How Horror Picked Me
I can’t pinpoint exactly what it was that drew me toward horror. When I was very young maybe six years old the film E.T scared the absolute crap out of me and gave me nightmares for years. Then there was a children's book in my room with a poem about gremlins and an accompanying drawing that absolutely filled me with dread. However despite that I knew these things scared me I still went back for another peek at it.
When Video stores (yes kids, a video store – stores that rented VHS tapes) were prevalent, I was always drawn to the horror section. You could walk in and smell the plastic coming off the new release covers mixed in with the musty smell of the carpet and the older videos, whilst preview after preview after preview was playing on the CRT (yes kids CRT…ah don’t worry) TV in the corner of the store. In the opposite corner was an area that you knew was out of bounds. Mum told you, Dad told you – don’t go back there, you are not old enough, you’ll have nightmares – all those comments and more rang in your ears, except as everyone knows saying - 'You can’t go there' and 'You’ll have nightmares' to a child is like a red rag to a bull. Like discovering the house in Hansel & Gretel you have to go there, in fact you must even when you know there might be a witch waiting for you. I take a deep breath and make a bee line for the rack with the place card above it, the one in red letters… the one that said horror. I got there and was faced with a monolith of images, a skyscraper of video covers that I’d never seen or even dreamt (or had nightmares) about - bloodied hands, headless bodies, merciless killers & scantily clad girls – it was all there, it was all forbidden and I wanted in. I only dared wonder what terrors lay inside and what horrible fate awaited those in the film, if only I could see one…and I would but not for quite some time.
In between that time and when I was deemed old enough to watch, I slowly managed to cram some albeit light horror movies (The Gate, Child’s Play) or snippets of films gleaned by sneaking around the back of lounge late at night, I always remember one night I caught a glimpse of The Omen, the lady professing her love for Damien and then hanging herself has stuck with me. I also filled my head with any horror books I could find. I remember my unbridled excitement when I ordered an anthology book called Creepy Creatures from the school book club, I could barely concentrate the day we all got our books, my book had a picture of sea monster on the cover - part Godzilla, part T-Rex crushing a lighthouse like it was a can of coke. I went home and immediately started reading it. I was amazed, not only did this book have stories about man-eating, giant snails but it also had a story about a thing that thought it was alive but it was just a skeleton covered in rotting flesh…my mind was blown. I actually loved this stuff but more than that, I was connected to it. It was way to escape issues of being bullied, being the different kid - in essence I was just free to be me.
Finally being old enough to rent the movies I really wanted to see and with not many friends in general and certainly only one friend that was into horror, I decided it was up to me with my hard earned (not really) money to see every scary film I could. I ran through a bunch of films, some good, some not so good – but each one of them I came across something that I liked. I then came upon the two films that would change the game for me, they were sitting side by side, not sure why they were together, it certainly wasn't alphabetical order but for some reason just sitting on the shelf like beacons, begging me to watch them - The Exorcist and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Both of the video covers couldn’t be more different but both spoke to me, the absolute madness of the Texas Chain Saw cover and understated yet meancing Exorcist cover art. I gathered up the courage to try and rent these two films, I certainly wasn’t 18 the required age to watch these two films – according to the ratings - and definitely didn’t look it either. I went straight up to the counter and by some divine miracle (or counter clerk that didn't really give a crap) I walked out of the shop with both videos in my hot little hands. I ran home in record time and watched The Exorcist. I was straight up shocked at what was being shown and said – what was I watching? I was terrified and enthralled, I followed it straight away with the next film. It blew my head off. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre – I sat there transfixed for 84 minutes and I didn’t utter a single word, of course with the exception of a muttered ‘Oh my god’ about 17 times. It was a defining film for me, from there I went searching through back catalogues, looking at everything I could – films, books, magazines – discovering that not only was I not alone in my love for horror but that there were so many horror freaks out there.
In summing up, I guess sometimes random things speak to you, for reasons you don’t understand and maybe never will but whatever it was that got to me, whatever the impulse was driving me to find out about the horror world I can only be grateful for it.