Well, we’re now about a good, solid, couple of months into the new year. 2014, wow! It’s weird to think that movies like The Terminator, C.H.U.D., A Nightmare On Elm Street
or Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
will be celebrating their 30th Anniversaries. Or their 40th for the likes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
or Black Christmas
And what of those resolutions, eh? Now that Valentine’s Day has come and gone, and a huge fraction of our county has weathered the wrath of the “Polar Vortex”, did you stick to your guns and keep truckin’ through it all? Did you get on that treadmill? Was that “last” cigarette at 11:59pm, on 12/31/2013 REALLY the last one? Are you maintaining that positive “can-do” attitude you swore you were going to dive into the new year with?
Hey, we’re all friends here, right? You can be honest. If the goals you were shooting for are simply feeling too lofty, or you’ve just plain given up, then I’ve got the solution right here. I offer you, dear reader, 10 guidelines – nay, pre-spring resolutions – made specifically for the horror fan, and you won’t be doing any crunches, either. It’s not to say you shouldn’t take care of your body and try to be a better person – heavens no! But for those of us out there that need that little dose of success to prove we CAN achieve some of those bigger goals we so often set for ourselves, I submit 10 easy, obtainable things that you, the die-hard horror fan, can do to get into the perfect frame of mind to be able to tackle just about anything life throws at you over the next 10 months…or, at the very least, make things a little more tolerable.
10.) No Forum/Social Media Trolling – This one is a biggie. Horror is a very subjective genre, and you never know from one person to the next what’s going to do it for their tastes. Many fans, like myself, go in with an open mind and give everything a fair shot. And some people know what they like and stick with it staunchly. Hey, to each their own. So if you see someone, whether it be a random post or site critic who feels Rob Zombie should stick to music, or that the Paranormal Activity movies are just getting better and better…so what? Take a breath, huh? It’s an opinion, folks. Without conflicting viewpoints, we wouldn’t have debates. And when I say “debates”, I mean a good, healthy, respectable difference of opinion. Far too often do I see, “You like that movie? You MUST be an idiot.” Or, “You’re clearly not a true fan of the genre if you dislike so-in-so’s work.” Please. For one thing, your argument loses all merit when you’ve appointed yourself as the judge of “True Horror Fandom”. The simple fact that you felt the need to bash a fellow horror fan for their tastes already pulls your character into question. Horror fans are a collective universe of people who respect the genre in all of its forms – doesn’t matter if it’s a book, movie, soundtrack or filmmaker, if something doesn’t meet their personal tastes, big deal. It shouldn’t disrupt your daily routine and it sure as hell doesn’t mean you still can’t enjoy it. But the second you take to the Internet and start insulting someone you’re likely never going to meet, on a public forum for all to see – you’ve clearly asserted yourself to be the exact kind of self-righteous douchebag that the genre regularly takes great pleasure in dispatching. Don’t be “that guy”. We all love horror right? If we’re supporting it in some fashion, that’s all that matters. Which leads me to…
9.) Go to Video Stores – Please? These places are disappearing at an alarming rate. I was no huge fan of Blockbuster (I haunted Mom & Pop establishments, personally, since they had better selections), but when word came down that they had officially dissolved, it sort of signaled the death knell for any surrounding establishment, and certainly made video store haunts like myself a little extra worried. Soon, being able to walk around the video store and peruse the cover art of horror films will be an experience that goes the way of the Drive-In. Don’t let this happen, people! Nothing compared to ordering some grub and running to the video store while it cooked and grabbing a stack of movies to watch with dinner. The entire experience of the “video hunt” is going away, and with it, a large part of our collective childhoods! If there are still video stores by you, get out there, keep them in business and retain some tradition! And if there are no video stores near you…
8.) Create Your Own Library – If your city or town has succumbed to the “Red Scare” (as I’ve been known to call the sweep Netflix and RedBox have achieved in the markets), then by all means, buy (or make) some shelves and get to work creating your own horror cave. The actual, physical “video hunt”, where you jumped into your car and starting hitting up the video stores in the area, is pretty much done for a good many of us, unfortunately. Sure, you can still get lucky at yard sales, flea markets and pawn shops every once in a while, but the true hunt as we knew it in the 80s and 90s is sadly a thing of the past. Nowadays, the hunt continues online. Amazon, eBay, Deep Discount DVD, Diabolik DVD and many others provide a wide range of horror films, and many for quite affordable prices. Granted, it takes many years to accumulate the type of collection that can safely be considered a “personal horror video store” (though a search through YouTube will provide some astonishing collections that meet the grade, like the one pictured that still makes me drool), but the fun involved in creating that collection is all worth it. This doesn’t just apply to movies, either. If you’re a reader, believe me, the libraries are next! Books, magazines, replica masks, toys, posters and model kits – all are collectable, and fun to get. I know it’s not easy anymore, as “play money” doesn’t exactly grow on trees, but the support of the genre in any form keeps it thriving, and it really all starts with supporting the establishments goodly enough to provide us with the items we love. It will be a testament to your childhood and give you something to pass down to the kiddies. And if you’re having some trouble trying to decide what you’re in to, you should…
7.) Go to a Convention – They pop up all over the place, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find one near you, and if not, grab some buddies and make a road trip out of it, because they are a blast. For one thing, you get to meet, shake hands with and (in most cases) grab a quick photo with people you’ve grown up admiring and being entertained by for years! Whether it’s a stunt man who played a serial killer, a horror film hero, a sexy leading lady, an effects wizard, a director – it doesn’t matter. They come out in droves to these shows to sign some merch and throw a hand-shake your way. Once you’ve made your rounds at one of these things, you’ll wonder how you ever missed them before. Books, movies, magazines, T-shirts, artwork, custom jewelry – you name it, and a vender likely has it at their tables. And to top it off, most of these shows end with an after-party with drinks, bands and some “hang time” with the celebs that stick around to throw a few back with you. If you only make it to one your whole life, you’ll remember it forever. If you’ve got the means, I highly recommend going. Oh, and speaking of celebs….
6.) Write a Fan Letter Without Asking For Anything in Return –One of the facts about celebs attending horror conventions that fans tend to forget is that the people that come out are usually taking time out of their schedule, flying away from their families for the weekend during their time off, and usually on their own dimes. This doesn’t factor in the cost of the 8x10s or posters they have printed out to stack along their tables for people to buy their signatures on either. Now, I’m not saying this to make you feel bad, quite the contrary – they appreciate their fans enough to do this. With very few exceptions, most of these celebs are more than happy to meet you, get a photo and shoot the breeze for a minute or two. The reason for this is simple. The horror genre is largely still something critics and certain audiences look down on. Trash that should be ignored. Never mind the amount of creativity, hard work, low pay and sometimes even dangerous conditions the films are often made under. It’s seems an awful lot just to get smacked down by critics, and it can’t be easy to let it roll off all the time. So imagine how much it means to them when they receive a letter from a fan that simply says, “Listen, you’re awesome, you rock, love work work, all the best.” Okay, obviously, something more eloquent than that, but you get the idea. Don’t ask for a free autograph, or rare props or collectables. Don’t try to push off your latest screenplay or try to sweet talk them into putting in a good word with their agents. Just say “thank you.” They might not always write back, but generally, if you’re speaking as a true fan and write something really cool (at least in my experience), they might be touched enough to write you back and how cool is that? The horror “community”, as it is, is something of a family. Why not treat them with the same appreciation they treat you? Speaking of writing and filmmaking…
5.) Contribute – Many of us horror fans have gotten “the bite” of inspiration from wading into the waters of our genre. You watched a film, read a book, seen some artwork and thought – “that might be fun to try!” And good for you! The pros of our day started somewhere, right? If they inspired us, you can be damn sure somewhere before they did, someone inspired them too. Maybe you wanted to make a film, or write a novel, or draw your own horror comic, and the work you found in the genre gave you that extra push to go out and try. The people we admire today weren’t born into their roles. They were fans like you and I, and wanted to create something. And after lots of hard work, effort and numerous rejection – they did it, and most of this stuff has innovated techniques and inspired filmmakers to this day. Most of these people were completely unaware of how iconic their projects would become in the future. Who’s to say you couldn’t either? Are you the next Tom Savini? John Carpenter? Stephen King? Are you going to design posters, DVD covers or artwork that will sell like mad at conventions? You won’t know until you try, right?
4.) Actually Enjoy Your Collections – Here’s a question you might not have considered. Say you are a collector of horror and you’ve accumulated a respectable – possibly even borderline obsessive – amount of horror films or books. Exactly how many of those movies have you watched? How many of those books have you read? Is that car model of “Christine” the Plymouth Fury collecting dust in its unopened box because you never got around to building it? And if you do get around to building it, wouldn’t popping in one of those dozens of film soundtracks or metal CDs you’ve gathered over the years be the perfect background music while you work? My point is – what good is having a collection if you don’t indulge in it? Get in there, roll up the sleeves and actuallyenjoy the horror empire you’ve amassed around you! Think of all the comic book collectors who have bought every issue of every comic, ever and just live amongst the boxes, fearful to open and read them? Ugh! I know a lot of this stuff can be an investment, but it’s also meant to be enjoyed! Of course, you could always buy two, but wow…I shudder to think of the cost.
3.) Stop Complaining About Remakes – Another “biggie”. Folks, they’re not going anywhere. As long as there’s been film, there’s been remakes of film. Variations on theme, tried-and-true formulas – they’ve all been exhausted and unfortunately, it’s gotten so that the commercial appeal of a franchise’s attributes are often considered first, above a fair shot at something original. Remember the days when we used to bitch about sequels? How as each one came out, year after year, we’d wonder, “How many times can the same damn killer rise back from the grave? How many stupid kids will keep tempting fate and conjuring demons with books that have warnings literally scrawled into them? How many couples actually keep fucking when they clearly heard someone step around their tent?” GOD, how I miss those days now. Prevalent mostly during the 80s, the sequel – once an inferior cash-grab that shamelessly rode the coattails of the original film’s success – has been knocked from its perch by “the remake”, the “re-imaginging”, the “reboot” or whatever the hell else you want to call it. The bottom line is, we’re still trying to “fix” what isn’t necessarily broken. I think at this point, we’d trade heaps of remakes to see the old Roman Numerals climb behind the titles again, but really…what good does it do anymore to complain? We’ve been screaming from on high to stop touching our beloved classics, and still, Leatherface, Jason, Freddy, Michael, Damien, Carrie, Norman Bates, Amityville, Deadites, Living Dead and Body Snatchers have all had the juice wrung from their respective fruits and there seems to be no end in sight. And when people actually try and avoid remaking and attempt something met half-way, ala Texas Chainsaw 3D or The Thing from 2011, we attack that shit too! Why would Hollywood even attempt to listen to our pleas if we go out of our way not to be happy anyway? So how about we do this? Let’s try and stop looking at them as the cheap, uninspired attempts by production companies to make a quick buck (though we know better, but let’s try the high road…), and stop to think about it. Really think. The film, as a medium, is essentially a campfire tale you can watch. And nothing lends itself to campfire tales like horror. We huddle around in the dark, and listen as someone tells us a familiar tale about an escaped lunatic with a hook for a hand…or the babysitter who learns that her threatening phone calls are coming from inside the house. Each remake is, in its own way, just a familiar campfire tale, told by someone else, in their own style. It might not be as scary or fun as the person who told it before, or maybe it is. Either way, each new recounting isn’t “replacing” that original rendition you love so much. It’s still there, waiting to be told again, just the way you remembered. Just the way you loved. Let the campfire tales continue…the embers of old flames still glow just fine.
2.) Read More – It’s very simple. Grab a book, sit down in a comfy chair, and let the magic of literature take you on a ride. We were just talking about remakes…consider the amount of horror out there that were based on books first. What’s an adaptation if not a “remake” of sorts anyway, right? It’s the same story retold in a new way, correct? Do you ever see remakes of books? Of course not! No one ever said, “You know, that Peter Benchley sure had something going with that ‘Jaws’ back in the day…what say we re-write the thing for a new generation?” You know why? Okay, asidefrom copyright infringement? Because you can’t kill literature. Books were here first. They’re the granddaddy of horror – scaring people long before our “movie monsters” graced the silver screens. Books can go further, scare you harder, meaner, and less forgivably than a commercialized film can. People like Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Richard Matheson, Stephen King, Clive Barker…they were trailblazers in the genre. They set the definition for so much of what we take for granted today. There are things in literature that would never be tried in cinema – boundaries that were broken that could have landed an author trying to make a buck by entertaining his readers in jail! These guys and so many others were the cowboys of horror – the ones who set the standards we live within today. The ones who were “goth” before it was a fad, and taught us fear before the visual aids desensitized us. The amount of fiction out there is unrivaled, and the amount of non-fiction, the stuff you could learn about the genre is astounding. Imagine what you could learn and experience by doing something as simple as walking through the library. There’s over 100 years of horror on millions of pages out there…as daunting as it might be, the only real problem is finding a good place to
1.) Support DVD Labels – Remember when Anchor Bay was like THE DVD company to run to for quality editions of genre fair? And as they grew, you started taking notice of the Blue Undergrounds, the Synapses, the Shriek Shows and the Shout/Scream Factories of the industry that were appearing everywhere. These are the people who work tirelessly to dig up, dust off and show respect for our beloved titles, and pick up where the others left off. It’s often a very hard job, tracking down film rights, obtaining licenses and producing new quality bonus features, but in the end, getting that often-overlooked film or that classic that never had its due is worth it when you see how the true fans eat it up. The fact is, it’s the sales that keep these businesses thriving. As the income increases, the ability to secure the rights to more films rises, and then we continue the surplus of seeing some of our favorite titles getting the special editions and restorations they deserve. It’s worth it to go to these companies and purchase the titles directly from the source – in doing so, you’re continuing their involvement in keeping our films remembered, and keeping the genre well-oiled.