1) The Classics Are Your Cornerstone
The classics are considered classics for a reason. It's no accident that every Halloween brings a wave of those "Ten Best Horror Movies To Watch On Halloween" lists from a slew of straight websites. Sure, you'll see some variation, but these lists are mostly populated from a pool of the same titles on every single site. We horror fans generally roll our eyes and think something like "The Exorcist? Again?" Still, though, you'd be surprised how many straights have never seen The Exorcist.
The classics are a great place to let your student dip a foot into the bloody pool of horror, because your student will want to see these titles for many of the same reasons that filmmakers want to remake them. Even if your subject has never seen these movies, he's at least aware of them. He already has at least a vague idea of what they're about, often because he's already seen some of those aforementioned remakes. Yes, even straights who profess not to like horror movies will occasionally go to see one - just goofin' - and chances are, what they saw was probably a remake with a familiar title. Take the "in" and show them the original.
2) Know Your Student
Don't show a pregnant woman It's Alive (1974). The amusement to be had from watching her squirm uncomfortably will be fleeting. You've made watching a horror movie a distinctly unpleasant experience for her, and that only serves to reinforce her claim that she doesn't like horror. She won't trust your recommendations in the future because she won't trust your motives.
|Lena Leandersson - Let The Right One In (2008)|
3) Make It A Learning Experience
Some people respond well to the idea of developing an intellectual appreciation for something even when they believe that something doesn't actually appeal to them. Sometimes that intellectual appreciation can develop into a genuine enthusiasm once they've become attuned to the particulars of the subject. Use that to your advantage when introducing someone to the horror genre.
I programmed two different series of genre movies for some of my students that I referred to as The Drive-In Movie Summer Series. We watched one movie each Wednesday for twelve weeks. Prior to starting this undertaking I even went so far as to create a program schedule with bullet-pointed facts, trivia, and production info. Putting the movies into some kind of context for my students before watching them piqued their interest, and it served to make the whole experience something more than just "horror guy subjecting straights to B-movies". They were only humoring me at first, but they were fully and genuinely invested in the experience by the end of the summer.
|John Travolta - The Devil's Rain (1975)|
4) Build On Your Successes
If you show your student a Fulci movie and he objects to the graphic violence, shelve the Fulci movies until later. If you show your student an Argento movie and he objects to the lack of narrative cohesion, fall back to horror movies with more linear narratives. Don't force the issue. There may be an opportunity to reintroduce Fulci or Argento later, but only if your student is still watching horror movies later. Some directors, subgenres, and styles are acquired tastes. I was only lukewarm on Argento's Suspiria (1977) the first time I saw it, and that's almost unfathomable to me now. My tastes had to broaden and mature. Your student will never get to that point if you insist upon beating him relentlessly about the face and neck with movies you think he should like.
Use softer "gateway" horror like Gremlins (1984), Poltergeist (1982), or Arachnophobia (1990) first to get a feel for what your student might find tolerable, then branch out from there into thematically similar "hard" horror. Take the time to build a foundation for your student's education. We all had to walk before we ran.
5) Recognize Your Student's Opinions Are Valid (Even If They're Wrong)
You will inevitably show your student a horror movie you love that he doesn't care for. Don't get discouraged. Don't take it personally. This is an opportunity, not a setback.
|Angus Scrimm - Phantasm (1979)|
6) Be Prepared For The Day The Student Becomes The Master
If you've done your job well, this will happen. You'll have another horror literate friend with whom to watch your favorites. All of those years you spent amassing a wealth of useless knowledge about the horror genre will not have been wasted. When you help your student develop her affinity for zombie movies and she later comes to you interested in watching The Battery (2012), you'll know you've succeeded.
So what tactics have worked for you? Post a comment below to share your own tips. One final note: I was just joshing with that Trekkie slur at the start of this post. I like Star Trek. Really.
Posted by Brandon Early