Rodney Ascher – acclaimed director of horror documentaries The Nightmare and Room 237 – has teamed up with Shudder to bring original programming to the horror-centric streaming service. His newest documentary, Primal Screen, examines our deepest fears and their roots in our childhood pop culture consumption.

I’m sure you can all remember the first time you saw an image that truly scared you. Something that you might have unwittingly caught on television that subsequently scarred you for life.

Primal Screen – which aired June 8th – focuses on the specific fear of ventriloquist dummies and porcelain dolls. Interviews with unseen subjects reveal the root of their anxious obsession – the televised trailer for 1978’s Magic – and how particular elements of the trailer created the perfect storm of terror in their young minds.

Here’s the official description:

Why are we simultaneously attracted to and repelled by the things that scare us the most? Primal Screen attempts to understand. In this first Shudder Original, acclaimed filmmaker Rodney Ascher (Room 327The Nightmare) explores the pop culture that left dark impressions on us as children. Ascher asks real people to look back at pop-culture artifacts that traumatized them in their youth and describe the effect they had on their lives. A singular hybrid of documentary and horror, it’s time to stare into the PRIMAL SCREEN.

The 28-minute documentary is listed as a series on IMDb, however, reports are mixed on if it’s actually a series or a single short documentary. I, for one, certainly hope there are more episodes to follow. It’s a fascinating topic and I imagine that there must be a lot of childhood fears that episodes could focus on. Clowns! Bugs! The crushing weight of our own mortality! You know, things like that.

You can watch Primal Screen on Shudder now and check out the poster and trailer below.


Unfamiliar with Rodney Ascher’s work? Check out this trailer for The Nightmare