Some Thoughts on Horror Fandom

I’ve been a horror fan for a pretty long time now. Well, relatively speaking. For a brief history of my horror past click here. For reference this was in the mid 90s. So, while there weren’t a great deal of good, new horror movies coming out in theaters (many of which I couldn’t have gotten into anyway) I tried to catch up on the hits (and misses) of decades past.

There was a sense of exploration and newness to this whole new genre of movies that I had very little experience with. I scoured the internet for Best Of lists, bought Creature Features (my still-used guide book for all horror movies pre-1999) and rented just about every horror movie I came across (they weren’t organized by genre, just pure alphabetical).

Not having any fellow horror movie fans as friends and not being too keen on message boards (still not), my journey through the world of horror flicks was a mostly solitary one, with little to guide me but Creature Features (I still read the write-up on any movie I rent and put a dot next to the movies I’ve seen). I did have friends who had seen a lot of these flicks when they were younger and I was able to convince them and my less horror inclinde friends from high school into holding Friday the 13th horror movie marathons to varying degrees of success, but no one else was really on my same learning curve. Plus, when you try and get everyone you know to watch Sleepaway Camp, non horror fans start looking at your movie choices with hesitation.

By the time I went to college I felt like I had a pretty good knowledge of horror movies, more than most people I talked to and I did meet some fellow horror-philes in college, but it wasn’t until I met Rickey Purdin during my Wizard internship that it felt like I met someone who I was on equal footing with.

He and I have watched countless horror movies together and argued about even more (for instance he liked the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake and I did not), but, in the end of the day, we’re both pretty much on the same wavelength when it comes to likes and dislikes.

I guess the point I’m getting to in a roundabout sort of way is that my experience with other horror fans was limited and that I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into as far as fandom goes back when I was 14. When I started reading comics, I saw the kinds of people who read comics at the comic shop and read about my “brethren” in Wizard, distorted as either of those lenses may have been. But it’s not like I had to go to the horror shop to get tapes, it was my local video (yes video) store. Horror fans are truly in a league of their own. Sure they’ve got conventions just like most of the other “nerd” subdivisions and websites devoted to their very existence, but there’s one big distinction I’ve seen that only takes place with horror fans.

We’re kind of jerks.

The funny thing about horror movie fans is that you don’t really get any credit for watching the classics. It’s the equivalent of knowing how to read when it comes to comics. It really just puts you on the ground floor. You might think you’re big dog in the horror park because you’ve seen Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Jaws and Night of the Living Dead, but guess what? That just gets you in the door. Your mettle really gets tested in the longer franchises and the more obscure flicks. Sure, you’ve watched Halloween, but no one cares. That’s basic. Have you watched all the Halloween movies around Halloween? No? Well, have you sat through Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers? No again? Then sit down kiddo, the grownups are talking.

Okay, that’s a little mean, but it sounds about right, right? In the comic book world, you’re in pretty good standing if you’ve read Watchmen and Dark Night Returns. Sure, those are the basics, but you’re not really in the game until you’ve checked them out. From there you can move on to pedigree books like Sandman, Starman, Preacher, Authority, etc. Your fellow fans won’t give you crap because you haven’t read Extreme Justice or Guy Gardner: Warrior (though you should because it’s awesome, Ben agrees).

I guess you find some similarities when you get into music fandom. But it’s more along the lines of “Oh, you like Led Zeppelin IV? Awesome, check this out.” Sure you get your weirdos who are total snobs and only interested in talking to you if you’ve listened to Jimmy Page’s work with Paul Rogers in The Firm. But it seems like that kind of mentality is more the rule than the exception when it comes to horror. And I kind of like it. What other group of fans honors the good, the bad and the ugly with the same regard?

I’d like to think that if a young horror movie fan came up to me and told me they really liked Night of the Living Dead, I’d be able to nicely suggest they check out 28 Days Later or Return of the Living Dead without being too judgmental.

But, hey, who am I kidding? These damn kids should just go to their video store, or more likely scan the internet and Netflix, and check out all the horror movies they can stomach. Hey, that’s what I did when I was coming up.