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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Don't Hate Horror Movie Fans Because We're A Bit Twisted, But Don't Forget That, Either . . .

Famous Monsters Of Filmland first issue
Uncle Forry's Clubhouse - cover of the first Famous Monsters Of Filmland
     Way back when I was a youngster, in the dark days before the Internet, I could never have imagined what horror movie fandom would one day become.  It used to seem a solitary endeavor, a perception reinforced by the sense that the horror movie fan was a rung further down the ladder than even the often mocked and marginalized science fiction fan.  The fact that the horror movie hosts were usually relegated to the tail end of the broadcast day seemed to support this notion, as did the almost complete absence of any kind of serious critical examination of the kind of fare these programs aired.  Sure, there were enough twisted insomniacs to warrant your local station's choice to offer up cheaply obtained horror fare in the wee hours of the morning, but any sense of a horror community was mostly relegated to the circles of kids on the playgrounds excitedly discussing the details of whatever hoary old chestnut had been offered up by the local rendition of Shock Theater over the weekend.  Grown-ups just didn't bother.  Horror movies, just like bubble gum cards and comic books, were for children.

     I realize now, of course, that there existed a huge horror community back then.  We just weren't sufficiently connected or organized to be entirely aware of it.  We had Forrest Ackerman's Famous Monsters Of Filmland as a sort of national clubhouse for the horror fan, we had the aforementioned late night television horror shows, and we had a seemingly never ending stream of horror content to catch where we could, but we didn't really have a meeting place that legitimized our private obsession.  One need only look to the legion of Monster Kids like Stephen King, Joe Dante, Steven Spielberg, or Tom Savini that went on to careers popularizing the form in the mainstream to realize that the horror fans were everywhere, we just didn't know it then.  We were legion, even though it seemed a bit like our obsession was meant to be indulged behind closed doors - a burgeoning fascination analogous to the joys of masturbation.  We all did it, we just didn't talk about it much lest the straights of the world look down their collective nose at us.  Funny, then, how the Internet age has facilitated both obsessions.

Doin' some yardwork - Trick 'r Treat (2007)
     Even now, within my own circle of friends and acquaintances, I feel like a bit of an odd duck.  In any
given social circumstance I'm almost always the resident horror authority.  I take pride in that designation, and I do my best to encourage any spark of interest that my "normal" friends display in the topic.  Still, it's a designation that usually finds me on the periphery and left with the sense that my friends are only mollifying me, offering up the occasional bit of feigned interest like a figurative pat on the head to assure me that my strange obsession is o.k.  Maybe they're all just trying to forestall that moment in the future when I finally decide to add them to the ever growing pile of corpses that they're certain I must have stacked up in my crawlspace.  I bury the bodies, of course, since the smell would be horrendous, but it still feels a bit like condescension.

Freaks (1932) - . . . in case you didn't get the reference.
     On the Internet, though, it's easy to see that I'm not alone.  I'm astounded anew on an almost daily basis by not only how many of us there are, but by how eager we all seem to proudly proclaim our love of horror to the world at large.  In this company, I am but one voice in a multitude.  In fact, I often feel less "hardcore" than many of the people I meet here, as though I'm not obsessed enough.  Even more encouraging than sheer numbers is the fact that almost everyone I've come in contact with in this forum is unfailingly supportive, knowledgeable, tolerant, and friendly.  Sure, there's the occasional troll, but not as many as you might expect.  This is a community of which I can be proud to be a part.  Horror fans are good people.  I can say, "One of us!  One of us!", and you'll all know exactly what I'm referencing.  If I did that at work, I'd be sent for a drug screen.

     So the next time one of your non horror loving acquaintances refers to your love of horror with smug condescension, remember just how large the community you belong to actually is.  Also, remember you can only bury so many of the haters in your back yard before that starts to smell, too.


Posted by Brandon Early

3 comments:

Jeremy [Retro-Z] said...

i have passed on people, who have a judging nature and yet still watch shows like american idol. we watch and enjoy our horror-styled films, to us honey-boo-boo scares me.

i think that made sense?

Jonny Dead said...

Awesome article, and I'm thrilled to be among such a great community myself.

I read and then completely lost track of an incredible article on the stigma of horror fans, and I still kick myself for not bookmarking it. The judgement is obnoxious, but at the same time I think there's a fair amount of horror fans who (if subconsciously) thrive on the idea of being considered an outsider. Same goes for most counter-cultures. Just as you said, we're proud of the title, no matter what connotations it has.

Brandon Early said...

Thanks for the comments, guys.

J.D., I believe you're right about that subconscious desire to be on the outside looking in. It's weirdly flattering to be recognized as an authority, even if there is an undercurrent of condescension.

I think there are a lot of "closet" horror fans, too. They need to "come out" to a sympathetic ear, but they're maybe still inclined to a little self loathing?

It's a lot of responsibility being a well adjusted horror fan, huh?