The first movie I remember seeing was JAWS when I was six years old.We were stationed in Japan and TV was in Japanese, so we were always at the movies. I’ve asked my parents what made them take a six year old to see that kind of movie. They say they just never thought I would pay attention. I did. The impact of the images of the shark slowly chomping on Quint and the fin slicing through the water, combined with on of the most terrifying music scores in film history, permanently tattooed my brain and gave me my first rush. I had shark nightmares for years and, even though I live twenty minutes from the beach, I don’t go in the water above my knees. Even lakes make me nervous. Despite all of this, I still became a lifelong Horror junkie.
I think you must have a certain kind of brain to appreciate Horror, one that is drawn to the dark. I also saw THE GODFATHER when I was around 6. Of course it’s not a horror movie, but I had nightmares of horses’ heads in beds and hands getting stabbed. It was many years before I could watch that movie again and appreciate it for the epic it is. My brain just seemed to naturally find the scary in everything.
I grew up mostly between Indianapolis and Charleston. I was one of the fortunate generation in the 70’s and 80’s who got to enjoy what I, and others, consider to be the Golden Age of Horror. Along with Cable and the video store, there was the drive-in. I was an only child in a military family. It was just the three of us and the drive-in was one of our favorite traditions. I remember seeing HALLOWEEN, FRIDAY THE 13th and COMA in one night, ( this was before you could easily have your own marathons at home.) I’ve never been a big slasher movie fan, mostly because I feel they are overdone, but those first two movies crept in and took residency in my psyche. I don’t even have to watch the movies anymore, I just have to hear the music and I’m that freaked out little kid again.
Our own personal demons seek us out in the horror films we watch. I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic school. For a good part of my life I believed Satan was an actual being seeking me out. THE OMEN movies, THE EXORCIST, THE ENTITY, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, anything to do with demons or possession fascinated me and confirmed all the boogeyman stories I heard in catechism class.
I think one of the biggest reasons I love Horror is because my dad liked it. In the late 70’s, early 80’s, there was a hosted horror show called The Sammy Terry Show. My Dad and I stayed up most Friday nights until 2 or 3 am watching Sammy climb out of his creaking coffin with his ghoul make up, quipping with his pet rubber spider George who dangled from the ceiling. And we would have a running argument where Dad would tease me that he knew Sammy Terry personally (turned out he did,) but wouldn’t tell me who he was. Sammy Terry was actually a local TV personality named Bob Carter. Even after his retirement, he would do occasional shows at Halloween. When he passed away in 2013, his son Mark revived the show which still does seasonal specials.
I am a product of Stephen King, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and John Carpenter; they were the four Godfathers. Their books and movies were the predominant influences in my life growing up. My Dad also influenced what I read. Through him I discovered Dune and Lord of the Rings. I also read his Harold Robbins books, which probably, at least partially, explains my love for Bava and Argento.
Stephen King, by far, is the most important of the group. He was the impetus to push me from reading and watching Horror to writing it. I started reading his books when I was around 10. I saw one of his movies and went straight to KMART and bought all the paperbacks I could find. I had always been a storyteller. After King, I knew what I wanted to do. I wrote my first ghost story in elementary school and read it in class. For the first time, I felt seen not invisible or overlooked. It was incredibly empowering. I discovered I had a voice and could make people listen.
The question I hear most is, why do people love Horror? I’ve heard many answers from others in the Horror community I agree with. Horror gives an adrenalin rush, a thrill that is addicting.And all addictions must be fed exponentially. I know many Horror junkies, myself chief among them, who are constantly on the look out for films that push the limits. We often get bored with mainstream horror films because we’ve already sought out and and watched the more extreme films. And I’m not just talking about extremes in gore.
Anyone can make a film with a high body count. It is about finding films that genuinely terrify long after the credits roll. What is frustrating with many films given industry attention, is that many of them are easy to forget once they are over. I have many conversations on social media about the plethora of brilliant movies out there with great writing that get no exposure except through fan word of mouth. My social media feeds often consist of asking my fellow junkies what I should be watching next, and they never disappoint. We all go traipsing together down the rabbit hole.
For me, Horror encapsulates why we go to the movies. It’s an escape, a chance to go to a different world. Some of us, whether because of life events or just because of how our brains are wired, are able to look at the darker aspects of life and accept them. Horror allows us to to confront our fears and hidden natures; to vicariously battle our demons through the main character and hopefully achieve a sense of catharsis. We like Horror because it reflects how we see the world and how we understand it. The best Horror usually has an undercurrent of dark humor. Horror junkies understand that what is scary about life is often also strangely funny.
Along with Horror I am also a lifelong fan of Heavy Metal and, for me, the two have always gone hand in hand. They have been the most maligned, misunderstood and underrated genres. Their respected fan bases have also been maligned and misunderstood. Anyone who loves Horror, Metal, or both, are often characterized as unintelligent, psychologically damaged or demonic. Horror and Metal are outcasts and misfits, and often so are their fans. This is why I am a devotee of both. The early music videos of Alice Cooper, KISS and Ozzy Ozbourne freaked me out and drew me in as much as any movie. I was guilty of playing records backwards to hear hidden messages. I remember teachers telling us how KISS stood for Knights in Satan’s Service and ACDC stood for Abolish Christ Devil Child. . Little did they know they were just fueling the fire.
I was always the outsider, the misfit. I understood I would never be accepted as normal. So I embraced my weirdness and I embraced Horror and Metal because they were in my language, which most people never seemed to understand. The people who came to matter in my life were most often also Horror and Metal fans. We were a tribe.
Being subversive can be good. As Horror fans, we want exposure for the genre. We talk about how maddening it is when the filmmakers and actors we idolize don’t get the recognition we deserve. but there are advantages to operating under the radar. Horror filmmakers have a unique creative freedom. Horror must be able to keep digging and uncovering layers. It has to be the Rebel. We as fans must help the genre to grow by promoting films and shows we love and supporting Indie filmmakers who are the ones helping the genre to evolve. Horror will always be around and people will continue to seek it out. Fear is eternal.