Features Philly Film — 20 October 2011 » Written by
24 Hour Horror-Thon essay contest winner // SINedelphia: 31 DAYS OF HORROR, DAY 20

Contest…horror…impact…tickets…and without further ado, we are pleased to announce the winner of a pair of tickets to attend Exhumed Films’ sold out 24 Hour Horror-Thon:  Roger McBride.  You can read his entry essay as well as two bonus entries below (by Patrick Costello and Shelly Rabuse, respectively).  Thanks to everyone who entered, you all illustrated your love for the horror genre, some more eloquently and with a firmer grasp on punctuation than others.

***

My name is Roger McBride.  I’m a procrastinator.  I have attended every other 24 Hour Horror-Thon.  This year I had not purchased tickets by the time they were sold out.  This was in part because I didn’t realize that the sellout point was trending earlier and earlier each year and partly because I thought I had prior engagements, but I had the date wrong.

The question of what manner of impact horror films have had on my life is a perplexing one indeed.  To answer this question I would have to reach back into my oh so hazy past.

Halloween has always been my very favorite time of year.  The cool breeze, the smell of dead leaves and candles burning inside of pumpkins.  I still slow as I walk down moonlit streets, as the wind blows ghosts of childhood through my mind.  I close my eyes.  I breathe deeply.  Despite the chill, a warmth flows through me.  I smile.

Images of years long gone instantly flash by.  A puppy.  An Indian.  A Robin Hood.  Then horror movies.  The Devil.  Yes, I was the Devil, but this was still a cute concept.  This was still just the tip of understanding.  The seed of darkness planted within.  Then it happened.  Dracula.  I wasn’t just playful.  I wasn’t just cute.  I was motherfucking Dracula.

I had countless images displayed before me.  I had reference material for behavioral studies.  These are adult concepts for the simple childhood idea of seeing the lord of all Vampires and thinking, “Wow! I wanna be that guy!”  I could see him.  I could hear him.  I knew who he was.  I could be him.  I would be him.  I wasn’t just me anymore.  I could be other people.

I’ve always enjoyed people.  Humanity.  Good or bad.  Love or hate.  I have always been intrigued by what makes people tick.  There were two things that led me to who I am now, as a child.  John Wayne and Horror.  John Wayne taught me to never hit a lady.  John Wayne taught me that sometimes you have to do something because it’s what has to be done.  John Wayne taught me how to be a cowboy.  John Wayne taught me to be a man.

Horror films taught me how to be a Monster.  I have memories of being scared shitless as a child and not being able to sleep, for fear that a charbroiled man with knives for fingers would invade my dreams and make of me some manner of nightmarish sport.  This was made even worse by the realization that a man with pins stuck in his head could come for me while I was awake.  I couldn’t go outside because I might be claimed by some creature from the beyond.  I couldn’t stay inside because the undead would just wait me out.

I remember Friday nights with my family.  My mom worked third shift at an ER in Philly.  My dad worked days at Limerick Nuclear Power Station.  They were both home Friday nights.  I remember going to the Video Tape Library (and later, Blockbuster) and picking out some nonsense like the Care Bears movie or something I’d already seen like Back to the Future and meeting my parents at the front of the store.  Then we’d head off to get pizza or Chinese or whatever flavor of the night we decided upon and always stopped for ice cream, a necessary dessert.

It didn’t matter what we had.  We were all together.  It was time to watch some movies.  We’d usually get through one or two before it was time for bed.  Well, before it was time for the grown ups to watch their grown up movies.  At first I’d listen from my room, in awe at what these screams might be about.  I’d lay there hearing Robert Englund laughing or a chainsaw revving.  I’d lay in bed, tummy full of love, smile on my face, wondering what these ridiculous sounds coming from downstairs were.  Wondering how grown up movies were different.  Soon, I’d find out.

I began laying on the living room floor as movie night progressed.  I began falling asleep there, stretched out in my policeman or My Pet Monster pajamas.  But I wasn’t really asleep.  I was laying in wait.  I wanted to see what these glorious sounds were.  I had to see.  I was about to discover true horror.

I wish I could say that I remember what my first secreted glimpse of horror movies was.  All I can say is that as I lay there, holding my eyes shut as tight as I could through the gruesome bits, my life changed forever.  I remember feeling like a baby.  I remember telling myself that I’d watch more next time.  That eventually I’d be able to watch anything.  That I’d be grown up enough to stay downstairs for real.

Time went by, I grew older, I stopped having to pretend I was asleep and I loved every minute of it.  Eventually movie night faded away, something that I did not appreciate fully until now.  I began spending late nights alone watching movies on cable, whenever I could find them.  Soaking it all in.  Lapping it up like a kitten.  Eventually Thursday the 12th rolled around and I saw a commercial for a marathon that would be happening the very next day…

FRIDAY the 13th.  Wow.  I was hooked.  I watched all day long.  Life happened around me and I didn’t care.  I was on that couch.  Stories were on the TV.  Mrs. Vorhees.  Jason Vorhees.  Wheelchairs down stairs.  Spear guns.  Hockey masks.  Crazier and more outlandish plots.  Crazier and more outlandish slayings.  I couldn’t believe it.  I was hooked and I couldn’t stop.  Eventually the sun set.  The moon rose.  A storm rolled in.  Thunder.  Lightning.  Wind.  Rain…

This moment, too, changed my life forever.  This was the first night I did not sleep.  I stayed up, baseball bat nearby, wide awake, guarding the house.  And making sure nobody killed me in my sleep.  I was amazed at how grown up I was.  I was amazed that a human could endure such long hours.  I was amazed at how wonderful it was to sit alone in the dark late at night and watch hours of horror movies.

Horror movies have impacted my life in a way that made me who I am.  I understand people.  I understand that some of the best horror is just allegories and metaphors and the real monster people all along.  The classics taught me that.  Dracula.  Wolfman.  Frankenstein.  The later ones drove it home.  Freddy was once a man.  Pinhead was once a man.  All monsters come from somewhere and some of the best came from us.  From me.  From you.  Horror movies played a part in driving me to understand humanity.  To understand myself and the dark places within.  They also gave me a place to enjoy those dark tendencies.

Movies have always been a special part of my live.  I love stories.  I love hearing them.  I love seeing them.  I love telling them.  I don’t love all movies.  I’m willing to give them a shot though.  You need a reference point to know where you stand.  No good movies without shitty movies.  No dark without light.  No good guys without bad guys.  No John Wayne without Monsters.  Sort of.

I thank you for presenting me with an opportunity to regress a bit.  Delve into my past.  I was originally going to write about how they showed me a different kind of storytelling and gave me a new type of role to play.  I was going to explain how it prompted pranks and stories of my own.  But I realized it was something even more than that.  It wasn’t until just now that I realized how very much I miss those nights.  I actually cried a bit thinking of the smell of pepperoni pizza and popcorn and the warm embrace of my footy pajamas and the loving smiles of my parents.  The blissful ignorance of simpler times when those moments were everything to a little boy.  I guess that’s the impact Horror movies and movies in general have had on my life.  I just didn’t realize it until now.  Horror movies were my childhood.  They were both an escape and a rallying point.  They were family time.  They were Love.

***

This is what my left arm has looked like since I turned 18.  My parents had a lot of questions about this particular piece of art, considering it comes from a remake called The Thing which neither of them had seen.  I think this tattoo represents a lot about what is great within the horror world, and the film world.  First off, Rob Bottin’s special effects in this movie are the most interesting to me as a film watcher because of the lack of digital effects.  The Thing proves that make up, props, and puppets can look better than anything done digitally.  So my appreciation for The Thing really melts into my appreciation for all horror movies that really work at making special effects look great.  In addition, this tattoo is also a dedication to a man who made some of the most memorable posters in film history, Drew Struzan.  I know Struzan’s Hellboy 2 poster is currently up on my wall, and I could only pray for more room in order to fit his prints for The Goonies or The Great Muppet Caper.  He even did TWO prints for Better Off Dead, so that’s what’s up.

My life goal is to direct feature films.  At the moment I am a college student, directing short films, while working as a projectionist/concessionist/usher at a large 24 theater in Oaks, PA.  While I plan on working on movies of every type, my overall style pulls a lot from the horror genre.  Coming up this December is a new short film that I wrote and am directing called Marvelous Scum.  The film will be in duo-vision (which is an idea I got, first, after watching Wicked, Wicked at my first Exhumed Films experience, and then again when I watched Phantom of the Paradise and Carrie), and is about a stalker’s love for a high school girl.  While it is not exactly a horror, I am most excited to explore the aspects that make the film uncomfortable, such as suspenseful music, gritty sounds, and an explosive violent gun shot wound in the end.  My last film created a lot of cool special effects, such as an anal probe, and two of these masks.

While I wouldn’t call the final product of The Lizardmen of Allentown a 100% success, I would like to point out that I managed to get an unbelievable Goblin-esque score from a group called Tropopkin, and these masks are pretty darn cool.

Finally, we’ll bring it into my bedroom.  My bedroom holds three floor-to-ceiling book shelves of VHS, DVD, and Blu-Ray, amounting to around 700 films.  This is a picture of my highly unorganized horror section.  While there are plenty of discs pulled out, lent out, and spread around my house, these two shelves show plenty of horror greats (as well as a lot of crappy ones).  However, I can potentially enjoy crappy horror movies just as much as great ones.  For example, (I may be disqualified for suggesting this) but I think Jason Goes To Hell is one of the best Friday the 13th films, and for good reasons.  While Friday the 13th is great, and they improve through 1, 2, and 3, around part 4 it becomes pretty clear that 1-8 are basically the same film.  The plot doesn’t REALLY differ, neither does the music or feeling whatsoever.  The most it changes throughout the Paramount films is when they go to Manhattan, which is just a setting change.  It might as well have been in an alleyway at Crystal Lake (although that part when the girl gets shot up with heroin was awesome).  So then, after stabbing your brain with parts 1-8, you start up Jason Goes To Hell, part 9.  And you expect an even worse movie.  But what you find is, first, a brand new score that is so blatantly terrible that you will laugh throughout the opening sequence, all the way up until a man, for no reason, eats Jason’s beating heart and spits black blood all over himself.  While I don’t understand why any man would do such a thing, I know it looks fucking great.  And then how about when that guy coughs up the ugly Jason worm into that business man’s mouth, and then he continues to melt into a bloody pile of mess?  That scene was outstanding, despite it making little sense.  So, even though Jason Goes To Hell makes no sense and has a score made for numbskulls, it changed up the pace of a series that was in need of changing.  Unfortunately this theory did not work for Jason X, which I regret sitting through.

My name is Patrick Costello, and I am a cinephile with an incredible influence from horror films.  Thank you.

***

Shelly Rabuse — How have horror films affected my life?  Let me start with this: My father thought “R” meant recommended.  That means I saw The Godfather in the theater when I was 6 – and that may not be considered ”horror” but the horse head in the bed and Moe Green getting gunned down are images I still have with me to this day.

So I suppose not having restrictions placed on what I watched opened me up to viewing a lot of films that might have been forbidden to most kids my age.  I remember The Omega Man was on TV one night and my babysitter refused to let me watch it on TV (despite my begging).  I was a little kid yet SHE could not “handle” it.  Same goes for West World – I had an aunt who was, let’s say, not into the finer points of the scarier scenes and it took a whole lot of begging for me to be able to watch the film on TV in Brooklyn while my parents were out.

From a tender age I was drawn to the kind of movies my mother claimed would “give me nightmares.”  And other than a solitary dream where Dracula peered through my window and Frankenstein awaited me in the bathroom – I never had any adverse affects.

Flash forward to the early 90’s when I moved to London to live with a man I had known barely a month.  It was a lonely time for me but I found a copy of The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film in a bookshop – and suddenly my quest for checking off the obscene and obscure began in earnest!  To this day my DVR is always set to record some forgotten or forgettable gem.

I wound up marrying the man I followed to London and 20+ years later I have hosted a “Back Yard Drive In” every summer for the past 15 years featuring the best of the worst films ever made.  There was the “Double Headed Double Feature” with The Thing with Two Heads and The Two Headed Transplant.  Other notable summers included Microwave Massacre (my friend Karen Grossman was the cinematographer) as well as Terror Island starring Jill Haworth (IT!) who coincidentally rented a room to my husband in New York.

As for current horror, I have to be honest… I am more a fan of The Others and The Orphanage than I am of Saw and Hostel.  I like my horror dripping with innuendo and suspense rather than gore and eyeballs (although I won’t shy away from the occasional HG Lewis flick).  And, I suppose my love of this genre is probably genetic since my 11-year-old daughter is very drawn to scary movies as well.  I think that’s a good thing!

***

Exhumed Films’ 24 Hour Horror-Thon begins at noon on Saturday, October 29.

24 Hour Horror-Thon poster by hauntlove.

Official site.

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About Author

Eric is the Founder/Site Editor of Cinedelphia.com whose additional activities are numerous: Director/Curator of the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art (PhilaMOCA), founder of Tokyo No Records, the brain behind Video Pirates, and active local film programmer including the Unknown Japan screening series. He's served as a TLA Video Manager, Philadelphia Film Society Managing Director, and Adjunct Professor in Cinema Studies at Drexel University. He is shy and modest. Email Eric.

(1) Reader Comment

  1. I am humbled and honored to be chosen over those other two very endearing and enticing essays. I can see how hard of a decision it had to have been. I thank you.

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