My family was the first on our block to own a VCR. We lived in a very poor neighborhood, so this was monumental for my sisters and I, as well as the kids we grew up with. Back then, we had to drive 30 minutes to go rent VHS tapes. I can still remember the first 3 movies we ever rented: Purple Rain, The Wizard of Oz, and Cujo.
There were bowls of popcorn and screaming and our tiny house full of kids as we all watched Cujo for the first time. I was all of four years old, but I can still recall the terror I felt as the bloody, foaming dog wormed its huge head through the small opening of the Pinto’s window, snapping its jaws at Dee Wallace and Danny Pintauro. I was horrified, but exhilarated. I wanted to look away but at the same time, I couldn’t. I loved the feeling and would spend the rest of my life chasing that same mix of fear and giddy excitement.
My parents were never restrictive when it came to what I read or watched and my mother was a Stephen King junkie, so I grew up in a horror friendly household. Aside from my weekend finds of good and awful (but still good) flicks at the video store, I was a huge fan of Joe Bob Briggs’ show on TNT and USA Network’s Up All Night that introduced me to such gems as Student Bodies and Slammer Girls (that one’s not so much horror as it is horrible).
I never had many friends, so I spent a lot of time with Bub down in Dr. Logan’s laboratory, and watching Bruce Springsteen’s little sister off the Brat Pack at Camp Rolling Hills. Even as an adult, I still have such a fondness for these movies and all things horror. Forget Christmas, Halloween is the big holiday at my house. For me, it’s all about the fun, nostalgia, the shudder, and the primal feeling horror stirs in the gut. Horror is the common denominator for us all. Everybody has something they fear. In college I studied the origins of gothic literature, and many critics posit that the old gothic tropes (darkness, ruined castles, cliffs, dungeons, labyrinths) bring humans as close as they can come to the divine. That at our most horrified, we are at the height of our spiritual awareness. Bunch of deep, philosophical bullshit to apply to movies where kids get hatcheted through the face, I know, but I happen to believe a good deal of these movies are very “high art”… but even the ones that are a romp, pure gross-out fun, I like them just as much, maybe more: as a gay man, I have a deep seated love and appreciation of camp.
To pick 5 of my favorite horror movies is a daunting task (an impossibility, really) so I’m going to go outside of what was asked and pick 10. In a lot of ways I’m old school but I’m always open to new horror, I just don’t feel it’s being delivered these days, so this list may not include many recent entries.
1. The Exorcist
2. Halloween (1978)
3. Dawn of the Dead (Original… of course)
4. Nightmare on Elm Street 3
5. Friday the 13th: Final Chapter
6. Evil Dead
7. IT (2017)
8. Creepshow
9. Scream
10. Devil’s Rejects