Ever since I was a little kid I’ve liked horror films. When I was 10 I started keeping a typewritten list of all the horror movies I’d seen and how I rated them (just like Film Threat rates them with one to five stars). I did the same with the books I read, too, many of which were horror. I didn’t think of myself as an especially morbid kid, and I wasn’t a serial killer in waiting. I just loved the thrill a good horror film gave me and devoured everything I could find that was horror related. Magazines, books, movies, toys, trading cards. If it had any ties to horror, I wanted it. I wanted to write horror novels, too, and tried my hand at several short stories that I entered into contests. I was bit by the bug, and as I got older I often found myself explaining to friends why the only movies I wanted to see that Friday were horror films.
Far too many of my friends liked teen comedies or boring action flicks. Some horror films, like the “”Friday the 13th” ones, were acceptable to them because they were safe, but they’d rather see the latest Hollywood blockbuster. I, on the other hand, would vote for “”The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2″ or a night in watching “”Bloodsucking Freaks” on video. I was usually lost that fight.
Horror films do something to people that you can’t get from other film genres. When you watch “”Hellraiser” for the first time you find yourself transported to a place where things seem familiar, but you are surrounded by insanity that is erotic, scary and disturbing. Evil beings clad in leather want to harm pleasure seekers who would dare conjure them. They promise the ultimate in pleasure and pain, and that’s a perfect symbolism for the horror film.
People seek out horror movies because being scared is a pleasurable act. It makes one feel alive. When you sit in a darkened theatre or living room, you know you’re safe but can’t help but be a bit worried. You may laugh nervously or breathe a sigh of relief. The heart is pumping and the palms are sweating. It’s a comforting anxiety, and maybe even addictive. That’s not something you get from a romance film.
People in high school thought I loved the gore. Admittedly, there was an aspect of my personality that liked the shock value. There still is, but my enthusiasm went deeper than that. I liked what a horror movie was capable of doing to a person. Everyone has fears. A good horror movie can zone in on those fears and amplify them to the point of unease. A great horror movie does that and never lets you off the hook. I like the ones that never let go; the ones that play it safe do nothing for me. They are like diet soda or a condom with a hole in it — utterly worthless. All one has to do is compare the original “”The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” to see the difference. It wasn’t the gore. It really never was. It was the emotion.
Now that I’ve reached the upper thirties in age, my love for horror and exploitation has remained strong. It’s weathered lean years when no good films were coming out and every other damn book seemed to have a sexy vampire in it. To find anything worthwhile I had to really dig or go back to the classics. Now there’s a resurgence, which I believe is tied in part to the current political atmosphere (it seems like the best horror films and books come out of the most conservative and repressive political climes). Cinema no longer seems scared of being scary. Teen horror flicks, where good looking boys and girls give an unstoppable killing machine its due, are slowly dying and are actively being mocked. Stuff like “”Wolf Creek” has people gripping their seats in fear. That is the good stuff. That’s the ride I like to take.
My friends still think I have a lot of growing up to do, but I don’t care. They can watch their latest mall dreck and feel safe and secure knowing they made it through another very challenging installment of movies MTV style. Me? I’ll take the shadows, the blood streaked faces, the rusty chains and the death rattles over movies starring cast members from “”Dawson’s Creek” any day.