I fell in love with horror movies when I was just a kid. I remember the draw of the ‘horror section’ in my local video rental store. Even when I was too young for my parents to allow me to browse the horror films I remember always being fascinated by the pictures that covered the VHS display boxes. I would skirt quickly back and forth by the horror section so that I could get glimpses of the terrifying drawings on their rectangular covers.
Even at that young age horror films excited me. There was something forbidden within and I could not wait to be allowed to rent them. But delving even deeper into my psyche, there has always been a sexuality to horror films that further delighted me. This sexuality comes across even in the preliminary stage of simply observing the pictures off the front and back of a horror film’s VHS case. These pictures stimulated my mind with the possible stories that lay just beyond my reach. I know that VHS tapes are a thing of the past, but I truly feel that our culture is worse off due to their absence and, for that matter, the disappearance of video rental stores in general.
When I reached my teenage years my friends and I used to take turns getting our parents to drive us to the video store so that we could continue to rent and consume the entire horror section which we had become obsessed with. We used to run around the store choosing from classic and new horror monsters in an attempt to terrify each other later that evening. It felt like we were choosing an adventure for ourselves that night instead of only watching actors undertake their own ghastly adventures against demons and killers. A night in my parents’ basement with popcorn, pizza, candy, friends and two promising horror films was the formula for total teenage happiness and bliss.
I love horror movies. They have helped make me the man I am today.
In honor of October, my favorite month, and my upcoming favorite holiday, Halloween, let us explore five reasons why horror movies are some of my favorite things and still one of my favorite means of passing time.
- The Fanboy Connections: Horror movies are conversation starters. “Do you like horror movies?” is one of the first questions I ask when I am on a date or when I am meeting a person for the first time. If horror movies are a common interest, then you have an instant friend and a now endless array of topics to discuss. The horror genre is full of fanboys, and for that matter fangirls. Any film genre that inspires its’ fans to dress up like their favorite monsters, create their own fan fiction, and cover their rooms with gruesome film posters and toys is a genre I want to be a part of. The camaraderie amongst lovers of gore is unparalleled. I’m a proud horror movie fanboy.
- The Thrill of Being Scared: Studies have been done in an attempt to explain why some human beings’ twisted minds enjoy being scared by a horror film. We seek out thrills as an escape from our mundane and boring daily lives. Horror films, like roller coasters, present us with exciting, extreme situations which could be dangerous and therefore cause our hearts to race and our foreheads to bead with sweat. But while they expose us to dangerous situations they are controlled and ultimately completely safe. The killer isn’t actually in the room with you. This flirting with danger has always appealed to me.
- The Shirtless Men: Horror movies are full of sex, nudity and eroticism. They are many young boys’, and young girls’, first forays into soft-core porn. As a young man, who later turned out to be gay, I was always drawn to images of the beautiful male body. Horror films have many beautiful images of shirtless hunks to choose from. These films became some of my first visual studies of other men’s physiques and how they acted in sexual situations. I learned a lot about sex from the horror genre and a lot about muscles.
- The Lessons: Critics of the horror genre like to dismiss horror films as trashy pieces saturated with unnecessary and endless amounts of gore, poor plots and violence for no reason. Granted, as in any genre, there are the occasional bad seeds with horrid plots and useless characters. But I have always said that any truly good and worthwhile horror movie has an important message: a lesson. The capable characters in a well-constructed horror film must observe the signs, follow the clues, react intelligently and they will learn the lesson and survive. Horror films can teach us a lot about the world and the murky depths of the human soul. I’ve certainly learned a lot from them about navigating this treacherous thing called life.
- The Monsters: Who doesn’t love a good monster? I, as much as anyone else, love them for their ability to scare me and to make me jerk upright in my seat. But I also love monsters for their unique ability to intrigue me and to elicit sympathy from me. Many horror monsters are tragic figures, victims of unfair circumstances or wrongs done to them by others or by nature. My favorite monsters make me feel something extra, on top of my fear. Glimpsing the humanity behind the mask can be a pretty amazing and worthwhile experience. In the end, many horror villains are more relatable then most people would care to admit. Besides, we all have a little monster inside of us, buried way down deep in the dark…