Like many people, my fascination with monsters and other entities of the macabre began at a young age. As early as four, I can remember plopping down on my brown velveteen sofa in the family room, drinking a sippy cup of Nesquik, and laughing at the Black-and-White slapstick humor of The Munsters and The Addams Family. Even though one may not consider this a proper horror first, to me it was the beginning of a lifelong adoration for a genre, that like the monsters that typify it, is marginalized and underestimated as a substantial narrative art form.
Before I had even watched my first horror movie, they sparked both terror and curiosity in me. My first visual introductions to Pinhead, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Meyers took place during childhood trips to Blockbuster, when I would sneak away to the horror movie section and ogle at the gorey VHS covers. The one movie cover that really piqued my interest was that of Nightmare on Elm Street 3, where I saw a snake-like version of Freddy Krueger eating the legs of a screaming blonde in her pajamas. Before I could really even examine the rest of the VHS, my mom found me and scooted me out of this section, not fully realizing that her daughter had imprinted herself with an image of Freddy Krueger that would last for years to come. Yes, that cover scarred me, but it also just seemed to fuel my desire to know more about the “spooky movies”.
When I was around 9 years old, I finally watched my first horror movie. Sadly, it wasn’t a trailblazing classic such as Romero’s Night of the Living Dead or John Carpenter’s Halloween. It was Darkness Falls, which essentially was about a revenant Tooth Fairy who killed anybody who looked at her. Though I jumped and maybe even screamed a little, the movie concept made me laugh and made my first real exposure to the genre digestible. Little by little, I started to advance towards the heavier stuff and the classics that every horror-fan should watch at least once in their lives.
By my teens, not only was I familiar and friendly with monsters, the onslaught of puberty made me feel like one. When I was thirteen, my Mom and I moved from the liberal Bay Area to a conservative town in North Carolina. My first year at my new middle school was difficult to say the least. I was flat-chested, acne-ridden, and almost androgynous looking. On top of that my self-esteem was not the greatest, and making good friends was incredibly hard due to my social anxiety and shyness. I was officially treated (and allowed myself to be treated) as “the weird kid”. I felt as if I was the Creature from Frankenstein, craving acceptance for who I was, but in the end, feeling hopeless rejection and angst. I even remember this one time when I was going to my locker, and one of the “popular” guys was in my close vicinity. I was talking to someone else, when the “popular” guy said loud and clear, “IT speaks!”. Though I felt obvious shock, I became concerned that “popular” guy’s exclamation was actually a battlecry for a horde of 7th graders bearing torches and pitchforks to run me out of town. As an “IT”, my fascination with horror become more of a source of escape and solace. Though I didn’t see myself as a homicidal ghoul who wanted to exact revenge on middle school rudeness and immaturity, I was to able understand that outsider feeling that many horror movie characters were a result of.
By high school, horror movies and the culture around them helped me meet some incredible people and make awesome connections. Through great twists of fate during my freshmen year, I became friends with a California-based, Horror Punk/Psychobilly band known as, the Stellar Corpses. Their songs were a perfect mix of Elvis-like croons, ghoulish imagery, and angst. From the moment I first heard their music I knew that they would be one of my favorite bands. They blended punk and horror in such a great way that I instantly placed them next to The Cramps and The Misfits in reverence. When I started to start to communicate with the band, I felt an acceptance and dare I say “coolness” from them, that had been lacking in my life since I had moved to the South. Through this fan-band relationship, I was able to connect with other fans who were like me — Punk Rockers, Poe readers, and horror movie addicts.
To know that you aren’t alone and that other people love something and are as obsessed over it as you brings forth a confidence and sense of belonging that all people deserve to have in their lives. Some people receive it from sports, others from religion, but for me and many other people, horror acts as our supportive binding agent.
Which brings me to the important point that horror is something that should be taken seriously because it means so much to a lot of people. Of course there are silly and downright atrocious horror films. Without those trashy trinkets, we wouldn’t have the great impactful works that cinephiles and horror lovers have admired for years such as Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist. However, it must be said that horror has always been a genre that has faced malignment, so much so that many mainstream audiences feel a kind of trepidation towards the genre. Audiences may feel as though they can’t partake in it because it is too gruesome or that it lacks any substantial value. I say if Edgar Allan Poe’s chilling works can be taught in public schools, then why can’t the American public embrace horror as something that can have great narrative depth and social commentary? Even slasher flicks from the 1980s, which have been considered to be campy movies who used copious amounts of red corn syrup , have within them important themes that tackle the taboos of society such as teenage sex, drugs, greed, cowardice, and dishonesty. Yet, these messages are often unrecognized by many.
In recent years, horror has raised its stock among audiences, especially with films in the low-budget spectrum. Films such as The Babadook, Insidious and The Purge have proved that horror can be efficient in thrilling originality without the big-budget fuss. With upcoming releases of Guillermo Del Toro’s Crimson Peak and the sure to be a holiday classic Krampus, the horror genre seems to keep breaking ground with its unique plots that will both terrify and delight audiences in the near future. Thus, serving as a sure sign that horror’s appeal will diversify, and hopefully break the generalizations that diminish its reputation as an emotive art form.
I, along with many other people, love horror because it is an aspect of our lives that has given us plenty of memories and nightmares. It is because of this that the genre and the culture that has sprung from it needs to be given further validations of its craft through its stories, special effects and impact. But most importantly, horror deserves accolades not just from the critics, but from the society that has provided the genre with the nuisances that it has needed in order to create our beloved yet hated monsters.