“We fear violence less than our own feelings. Personal, private, solitary pain is more terrifying than what anyone else can inflict.”-Jim Morrison
“A good scare is worth more to a man than good advice.”
-Edgar Watson Howe – Country Town Sayings
At least once a week, I’m asked why I’m a horror fan. Whether it be from a family member who doesn’t understand the obsession, or just in passing, the question always seems to pop up. Usually, I tend to give the standard “uh..because it’s just what I’m into” answer, as an attempt to move on, into a different subject. The reason for that quick and cold response isn’t due to not wanting to talk to people, or even to shut them up, but because the real answer sounds cliche as hell, but is absolutely 100% true. The reason that I love the horror genre and the creatures (real and fake) that inhabit said genre is simple: because it saved my life. So many times we hear people say that, that horror (or anything else for that matter) has saved somebody’s life, and like most things that we take for granted, we don’t stop to think about how profound and special that must be for the individual…I know that it is for me.
How I fell in love with the best genre in the world isn’t so much a fun story, in fact, its roots are firmly planted and born out of a horrible and upsetting situation. What potentially could have meant the end for me so many times during my life, was instead turned into not only a genuine affinity for all things frightening, but also served for what I can say has easily been the love of my life: horror.
I was born in 1981, in Tulare, California. Five years into my life, my parents divorced, and my mother decided to move to Arizona to start over. My father had custody of my older brother and I, and every summer, we would board a plane to Arizona to visit my mother, and soon after, her new husband. While everything was fun and games for the first year or so of that, when I turned seven years old, I went to stay with my mother for a whole school year, and was put through the worst hell I’ve ever experienced. My step-father at the time, was a man from Bombay, India and was obsessed with American culture, especially its cinema. When my mother would go to work at night (she worked at a hospital), my stepfather would take my brother and I to the movies, and instead of taking us to films that were deemed “kid-friendly”, he always took us to all of the films that he had wanted to see. One Friday night in October, he decided to take us to a new Jodie Foster film that was getting a lot of Oscar buzz, and the fact that it was THE ACCUSED, and that it was about a woman getting gang-raped didn’t mean anything to him, so like always, he dragged us along.
That night, somewhat traumatized by the film (who wouldn’t be at seven years old), we came home, and went to bed. My step-father molested me for the first time that night, and it carried over for the rest of the year that I spent living with my mother. While I began the first six years of my life as a happy child who if I’m going to be honest, was the biggest loud-mouthed brat around, from that night in October until my early twenties, I became a much quieter and insecure person because of that. What I lost that night, might have been my innocence, but what I gained not even a month later, was a best friend, who was also Andy Barclay’s best friend: Chucky. As my step-father had a drinking problem and would get pretty gnarly when drunk, my mother would give me enough money to spend hours on end, sitting in the local theater, which showed newer movies, and films that were about to be on their way out of the theaters. One day in November, I walked into the theater with a note from my mother (this was long before Columbine, so ratings weren’t enforced whatsoever..even for being seven), and saw three films that I STILL hold pretty high: CHILD’S PLAY, DIE HARD and FRIDAY THE 13TH 7: THE NEW BLOOD (which had been released that May but was still sticking around at my local theater). Sitting through those three movies, I felt such a massive sense of being able to lose myself. For the running time of each film, I didn’t think of what he did to me, how scared I was, or how embarrassed I was to even tell my brother or mother (something I didn’t do until I was probably 30). Though I enjoyed DIE HARD, and it’s still my favorite action film of all time, it was the other two films that made me cry while watching them. Not because of being scared, but because of how good it felt to see Andy in CHILD’S PLAY or Tina in FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE NEW BLOOD stand up to Chucky and Jason, and overcome the awful situations that they were placed in. I felt such a kinship to them, and it made me feel like I could be strong too.
Almost immediately, I sought out every single horror film playing at that theater, and any other local cineplex’s around, regular/cheap/whatever priced, whichever theater was showing a horror film. I watched HALLOWEEN 4, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4, THE BLOB, anything and everything that made me feel special, and made me feel like I was stronger that my step-father was, even if it was for only 90 minutes or so. I felt alive and full of hope, as I lived vicariously through Alice, Jamie Lloyd, or even Kevin Dillon with an awful mullet. I was in love with the genre, and more than even that, I was full on obsessed.
Soon after, my brother and I went back to live with my father again, bringing my step-father’s reign to an end, but I came back changed, for the bad and because of horror, for the good. The next year, I watched the original HALLOWEEN for the first time, and I found a love for the character of Laurie Strode that to this day is as strong as ever. It felt awesome to find another character that stood up and fought back, something I was afraid to do, but did through them. I spent years watching every single horror film possible after that, ditched friends and parties and girlfriends, just to watch the latest slasher by myself. I stayed up late every single night of my childhood and teenage years, enthralled by the exploits of Michael, Freddy, Jason, Chucky, and every other horror icon, getting their asses handed to them by various survivors. It made me feel alive again,..hell, it still does. I still feel that giddy and nervous energy, every time I sit down and get lost in whatever horror classic (or disaster) that I watch.
So, the next time that somebody asks my why I love horror films so much, I’ll probably opt for the same old answer, “because I just do”, but I’ll smile, thinking back to a scared little boy, who found his voice because of the best fucking genre in the world.