It’s good advice, but it’s a damn great way to live. The people I know who love horror are the kindest, most well-adjusted human beings I’ve ever known. (I myself, am addicted to it.) Whether they’re artists, filmmakers, authors, or fans, horror people are the best people I know. They’ve been through some shit and have come out better and stronger for it. Many of us were teased or bullied mercilessly in school. Some of us have been abused in one way or another. Some of us are simply empathic souls who love a good thrill and are keen observers of humanity.
Whatever our origin stories are, it’s a good tribe to belong to; case in point, one of my cats, Spooky, decided to fall off our second-story balcony. (Or maybe he tried to capture a bird or squirrel on a nearby tree branch. I like to imagine that the squirrel was taunting Spooky and he decided that he was going to pretend to be Batman and bring the perpetrator to justice.) Anyway, what happened was that I came home to terrified meowing, terror in my heart, and a tuxedo cat with his front right leg broken in three places.
Off to the emergency room for pets we went, with the ensuing bill of $4,500. As a filmmaker and freelance writer, I did NOT just have those funds sitting around, and neither did my husband. Most of us don’t. Our choices were to charge the vet bills to a credit card and pay a shit-ton of interest on something we couldn’t afford, or swallow our pride and create a GoFundMe. Well, I did the latter, and within ten minutes, we already had $100 pledged — half from a genre producer that makes incredible films, and half from the directors of a top genre film festival. I sat down and cried from the kindness poured forth, but more was to come. Within days, we accrued over a thousand dollars, and maybe a week later, we reached half our goal. Not much longer later, we hit our goal and even went a bit over, which was handy considering the other additional costs, like medicine, extra visits for cast removal and changes, and GoFundMe fees.
And I have my horror family to thank for decreasing the sky-high stress of a terrifying experience. I’ll never forget it.
Of course, that’s just one aspect of the horror life. Fringe benefits aside, I create horror because to me, everyday life IS horror. All you have to do is look at the headlines in the news, and MY GOD, they are more frightening than nearly anything I can watch in a movie. Like many lovers of the genre, I use horror a way to alleviate stress, pressure, and the myriad, fucked up experiences that living in this society delivers.
Being alive as a human being is only one facet; living in a woman’s skin is another universe of horrors entirely, and it starts in childhood. With pink-colored toys and society-enforced expectations, girls are forced into gender roles from a very young age. Boys have blue-coded things and expectations for sure, but they are encouraged to go on adventures in little things like clothing — for instance, t-shirts with things like “future astronaut” or “CEO in training” display the belief that they’re free to enjoy any career pursuit without struggle or judgment. The toys that boys are given — fire trucks, spaceships, action figures, robots, Legos, comics, miniature science kits, etc — tell them that they can essentially conquer the universe. What are girls given? Baby dolls, Barbies, baking kits, little kitchen sets, fluffy plush toys, and more. What does this say? It’s an outmoded way of thinking that boys are adventurers and girls are nurturing caretakers. Me? I shopped mostly in the boy’s section because I was enthralled by Micro Machines, Transformers, Legos, and science. It pissed me off as a child, and it pisses me off now. Fuck off with your pink ghetto.
During childhood and into puberty, girls are sexualized from a very young age. We become objects for strange men to comment on. As we get catcalled, unwanted advances and attention, and the worst is the unwarranted touching. From there, our bodies do alien things to us every month. There’s a lot of blood and pain. Parasites — or babies, whatever you want to call them (I like “larvae” myself) — grow within your body sometimes and eat your food, drain your nutrients, and cause massive hormone fluctuations that in turn, cause chaos. Your body goes through another transformation and this being pops out of a tiny, painful place. On a daily level, people don’t often believe us when we say things or express frustration because the patriarchal society we live in trains people of both genders not to trust women.
Being a woman by its very nature, is horror.
But I digress.
Horror is my home. I love it because I can shed my skin and become someone — or something else. I can experience something terrible while being perfectly safe. I can experience empathy, sadness, love, and disgust. Watching horror is a great learning experience, too. You learn what NOT to do in many situations. For instance, if you see a home invasion film, do NOT run up to the attic or down into the basement. Get out of the house and get your ass to a police station! Sometimes, you can even learn how to fashion weapons in a jiffy from regular household objects for your survival. (Thanks, “You’re Next” and “Death Wish 3” and countless other films!) If you’re a woman who’s been taught to be achingly polite her whole life, you see what happens if you’re too nice or acquiescent to strange men who think they deserve your time — you get fucking kidnapped and raped and tortured and fuck knows what else.
But let’s get back to that shadow. Horror provides a refreshing catharsis. If I’m stressed out, worried about something, or otherwise anxious, I can put on “Halloween III: Season of the Witch” and watch Tom Atkins do hilarious and sometimes morally dubious things. Or I’ll throw on John Carpenter’s “The Thing” and slip into the delicious paranoia and tension of R.J. MacReady’s isolated world and come out with a dissipated sense of my own anxiety, having already lived through and survived his. I know that many horror connoisseurs feel the same way. And much like Mexico’s wonderful Dia de los Muertos celebrations, horror is a way to honor the darker parts of yourself. I use horror to explore what it’s like to be a woman, how to get out of a bad situation, and to explore the sadness and violence of humanity.
However, you use and enjoy horror, remember — the more comfortable you are in the dark, the easier time you’ll have in the light. Stay spooky, kids.
This article is part of our special October series, #horrorandme