After procrastinating long enough, it's only fair that since my worthy Vault of Horror contributors Karl Hungus and RayRay have seen fit to bare their respective souls around here of late, it's time for ol' B-Sol to come clean and discuss what I've found most terrifying in horror movies over the years.
My lifelong obsession with horror is most certainly tied to this fascination I, along with many others, seem to have with that which I find personally frightening. To a certain extent, it's the rubbernecking phenomenon--we find ourselves morbidly drawn to face the very things that freak us out. Some folks can't seem to relate to this personality trait. I'm betting not many of them are reading this blog.
The earliest sense of true fear I ever remember experiencing with regards to horror came from the movies I was exposed to on regular TV. Like many of my fellow GenXers, I got my first taste of genre movies thanks to the wonderland known as afternoon syndicated TV. Growing up in Brooklyn, that meant WNEW Channel 5, WPIX Channel 11 (a.k.a. "11 Alive") and WOR Channel 9. These channels have since fallen prey to the blights of mini-networks and informercials, but back then, it was a veritable wonderland of spaghetti westerns, Planet of the Apes flicks, kung-fu, Abbott & Costello, and so much more.
Allow me to explain for all you pampered millenials out there. See, we didn't have TV channels specifically designed with 24-hour kids' programming. Forget DVD, I'm going back before VCRs here. We could count all our channels on two hands, and we had to watch what was on--which, with the exception of Saturday mornings and a few hours after school, was stuff not particularly programmed with kids in mind. Sure it sucked compared to the choices kids have today. But on the positive side, it was precisely due to that lack of choice that we got exposed to a lot of great stuff we may never have learned to appreciate had it been set adrift amidst a sea of distractions.
I can recall going over my grandparents' house for Sunday dinner, and later in the day, my little tummy full of macaroni, chicken and salad, experiencing the horrors of Hammer Films at the foot of my grandpa's recliner. This was shocking stuff for a seven-year-old--blood, boobs, demonic vampires seeking to transform you into something that wasn't human.
If memory serves, the one that got to me the most was called Lust for a Vampire, the tale of a naive mortal who becomes entangled in the web of a coven of female bloodsuckers. Although now I may realize it is not the most highly regarded of the Hammer canon, nevertheless, at my tender age it affected me profoundly. And despite my pre-pubescence, I can remember somehow vaguely perceiving the sinister sexuality that pervaded the whole movie, even if I didn't have the intellectual vocabulary yet to recognize it as such.
Interestingly, some of the earliest mental scarring inflicted upon me by horror films came from made-for-TV movies. There was Gargoyles, When Michael Calls, and Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, three early '70s cult favorites that I saw as afternoon reruns, and which became instant nightmare material. The latter film stuck with me so strongly that for years (prior to the advent of IMDB), I kept trying to find out if it was a real movie at all, or just a bizarre figment of my childhood imagination. And who could forget Dark Night of the Scarecrow, which I saw when it aired for the very first time, right around Halloween 1981.
Perhaps it's because I had this exposure as a little kid that I take a relatively liberal attitude toward my own kids and their experiences with horror. I mean, in my case it may have meant sleeping with the covers over my neck to prevent Dracula from attacking me in the middle of the night, but hey, if that's the worst of it, what's the big deal? You grow up, you realize vampires aren't out to get you, and life goes on.
More to come tomorrow...
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