Being a horror fan here and now is a strange thing. We are still the outsiders of genre fans to a certain extent. While most genre fans will have a few horror films in their top ten/twenty lists (yeah, it’s okay, we’ve all got them), the dedicated horror fan will have hundreds of top titles, depending on any number of factors. The same can be said for science fiction and fantasy, martial arts films or whatever, but this certainly applies to the horror fan as there are so very many nuances to this scene that go unnoticed by the world at large.
Horror fans are an odd bunch. As a lifelong fan of the genre, I’m happy to admit that. We’re a weird pack of characters that each has a unique story of their journey into this bloodiest of cinematic strains. The collector aspect of being a horror fan is something that has interested me for many years. I spent nine years working in a comic store, where along with selling stuff to eager fans I had to be able to match them for geeky knowledge, lest I be laughed out of the back issues section. It never failed to bring a warm glow to me to meet a genuinely enthusiastic horror fan.
By genuinely enthusiastic I mean a horror fan that isn’t just in it for the gore. A genuine fan loves the whole shebang- movies (and the making of them), books, comics, collectibles and the whole lifestyle. Talking to a fellow fan about a certain director, actor, writer or effects artist was a great experience, and it is fans like that which help to keep the old legends alive. But what is your own view of horror fandom?
I do rather miss how much coverage horror used to get. The internet has taken a chunk of the magazine market away, piracy has screwed up the movie business (to a certain extent), and despite the fact that the is so much more information about for people to discover, there is nowhere near as much excitement for the latest releases. Mind you, this may just be a lull in the scene’s fortunes, which tends to happen every few years. The genre keeps ticking over though, thanks to the diehards (*appreciative nod towards our readership*), reissues of classic titles and the new titles that arrive all the time.
For me, being a horror fan manifests itself in an unending search for obscure VHS tapes of forgotten gems (and forgotten turkeys), checking DVD boxes for ‘Uncut’ labels, spending far too much on books, comics and other ephemera, and feeding an addiction for the fantastic and bizarre in any way that I can. I would imagine that it is much the same for many of you reading this. Horror fandom is made up some of the most rabid and dedicated enthusiasts of any hobby, let alone any genre. We can appreciate the earliest endeavours right up to the latest releases with an equal eye, and we are able to find beauty and art within some of the most disturbing images and ideas ever produced. Are we sick? No. We can easily differentiate between fantasy and reality. We are not monsters ourselves, no matter how many we welcome into our lives.
Is there too much around to collect now? That really depends on the type of fan you are, and with horror, the fanbase is one of the most eclectic of any type of genre cinema. There may be an abundance of material on a specific series of films or phase in a filmmaker’s career, but then there will always be those titles where not even a cheap DVD rip exists and you must search and search for your prize. Horror itself is a form of fine art, carrying with it the potential to chill, horrify, and shock in myriad ways.
Some would argue that horror is a one trick pony, a genre devoid of any art or thought, yet we as an audience will jump to its defence instantly. Quite rightly so, as well. The artistry and work that goes into creating even the tackiest of horror flicks deserves respect. Granted, many horror films are far from being award-winning epics, but the simple fact that people can get an idea onto the screen and out there for viewers to check out is an awesome feat. Doing so in a genre with so many hangups and misunderstandings as horror is an even bigger one.
Do filmmakers limit themselves when trying to make a horror movie? No. Well, not always. Naturally there are filmmakers who cannot be bothered to come up with something original, and thus they create a standard slasher flick that goes nowhere and does little to ignite the interest of an audience. These films can thus perpetuate the myth that horror is all the same, and that’s a bad thing. Remember, horror is about more than just the gross-out moment. It should be frightening. Unnerving. Difficult to watch but all the more rewarding for it.
As fans of the genre, we can spot an imitation a mile off. That’s one of the great things about being a horror fan- we know our stuff. That’s something that we as a community of fans enjoy sharing with other fans- the passion for the medium, the history and the potential of it. I mean, everyone loves Evil Dead II, but when you meet another true horror fan either in person or online, you can instantly talk about the most ‘Raimi’ moments, favourite scenes, effects, etc. It is that passion for each and every detail that some may call obsessive, but I call it being passionate. Here is a genre that is the black sheep of the entertainment industry, the source of endless debate and derision, and yet we are able to find so much enjoyment in the macabre.
And here we are, a community of likeminded individuals that has found a voice online and in small groups across the world, as well as the conventions. Whether it is a group of three or a convention of hundreds, we know we are not alone in our passion for horror movies, books, comics, characters, directors and more. While our genre may still be derided and misunderstood by the mainstream, we know that our own crowd will understand why we love the things we do.
But what does horror fandom mean to you? What part does the genre play in your life? Are you a casual fan or an obsessive? Do you have a modest DVD rack or hundreds of titles, imports, special editions and the like? Either is valid, and either is to be admired and accepted. Horror fandom is more than just enjoying watching blood and gore. It’s more than just the thrill of the dark and fantastic. It is more than collecting. It is an aesthetic and a way of life, a hobby and an addiction, engaging, frustrating, uplifting and more. Above all, it’s a hell of a ride, and thanks to this community, we don’t have to limit ourselves to enjoying it alone.
Here’s to you. What’s your favourite scary movie? How about we crack open a cold one and watch it?
Horror Fandom: A Life in Red