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Why Do You Like Horror?

Scary, isn't it?

Scary, isn’t it?

And when I say “you” I mean “I.”

It’s a question I’ve been asked a lot over the years in various contexts– as a kid, as a woman, as a feminist, as a significant other– and there’s not really a simple answer.  Part of it, certainly, is that I grew up with monsters.

My dad is a horror writer, film scholar, historian jack of all trades, and his office was and still is lousy with monsters.  As a tot, I’d toddle in, find a book with a gruesome cover (to my mother’s distress) and ask, “What’s that?”  Dad would look up from his typewriter, Word Processor, etc and calmly answer, “That’s a werewolf growling.”

One day in Kindergarten I came home to discover a cute, plush Frankenstein Monster doll on my bed.  It was love at first sight, and after making him break through the piles of leaves out back, we christened him “L’il Boris.”  He was eventually joined by “L’il Bela” and “Lonnie.”  They’re a lucky few stuffed creatures who always survive the Purge when I clean out my closet at the end of the year.

But that doesn’t answer the question.  And to be honest, it’s kind of a repeat of my Richard III post… I identify with these movies better than lighter ones.  Now I have never tried to reanimate a corpse, I do not want to be a vampire (I’d miss church too much), and contrary to popular opinion, I do not practice black magic.  I was, however, something of an outcast as a kid… the weird one who read, put tons of effort into Halloween costumes instead of just buying a Ghostface mask, and enjoyed black and white movies.  About the time Dad bought me L’il Boris, I made a series of drawings of myself living in a house with the classic Universal monsters: Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolfman….

It was fun and all, but my appreciation for them has changed over the last few years.  As I became more self-confident and actually gained a social life, I didn’t like these movies any less (classic horror is the best, after all), but it seems like my imagined role had shifted.  Instead of joining the ranks of the living dead as in my Kindergarten drawings (good thing that teacher was a horror fan, too), I still envisioned myself as  a character, but more of the ambiguously good expert.  Sort of like the Andrew Keir character, Father Sandor, in Dracula: Prince of Darkness— a monk, he is superficially the symbol of good and knows how to deal with vampires, but he is tough, a crackshot with a rifle, kind of a bully, and enjoys shocking people.  With him, it’s no black and white contest of good vs evil.

I enjoy shocking people, I can be mean, and I will fight very hard to defend what I believe in.  Like Father Sandor.  Considering my role before that was probably a kind of Renfield, that’s quite a promotion.  Is it healthy to see myself as a horror movie character?  I think I’m definitely doing better than I was, but who can say?  I’m not a psychiatrist… I’M A VAN HELSING!

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