That Horror Question

Often a question is presented to horror fans—especially adult fans—that we frequently ask ourselves. What made us life-long fans of the ghastly? I think there may be as many answers to this query as there are fans of horror. I once knew someone that felt her interest in horror was a way to overcome her fears. I don’t believe that has much to do with me. My interest, it seems to me, comes from my love for film. I used to watch far too much TV growing up. I’d watch just about any kind of movie there was on the tube: old Hollywood dramas, musicals, Abbott and Costello comedies. Horror films seem to dominate my past viewing habits, though.

A little history: during the 70s in the Detroit area we had three TV stations showing horror films of yore every Saturday. Channel 2 would have Sir Graves Ghastly. His show was dedicated to Universal and RKO films from the 30s and 40s. Channel 50 would present a double feature of films from, well, the 50s. The stuff shown on 62 was a mix of schlock like The Brain That Wouldn’t Die and foreign fare like the great Mario Bava’s Black Sunday. I loved Saturdays. Of course, prime time programming would serve up made-for-TV movies like Bad Arnold and Sybil. It would also show recent theatrical horror such as The Other and Burnt Offerings. Needless to say televised horror had a great impression on me.

This brings me to my cinematic experiences of my youth. Mostly during the 70s I was too young to see much horror on the big screen. In fact, I believe the first horror film that I did see theatrically was Willard. A great deal of the movies that I saw in the 70s were fantasy-driven adventure films like the last few Ray Harryhausen films, films that starred Doug McClure and Disney films of all sorts. And then there was Star Wars. But that’s another story. All this could have lured me away from horror if it wasn’t for TV. Until 1978, the year that changed everything. Halloween brought forth a horror boom that was felt for about ten years. I didn’t get to see this film until it was televised just before the release of its first sequel. But it was still the maker of that film, John Carpenter that started the most important years of my horror viewing with his next film, The Fog. Along with the films that came out during that period of late 70s to the mid-80s there was a place that showcased many of those films. That place was Hazel Park, Michigan’s answer to the grindhouses of New York, Northgate. The Northgate Cinema was a small multi-plex within a mini-mall. During the 70s this was the place I saw most of the movies I wrote about above. As I grew into my teens horror seemed to take over the place. Double-features helped me see movies from the likes of Romero, Cronenburg, Fulci.

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Many know that film is the director’s medium. The horror film is the best example of this belief. Creative film-making is a requirement for these kind of films. Most 80s mainstream movies seemed to me to have lacked the creativity that sparked my interest in film in the first place. Horror and other forms of fantastic cinema seemed to keep that creativity. This was another reason why horror has fused itself onto my life.

I think this is the best answer to why I’m a horror fan.–Charles T. Cochran

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