I am a writer. I primarily write screenplays but will occasionally delve into short stories and blog posts (like this one). More often than not, these writings are of or about the horror genre. This naturally springs out of my love of watching said genre. I’ve been asked to defend horror movies on more than one occasion but I’m not going to do that here and now. Another time perhaps. Today, I’ll be talking about how my love for horror came about. Buckle in, folks. We’re about to float down the rivers of time to revisit my childhood. Just make sure you get off before the storm drain.
HOW ALL OF THIS CRAZINESS BEGAN
That heading is deceptive. I actually don’t know for sure when my love of horror began. I didn’t grow up watching a ton of horror movies or reading a lot horror novels or anything of the sort. My first experience with horror stories that I can remember was way back when I was around 7 or 8 years old. This girl that I used to hang out with told a rather macabre little tale about a girl and her evil china dolls. I can’t recollect much of what happened in the story but there are a few images that, to this day, I can distinctly remember. The main thing I am able to recall is the girl’s sister (or was it the mother?) hearing a “drip-drip” sound (blood, of course) coming from the bathroom and finding the girl, dead and stuffed into the cabinet beneath the sink. Needless to say, it was a very long time before I could look beneath my bathroom sink again. Despite being terrified of it at the time, I probably made her tell the story to me at least half a dozen times.
Between then and high school, I can’t really point to a period where my taste for horror blossomed but I can tell you the first horror movie I ever saw. Around the same time as the creepy doll story, while staying for a weekend at my grandparents’ house, I stumbled upon the miniseries It playing on TV. It must have been a rerun a few years after the original broadcast because they played both parts that same night. Simultaneously terrified and fascinated, I flipped away from the show when it got too scary or when I heard Grandma coming down the hall, only to return a few minutes later and be scared all over again by Tim Curry’s evil clown character, Pennywise. This went on through all three hours of the program.
Like most children who are raised in a Christian home, the horror genre was not one that we were really allowed to indulge in. As a kid approaching his final years in grade school, I was barely able to get away with reading a Christian Goosebumps knockoff called Spine Chillers. In high school, I bought a copy of The Zombie Survival Guide that I hid from my parents until I moved out for college. When I got my own laptop for the first time in Jr. High, I spent many a late hour alone in my room looking at websites about hauntings and urban legends and then having trouble sleeping that night. Occasionally, I was able to sneakily watch movies like Night of the Living Dead and Final Destination. It was also about this time that I began writing.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t even remember when I started thinking seriously about writing. Like most teenagers in the second millennium, I had a rather vacuous blog
much like this one that I updated regularly and I wrote a bunch of short stories that would kill me with embarrassment if they were ever to surface again. Back then, though, I mostly wrote dark comedy. Not strictly horror stories but they certainly had all the macabre elements of horror: death, disembodied limbs, gross descriptions, zombies, etc., but I wasn’t writing real horror stories… yet.
All of this makes it sound like my fascination with horror came out of a rebellion against my repressive parents. Perhaps it did. If that’s the case, it certainly wasn’t a conscious decision. There was never a moment where I said to myself, “To hell with my parents and their rules! They’re bringing me down, man!” I don’t know why I would have talked like a hippie protesting drug prohibition but it just feels right. In any case, we’ll just say that I’ve always had a fascination with the darker side of fiction and leave it at that. I had indulged in as much horror as I could in those days but it wasn’t until I was in college that I was able to delve into what is now my favorite genre.
A HORROR FAN: THE COLLEGE YEARS + A FEW MORE
I came into college with a taste for the macabre and now, without the strict parental rules, that taste was finally being satiated. I saw movies like Alien, Suspiria, The Thing, The Haunting, Evil Dead II, [rec], The Shining, and The Exorcist. All of these I now count among my favorite movies. I was in the school library often, browsing their meager DVD shelves, hoping some new horror film would appear. I also had a Netflix account through all those years so I was able to dig deep into horror history. In the early years of college, I mostly watched the films of the 80’s to the present but soon reached back to the 60’s and 70’s and then foreign films soon after.
It wasn’t long before I found a few kindred spirits who also had a fascination with the macabre. One of these fine gents in particular really helped guide me to the little-known and underrated classics of the genre and broadened my scope further. I still respect and value his opinion on all of cinema more than anybody else I know. Any movie he recommends to me, I’ll make a special effort to acquire. When we talk, it’s usually to share and compare whatever obscure horror films we’ve seen recently.
These were also the years wherein I read my first Stephen King novel, Pet Sematary. Since then, I’ve been collecting his books whenever I see them at my favorite used bookstore. Beyond King, I was big on Richard Matheson’s short stories and novels but hadn’t read many other horror authors until just recently. But while my reading of horror was scant, it was then that I began writing my own horror stories.
The first one I remember writing was a ghost story. I wrote it for a beginning screenwriting class and it involved a man on an obsessive search for the spot where his boat went down along with his wife. Like most early stories, I’m embarrassed to read it now. For my senior project, I wrote a feature length horror/thriller script about nanobots that can take over a person’s mind (the story was a collaboration between myself and another friend who I still write with). The same year, I also wrote and directed my first zombie film which was then nominated in the “Best Thriller/Action” category at my school’s film festival. And then I graduated.
In these post-grad years, I’ve kept busy watching, reading, and writing horror stories. One of my short horror scripts, Attic, just completed post-production and I am currently writing a feature length zombie movie as well as a stage play that is definitely of the horror genre.
THE BLOODY AFTERMATH OF ALL THAT PERSONAL HISTORY
That’s about it as far as I can recall. I could go on about horror movies for another 1,000 words but I’m sure I already lost more than a few of you around the fifth paragraph. If you did make it this far, first of all, thanks for sticking around, and secondly, I promise that these long-winded, personal assessments will be the exception rather than the rule around here (unless, for some reason, you people start demanding more of them). Sure I could have gotten into why exactly I like horror or how I could possibly defend the genre but either one would take up at least as much space as the preceding paragraphs and I prefer not to torture you dear blog readers. My story readers on the other hand, I’ll gladly torture. In a good way, of course. Okay, I’m just babbling now. Time to wrap up this post so you can get on with your life and I can get on with mine. I don’t know what you’re planning on doing after this but me, I’m going to grab a snack, plop myself onto the couch, and watch a horror movie.