Horror has been my favorite genre going back almost as far as I can remember. I have fond memories of being a kids and staying up late with my dad, falling asleep on the couch while we watched Elvira’s back & white classic monster movie of the week.
I can barely remember what any of those movies were about, and I probably passed out in the first few minutes, but I’ll never forget the atmosphere they presented. The slow build, the rainy nights, and the grainy film. Good stuff, but sadly it’s good stuff that would bore today’s audience to tears.
Anyhow, it wasn’t just those movies. It was also The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, The First Friday the 13th, and The Fog. Okay, my parents didn’t let me watch those last two movies. But they did bring them home, along with a laserdisc player at some point and I was able to sneak enough of The Fog to be terrified for a few nights. Which reminds me…I need to look up why in the world the VHS replaced the Laserdisc as the rental tool of choice? It makes no sense 30+ years later, does it?
But back to the topic at hand. I was always fascinated by the unknown, the paranormal, and the stuff that just scared the crap out of. As kids, we loved to get together, light up the room with flashlights, and talk about all of the ghosts, monsters, and aliens lurking in the woods outside our homes.
In elementary school, I discovered book after book about “true” ghost stories in our school library. The librarian was even cool enough to let me go into the “big kid” section and check out The Encyclopedia of Monsters among others. (Actually, just for fun, you should click on over to Daniel Cohen’s Amazon page and Wikipedia listing just to get a better glimpse into my childhood interests. Or maybe not.)
I never outgrew that stuff either. In sixth grade, the girls in my class let me sneak over to their sleep-over across the ally to watch Children of the Corn. I subjected several of my friends to Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives and Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3: Dream Warriors (Both are still two of my favorites.)
Of course it was all fun and games until another friend introduced me to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in the seventh grade. I slept on the living room couch for two weeks after that one, lol.
And then as I entered high school, and discovered that reading on your own could actually be fun, I picked up Stephen King and Whitley Strieber. And with movies, it was a continuing marathon of Freddy, Jason, and…well that was about it. After TCM, I decided I would stick with “safe” horror for a while.
In college a friend got me to watch the Halloween series, which I absolutely love to this day (but under no circumstance would I recommend those awful and disgraceful Rob Zombie remakes.) Scream was a lot of fun too, even though it inspired quite a few movies that are better forgotten.
Oh and we should also never forget The Blair Witch Project, which scared me almost as much as TCM the first time I saw it.
After that, the Japanese ghost movie remakes storming our theaters, due to the popularity of The Ring (feel free to disagree, but I still consider the US remake superior to the original Japanese film), and followed by some weaker stuff, such as The Grudge.
And then there are the Saw movies, but I consider those more of a gory crime drama than horror.
So what’s with the horror love?
I have no idea what originally got me hooked on the genre. But I do know what keeps me there: life. Life is stressful. Get up early. Get the kids up early. Drive to babysitter. Drive to work. Work. Drive back to babysitter. Drive home. Feed kids. Eat. Clean. Get kids in bed. Write. Get self in bed. Repeat.
And no, I’m not trying to say I have it any worse than anyone else. In fact, I have a great life. But still, we all have stress in our lives and we all have to find ways to reduce it. For me, occasionally watching a movie and allowing myself to get scared for an hour or two does wonders for stress relief. It’s silly, sure, but it works.
So what does this have to do with writing?
Well, remember a post I had a little while ago on writing what you know? Well, here’s another way to look at it: Don’t write what you know. Write what you love.
I love horror. Plain and simple. So while I may not always know what to write, I know what I love and it’s a starting point whenever I get stuck.
So take my advice here and think about which type of entertainment or genre you love. Maybe it’s fantasy. Maybe it’s baseball. Maybe it’s even romantic comedies. But whatever it is, take that love and use it in your own writing.
What’s your favorite genre? To read, to write, or to watch? Leave a comment and let us know. And never ever watch those Rob Zombie Halloween remakes.