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“All Of My Friends Are Monsters, and My Heroes Are Survivors”: An Ode to The Grandmother of Scream Queens

Yesterday, we all found out that Marilyn Burns had passed away, and while it might not have affected some, it certainly did leave a mark on horror fans everywhere. It seems that a lot of people throw stories up about the passing of genre greats almost immediately, and for a good while today, I fought the urge to. Not because I wasn’t affected by it, or that I didn’t want to, but because it actually affected me in a very profound way. Last year, I wrote a very personal article regarding why and how the horror genre came my way as a child. I wasn’t attracted to horror because of the monsters initially, no, it was the survivors of the genre that really helped me tremendously. I found my voice through the journeys of characters like Andy Barclay, Laurie Strode and every other character that faced such monumental odds and lived to tell the story. The horror genre found me at my most delicate, a scared child who didn’t know how to feel, and throughout my now 33 years of being alive, I have known nothing as intense as the love I have for the genre and the characters who pull us in, giving us adventures to live vicariously through.

I found myself very similar to HALLOWEEN‘s Laurie Strode, not knowing how to fit in, how to talk to people..and every other cliche’ that sadly, so many horror fans lived through growing up.  There eventually came a time when I grew up, found my voice, and did my best to teach my daughter how to be a strong-willed, heroic type of individual. As I watched my daughter grow, I saw the youthful excitement in her that I, unfortunately, didn’t have the opportunity to feel as a child. I learned how to be happy later on. When I went through a life change in 2007, one that left me in a shape that could only be described as completely self destructive and defeated, I found myself feeling certain emotions that I hadn’t felt since I was under ten years old. I went through a divorce, and ended up finding solace in a handful of stupid things. In my cloud of alcoholism and bad decisions, it was decided that my daughter would be better off living with her mother, until I got myself back together. It hit me like a ton of bricks, and instead OF pulling myself back, I instead reverted back into that scared little kid that couldn’t sleep at night growing up, only this time, I was 27 years old. Things just felt done.

Like always though, whenever things have felt like they weren’t able to turn around, I have found the answers in the only savior I’ve known. Not the religious kind, no, I’m not speaking Jesus..I’m talking about the greatest genre around: horror. One night, in the middle of having my head up my ass (not literally, that would probably hurt quite a bit), I attempted to be suave and woo a girl by watching THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE with her. I hadn’t seen it yet (before you crucify me for not having seen it until I was 27, THIS will tell you why I hadn’t), and tried my best to look like a badass by pretending that I had. It’s safe to say that the film hasn’t left my head in the six years that have passed since then. Not only did THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE scare the living hell out of me, but I owe the world to the film, and more specifically, to Marilyn Burns.

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As I walked home after sitting through THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE for the first time, I felt such a wide range of emotions. I was frightened, enthralled, and most of all, inspired. I’ve always been someone who is drawn to characters, and the journeys that they go through, making or breaking them. I found myself continually thinking of Burns’ performance as Sally Hardesty, a gutsy, intense performance that has to this day, never been topped. Faced with absolute horror and at a point in which everything seemed over, Sally endured. Everything and everyone she knew was gone, taken from her…and she was coming up on her end, at the hands of the Sawyer family…but she endured, fighting tooth and nail and not letting her end be an option. I found myself feeling like maybe things weren’t at the end for me, that maybe the trial I was going through internally was just that: a trial. I found myself reviving the strength that I found as a kid, and I began to use Sally and her journey as a catalyst to live on, to defeat my demons and..to endure.

I don’t know how long it would have taken me to snap out of the hell I had allowed into my life, without having finally taken a chance on THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and without finding that courage and determination within Marilyn Burns’ performance. It spoke to me on such monumentally profound levels. Over time, I have grown to appreciate the monsters in horror films, I consider them friends at this point. I’m protective over my HALLOWEEN, FRIDAY THE 13TH, and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET‘s, they’re like family, like friends. Everybody needs friends in life, people to encourage you, to lift you up. I have plenty of those.  I can count the amount of heroes I’ve had in life on probably one hand, but with that being said,..I have heroes…and yesterday, one of the greatest heroes I had in life passed away. Thanks to Marilyn Burns and her fearless performance, I found the courage and determination to pull myself together. I’ll never have the privilege to say thank you to her, but every time I watch THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, I’ll think back to that dark period of my life and smile.  She taught me how to endure.

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  • Phil Fasso

    Having read your personal article last year about why you love horror, I find that you use horror flicks as a personal type of catharsis. Live through the characters, and you can breathe out your own personal horrors into the air. I applaud you for finding deeper meaning in what many find a throwaway genre.