How I Changed From Scary Cat To Horror Lover

How I Changed From Scary Cat To Horror Lover

For many movie fans, horror cinema and a love for movies have been one and the same for as long as they can remember. Watching some R-rated scary film when they were way too young blew open the doors for how they saw movies. A lifetime appreciation for the genre was birthed from an early age and only got deeper as they entered their teenage years. But not everyone with a love for horror movies comes to the genre when they’re young. For some, it can take until they’re in college before the glorious canvas of frightening films is made clear. This is my story. This is the saga of how I became enamored with horror movies…eventually.

The Allure of Horror Movies As a Kid
It’s not like I didn’t know about horror films or was oblivious to their existence as a kid. Walking into a Blockbuster video store as a youngster, the VHS tapes of the various horror movies were what grabbed my attention. Why wouldn’t they? They had the most striking fonts, cover images promising grisly mayhem, and maybe even some scantily clad babes, all the ingredients of peak cinema. Though I’d always end up just renting the same PG movies I’d watched dozens of times before, my eyes would always wander to those horror VHS tapes. I was a total scaredy cat, I knew I wouldn’t make it five minutes into The Blair Witch Project. Somehow, that just made them extra enticing in my mind. This was the cinematic forbidden fruit. If I could conquer these movies, I could conquer anything.

Of course, that enticement was made complicated by my being so easily frightened. I couldn’t sleep in the dark well into my teenage years, for instance, and I got nightmares so easily under normal conditions. My adolescent mind reeled at the thought of throwing a slasher movie into my psychological mix. It didn’t help that none of my friends were into horror films. There was no die-hard fan of the Phantasm movies in my adolescent social space to push me into giving this genre a shot. Plus, stories from family members about being traumatized by horror films at a young age kept me vigilant about not getting accidentally exposed to these features at a young age. Movies like A Nightmare on Elm Street seemed like a good time, but there were too many overwhelming variables to make them worth the risk. These films would stay firmly on those racks at the local Blockbuster.

R-Rated Comedies Became a Gateway to Horror
Time marched on and with each passing year, my cinema horizons began to gradually expand. By 2012, I was seeing R-rated movies in the theater, which opened up new doors for what kind of movies I was getting exposed to. Seeing the likes of Ted or The Campaign in theaters meant I was exposed to the trailers for new R-rated horror movies more than ever before, but I still wasn’t seeing these films in theaters (save for Prometheus). While R-rated comedies were seen as a fun, bonding experience in a theater between myself, my dad, and my middle brother, there just wasn’t enough passion for horror movies from any of us to make them must-see theatrical entertainment. If I didn’t see an R-rated feature with them, I generally wasn’t seeing an R-rated title period, which meant most horror movies were passing me by.

R-Rated Comedies Became a Gateway to Horror
Time marched on and with each passing year, my cinema horizons began to gradually expand. By 2012, I was seeing R-rated movies in the theater, which opened up new doors for what kind of movies I was getting exposed to. Seeing the likes of Ted or The Campaign in theaters meant I was exposed to the trailers for new R-rated horror movies more than ever before, but I still wasn’t seeing these films in theaters (save for Prometheus). While R-rated comedies were seen as a fun, bonding experience in a theater between myself, my dad, and my middle brother, there just wasn’t enough passion for horror movies from any of us to make them must-see theatrical entertainment. If I didn’t see an R-rated feature with them, I generally wasn’t seeing an R-rated title period, which meant most horror movies were passing me by.

However, these obstacles didn’t mean I wasn’t getting my horror movie fix in some unorthodox ways. I can’t even remember when this fixation began, but my teenage years were dominated by scouring the Wikipedia plot summaries for notable frightening movies (like the Saw sequels or The Blair Witch Project) and reading them over and over again. Here, I had much more control than if I was watching an actual scary movie. In my imagination, the deaths could be as gruesome or restrained as I wanted them to be and the lighting could be a manageable sort of ominous. It wasn’t the same thing as basking in a worn-out VHS copy of Hellraiser, but the small flame of passion I carried for horror was kept flickering by the magical might of Wikipedia.

A Film Critic Faces Their Fears
In my final two years of high school, I became the film critic for the school’s online newspaper, The Red Ledger. My time writing for this outlet featured write-ups on films big and small, including some under-the-radar indie features (I’m proud of possibly writing the only review of The Sessions for a high school paper). However, read between the lines of my tenure here, and you can still see my aversion to horror cinema even as I reached the age where you can enlist in the U.S. Army. The Purge and Oculus were the only horror titles I reviewed for this publication. Even my responsibilities of being a high school film critic weren’t enough to crack my scaredy-cat shell.

That barrier between myself and the world of horror finally began to crumble once I reached college. Some people use their time in higher learning to experiment with drugs or go on unforgettable road trips with friends. Me? I made a beeline for my community college’s expansive collection of DVDs and found myself with more movies at my fingertips than ever. Suddenly, I could experience features from all around the world in any genre…including horror.

It wasn’t going to be easy to suddenly become a connoisseur of horror, though. Nearly two decades of building up horror in my head as something that would corrupt my mind or instill images I could never shake wasn’t going to be removed easily. But I gradually began to make my way through a checklist of classic must-see horror movies courtesy of that college library. The urge to finally confront my fear of horror movies was made all the more urgent by the sudden revival of horror in the world of mainstream American cinema. It was easy to stay a few feet away from horror when the buzziest horror title in pop culture was Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones. But thanks to projects like It Follows and The VVitch, the must-see movies of any given season were now bound to be horror films. If I wanted to be up on what was making waves in movie theaters, I needed to get more comfortable with horror.

Ditch Your Preconceptions of Horror
These new theatrical titles and first-time viewings of classic horror fare totally reoriented my perception of what horror movies could be. In hindsight, it seems so silly to have such a one-note vision of what horror was capable of, but if you never get a refutation of that concept, you’re never going to break that way of thinking. Getting glimpses of something like Hostel didn’t make horror seem like it would offer up much anything beyond young women screaming in agony and grimy sets. But horror movies could do anything! They could be darkly funny, offer up social commentary, and anything else under the sun! All my life, I’d been terrified by horror because I’d had such a shallow perception of it. But the genre was so much deeper and more nuanced than I’d ever imagined. I was still covering my eyes at some of the scarier parts of these features, but I was watching them – now with greater frequency.

Being an adult and watching these movies for the first time also allowed me to appreciate the finer nuances of the filmmaking and screenwriting in something like Halloween or A Nightmare on Elm Street. Being able to grasp these intricate details ensured that I would quickly become as big of a fan of these seminal titles as the rest of the world, even if I had arrived at the party super late. My favorite of these classic horror movies would turn out to be The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, which helped recontextualize my perception of how horror could create tension and fear. It isn’t always just buckets of blood, it’s also through precise editing and eerie sound design that all those small details are refined perfectly in Tobe Hooper’s horrifying masterpiece. With this motion picture, I was able to understand the craftsmanship that goes into making somebody scared. Comprehending all this effort suddenly made the intimidating nature of horror films, not something to make me cower, but something that should leave me impressed.

Author: ultraman cosmos

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