Me in my "director's shirt", for the premiere of my short horror film The Hat Man, 2019.
Why do I love horror?
The irony is that as a kid, I was pretty much the textbook definition of a scaredy cat. There were things I would see or hear on TV that would just freak me out for some reason. An example would be the end credits of the Muppet Babies cartoon, which would show an upside-down Spider-Man along with (what I thought was) creepy background music, and I always had to look away during that part. I don't know exactly why, but it just creeped me out. Another example would be going to the bookstore as a kid, as I’d usually end up in the children's section, which had Goosebumps books on display. I’d be curious enough to take a look at the display, but the book covers themselves gave me literal goosebumps; specifically, the Night of the Living Dummy book.
Remember, this was a children's book cover.
Seeing Slappy the Dummy, with his evil-looking grin and green eyes staring into your soul, was the stuff of nightmares. In fact, it did give me nightmares. I had nightmares all the time as a kid, which seemingly could be triggered by almost anything scary or unsettling. For some strange reason, even with all the anxiety and nightmares, I still found myself drawn to go back and look at these Goosebumps book covers, and wonder what ghastly stories were contained beneath them.
Another reason horror is such a big part of my life, is all the memories I have of taking trips with my dad to the local video rental store. In a time before streaming services and everything being accessible right at your fingertips, there was something magical about making these trips. I would walk up and down the aisles, looking at the covers of all the movies, and reading the backs of those that looked interesting. Typically, my dad would let me wander off while he went to look for something to rent. Eventually my curiosity would end up getting the better of me, and I’d start playing a little game: I would dare myself to see how far I could get down the horror aisle before I was too scared and had to turn back around. There was something simply vivid and terrifying about the covers on those horror VHS boxes in the nineties. If I dared myself to pick one up and look at the other side, I was greeted with more nightmare fuel. These images would cause my imagination to run wild, brewing nightmares for later that night while lying in bed. An example would be the cover art for "Trilogy of Terror" (I'd pronounce it as try-low-gee in my head), which struck a nerve with me. That demonic-looking puppet would appear in my mind at night, taunting me to peek out from beneath the covers.
I guess I just have a thing with puppets.
In the horror movie aisle, I can distinctly remember how disturbing and violent those movies seemed in my head, as I imagined the box art playing out on-screen. There's something about imagining what a movie was like as a kid, without actually seeing it, that was always more terrifying than watching the movie as an adult. So, what made me seek out these movies as an adult? The most simple way I can explain, is that I was fascinated with stuff that scared me and gave me nightmares. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was unknowingly pursuing a thrill that I would continue to do so for the next few decades.
It was at the age of 6 when I had finally sat down and read my first Goosebumps book, and I was immediately hooked. When the Goosebumps TV show premiered its first episode, 'Welcome to Dead House', I could barely contain my excitement. It was everything I could have asked for: a horror show for kids. I remember how proud I was to finally turn seven and watch Goosebumps without reservations, since the show during that time was playfully rated “GB-Y7, because it may be too spooky for kids under seven.” By watching the Goosebumps show and reading the books, it sparked a passion in me for writing my own Goosebumps-style “books”, which were crudely put together and usually made of sideways notebook paper.
Around this same time during the summer, I stayed at my grandparents' house in Alabama. They had a fish tank, which inspired me to cobble together a new "Goosebumps" book, a ‘Monster Blood’ sequel. The Goosebumps ‘Monster Blood’ stories were about the aforementioned blood, which was green and would expand when it absorbed other objects, like humans and animals. It would also cause anything that digested it to expand as well, and become larger than life. My ‘Monster Blood’ story started with a hand-drawn cover of a giant mean-looking fish, taking up the entirety of a fish tank. My grandparents were proud of me and my book-writing skills, although my ‘Monster Blood’ story never made it past the first few pages. I hadn’t exactly mastered the art of telling a cohesive story from beginning to end; nevertheless, this obsession continued to grow. It grew into a desire to create and tell my own stories, which I am still doing to this day. Rest assured, I have zero intentions on stopping.
Looking back, it just makes sense to me why I was drawn to horror, even with all the trauma and night terrors. I was able to take a curious fascination and turn it into a passion. Embracing what brought me fear was something that's stuck with me, and allowed me to grow and continue to push myself outside of my comfort zones. As a child, I gained a newfound appreciation for something I didn’t quite understand at the time. As an adult, I get to reap the benefits of creating my own scary stories, and appreciating horror from a completely different perspective. My hope is that you can take some inspiration from my story, and find ways to turn a negative into a positive. It could change your life, the way it changed mine.