
JASON: Yeah, the the the, you know, every single Blum House movie. Or every iteration of the Happenings movies, or The Vanishings movies, or whatever.
PJ: I don't even know—these are like action figures that 9-year-olds play with. Like none of these make sense to me.
JASON: I don't watch all that but things that really—like Get Out or the Babadook or things that Hereditary—things that are certainly scary but are also that aren't just like horror movie—like I don't in—and I know horror people are gonna get really like—I know they don't like the phrase, "Elevated horror", I think is a way that people use to describe those movies. And I think horror fans don't like that because they are saying, "These are all horror movies. This is all the same. This is just a way for people to act fancy.” And be like, “You like your fancy horror movies," like your Babdooks and your Hereditaries."
ALEX: They're right. They’re right.
JASON: But this is—it's the same, you know?
PJ: I do—as a person, who I guess, is kind of a snob or at least like feels left out when I don't get to enjoy a snobby thing, I think I do want to watch—like I'm happy—I'm not happy to do anything. I'm willing to watch all the crap Alex is gonna make me watch, but the goal I think is to be able to watch that stuff. The stuff like Midsommar, like I can't imagine actually watching that but I'm tired of just like having to sort of sit out stuff.
ALEX: Well so I guess that we should probably tell everybody what movie we watched. This is our first episode.
JASON: So far, this is a disaster.
JASON: This is a rambling, shambling mess. I don't mind saying.
PJ: It's a real talk podcast.
JASON: All three of us are professional podcasters. One of whom, who does a movie podcast already and this is an absolute disaster.
ALEX: The other thing I was gonna say, Jason, is like you also watch a lot of B-horror movies because you make a podcast about shitty movies.
JASON: Correct. Yes, I'm one of the co-hosts of How Did This Get Made, which is a movie podcast about bad movies. Not horror movies, specifically, but certainly horror movies have been featured. Such as, Chopping Mall.
ALEX: Ooh, great movie.
JASON: Or Halloween 3: Season of the Witch.
ALEX: Chopping Mall...
PJ: Chopping Mall?
ALEX: It's about some people...
JASON: Chopping Mall.
ALEX: Who gets trapped in a mall with killer robots.
PJ: Oh yeah, that's bad.
JASON: It's really worth it. That's an example of like, so fun. Not really scary at all but so fun.
ALEX: Right. So the movie that we watched for our first episode, which I'm worried now that people—I'm simultaneously worried A: it wasn't scary enough, and B: I went too hard, too fast, was The Exorcist. PJ, I would love to know just what did you think about it?
JASON: I would like to know, first, have you ever seen The Exorcist, PJ?
PJ: No, I haven't seen—the only horror movies I've seen—are horror movies I was either forced to see due to literally like high school era peer pressure, which is Scream. Or I had to watch a few horror movies in college that I couldn't get out of.
ALEX: For school?
PJ: And that's it.
JASON: Because this is kind of a—this is a classic movie and a classic horror movie.
PJ: No, I know. I was like—it was one of those movies where I was like, "I'm never gonna see this movie and I know that people really like it. And I'm just never gonna see it." But I...
JASON: Yeah. I like this as a starting place because I don't—I mean, listen. You also have to contextually understand—and I'm so curious, PJ, to hear your thoughts—but this movie was terrifying at the time. I mean, like there was nothing—like the time, this was absolutely a phenomenon.
ALEX: I read an article, while we were getting this episode ready, about a guy who sued the movie production company because he fainted, hit his face on the seat in front him and broke his jaw.
PJ: That guy is like my brother.
ALEX: So PJ, what did you think?
PJ: It was interesting. I kind of had feelings. I both felt like you threw me too far into the deep end and like it wasn't scary enough, weirdly.
PJ: So because like...I found it—first of all, I was just very scared to watch it. Like I spent—I put it off all week. I put it off all day today. I, literally, got down to the wire of like where I was texting you being like, "Could we start later?", because I waited until—the running was like 2 hours and 2 minutes and we were originally supposed to record at 7:30 and I was like, "So that gives me until like 5:20 or like 5:28...I have until 5:28." And there was a while where I downloaded the director's cut, which is 10 minutes longer.
JASON: Yeah, I did too. And then I had to change it to make the time work.
PJ: And I was like, I don't want 10 more minutes of scary shit. Like I'm sure the 10 extra minutes are more scary shit.
JASON: Had I been able to weigh in beforehand, I would have but I would like to, now, as the inaugural guest, as you all know. And the first on any new podcast gets to make a rule...
PJ: That's true.
PJ: That's true. That's in the podcast constitution.
JASON: So PJ, from now on, you have to watch the movies at night.
PJ: Yeah, I thought that was gonna happen.
JASON: You cannot watch any of these movies during the day.
ALEX: Sorry, buddy.
PJ: I knew that was gonna happen.
JASON: Because part what's scary is that when the movie's over, it's dark.
PJ: Yeah, so the reason I kind of can't tell how scary it was because I cheated in a lot of ways.
JASON: This is the first episode, why would people tune in?
ALEX: Oh my god, it's just gonna get worse from here.
JASON: Why would people keep tuning in?
PJ: When I said cheated, I just mean I behaved in ways that I could imagine future rules outlawing, but those rules haven't been invented yet. So really not cheating at all.
JASON: Stopping and starting, watching it during the day, yeah.
PJ: I watched it during the day. I stopped and started. I started with the blinds closed but then opened them.
ALEX: Oh my god. Oh my god.
PJ: And at one point I called a friend and made them watch it with me on facetime.
JASON: PJ. Okay, I now need to make a lot of rules.
ALEX: I'm like—rarely am I speechless but I'm...
JASON: Because you would have had such a different experience of this movie, if you'd watched it all the way through at night with nobody there with you. And that should be the intention of this podcast. Here's what I'm willing to say. This, the first episode, is an unmitigated failure already.
PJ: We're five minutes in.
JASON: So we're five minutes in and you have failed. Now, what my solemn promise to the audience is, that because of these fuck ups, PJ is gonna get it together and from now going forward, I think, Alex you should just choose brutal movies. And you should just start sending him like Ukrainian horror movies that are just absolutely terrifying.
ALEX: Like snuff films and stuff? Look. Look. I would love to do that but I know PJ and I have worked together for ten years and I know him well enough that in spite of the fact that we’ve already sold ads, he will bail.
PJ: Oh, I'll bail. I'll definitely bail.
ALEX: If I go too hard.
PJ: I'll definitely bail.
ALEX: If I go too hard.
PJ: You barely got me on the hook right now. I was like literally I was like, how could I get out of this? We promised a bunch of episodes. How can I get out of this? Maybe we could just put something else out? Maybe there's something that you don't know about that I know about that it could change to instead? Like I was like really trying.
JASON: Maybe I can convince Alex to do something where I win?
ALEX: So, so...
PJ: So I did find it scary. I found it scary—I was scared like—I was anticipating being scared of it and then I found a lot of it—it was like—it has a weird rhythm, where the scariest stuff does not happen for a long time.
JASON: Yeah but the tension—by stopping and starting, you really hurt yourself because I think what's wonderful because it's a William Freidkin movie, and I think what's wonderful about it is structurally, he's telling concurrent narratives through the first act of the movie where you're following both the—it's Ellen Burstyn, right?
JASON: And Linda Blair and the burgeoning possession of Reagan, and you're simultaneously following Father Karras through his life, and they are parallel. They don't meet for 40 minutes.
PJ: And you keep thinking they're gonna meet. And I should just say, when I say "pause", I mean like it wasn't like a half an hour pause. It was just like I kept going to the bathroom, unnecessarily, because I was scared.
ALEX: Alright, well...
JASON: You gotta let that tension build.
JASON: PJ, at what point because you're watching a movie at first that's just set up. At what point do you start to feel dread?
JASON: Is it from the beginning because you know it's a scary movie?
JASON: Or is there a moment that you are like, "Oh fuck."
PJ: I had a lot of "Oh fuck", I mean the first—I was scared from the title sequence. The first moment of like, "Shit, shit, shit..", like I was yelling at the TV, a lot, throughout. The first moment was just that—no wait. The first moment was Iraq, that guy put his damn hand in a hold and I thought it was gonna crush him. I, honestly, am so scared watching scary movies that I can't tell if I'm being scared by being scared by things that aren't even supposed to be that scary.
ALEX: If you could like slow down your thought process, while you're watching these movies and not be so anticipating the scariness...
ALEX: You'd enjoy them so much more because they're all these cues that tell you when things are going to happen.
JASON: Which you'll start to pick up on and notice. You know? You'll start to see, oh, because it depends. Some movies are full of jump scares, where it's like suddenly, something's gonna jump out and scare you. And then some movies, like this, are just like building toward terrifying, unsettling imagery or moments, right?
PJ: And that's where I appreciated about this movie is that it felt like it was kind of playing fair. It was like, the scary things are going to happen in the room with the kid.
PJ: Like when the priest is like in his apartment, there's not gonna be a demon under the bed. It's kind of like, you dread it and imagine what's gonna happen when you get there but I liked that there were entire parts of the movie that just felt like you were watching a movie with characters and like decent writing and good acting and like I really liked that. Like that's what felt safe about it.
PJ: God, I sound like such a wimp.
ALEX: You—yes, you do.
JASON: It's so interesting because the way you're approaching it, is almost as if it's not a movie.
PJ: It doesn't feel like a movie.
JASON: Where you're like, you know, the parts where there were characters in scenes. I'm like, well wait a minute. Yeah, you're describing a movie because you watched a fucking movie, PJ.
JASON: Like you just...
PJ: It doesn't feel like a movie, it feels like you're watching a movie and behind you, there's a guy with a baseball bat, who's going to hit 4-6 times really hard during the movie. And so like, you're watching the movie kind of but so much of my brain is just like, "How bad is this gonna be and when's it going to be bad?", and like...
JASON: What if I told you, if you watched the movie—if you just paid attention to the movie, those baseball bat hits wouldn't feel so hard?
JASON: Because you will see the architecture?
PJ: I have a hard time believing that because I feel like this is the only thing that's protecting me is like trying to get ahead of them.
JASON: This is how I feel about COVID. This is literally how I feel. If I can out think this thing, then I'll be safe.
JASON: If I can just—if I can be smarter than this disease—but the movie's already been made. You're passive. You have no control. You have the cede control to the movie.
PJ: The whole I'm trying to, I was like, [sighs]. Like one of the first things I did was, I was like they're definitely gonna kill off the mom. She's screwed. And not—like normally, I can actually predict movies decently well. I was so agitated that I was predicting—like it didn't occur to me for a full hour that I wasn't watching a slasher movie. Like I was like, "Okay, they're gonna kill everybody but the kid and maybe the priest and that's gonna be at the very end. So, I did not watch this movie.
ALEX: So apart from your unbelievable anxiety at anticipating being scared...
PJ: Where was I actually scared?
ALEX: When was the first moment you actually got scared?
PJ: When she goes into the—okay, so there's a scene really early on where—so there's a scene early on where she talks about how there're like rats in the house. And you know the movie's called The Exorcist, so you know it's not rats in the house.
JASON: So astute.
PJ: And she's like complaining...
JASON: Can't sneak one past PJ, so I bet there's no rats.
ALEX: You know...
PJ: And she's complained to her large staff about like—and so you're like, okay well, they're setting you up to not like her because she's got like a staff and she's like, "Didn't you get rid of the rats?", and they're like, "Yeah, we got rid of the rats." And she doesn't believe them. And she goes into the attic, where definitely the devil is hiding, to look for these rats. And she's just like—nothing happens. Like she just walks around, very slowly with a candle and then like her butler, groundskeeper guy, pops up with a flashlight. And he's like, "Oh, what are you doing up here?" I was really—I was very scared.
ALEX: Can I just say that...
PJ: I was watching it both...
ALEX: Can I just say that, PJ, that....
PJ: Both of my hands are over my eyes to form a triangle.
ALEX: That you actually missed the scary thing because you had your hands over your eyes.
PJ: What's the scary thing?
ALEX: She's walking—she has a lighter, right? Does she have a lighter or a candle?
ALEX: She has a candle. She has a candle. She's in the attic and suddenly a massive flame leaps out of the candle. Did you miss that?
PJ: Oh, I did notice that. I, literally...this is just like, I'm just a bad watcher. I was like, "Oh her candle blew out."
JASON: Oh my god. It's so funny. You're so busy trying to anticipate what's going to scare you. You're not present in watching the movie.
PJ: Yes, I've....
JASON: In this instance, unfortunately, only because this happens to be a terrific film. Like as a movie, itself, this is a beautifully constructed, incredibly well made movie.
PJ: Right and the point where I started to actually the movie as a movie was like—so there's multiple scenes where—what's Linda Blair's character's name?—Reagan.
PJ: Reagan? Reegan? Reagan? Reegan?
ALEX: Mm-hmm. Reagan, like Ronald Reagan.
PJ: So they sort of figure out that she's a demon and doesn't just have like—then there's like a whole thing where she keeps talking to people and they're like, she definitely has like psychiatric problems. And it's like her head's fully turning around and she's speaking latin and vomiting green stuff on people. I don't think this is like ADD or whatever.
ALEX: So you know the part where they're actually testing her to try and figure out what's going on with her and they like...
PJ: Oh, so scary.
ALEX: And they like, they put something in one of her veins and all this blood starts pouring out?
PJ: She's like in the hospital on like a sort of a CAT scan looking machine. It's not really a CAT scan machine. And they're sedating her and they put a syringe into her neck and then like put a line on the syringe and it's just so bloody and she looks so vulnerable. And that was really scary because I felt like I thought she was gonna kill everybody in that room.
ALEX: So two things about that particular scene. First, is that when people describe when they're all these descriptions of people fainting and going crazy at the screenings of the movie when it came out, it was primarily because of that scene because of the amount of blood in it.
JASON: Oh, interesting.
ALEX: And second of all...
PJ: Wait, just because it—because there hadn't been—wait was new about that scene that was making people...
ALEX: It just was so bloody in such a realistic way, the way the blood pumped with the heartbeat in the scene.
ALEX: And then the...
PJ: But just to say, that scene isn't a scene where anything demonic is actually happening. Like it's just, you're seeing a medical procedure.
ALEX: And the other thing is....
JASON: That's what great about this movie.
JASON: You know? That's what great about this movie is it's priming you to be scared by the supernatural things by first scaring you with the medical...
ALEX: The medical stuff.
JASON: Psychological, and then the supernatural.
ALEX: And the...
PJ: It's like a tasting menu of fear.
JASON: And it eases you in cause if it really had just started supernatural, you'd be like, "Who cares? This is fake. This is a...I don't even care what this is.", but by pragmatically presuming what a real person would do? First, go to doctors. Then go to therapists. Then, what hope do we have left?
ALEX: Yeah, Chris Reagan's mom sort of plays the audience's surrogate in this movie, of being like a skeptic. Like a reasonably skeptical person, who exhausts all other options.
PJ: But to me, she wasn't a audience surrogate because I knew the movie was called The Exorcist.
PJ: Really, I was like, "Come on, get on my level like I know what's going on here."
ALEX: The other thing I read is that apparently according to the director, the scene was used in medical schools to show people how to do it because it was so medically accurate.
JASON: Oh wow.
JASON: That medical stuff I loved. Both, that fact that they made her go through two separate very scary strapped down medical procedures that were loud. And she was having intense reactions to them. Those are all priming you for when she is strapped to the bed and convulsing and having similar—you know, it basically it's giving you this story that is making you understand like, "Oh medical stuff can look like this.", like stuff in my life could be....
ALEX: Yes, this is horrific.
JASON: this. You know? It really—it starts to sow the seeds of doubt in terms of if it was just like, "Oh no, my daughter's possessed. Quick, call the exorcist.", at the end of act one. And the rest of the movie was them battling the demon, you'd be like, "Who fucking cares."
JASON: What's insidious about this movie is that she pragmatically goes systematically mad. Her mother goes insane trying to figure it out and knows that what's she saying when she says, "What about possession? What about exorcism?", she says to Father Karris, you now?
JASON: And he's like, "That's not been done in hundreds of years."
ALEX: Yeah, he was like, "You'd have to have a time machine to do that."
PJ: Okay, so I was scared of that. Also there was just something about watching her mom watch her strapped down and getting medically poked and just like...
ALEX: I hate to be the dad on the podcast, which but I can't help it because I'm the dad on this podcast.
PJ: You're just the dad in life.
ALEX: It really—the whole movie to me just felt like an extended metaphor for not being able to protect your kids.
PJ: So I was watching it thinking about COVID and all my friends who have young kids who are having to teach them and who are struggling with it? And to me I was like, "Oh, this seems like it's a movie about wanting to kill your kids.", because they're really poorly behaved. And like loving them but them having like complicated behavioral problems where it's like, "I love you but you're acting like an insane person."
JASON: That's amazing.
ALEX: Yeah, that's incredible. I'm gonna go ahead and say that every text is open to interpretation but I don't agree with you on this one.
JASON: I don't—I mean, that says a lot about what you think it must it be like to have children.
PJ: They don't know anything and they're very poorly behaved. So okay, the other thing that was interesting about watching this for me is that even though I found it really scary there were scenes that I thought were really funny. Sometimes like while they were scaring me. Like it wasn't like, "Oh, this malfunctioned.", and so I'm laughing. But they were so over the top. Like when she comes down and pees on the carpet, I thought it was really funny. I thought like, it's such a weird bold choice.
ALEX: I really...
PJ: Like it escalates into something.
ALEX: I actually really—that actually the way that it starts with like—the way that the movie starts, where it feels like it could be some physiological problem with the kid, that grounds it for me. And rarely do you see a movie where like someone gradually falls apart like that. It's usually, within the span—like The Shining, a movie that I love, Jack Torrence goes crazy in the span of like fifteen minutes. Like it's very quick.
PJ: Well the other thing—so I've actually seen The Shining, because I had to do it for a class. And the thing that I was thinking about with The Exorcist compared to The Shining, is like The Shining, it goes crazier right away. And so it's so the same as in comedy like because they've already done something crazy, everything has to escalate way more. And so The Shining has to go to such an insane place to keep the momentum. And it was scarier with The Exorcist how because they wait so long to show you their hand, you just don't know what you're gonna see when they finally show you something. And then when it does get nuts, it's like really nuts.
JASON: Well, that's what I like about this movie is like it's more like waiting in Jaws, they don't show you the shark for over an hour. You know the damage it's doing. You might get quick shots of something happening but you don't see the shark...
JASON: For a very long time. You don't see the monster and that makes it so much scarier. So to your point, you know you're seeing the exorcist. You know this little girl—you might know from cultural knowledge that her head spins around or...
ALEX: She vomits, all that stuff.
JASON: Or whatever, you know? Any of that stuff but the fact that they make you, not only, wait for it but build like these like these—cause I hadn't watched it in a while. So I'd forgotten all of the—how much time we spend with Father Karris and his mother and his like—all of those components of building who he is before they come together. Because once they engage and he starts like investigating with Reagan, then it's like very quickly escalating, very darkly.
ALEX: So when I was watching it last night, I started getting super nervous. I watched it last night in preparation for this conversation, that I started getting super nervous. I was like, there's so much time you spend with Reagan in full on demon mode, where she's just like sitting around chatting? I was like PJ's not going to be scared by this at all. I picked a stinker.
PJ: I enjoyed it. I found it scary. I was always worried...
ALEX: Okay, I just want to mark this moment. This feels like a real triumph. PJ found it scary/enjoyed it. And I want you to tell me—I just—go nuts. Tell me everything.
PJ: Because I feel like I fucked up somehow by saying that. I did enjoy it though. I enjoyed it because the type of horror that I'm used to hating the most is like you get a glimpse of something horrible and like you never see its eyes and it's like dashing through quarters or whatever. And I liked that you just—they would go into the room where she's like pretty quickly, they just like tie her to a bed because they realize she's a demon and she almost kills somebody with a—oh god, we gotta talk about that scene. Oh boy. Um, but so there's lots of scenes where they go in and just kind of talk to her. And she's talking to them in like deep man devil voice. And it kind of felt like if horror's all about anticipation and something being revealed, I feel like I was getting to see the thing that goes bump in the night kind of clearly. And then just like the things that like I had a lot of moments with her. There's all these scenes where someone will go into the room and she'll be kind of weak and quiet and then someone gets too close to her, whether it's like a psychiatrist or a priest or whatever and she just goes into devil mode. And she says incredible profane things. Where it's like, "You fucking cocksucker, like suck it," or whatever in this like deep voice and I was both like afraid and I was like, that is hilarious. Like it's such an insane thing to do in a movie, you know what I mean?
JASON: Especially for—and I believe Linda Blair at the time of making this movie, I believe is like 13-years-old.
ALEX: Yeah, she's super young.
JASON: She's like truly a child and there's a great—that and I'm so sorry, I'm not remembering the podcast that I Iistened to about the making of this movie but like Friedkin talked to like was trying to find someone to play this part,
JASON: But it wasn't right. And he met Linda Blair and her mother and sat in a room with them and was talking to the mother, primarily, and then Linda Blair just started speaking on her own behalf and telling him about how she'd read the book that it was based on. And he said, "Wait, you read the book?" And she said, " Yeah, I read the book." And then he started asking her if she understood because I think at that time she was like 12-years-old or something. Did you understand? And she showed such an understanding and a maturity for what the content of the book was that he was like, "She can do this."
PJ: She's so good in it. Like she's so good. I think it's really like of all—there's special effects that age well and don't age well or whatever but just she's really good in a way that kid actors aren't. And where, particularly, I would imagine in a horror movie like she's just so convincingly possessed.
PJ: It's nuts.
ALEX: Yeah, I don't know how you get that kind of performance out of someone. And like definitely they dubbed over the voice with another woman's voice.
PJ: I don't think that's a woman's voice.
ALEX: No it is a woman—that's actually, they had a women actress. And the way that they got that is like she would drink bourbon and smoke cigarettes before she read her lines, and just reading reading about this movie, that’s just one of the ways the production seemed really extreme. Like William Friedkin the director seems like he’s kind of a lunatic...
JASON: He is. Yes.
PJ: In what way?
ALEX: Well, let me count the ways.
In order to get legitimately scary reactions from the actors he would fire a gun when they were supposed to jump. The guy who plays Father Dyer, who's the person who delivers the last rights when Father Karris falls out the window.
ALEX: He's an actual priest and he kept trying to deliver the last rights and wasn't doing a good job and so William Friedkin got up in his face and he's like, "Listen do you trust me?", and the guy said, "Yes." And then he slapped him as hard as he could across the face.
ALEX: And he was like, "Yeah, did you see the way I was shaking in the scene?", like that's because I was actually freaked the fuck out because someone just slapped me in the face."
PJ: He sounds like a terrible person.
ALEX: Yeah, he sounds awful.
JASON: That very though—like that's like that's very old school, old Hollywood director kind of stuff. You know? You know, like Hitchcock used to do stuff like that to actors and actresses like that in order to make them scared he would—or there was like, famously, like two actors who hated each other and he—in, I think, it's The 39 Steps. And for part of the movie they're handcuffed to each other and during the entirety of the shoot, he would tell everybody, "Don't let them out of the handcuffs."
PJ: [laughs] Oh my god.
JASON: "Because I want them to annoy each other and be miserable when we're shooting. Don't let them free."
ALEX: So PJ, were there any parts where you are like, "I absolutely can't go on, like I have to stop watching this."?
PJ: Um, no. No. No. The parts that were the most scary were—there's a scene—were two scenes—they were all scenes that happened in the bedroom. You know, where Linda Blair's character, Reagan, is like locked up.
ALEX: Oh the other thing I should say is he decided that when she was possessed, you had to be able to see everybody's breath in the room. So what he did was he got this gigantic restaurant air conditioner and would leave it on overnight. So they were all freezing the whole time they were shooting.
PJ: Oh, that's not a special effect.
JASON: Which I thought that special effect wouldn't have existed at the time and I loved that. I loved that they were practical elements like that that were like that gave you real—it made you unsettled.
PJ: It was so unsettling. And it didn't even—there wasn't even like a logic to it. Like why is the devil cold? It was just freaky and weird and freaky. Like it felt like a nightmare detail.
PJ: So the one scene where she attacks—who is it that she attacks? She stabs somebody with a cross?
ALEX: Oh she stabs...
PJ: She stabs herself in the vagina with a cross.
PJ: And then tries to force her mother to put her face in her bloody stabbed vagina.
PJ: That freaked me out.
ALEX: And when you say it scared you? Was it just like gross and hard to watch? Or was it like, what kind of fear are we talking here?
PJ: I was yelling. I was yelping.
JASON: Yelling what?
JASON: Were you yelling, "Yeah do it. Lick it up. Yeah, get in there mom. Come on.", like cheering her on?
PJ: It was like—not cheering her on.
PJ: It was like a mix of fear and shock.
JASON: I think I just broke Alex.
PJ: I actually recorded myself watching this scene. Let me just play it for you.
PJ: [movie plays in the background] Something bad is gonna happen.
PJ: This me, basically, the whole movie. And then this is when it happens.
PJ: [movie plays in the background] Ohhhhhahhhh! Ohhhhh!...
ALEX: I have to admit, like I'm a little jealous like you get into a movie like with all of your emotions. It's like a full body fear.
PJ: It is a full body fear. There's one more.
PJ: [movie plays in the background] Holy shit. Holy shit!
PJ: [movie plays in the background] Oh my god.
PJ: Yeah, so I felt it.
JASON: Yeah, so my favorite part is, "Something bad is gonna happen. Something bad is gonna happen."
PJ: It feels exactly like the movie and a lot has felt like going up a roller coaster when you don't like roller coasters.
JASON: Yes and when done well, like this movie, it feels like you keep thinking, "We're about to crest and we're going to go down," and instead you keep climbing. You know?
JASON: And that's what I really love about, like this era like Hollywood big, scary movies are really psychologically unsettling. The others that I would put in this category are Rosemary's Baby and The Omen, also movies that are about parents and children.
JASON: You know? And giving birth to either the anti-christ or a devil or anything of those things.
JASON: Those are all movies in which parents have to confront the fact that their child is some sort of threat to them, to others, and it's so insidious because it's not like, "Oh no, Freddie Kruger comes into my dreams and kills me when I'm asleep," which is great fun. And I love Nightmare on Elm Street, but like these, like The Omen, is so much more unsettling because it's like what if the only answer to all of these problems was to have to kill your own child?
ALEX: Okay, PJ. Now is the time to ask you on a scale of 1-10, how scary was this movie?
PJ: Now, I would say, a 6.
ALEX: Now as opposed to when?
PJ: Well I feel like as soon as it's over, it's kind of like pain. You kind of can't remember pain when— after it's happened.
ALEX: Oh, I see.
PJ: I say 6 now, but actually just listening to the audio of myself I'm like, "That's definitely like a 7.5.”
ALEX: Okay. So okay. Okay.
PJ: Actually, 7.5 but I don't think it's going to linger in a bad way.
ALEX: How—on a scale of 1-10, how much did you like the movie?
PJ: Uhh, like what does it mean to like a horror movie?
ALEX: Did you enjoy the experience of watching it?
PJ: No. No.
ALEX: Not at all?
PJ: No. I enjoyed—there were parts that I enjoyed. I definitely enjoyed having finished it.
PJ: Like in a way where it's like oh like going on a run. You don't really like the run but afterwards it feels kind of good.
PJ: Uhh on a scale of a normal movie that I would voluntarily choose to watch, like if it was on Netflix and it popped up, I would say I enjoyed it a 2 out of 10. On a scale of horror movies, which I don't know, just like I hate, I would say 6.5. And I don't think I've seen anything above that. I—the other thing that I did like about it though, actually, maybe this gives it a point, is I was like I was having—you know where you have where you look at too many graphs?
ALEX: Can you elaborate?
JASON: You mean like for COVID and like what we're...yeah, yeah yeah. Current events graphs. Yeah, yeah, okay.
PJ: I was having one of those days and I was like, "I don't know how to get my brain off of this. And for that 2 hours, like it really held my attention in a way that I think just like a movie that I liked probably wouldn't have.
ALEX: Huh. Okay.
PJ: Because my brain was like, "There's someone in the house who could kill you."
ALEX: Did I move the needle at all on you enjoying horror? Like did you, you watched like one...
JASON: You can't have—Alex, you can't have done that in one episode.
PJ: You definitely didn't do it in one episode.
JASON: You can't. That's a question for the end of the series.
PJ: Yeah. No, the needle is where it was.
JASON: He's still—I mean, keep in mind, PJ is still reacting in a way that is trying to mitigate the results of horror movies. He's watching during the day. He's watching with people on the phone. He's stopping and starting. LIke he's still like a little boy and looking through his fingers, not willing to commit. He's a commitment phobe. So my challenge to you, PJ—I don't know if that resonates with anybody else.
JASON: But my challenge to you in doing this, PJ, would be to take away those training wheels to really watch these movies at night, alone, and record yourself.
JASON: Because that's, I think, what's that's how this podcast is gonna work.
ALEX: So, the thing I'd like to do, PJ, to close this out I think?
ALEX: Oh no, I had one more question for Jason. What scares the shit out of you?
JASON: Here's actually—here is a list of movies I have never seen, nor will I see.
JASON: Contagion, Pandemic, Outbreak.
JASON: My fear center lies in germs and health and all that stuff. So the scariest thing to me is what is contained in those—I would never watch Contagion. You know? Or any of these pandem—any show or movie that shows, you know and I'm talking this is the two years ago when it came out, not related, unrelated to what's going on right now. Because what's going on right now is to me the equivalent of somebody who is like, "I know I've watched Funny Games a bunch of time, but now I'm getting home invaded? What the fuck?
JASON: You know? That, to me right now, we're experiencing my worst fear, nightmare, which is pandemic.
ALEX: Do you think that you have this incredible and unmitigated fear because I know this, maybe listeners know it, maybe they don't, that you have like a severe allergy to eggs, where if you eat them you will basically die?
JASON: I think that's probably true. I think from a very, very young age, I had such an understanding of my own mortality and the fact that it was so easy pierced. You know? I think most kids grow up feeling invulnerable and invincible.
JASON: And that simple things can't kill them. And I think for me it was always drilled into my head that not only can simple things kill you. The most ordinary of things—cookies that your friends have, anything, means you're dead. Done. R.I.P.. So for me, health and the catastrophic—something catastrophic befalling me, healthwise, was always so much scarier than a guy in the woods with a knife.
JASON: You know what I mean?
JASON: That's like—what's really scary to me is a plate of cookies that looks delicious that I don't know who baked.
ALEX: Man, that's rough. That's rough.
PJ: But then am I supposed to—like to make it back to me...it's all about me.
PJ: Does that mean there's a category of horror movie—does appreciating horror movies that there can still be a kind of horror movie that I'm like, "Ugh, that's not for me?", or...do you know what I mean?
ALEX: Yeah, totally. Totally.
JASON: Like,I like these movies that I'm talking about. Like I love The Exorcist or Rosemary's Baby. Again, remember, you're just watching a movie, PJ. You're just watching a movie. You know? The same way you watch comedies and dramas and what. You don't like every type of comedy. You know what I mean? Like, the ones you like are the ones you like.
PJ: Yeah but it doesn't—if I don't like drama or a comedy, it's not because it's convincing my brain that I'm about to die.
ALEX: [laughs] Sorry.
JASON: What makes you so important that the movie was made to kill you?
ALEX: Yeah, seriously.
PJ: Oh, don't try to shame me into liking this.
ALEX: Also, PJ, go into it—if you go into it—if you can somehow shed yourself of this anticipation that's it's going to be all out terror, you're gonna enjoy it more because it really isn't. Like most movies aren't.
PJ: If you—I think as difficult a task as it will be to—I'll follow all of your fucking rules. I don't expect—I don't really expect at the end of this to like horror but I wouldn't try to solve the problem of my apprehensive, anxious disposition because I think it's a bigger, harder problem. If the answer's like, learn to be in the moment, I think we're fucked.
JASON: What I think is good about starting here is I think it's like putting the lobster in warm water and now you can really start turning the heat up. Like this is a safe way to start because it's a great movie and, yes, it's scary but I suspect it didn’t like shatter you .
PJ: No, I'm gonna sleep fine tonight, I think, probably.
JASON: Which is a perfect place to end episode one.
PJ: This makes me really not look forward to episode two.
ALEX: After the break, we'll talk about what we're watching next.
ALEX: Okay PJ, it’s just you and me now. First of all, congratulations on uh surviving The Exorcist.
PJ: Thank you. What's what's my next? What movie do I have to watch?
ALEX: Um. Uh. Your next movie is the 1984 supernatural slasher film Nightmare on Elm Street.
PJ: Ahhhhh, shit.
ALEX: Why are you saying shit? What, what is it about this in particular that makes you feel like, oh no, what have I done?
PJ: I've just been
ALEX: You've already watched The Exorcist.
PJ: I've been scared of Nightmare on Elm Street. The idea of that, like I've had nightmares about Freddy Krueger as a kid without seeing that movie, you know what I mean? There was like The Simpsons used to do these, I'm sure they still do them, but they have these like every Halloween, they have a Halloween episode. And a lot of times it's parodies of horror movies. And the way I was exposed to a lot of horror movies was through Simpsons parodies. And I found those episodes kind of unbearably scary. And the Freddy Krueger episode at the time, I found it so frightening.
ALEX: The one with uh with Willy as Freddy Krueger?
PJ: Yeah. Yeah.They also spoof The Shining, but they keep calling it The Shi-ning. And then every time they say The Shining it goes, "Do you want to get sued?" [Alex laughs: um] But I'm s, like, I think. I think in a weird way, what I'm learning already is that I'm scared. It's not just that scary movies scare me. It's that I'm scared of being scared by scary movies, which is like another layer.
And I think of the movies that I'm most scared of being scared of are actually like 80s movies, because those were the movies that were around when I was a kid that I didn't see.
ALEX: Huh. Well, one of the. So, so Nightmare on Elm Street. Like by the time that movie came out, like Jason Voorhees was already a thing. [PJ: He's the hockey mask one] Michael Myers was alre-- Yes. Michael Myers was already a thing. [PJ: He's the white non hockey mask one].
ALEX: Do you know that the Michael's My-Michael Meyers mask is an inside out William Shatner mask that they painted white?
PJ: [laughing] No I did not. That's why the hair is so funny.
ALEX: But but like the thing that I think resonates so much with people or it resonated with me about about Freddy, who I find infinitely scarier than the other ones, is that he only gets you when you are absolutely at your most vulnerable.
PJ: When you're asleep.
ALEX: Which is when you're asleep.
PJ: That's what I know. [Alex: And-] I know that he attacks you in your dreams. But for real.
ALEX: Um but the, but, you know, that movie was like such a crazy phenomenon that the that the production company that made it, New Line Cinema, they were like they'd been around since like the late 60s. And they were like a languishing as a company. They'd never had like a hit movie or anything. And the only reason that that that studios exists today is because of the Nightmare on Elm Street. That's like how big a success it was. It's often called in the industry or in the industry press. [PJ: In the horror biz] the house that Freddy built that because
PJ: The House that Freddy Built, okay
ALEX: Um alright. Are you ready?
PJ: Yeah. I'm ready.
ALEX: Uh alright. Well, good luck. I'll talk to you next episode.
PJ: Alright. See you next episode.
Scaredy Cats Horror Show is hosted by me, PJ Vogt, and Alex Goldman. The episode was produced by Jessica Yung and edited by Tim Howard, with more help from Phia Bennin. We’re mixed by Rick Kwan. Fact checking by Michelle Harris. Our intern is Lisa Wang. Special thanks to Christina Djossa, Patrick Brice, Demi Adejuyibe, and Gita Jackson. Our theme song is by Mariana Romano, and our closing theme is by Alex Goldman. Our cover art was made by Olly Moss. Jason Mantzoukas’s podcast How Did This Get Made is hilarious, you should download it wherever you get your podcasts. It’s also about deciphering movies. Don’t forget to watch Nightmare on Elm Street in advance of the next episode. We’ll be back in two weeks, you can catch new episodes early on Spotify on Tuesdays, and you can hear the show everywhere else on Fridays. Thanks for listening.