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I Love You, E.T.: A Lifelong Friendship

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My gateway to horror did not involve a bloody massacre, nor a monster in the closet or a slasher hiding in the woods. It was a little alien creature with an affinity for Reese’s Pieces.

In 1982, an alien later named E.T. (real name Zrek) came to Earth in search of organic plant life along with his fellow alien friends and family. Upon discovery by local authorities, E.T. becomes stranded on Earth as his family takes off in their spaceship to avoid capture. E.T. wanders the California hillside and happens upon the home of young Elliott, himself in search of belonging. The two form an unlikely bond and connection as Elliott navigates a disjointed family environment, girls, school, and of course, helping E.T. contact his family for rescue.

Beginning in the first grade, E.T. The Extraterrestrial dominated my childhood. I had every piece of merchandise I could get my tiny hands on, especially the coveted “antiques” belonging to my mom, who saw the film in theaters her sophomore year of high school. “I loved it!” she remembers. “I went to see it at the Elk River theater in Minnesota. Back then, it was a one-time deal because it only came through town for a short time. Plus, I didn’t have a lot of money to go more than once… Reese’s Pieces became my favorite candy for about one year.” She explained to me that the toys I commandeered in my childhood were once displayed all over her bedroom. She even had the original E.T. doll, the iconic one seen given to Princess Diana by then-seven-year-old Drew Barrymore. “You always took very good care of your toys,” she explained. “As soon as you were interested, I would let you play with them.”

This E.T. doll is still in impeccable shape, by the way.

My grandma gave me a talking animatronic E.T. doll one Christmas. Like a Furby, he would speak to me sometimes at night. “E.T…. feel… siiiiccckkkk.” Flashbacks to the scene where E.T. is sickly pale, lying face down in a drainage ditch with the score rising and causing my eyes to grow big were frequent. I had to take his batteries out after one too many nightmares and calls for my mom to comfort me in the dark, “It took you a while to embrace that one.” Yet, I never stopped watching the film that gave me laughter, tears, jumps, and wonder. After all these years, I still look out for E.T. merch whenever I go into an antique shop, pop culture toy den, and thrift store. He brings me so much joy, and I connect with my inner child whenever I find him. As I write this, my E.T. Coloring Book from 1982 just arrived at my apartment mailbox. I am 27 years old.

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E.T. was a sensation upon its release on June 11th, 1982. The film made back its $10.5 million budget opening weekend, grossing $11,911,430 and going on to earn $797,103,542 worldwide. E.T. merchandise soared off the shelves. Iconic is the infamous E.T. Atari game that was notoriously difficult to win and was eventually dumped into a massive landfill by its creator company. I found a cartridge at the Barnesville Potato Days Festival (yes, this is a real festival). I finally caved during the pandemic and bought an old Atari gaming system to give the game a whirl. The game is not that bad! Confusing, yes. Delightful? Also yes. Clearly, I will do anything for this little big-eyed bugger.

One night in college, after a night out drinking at the local bars, I stumbled home alone to get away from the typical college bar drama and crowds. To be by myself. I popped in my E.T. DVD at 3 am and began watching as the room spun. My roommates came home an hour later, laughing at where they had found me. One joined for a bit, then went to bed with the others. I alone stayed up to finish. I was comfortable basking in the colors glowing from the TV set.

As a kid, I related to Elliott in many ways: his stressful family situation, being told he wasn’t allowed to play with his older sibling, who seemed to have all the cool friends, and like me, having little of my own. And through all this, a miracle of a friend beamed into Elliott’s life. I shared this new friend with him. And for the one hour and fifty-four-minute runtime, I didn’t feel so alone. I still feel welcome when I put the film on.

I am 5’1 (and that’s rounding up an inch). All my life, I was too short for roller coaster rides. My mom and dad would tell me, “Stretch like E.T.!” when I was told to line up against the measurement requirement for rides, and even that often left me on the sidelines while my sister and dad had all the fun (my mom would stay with me as support). Luckily, this wasn’t the case for the ride I had been dreaming about at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida: E.T. Adventure. Here I am, pictured with my friend, too small to reach the pedals yet beaming at the camera with my underbite stretched in a smile. Two decades later, I am happy to say we are still friends, albeit sometimes long-distance.

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Abigail Waldron is a queer historian who specializes in American horror cinema. Her book "Queer Screams: A History of LGBTQ+ Survival Through the Lens of American Horror Cinema" is available for purchase from McFarland Books. She resides in Brooklyn, New York.

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Fangoria: The #1 Magazine Subscription for Horror Fans

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This article contains affiliate links.

Here at Horror Press, we are longtime fans of Fangoria. Between the iconic merchandise, the Fangoria Chainsaw Awards, the magazine that began a prolific horror empire, and more, Fangoria creates content that speaks to fans of the macabre everywhere.

Because of our love of the brand, is it any wonder that we’ve teamed up?

Now, you, dear fans of Horror (Press), can save 20% at Fangoria with discount code: HORRORPRESSLLC.

Look at this amazing cover art by @GhoulishGary exclusive to Subscribers for the January issue!

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What is Fangoria?

Founded in 1979, Fangoria holds the title of the longest-running horror-centric magazine in the world. Its famous pages have even appeared in horror productions such as Friday the 13th Part III, Gremlins, Brainscan, Seed of Chucky, and, most recently, Mike Flanagan’s The Midnight Club, among many others.

Inside the glossy pages of Fangoria magazine, you’ll find high-resolution images from your favorite horror films, exclusive interviews, peeks behind the scenes, recommendations for horror reading, and more.

One of my favorite things about Fangoria is all the coverage explaining how special effects artists achieve different looks. Legendary masters of the craft, such as Tom Savini and Greg Nicotero, are only a tiny sample of the experts featured in Fangoria to give insight into their work.

With all this macabre magazine has to offer, treat yourself or your favorite horror buff to the ultimate gift of horror via a subscription to Fangoria+.

What Comes with a Fangoria Subscription?

A one-year subscription to Fangoria comes with more than 400 pages of horror, as 100-page magazines oozing with gruesome goodness are delivered every three months. These collectible issues contain content that you will not find online. Keep an eye out for the magazines which include a poster inside!

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You’ll also get a “Mini Fango” periodically sent to your email via the Terror Teletype newsletter, written by none other than Phil Nobile Jr. These emails include horror news, updates to the Fangoria archives, where covers from the last forty years of horror coverage are regularly added, links to the weekly crossword, and more.

Finally, Fangoria+ subscribers are given first access to merchandise releases and opportunities for exclusive giveaways.

How Much Does Fangoria Cost?

This bounty of incredible, ghastly content usually costs $6.66 monthly or $79.99 for the year, but because you’re a Horror Press reader, use HORRORPRESSLLC as a discount code at checkout to receive 20% off your entire order. That brings the year total down from $79.99 to $63.99 (before applicable taxes and shipping, of course).

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While we cannot recommend enough the Fangoria+ subscription for horror fans everywhere, the discount code works for almost everything in the Fangoria shop. So, this means merch and single issues too!

The October 2022 edition (Vol. 2 Issue #17) of Fangoria is already sold out on the website. Own the future remnants of horror history before it’s too late; sign up for your Fangoria+ subscription today!

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Interview with ‘All Jacked Up And Full of Worms’ director Alex Phillips

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All Jacked up and Full of Worms showed this year at Brooklyn Horror Film Fest under its “Head Trip” category. I genuinely can’t think of a better way to describe this movie. It was raunchy and disgusting, so definitely not for the faint of heart. BUT I’m always here for some good body horror, and All Jacked up and Full of Worms did not disappoint on that front.

One thing that I liked about All Jacked up and Full of Worms is that it often follows dream logic. Things don’t always seem to make logical sense, and the film moves from one sequence to another without fully explaining how we got there. I think this works well for a film in which worms are taken to the same effect as an ecstatic hallucinogen, or some other wild drug.

I was able to chat with writer/director, Alex Phillips, and special worm effects artist, Ben Gojer after the screening to get a peak behind the curtain.

Bash: Can you tell me about the meaning behind All Jacked Up and Full of Worms?

Alex: “It’s about being crazy and looking for love and meaning in a world where there’s a lot of different ways to replace that sense of love and meaning – drugs, religion, sex, or violence. And then also the terror that comes with confronting yourself and confronting the world around you.”

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Bash: I feel like the dream logic fits well with the film’s subject matter. Can you tell me how you decided on utilizing it in the movie?

Alex: There’s an intellectual reason behind it, but also a very literal one. This is the way that I write, and the way that I want to tell stories. I don’t try to filter it through any top top-down structure until after I’ve conceived of the idea or written the script. The dream logic comes from wanting to convey raw emotions and feelings, and turn it into a narrative that still has a throughline and an upward trajectory and still has a resolution. I think it also mirrors the experience of living through certain traumas where experiences are condensed in time and space and there’s a rhyme to the way you experience the world.”

Bash: “There’s a lot of really great surrealist artists out there. Where do you draw inspiration from?”

Alex: “I really borrowed a lot conceptually from the Cronenberg adaptation of Naked Lunch. I found the text that I had written had a lot of rhyme in terms of content. And turning something that’s crazy into a plot structure is something he can do. In writing you can be more abstract, but in film you do need more of a beginning, middle, and end. So I was my own Burroughs and Cronenberg for better or for worse, to translate my own automatic writing and turn it into something that makes sense.”

Bash: The characters have their own monologues that get repeated throughout the film. I’m really interested in Benny and his approach to queerness. What was the purpose of his monologue?

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Alex: “I wanted to approach that monologue and also that character from how a dumb mammal of a man would feel around, blindly confronting his desires and landing at an openness that is actually almost progressive, but also comically stunted. I see him as having broken down the walls of right and wrong by ramming his stupid head against them, and by reluctantly accepting himself he can therefore understand how other people might also have a similar interiority. It’s not in a way to validate any of his desires, but there’s a real rawness and openness to experience.

Bash: All Jacked Up and Full of Worms has some pretty sexually explicit moments. What’s your purpose for showing this on film?

Alex: “I want to be sex-positive and represent desires, good and bad, on film. For the challenging moments, we have literal distance from the bad stuff. It’s a performance, it’s fiction, and it’s on a screen. There should always be freedom to play with transgression in art. That’s why art exists, to explore the depths of human experience. If you don’t want to engage with the film you don’t have to. I’m confident in my relationships with the actors and also what they’ve consented to do. They were down to be naked on film, and were down for the sexually explicit moments. I wanted to show that in a way that is uncanny, and blatantly horny, and run it up against horror to discuss or at least dramatize our repressed approach to sex. Instead of coming up with a thesis statement about sexuality, I wanted to represent the anxieties and horrors associated with sex.

Bash: “I think that’s part of the merit of surrealism – learning through experience rather than being told.”

Bash: “Can you tell me a little bit about the character that repeatedly appears on the TV in the motel?”

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Alex: “I wanted to create a world of this motel where someone is piping in fundamentalist Christianity, crossed with Mediterranean paganism, but it’s like worm Christianity: propaganda basically. The TV also operated as a formal device to move in and out of rooms and through people’s heads and dreams. That stuff is borrowed from my childhood. I’d watch a religious talk show after Saturday morning cartoons. But in the film, it was all meant to lend to a wider sense of the worm conspiracy, that these worm drugs could offer salvation and Godly truth.

Bash: I’m interested to hear about the special effects in the film. What were some of the challenges you had to overcome?

Ben: “Figuring out a way to have people vomit worms was tricky because a lot of times a vomit rig just has fluids and not also solids in it, so getting something that wouldn’t be clogged up once it had something flowing through it took experimenting. Also, doing that in the wintertime in Chicago is hard because a lot of liquids don’t flow the same way in near-freezing temperatures. Then once Covid happened, we got shut down in the middle of production, and we had to finish shooting the movie using Covid protocols which makes everything harder, especially when you have liquids involved that are kind of gross looking. It doesn’t make anyone feel comfortable.”

Bash: “Can you talk a little bit about the prosthetics at the end of the film?”

Ben: “That was a couple of different prosthetics. That also was tricky, and getting worms to flow through that was tricky. That didn’t even end up working totally right on set. It was a lot of trial and error.

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Alex: “Both Ben and I wore masks for some shots. That helped solve some problems.”

Ben: “There’s some stuff we ended up shooting with us because we wanted to get as much good coverage as we could. It’s always tricky doing an interview about effects stuff because it’s like: do you want to be a magician who tells how you do your tricks, or do you want to let people enjoy it?”

Alex: “I always tell Ben to err on the side of: Biff’s face did transform, and it did explode with worms. It was a documentary.”

Bash: “Finally, what’s next for your team?”

Alex: “The next thing is called Anything that Moves. It’s an erotic thriller, or as I call it a “himbo giallo”. It’s about this guy who works as a bike delivery driver and is a sex worker on the side. All of his clients come from different walks of life, and it’s chill, almost magical at first. He can provide to them their deepest desires. But then the clients start to get brutally murdered. He’s got to run for his life, clear his name, and figure out who’s doing the murdering.

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If you love surrealism and watching people’s lives get out of hand. This movie is a wild, funny, and chaotic ride. Buckle up!

All Jacked Up and Full of Worms will be available on Screambox starting November 8th and will have a limited run in theaters which can be found here.

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