The Beat’s Greg-Gory Pall Thrillber is a connoisseur of the dark artistries who has been accused of … several crimes against God and nature. Each week in Silber Bullets, he takes a terrifying look at the spookiest, scariest, and most blood-curdling bits of suspense and fright that he refuses to let out of his head.
Horror fans are a unique breed of geek. I don’t like the word’ geek’ very much for a cluster of reasons that are best left for another article, but it’s a helpful short-hand for those with an intense passion for subject matter deemed too unsophisticated, uncool, or esoteric for the mainstream. Horror in particular is decidedly repulsive to those who don’t buy into its grotesque aesthetic or morbid subject matter, so horror fandom is inherently subversive. To those who don’t “get it, ” those who go out of their way to was engaged in such provocative art must seem very strange indeed. After all, what kind of person gladly scares themselves? Are they masochists? Do they just want to prove how brave they are? Are they actually sadists with secret desires to commit unspeakable crimes, and vicariously enjoy learn violence inflicted upon fictional characters?
I can tell you from experience that none of that is true about the vast majority of horror devotees. It’s kind of like how people assume heavy metal fans all look like Lemmy, but if you go to a metal concert, most of the audience is going to look like … well, like me. You know, dorks. Most horror fans I’ve met are big-hearted ol’ softies, and can even be quite squeamish. Is it all that surprising? Horror wouldn’t be much fun for someone who couldn’t be phased by it. But every horror follower comes into the genre differently, so I’ll merely speak for myself here and talk to you about my own travel into darkness.
Before I consciously recognized how much I adore repugnance, I enjoyed Halloween. Some of my earliest recollections are of garmenting up as Billy, the blue Power Ranger, each year from preschool to first grade, when I decided to put away my proverbial childish things and dress as Spider-Man instead. Not simply was it an excuse for everyone in the world to play dress-up, but I had permission to go door-to-door demanding candy … and receiving it!
I strongly thought we, as a society, underestimate how much the feeling of want characterizes childhood. Even if you grown up rich( which I certainly didn’t ), you have to go through an adult for even the pettiest of substance desires, like candy, and you’ll simply get what you want so much better of the time. Obviously, by the time most of us reach adulthood we’ve learned that it’s not wise to eat candy all day every day, but the fact remains that if you have even a little disposable income, you can buy and feed candy if you’d like. We truly don’t appreciate enough how precious those minutes are for children when they finally get the petty things they crave, whether it’s a brand-new toy on their birthday or candy on Halloween.
In that lane, perhaps I subconsciously watched Halloween not inevitably as a festivity of repugnance, but hedonism, and all the vampires and witches and whatnot just added to how upside-down the whole day was. Either way, it was only natural that I’d come to love the Halloween esthetics of ghosts and skeletons and the like as much as I love the vacation itself.
Like many millennials, my first experience with genuine- albeit age-appropriate- repugnance story was the Goosebumps books by R.L. Stine, when I was about seven. I’m not sure which one I read first. There were dozens of those things from the main series alone , not including spinoffs like Tales to Give You Goosebumps and Choose Your Own Goosebumps, and I merely speak whichever ones I could get my hands on. The hullabaloo started wearing off formerly I recognized how predictable Stine’s formula was( which I believe explains how he pumped out so many journals in such a short time ), but the fast-paced storytelling and cheeky humor definitely left an impression on me, and stimulated me to seek out more spooks.
I’ve talked before about how I could have a bit of an obsessive personality. It’s kind of the entire proposition of this article, but it was especially true in elementary school. My dad would lease classic repugnance movies like The Mummy and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein from Blockbuster for me, because classic Universal Monsters were the only horror movies he felt comfortable expres a boy my age. I became fascinated with “true” specter stories and while I was never willing to say I fully believes in phantoms, I did decide that I would become a paranormal researcher when I grew up. I figured who is able to my period position( err, darknes task) while I write books on the side. And yes, I told adults all about this when they asks what I wanted to be when I grow up.
My hunger for horror was insatiable, and I talked about it constantly. In retrospect, I can see how it has been possible to disturbed some adults that a 9-year-old was reading Edgar Allen Poe, whom I initially presupposed was a contemporary novelist because I ordered a collect of his short narratives from the Scholastic catalog much as one would with The Bailey School Kids or Bruce Coville. In any event, many of the adults in “peoples lives”, including my parents and teachers, were are concerned by my feeling for horror, and did not keep their discomfort secret. At least one teach banned Goosebumps from her classroom, and I was discouraged from learn fright in favour of classic adventure fiction like Tom Sawyer instead.
For many years, regrettably, it worked. I didn’t know anyone else who loved horror as much as I did, and the efforts to make me feel strange for enjoying dark and disturbing fiction were useful. Ironically, I did develop a genuine appreciation for Mark Twain, specially when I discovered his obscure short story” Cannibalism in the Cars ,” a satirical work about a group of congressmen who get trapped on a train in a blizzard and comprise congressional hearings to determine who should get eaten first.
I wasn’t explicitly forbidden from enjoying horror, and while I regret how much occasion I expended not prosecuting the passion I so clearly had, it’s not like I didn’t still partake in the genre from time to time. In eighth grade, I was downed a Stephen King rabbit hole. That included his nonfiction and decidedly not-scary-at-all On Writing, but of course my lane in was through horror novels like The Shining and Misery. Stanley Kubrick’s iconic 1980 adjustment of The Shining was one of the first R-Rated movies I was given permission to watch, and it scared the bejeezus out of me. Not as much bejeezus as the book, though. I was afraid to take a shower for weeks after see the notorious Room 237 panorama( much different, and scarier, in the book versus the movie ), and in my high school AP Language and Composition class, I did a introduction on” the madam in the tub had fucking dead a long time” for an job about a convict we consider to be brilliantly crafted.
But truly, it wasn’t until the start of the pandemic in 2020 that I fell back into horror fandom as hard as I did as a young child. A heap of people are surprised and weirded out when I tell them I aroused my adoration of horror right when lockdowns for a deadly world pandemic began. I don’t accused them. How could I possibly want to think more about death and dying at a time like this? It’s not that I wasn’t anxious and depressed, because I most certainly was, but that these overwhelming feelings of negative feelings soon been turned into a numbing excitement. Every day brought with it more bad news, and with limited ability to safely leave my suite and mix up the negativity with new experiences, I needed something to jolt me out of my rut.
I’ve developed a healthy savor for campy fright and slapstick repugnance and horror that are actually tells a creepy tale without inevitably being frightening, but for the most part- and certainly when I’m at my lowest- when I watch a repugnance movie, I want to actually to be scared. It reminded us that I can still feel something. Do I want nightmares? Not inevitably, and there are very few horror movies I’ve watched as young adults that please give me nightmares anyway. And when they did, the kind of grisly nightmares I get from Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer were preferable to the kind of mundane nightmares I typically get: relation strain, financial crises, bad recollections, that old-fashioned standby where I have to take a test I haven’t studied for and also my teeth are falling out … I’d take getting chased by a serial assassin any day over all that.
Plus, fright assistances threw my dread into perspective. I’m afraid of environmental collapse, of deadly diseases, of Nazis, of omission … simply to identify a few. I’m sure many of you share those same anxieties. They’re all valid dreads and all need to be addressed in one way or another. But probabilities are, most of you aren’t, at this moment, getting chased by a machete-wielding psycho. Horror throws us in the shoes of personas experiencing far more extreme, visceral, and immediate horrors than any of us will ever experience. So when the lights go back up, and we take a breath of succour that we’ll probably never have to fight off a horde of flesh-eating zombies, our more mundane, everyday dreads haven’t gone away, but they do seem more manageable in comparison.
Horror can be therapeutic, and I means that in every sense of the word. It’s not just that it can momentarily soothe us in the ways I described earlier, but that repugnance can teach us a great deal about ourselves that we may not otherwise be forced to think about. All art is subjective, but repugnance especially so. Any given fright story affects every reader or viewer differently because each individual has had different living suffers that causes them to dread different things. I’ve mentioned before that while I enjoy The Exorcist and recognize it as a pristinely-crafted film, it doesn’t scare me as much as it seems to scare spectators who grew up Catholic( lapsed or otherwise ), nor do many other horror films of its ilk immersed in Christian dogma. That’s not a value judgement, and I’m not passing judgement on people who were raised that course. I’m sure The Exorcist would terrify me if I was elevated to believe that The Devil exists and demons could utterly own me if I’m not careful. But that’s not my background, so The Exorcist will never resonate with me on that level.
On the other hand, much of my favorite fright has laid bare my greatest frights. It can’t be a coincidence that Hereditary, Rosemary’s Baby, The Shining, Swamp Thing comics, and surely a bunch of other stories I’m not even thinking about explore themes of betrayal. I clearly have a crushing fear of the people I enjoy and trust most turning against me. It’s something I’ve talked about ever since I started going to therapy as a teen, and it’s a dialogue I’m sure I’ll continue to have. I probably didn’t need repugnance to realize that about myself, but horror establishes our greatest dreads more tangible, and therefore easier to process and talk about.
Sometimes horror exposes frights I never even realized I had. Religions, for example, are one of those recurring repugnance decorations that never fail to freak me out. I don’t have a clear answer for why that is. I’ve never been in a religion, and to the best of the best of my knowledge, neither has anybody I’ve ever been close with. But noticing that so many of the horror movies that have scared me most have been about religions- like The Wicker Man, The Invitation, Midsommar, and Jordan Peele’s Us- armies me to do some valuable soul searching. Why do religions scare me so much? Is it that I’ve struggled to feel accepted by different groups and communities throughout “peoples lives”? Is it that I feel I’m too easily influenced by predatory people, and therefore vulnerable to cults? On the other hand, perhaps I’m repulsed by cults because I’m more stubborn and rebellious than I realise. I don’t know. For all I know it’s as simple as” I think it’s weird when a bunch of people dress alike .” In any case, it’s a fascinating mental journey.
I may not have been conscious enough of my excitements to understand or enunciate it as a kid, but on some subconscious degree perhaps I fell deep into fright because what I genuinely craved was to better understand myself. I never felt particularly brave as small children. Kids scared me. Grown-ups scared me. That gloom smudge under my bed at night scared me. I was that kid who started crying when the kindergarten teacher developed her voice at the class, even though I intellectually knew I wasn’t the one she was mad at. Spider-Man( 2002) was one of my favorite movies after I met it in 5th grade and a bona fide life-changing experience, but I was so scared when Norman Osborn turned into the Green Goblin that the first time I visualized it in theaters, I feigned I had to go to the bathroom and came back when it clanged like the scary persona was over.
Horror taught me that it’s okay to be scared. That it’s normal. That we need fear to understand ourselves and is strong people. That if we don’t have horror, we probably aren’t living very fulfilling lives.
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