Den of Geek’s Horror Movie Sleepover Memories

The team remembers their formative horror sleepover experiences.

Carol Ann in bed in Poltergeist
Photo: MGM

The best time to discover horror movies is when you’re fractionally too young to be watching horror movies. And the best people to watch them with are not your parents, who will reassure you and allow you talk through any worries you have, but a bunch of similarly aged, ill prepared, youngsters. Hence the sleepover is the ideal screening scenario, where a bunch of kids get together to stay up all night and watch scary movies. 

We’ve all got a scary sleepover story, so the Den of Geek staff has come together to share theirs. Why not share your own in the comments?

The Ring – Alec Bojalad

When I was around 13 years old, I attended a sleepover birthday party for my friend Elliott. We spent the day doing typical 13-year-old boy things: running around, hitting each other, farting, the whole nine yards. When night time rolled around (and when the only girls at the party naturally had to leave) somebody had the bright idea to watch a horror movie. 

And that’s how seven or eight boys with varying states of peach fuzz on their face came to be traumatized by 2002’s The Ring. Right around the time the movie smash-cut to an emaciated dead woman in a closet, I knew that we had all been Changed ™. I don’t recall much else from the movie but I do remember the big sliding glass door in the living room that we were watching the film in becoming an ominous object of fascination and discomfort. 

Ad – content continues below

“Wouldn’t it be fucked up if the Ring girl just ran past that glass door?”

Yes, James, it would be fucked up. So fucked up, in fact, that I’m not a big fan of sliding glass doors after hours to this day. 

The Omen – Rosie Fletcher

I had the whole trilogy taped off the telly and I absolutely loved them – I still do, I’m a horror nut to this day. Though you’ll often hear The Omen dismissed as a cash in to The Exorcist I wholeheartedly disagree, these movies (well, the first two, anyway) had Final Destination levels of inventiveness with the kills and showed real psychological depth, with top class performances from legends including Gregory Peck, Lee Remick and Billie Whitelaw. But when we were kids at a sleepover round my house we didn’t really care about that so much. What I remember most is the dogs. A bunch of girls piled into the living room splayed over floral patterned couches, to watch a nanny hang herself, a priest get impaled by a church spire and all manner of other lovelies. It was great. But then there was the scene in the church yard, where Damien’s adoptive Dad Robert Thorn (Peck) and his photographer mate Keith Jennings (David Warner) are discovering for the first time Damien’s true parentage (which is a bit scary). Then the dogs. Galloping hell hounds come to attack the pair, who have to make a run for it. The dogs are barking and growling. The music is heightened. Me and my mates are squealing and giggling. And then, terror of terrors, my dad comes in the living room in pjs and a dressing gown, bleary-eyed and bed-haired shouting at us all to stop making so much noise it’s 2 O’clock in the morning, we need to turn off the TV and go to sleep. Which we didn’t. I’m still a bit scared of dogs though. Specially those hell ones.   

The Witches – Kayti Burt

I don’t scare easy; this was true even at the tender age of five. But some savagery should be saved for at least one’s sixth birthday, and Nicolas Roeg’s 1990 feature film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches is one such horror. As is the plight of not-eldest-children everywhere, I was invited to the birthday sleepover for my older sister’s friend as company for the not-eldest-child who lived in the house. In the nearly three decades since, I have not recovered from what I saw there. Seemingly human faces scraped away to reveal the true, witchly form below. Most impactfully: powerless, vulnerable children changed into even more powerless and vulnerable mice. I’m told that musophobia is one of the most common phobias in the world. I can only assume this means that, globally, most people are subjected to The Witches at a young age, forever changing their life’s path.

When we’re small, uncanny frontiers are around every corner (it’s like this for mice too), so commonplace as to become expected. But they are, by definition, never mundane or humdrum. The most effective horror movies are the ones that poke us in our bruises, and The Witches came for my most obvious soft tissue damage that night. Sleeping at a relative stranger’s house without my parents for the first time ever, I was subjected to a story about a boy whose parents are abruptly killed in a car accident, leaving him alone forever. He is then hunted by witches, and turned into a mouse. Even that small comfort of sweets is made dangerous.

To this day, I am deeply afraid of mice and other rodents. Not because I think they will bite me or steal my food (though I would prefer they not do that either), but because I fear what they represent to that five-year-old inside: Being small and alone in a big world, without anyone there to keep me safe.

Ad – content continues below

Child’s Play – Kirsten Howard

I was a weird kid; an only child that was left alone to their own devices for the most part, and from a very young age I learned that I was super into horror movies. My mum would happily send me along to the (very lax) video store on my bike to pick up whatever VHS had the scariest cover, and I would regularly sit on my bean bag and gleefully let the horrors wash over me until it was time for tea. 

It never occurred to me that this wasn’t an entirely typical pursuit for kid who had only been walking the Earth for a scant few years, so every Halloween I would invite a handful of similarly-aged friends round for a horror movie marathon, and they would turn up with their sleeping bags and some crisps, ready to watch some scary movies.

Their parents probably thought this would be slightly more family-friendly fare, but my friends knew better. They knew I would select some truly traumatising shit for our age group, and that’s what they signed on for. One Halloween, however, a girl who had just transferred to our school – who probably only wanted to fit in and make fast friends, bless her – begged to join the party. Suffice it to say, she was not ready.

Things were going ok at first as I usually picked some lighter things to start with, but when the lights went off and midnight rolled around, it was time to pull out the big guns. Now, we’re not talking Faces of Death or Cannibal Holocaust here. At that point I still had lines I wasn’t willing to cross, even alone. But Child’s Play felt like it would make for a good end to the evening, and after it was over we all agreed that Chucky had done the job.

The new girl wasn’t at school on Monday, but it took me a while to work out why: she was terrified that Chucky was going to kill her in her sleep. I promise that she was soon absolutely fine, but I still feel a pang of guilt all these years later knowing that I subjected her to those nightmares. Sorry, new girl. I hope when you see Chucky now you don’t reflexively shudder. After all, he’s your friend til the end!

Carrie – Louisa Mellor

Any fool can be scared by watching a horror movie at night, said my best friend’s mum. The real test of a scary film is to watch it during the day. Aged 10 in 1991, we swallowed her words like greedy little puffin chicks. Of course! Forget those amateurs at school who retold the plots to Hellraiser and A Nightmare on Elm Street while putting on their PE plimsolls, we renegades were going to watch a horror film… just after the midday airing of Neighbours. Pure. Danger. Who’re the cool kids now, Leah McNamara? (Answer: very much not us. Leah McNamara and her Naf Naf coat would never have crossed the threshold of one of our sleepovers.) 

Ad – content continues below

Looking back, the ruse was clear. My best friend’s mum knew full well that this half-term meeting of three cooked spaghetti-spine wimps would end badly if she let us watch Carrie before bed, so she put the video on in the day, and ducked in every so often to tut over the film’s bullies (what are you doing with that pig blood, Danny from Grease?) and offer a social worker’s perspective on Carrie White’s difficult relationship with her mother. The plan worked; all the horror was safely sponged out of the film and the three of us were left undisturbed and happy to spend the rest of the sleepover practising our Telekinetic powers on our collection of Kinder Egg Teeny Terrapins. 

Let us know your sleepover stories in the comments!