Opinion: It’s Bloody Hard Being A Horror Fan Simon Fitzjohn October 27, 2016 Editor's Choice, Features, Halloween 1987 I’ve been meaning to pen this article for some time now, but I was finally pushed over the edge this week and have decided to take the plunge. I’ll get to what proved my personal tipping point in a bit, but here’s the thrust of my argument: It’s bloody tough being a horror fan. Now I know it’s nearly Halloween and all that, meaning for the only time of the year you can wander into your local Tesco branch and find eye-popping zombies stacked by the entrance. But let us cast that aside for one moment – or one article at least. Anyone who counts themselves a real horror fan has probably encountered the same shit that I have – the weird looks when you blurt out your love for some gorefest being a good starting point. Being a university lecturer by trade, this gets even more magnified than my old days running a DVD rental store. You know the drill – you let slip you like some violent horror film and there’s that awkward moment of bemusement on the part of the other person – the ‘but you’re an intelligent person so why on earth would you like horror films’ look that you get, followed by you furiously trying to explain yourself. I don’t know of any other genre that gets that crap – yes, I know I could just not care what anyone else thinks and get on with things, but life doesn’t really work like that does it? In fact, and I have no idea if anyone else does this, but the majority of the time (apart from when I’m at home with the missus or at Frightfest) I actively hold back on my love for horror, keeping it to myself for fear of being ridiculed. Crikey, I’ve even written a couple of books on horror films (one on Bob Clark/Black Christmas and the other on the Psycho franchise if you’re interested) only to describe them as ‘books on a film director you probably haven’t heard of’ when in respectable company. So, on to my tipping point earlier this week. I was on the train home from Victoria station after a taxing day at the office, perusing the latest copy of Dark Side magazine. To be fair, Dark Side has given me a few legitimate problems down the years, due to their frustrating insistence on borderline soft-porn covers from time to time, or for writer Callum Waddell’s travails around Asia digging out some porn actress who might have appeared in a horror film once that no one has ever heard of because he fancies meeting them. Anyhow, I was reading the mag’s interview with Daria Nicolidi – a great interview by the way – and as I turned the page to continue the piece, there was a nice, bloody image from Profondo Rosso. Nothing wrong there I thought – Deep Red is a landmark film after all, but it was obviously too much for the woman sat next to me. It went down like this – she looks at me, looks at the magazine I’m reading, looks back at me, shuffles uncomfortably in her seat – then gets up and moves. Now I am putting two and two together here and presuming it makes four, but there seems no other reason to think she moved, other than that she thought I was likely to attempt to gut her during the course of our journey. I did, just for one second, consider jumping to my feet and bellowing ‘yes everybody, I’m reading a horror magazine, but that does not make me a murderous psychopath okay?!’ – but I didn’t of course. Instead I squirmed a bit, felt embarrassed – then carried on reading. What really pisses me off is that this battle has been raging for pretty much as long as I have loved the genre. In fact, I almost have a checklist for what winds me up. Here goes: Just because I like horror films does not mean that is all I ever watch. This week for example I may have watched The Walking Dead season opener, the latest episode of The Exorcist (still not sure if I like it or not) and the upcoming DVD The Neighbour, but I’ve also sat through Poldark, Strictly Come Dancing, a bit of Grimsby and plenty of sport. I do not watch horror simply to get a gore fix. I like a good gore scene as much as the next fan, but a lot of my favourite films have little to no gore in them – 1974’s Black Christmas or 1963’s The Haunting for example. What I really want is a good story, some suspense and, guess what, A GOOD FILM. Horror fans are some of the most passionate, informed and analytical film fans I know. Hitting Frightfest is always a highlight for me, as I am always amazed at just how much info genre fans store in their grey matter. Heck, my wife and I originally bonded over our shared love of the genre, and like nothing more than chewing the fat after checking out a film, talking over the director’s previous efforts or suchlike. Here’s the kicker – just because I like horror films does not make me dangerous. Yes, I know horror doesn’t help itself a lot of the time, taking into account the drek we often get served up – but horror fans will happily tell you if a film is rubbish. And, apart from when the likes of Child’s Play or Scream get roped into a murder trial (or when the tedious ‘it was like something out of a horror movie’ line gets worked into some newspaper story), you may well be surprised to know most horror fans are happy, well-adjusted, mature folk. There’s also absolutely no doubting in my mind that horror fans are ridiculously short-changed. Let me give you an example – when I was at uni back in the day (the early 90s), a trip to Forbidden Planet was a real treat. Over the years I picked up back issues of Fangoria, got my hands on original cinema posters for the likes of the Friday the 13th films and even Dr Butcher MD, bought a Michael Myers mask, serial killer trading cards – the list goes on. Pop into Forbidden Planet on Shaftesbury Avenue now – well, let’s just say if you are not a fan of Doctor Who or Star Wars then don’t bother. Salvation for a short while came in the form of The Cinema Store, but now even that haven has bitten the dust. I don’t intend this as a ‘woe is me’ piece and you could quite rightly point out that I could still simply stick my chest out with pride, let all and sundry know I am a horror junkie and get on with it. And, don’t for one second think any of this stuff could ever stop me being a horror fan, as that is never going to happen. But wouldn’t it be great if we could all just get along?