I’ve been a horror fan my entire life. I’ve tried to figure out the “why” over the years but never really came up with an answer. I see my friends, fully grown men and women, cringe with fright at the shortest trailers for the latest horror film and wonder how it is that I look forward to the whole film.
What is it about horror that people fall in love with?
Now, I’m writing most of this on an airplane to Las Vegas to see my older brother get married (for the third time; his first two were actual horror stories). As I scrolled through the in-flight movies to check out, I happened to come across and decided to watch the Child’s Play remake.
The first time I saw the original Child’s Play was at my great-grandfather’s house, locked away in the den with all of my second and third cousins, some twice removed, but all of us enthralled and scared to death by a toy coming to life and murdering people. I was six when the original came out and scared enough to get rid of my My Buddy figure.
That was the earliest movie I remember being freaked out by. The second had to have been Nightmare on Elm Street: Dream Warriors. I don’t remember the first time I saw it, but I remember watching it with my older brother and uncle and being scared completely stiff by Freddy’s marionette kill. My uncle had an old clown doll, lanky and gaunt, just like the doll in the film. Needless to say, sleep wasn’t a friend of mine that night.
There was something about watching those films with someone else that let me know that even though the fear was real, everything would be all right. Long after my cousins, brother, and uncle grew up and moved on, I found Up All Night with Rhonda Shear on USA, Monster Vision with Joe Bob Briggs, and the Crypt Keeper on HBO’s Tales from the Crypt. Even though I watched those low-budget slashers and horror on my own, there was a certain solace in having a host talk to the audience directly, as if I wasn’t fending off the shadows of fear alone. I saw those hosts as stand-ins for the conversations and observations that I’d shared with my family before; the stuff that we thought funny or too horrible or bloody. The horror hosts loved the movies and shows as much as we did.
We were all Crypt Keepers and Joe Bobs.
Then, in July of 2018, Joe Bob Briggs came out with a 24 hour The Last Drive-In marathon on Shudder and with it he brought all the lovers of scary cinema and gore. That night he showed us with full commentary Tourist Trap, Sleepaway Camp, Rabid, The Prowler, Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-o-rama, Daughters of Darkness, Blood Feast, Basket Case, Re-Animator, Demons, The Legend of Boggy Creek, Hellraiser, and Pieces. On Twitter, all of his “Drive-In Mutants” commented and shared memories and laughs. We were there with him the whole time. Even though I’d fall asleep and wake up in the middle of another movie, I was comforted knowing I wasn’t alone. It was a fantastic time.
Shudder’s advertisements after The Last Drive-In say Joe Bob broke the internet, but even if that was an exaggeration, he most definitely broke their servers for the evening. The whole event was such a surprising success that they brought Joe Bob back for more three more streaming events. Each of those events I sat with my fellow horror lovers on Twitter, Discord, and Slack to laugh, cringe, and shriek at the collection of horror he assembled. John Squires from Bloody Disgusting shot a tweet that perfectly encapsulates the communal joy of horror and Halloween.
There’s something so special about watching horror movies on TV this time of the year. Can complain about commercials & edits all ya want, but I love that feeling of knowing that tons of other people are watching the same movie at the same time. That’s Halloween to me.
— John Squires (@FreddyInSpace) October 10, 2019
In the end, I think that’s really why I love horror. There is such a communal aspect to it. Unlike so many fanbases where gatekeeping is only as far as a quick look at Twitter to find complaints that people who’ve never seen Taxi Driver aren’t real movie lovers, horror welcomes any new or burgeoning fan with open arms. Someone hasn’t seen Chopping Mall? The fans don’t judge you, they welcome you into the Chopping Mall club!
Horror fans want more horror fans to share the experience. It’s why I enjoy sitting with my seven-year-old son late on a Saturday night watching Hellraiser or a new episode of Creepshow (also on Shudder). My family and I watch Blumhouse’s monthly Into the Dark horror film series on Hulu and whatever else is on Netflix (Eli is pretty good). And even though my son gets freaked out at whatever spooky goings-on are happening, at the end of it all, we were together as a family.
Now, whether he’ll be a horror fan when he grows up or not is still up in the air, but hopefully, he remembers these moments like I remember my family watching the original Child’s Play.
But I think that might be why I love horror.
Anyway, speaking of those family moments… a new Joe Bob is on tonight for his Halloween Hootenanny! I’ll see you there!