SINedelphia 2013: Our Horror “Gateway” Films

We polled our writing staff as well as some local horror-inclined film lovers to answer some questions about their perspectives of the genre. Our second question:

“What was your gateway into becoming a fan of the horror genre?”

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Eric Bresler, Editor & Founder,

My “gateway” to the horror genre was, and no pun intended, 1987’s The Gate. It’s the first horror film that I remember watching; it didn’t really scare me, I just thought it was really cool. Three youngsters (including a 14-year-old Stephen Dorff) unleash a horde of little demons from a hole in their backyard. I saw this at the New Beverly a few years back with director Tibor Takacs in attendance, it still holds up as fun family-friendly fare. The sequel is a real bore though.

Jill Malcolm, Cinedelphia Contributing Editor
The earliest horror film I remember seeing was the made-for-TV movie of Stephen King’s It. I love It, but the film wasn’t a gateway into much of anything genre wise. I also liked to torture myself as a kid and watch old episodes of Unsolved Mysteries. The show has everything horror films have including a creepy theme song, murder, missing persons, ghosts, aliens, other paranormal activity, and it had the added bonus of Robert Stack as a narrator. I had a love/hate relationship with fear as a kid, but as long as I felt in control of how scared I got then I felt okay. TV shows/movies were the only way I could watch scary things as a kid because the builtin commercials were a distraction. It’s probably why I rarely see horror movies in the theater because I feel trapped.

Ryan Silberstein, Contributing Editor

I was never a fan of horror growing up, when my overactive imagination could give me nightmares based on VHS box art. So it wasn’t until Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost made Shaun of the Dead that I even began to consider exploring the genre. The love the trio has for zombies, specifically the George Romero films, rolls right off the screen and is very infectious (ha!).


J.T. Alvarez, Cinedelphia contributor

As a heavily imaginative kid, horror movies were avoided at all costs by my responsible parents, making them incredibly attractive to my impressionable mind. It was awful, really. Begging to see horror movies, finally seeing them and then not being able to sleep without the lights on and all of the upstairs bedroom doors open for days at a time. Ultimately, my horror movie fascination leads to my friendship with my oldest friend, Mike Virata, otherwise known as “Bad Michael.” My parents would let me and my brother stay at Bad Michael’s house and his parents would always let us watch horror flicks, regardless of the consequences, building both constitution and character. We saw everything at the time; from Return of the Living Dead to Dolls, from Phantasm to A Nightmare on Elm Street, from Dead Alive to Evil Dead 2. The very first one, though, was the classic Night of the Creeps. Not a good movie by today’s standards, that movie will always have a place in my heart as my very first favorite horror movie.


Lucas Mangum, Cinedelphia contributor and author

My gateway into the horror genre was a Stephen King movie called Silver Bullet. I was very young, and I may have caught parts of other films before then, but Silver Bullet is the one I remember most clearly. Gary Busey’s antics as the protagonist’s drunken, goofy uncle, the reveal of the werewolf’s true identity and the relationship between the two sibling characters really resonated with me on some level. I remember being scared, exhilarated, and really caring about what happened to the people in the story. It wasn’t just a gateway for me as a fan. It also made me want to write stories that would hit people on the same levels.

Kyle Harter, Cinedelphia contributor and filmmaker

The classic slasher film series of Halloween, Friday the 13th, and Nightmare on Elm Street.

Aaron Mannino, Cinedelphia contributor

Halloween. John Carpenter. The mood of that film is still unsurpassed. It is the beginning and end of the slasher. It is tattooed on my memory from early childhood.


Madeline Meyer, Cinedelphia contributor

I’m sure this isn’t an original answer but I think my “gateway” film into horror was Jaws. I have always been morbidly fascinated with sharks. We were in Cape Cod and I put it on after my parents had gone to bed. I must have been around 8 or 9. I don’t think I’d ever been so scared especially since I could hear the water banging up against the house outside. It was awesome. Although I’ve since graduated to other kinds of horror I still hold a soft spot in my heart for shark movies and will continue to go see really bad ones.


C.S. O’Brien, Cinedelphia contributor
Well, the first film that comes to mind as my “gateway” film is Scream. I was 10 when it came out, and my mother had kept me from watching it for many years. But when I finally saw it, it was love at first Drew Barrymore kill. Though when I think more about it, I think Mulholland Falls scared me. We had gotten a free preview of HBO, and I woke up in the middle of the night to find my dad watching it downstairs. He let me watch it, and I had nightmares about being thrown from a plane.
Robert Skvarla, Cinedelphia contributor

My mother, even though she isn’t a film. The earliest memories I have are of horror movies — John Carpenter’s Halloween and the Universal production of Dracula. She had an enthusiasm for the genre that sort of rubbed off. But somewhere in high school it became a real thing mostly out of social awkwardness, because in the absence of real social skills you had to find something you could bond with people over. The Evil Dead series, specifically Army of Darkness, seems to be what unites all strange young horror nerds. I think I met more people during that time period based on quoting lines from that movie than from real conversations, so it stuck. Eventually, it led to crazier films, like C.H.U.D., because you’re looking for that next scare to share with someone.

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Samm Deighan, Editor, Satanic Pandemonium

Lucio Fulci’s City of the Living Dead, which I randomly bought at Suncoast Video when I was 12 or 13.

Rob Dimension, filmmaker, actor, and podcast host

For me, seeing Halloween at the tender age of 8 years old. I snuck downstairs while my parents were sleeping to watch and it, still today is my favorite horror film. It’s a simple formula but just has all the best of ingredients. Music, pace, lighting, actors…just everything. Being right in the middle of the VHS boom really only made the desire to see more, even greater. The box art, the abundance of videos, what a time to be a young fan of horror.

Andrew Repasky McElhinney, filmmaker, host of Andrew’s Video Vault (

There was no one movie as my impulse toward and pleasure in horror movies has always been there. Perhaps this had something to do with my mother telling me that as a baby my father often played the original cast album of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s musical, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, which apparently I really responded to as an infant. As a kid—and this might be the story of my entire generation of horror fans—it was the lurid and cheaply designed VHS boxes of horror movies in video stores that promised nudity and violence. Certainly this is where my appreciation of the early Friday the 13th films came from. That, and the fact that I knew there was no way in hell my parents were ever going to rent those titles. That said, we finally rented Halloween (1978) when I was about ten, and the scene were Laurie is spooked by the sheriff and the audience thinks it’s Michael Meyers made me jump like nothing else ever had before. . . of course, I then saw Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) when I was about 15.

Liam O’Donnell, Philly native and Cinapse contributor

A Nightmare On Elm Street. I saw this when I was in second grade with some older kids with poor decision making skills. This began an obsession that has lasted the rest of my life.


Chuck FranciscoHorror Host at the Colonial Theatre

Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was absolutely critical to my gore soaked sensibilities and to my life long love of Vincent Price. My family also picked up PRISM early on (so my father could watch Philadelphia Flyers games), which had the unintended side effect of granting me uncensored access to all manner of horrific violence and blood good times at around age 6.


Dan Tabor, Geekadelphia and Cinapse Contributor

I would have to say Critters, it was honestly the perfect horror film for a 10 year old boy. I still remember the night my family first got a VCR and we went to the video store; it was the first thing I picked out on the new release wall. My folks were big into horror, so after that I just consumed everything I could on the horror wall, except for the big box films like I Spit on Your Grave. That was the only line my parents drew in the horror section. Of course I remember them renting those films for themselves, I just wasn’t allowed to watch them.

Author: Ryan Silberstein

Ryan spends his days at a company named one of the best to work for in the Philadelphia area, and his nights as a mysterious caped vigilante saving his city from the disease that is crime watching movies. He lives on a diet consisting of film, comic books, experimental beer, black coffee, and those big metal historical markers around town. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.

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