Sunday, March 2, 2008

Frank L. Delano's Journal of Horror

For much of my young life, I was raised by two women, the pride and joy of my grandmother. I was such a sweet sweet thing, but a side effect was that when it came to horror, I was an utter pussy. To my recollection, the only scary movie I'd seen up to that point is to this day mostly unknown to me. My mother had drug me to the cinema on a date, and my only recollection was her covering my eyes as a woman bounced on a very basic bed, confronted by an unseen ghost/demon/etcetera while a crucifix spun on the wall. For years, I assumed I must have seen a re release of "The Exorcist," but that proved not to be the case. I remember my best friend of the time telling me about seeing the "boogieman" in a film, which left me conflicted, as the term stuck me as less than terrifying. I had a strange attraction/repulsion to the movie poster for the "Rocky Horror Picture Show," which seemed to hang perpetually at a theater we frequented, its crimson lips promising thrills at midnight. I was startled by the book cover for Stephen King's Cujo, and avoided the book rack for a while after. A black and white image in TV Guide promoting the killer ventriloquist dummy from "Magic" haunted me for years. The I caught a few minutes a movie where a human head was found in a soup pot, which I found oddly less disturbing than "Cujo" and "Magic." I loved the concept of werewolves as a child, and even went one Halloween as a wolfman, but the movie poster for "The Howling" unnerved me. A Frank Frazetta cover for Dr. Strange featuring green arms ripping out of the ground to ensnare our hero was transformed by reoccurring nightmares of the same coming out from under the bed as I slept. An advertisement for "C.H.U.D." bothered me so much I hovered outside the door of my now newlywed mother, prompting a declaration from my stepfather that I would not be allowed to finish watching the unrelated "V" mini-series. My oddest fantasy was of miniature versions of Laurel and Hardy who would sever any limbs I left dangling off the bed as I slept. For years I lay in the fetal position, a pillow propping up my feet as a decoy to protect my tiny legs.

They got ahold of me. While still in grade school, I made a crack about "Jason Lives" while my teacher was using one of those guillotine paper cutters, and I was suddenly supposed to be some sort of "horror king." I often wrote short stories for my teacher in my spare time, and prompting from classmates led to my attempting to write one about Freddy vs. Jason. I had barely any inkling of who the characters were, and it showed. My teacher explained the concept of only writing what you know, a lesson I value to this day. Meanwhile, my biological father and other testosterone-fueled kin slowly but surely educated my on Mr. Krueger, Vorhees, and more. I was still a pussy mind. My heart actually skipped a beat upon opening the cover of an issue of Uncanny X-Men to see a Marc Silvestri image of Mr. Sinister, black lips encircling fangs as he snarled at the reader. It just occurred to me that the image combined elements of primal terror felt when I first saw the aforementioned "Cujo" and "Rocky Horror" images. Still, I was developing both a tolerance for gore and an appreciation of horror, especially as my life had become increasingly horrible. I actually found "The Exorcist" and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" more laughable than anything. "Halloween" was a bore.

By this point I'd seen all of the "Nightmare on Elm Street" series, which I initially enjoyed, but were becoming increasingly bland and sadistic. I never cared much for "Friday the 13th," but I developed an appreciation for the Michael Myers mythos that only grew with time. My interests began to shift away from blood and guts material toward more psychologically traumatizing material, more along the lines of "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Kiler." I at the time found "Night of the Living Dead" okay, but "Dawn" instantly became one of my favorite movies of all time.

By this point, horror movies were old hat. I laughed along with the "Evil Dead" series and Peter Jackson's "Braindead" more than anything. I experienced a massive sense of diminishing returns though, as horror tends to be a ghettoized genre for lack of craft as much as anything. By this point, even those that would come to be known as "Masters of Horror" were shitting one brick after another.

I still watch horror movies regularly. I cannot fully explain why. I don't enjoy most of them. Looking at my collection, I seem to prefer dark and/or romantic comedies, but still keep up with a steady diet of the not-at-all-scary. With comic books, I still have an emotional attachment to the characters that are with regularity and ever increasing sensationalism molested by the latest hack flavors of the month. When it comes to horror movies, I have to shrug when I ask myself "why do you subject yourself to this shit?" It must be force of habit, or the hope of uncovering some jewel amidst all the detritus of the genre.

No comments:


Blog Archive


Surrender The Pink?
All books, titles, characters, character names, slogans, logos, and related indicia are trademarks and/or copyright of their respective rights holders.