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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.