Considering his birthday is the same day as Halloween, you might say TJ Tranchell was born to be a horror-movie fan. There was some nurture involved with that nature, though, as his grandfather owned a movie house when he was growing up, and his mother worked in a video store, meaning the impressionable young man was exposed to a lot of scary movies at young ages when most of us are still playing with dolls and dinosaurs.
Now teaching journalism at the University of Idaho, the 35-year-old Tranchell (who recently earned his Master's in literature at Central Washington University) finds ways to incorporate his love of horror films and books into his day job, in addition to maintaining a horror-themed blog, Warning Signs, and doing things like chatting as a panelist at the last couple of Crypticon horror conferences in Seattle.
"I like it when people try to scare me," Tranchell says of his horror fandom. "They're not always successful, but I like it when they try ... Fear is a very pure emotion that the average person tries to deny."
Horror movies, of course, serve as a safe way for people who like a little jolt to experience something scary in the comfort of a movie theater or their own home. We talked to Tranchell about some of his favorite horror flicks either shot or set in the Northwest, and he quickly had a lengthy list that we pared down to five movies from Washington and Idaho that you might to consider for your Halloween festivities.
The combination of a ski flick and horror movie seems a natural. Tranchell came across this one on Netflix, and gives it credit for using the ski mountain for all its worth in delivering its gruesome kills, including one scene of a wire stretched between trees decapitating a skier. "There's a snow blower involved in the final kill," Tranchell says. "It's kind of like the woodchipper scene in Fargo." Here's a look:
THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE (1992)
This Seattle-set tale of the worst nanny ever "saturated the culture at the time," Tranchell says, something he recalls even though he was just 12 when the movie came out. When he finally saw it at age 15, he wasn't able to resist its creepy scares, or the actress in the role of that murderous nanny, thinking "Man, Rebecca DeMornay is hot. And crazy. Let's not have any girlfriends like that." Here's a look:
THE WARD (2010)
This one is really homegrown for Inland Northwest residents, as it was filmed in the Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake, even though it's standing in for "North Bend Psychiatric Hospital" in Oregon. It was horror master John Carpenter's first feature in nine years, and the man who made Halloween deserved a wider release than this one got. Fun fact: The lead actress in the movie is Amber Heard, now better known as Mrs. Johnny Depp. Here's a look:
This low-budget horror flick revolves around a boy who murders his mother, and the boy's father just happens to be the town sheriff. Years after that crime, the boy escapes his pysch ward and goes on a killing spree in the flick shot in Bothell and Puyallup. "If you're afraid of clowns or clown imagery," Tranchell notes, "this one has some good clown scenes." Here's a look:
IDAHO TRANSFER (1973)
The most obscure film of Tranchell's list just might be Idaho Transfer, an early '70s gem directed by Peter Fonda and set in Idaho's Craters of the Moon National Monument. It's a sci-fi flick in which some folks time-travel to avoid an apocalyptic event, only to find their old Idaho stomping grounds are decimated — hence the Craters of the Moon landscape coming in handy. There aren't any trailers available of Idaho Transfer on YouTube, but you CAN watch the entire film! Lucky you! And there's this rather oddly chosen clip that doesn't show any of the Crater of the Moon landscape, but does show what kind of sci-fi vibe Fonda (Easy Rider) was going for: