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How My Childhood Love of The Horror Genre Started

Michael Allen 13 Comments

‘Why do you like these kind of films?’ my girlfriend asked me the other day while we were watching (or, rather, I was making her watch) a particular gruesome scene in Frankenstein’s Army (2013).

It made me stop and think. I know the reasons why I like horror and they’re probably similar to yours, but I’d never thought about exactly what it was that introduced me to and influenced me to pursue the genre. Most people like to watch the occasional horror film, but I think we who proclaim it as our favourite genre and spend thousands of hours of our life watching horror films have slightly differently wired brains.

I concluded that my love of horror stems from childhood. I grew up in the 90s and early 2000s and have pinned down five things which I think were major influences on my childhood mind in turning it forever in the direction of the macabre.

Goosebumps

“Viewers beware. You’re in for a scare.”

These words uttered by Goosebumps author R. L. Stein at the start of each episode sent chills down my spine. While the lame special effects in the opening credits like the dog’s eyes lighting up may now seem cheesy to adult eyes, it certainly creeped me out as a ten-year-old.

The episode which gave me the most nightmares was “Welcome to Dead House” about mutated chemical factory workers taking over a small town.

The book series was also fantastic. There are over 170 books in the series which have sold 300 million copies worldwide in 32 languages.

How My Childhood Love of The Horror Genre Started

Scooby Doo

Scooby Doo was my favourite cartoon as a kid. While it wasn’t exactly scary, the mysteries and monsters were great and the episodes were delightfully camp.

If you’re planning on a nostalgia trip, stick with the older episodes. The series has really gone downhill in recent years.

The two live-action feature films which came out in 2002 and 2004 are also turkeys, but the classic series is certainly one I’m going to use to introduce my future children to horror.

How My Childhood Love of The Horror Genre Started

Stephen King and James Herbert

One American, one Brit. Both acted as my segue into the terrifying world of adult horror. Herbert, who authored the classic 1974 The Rats novel about a plague of killer rats terrorising London, sadly passed away last year at the age of 69. In an interview with the BBC in September 2012, he said he thought some mediums were genuine and that he once saw a ghost walk past a doorway.

“Being a horror writer, a ghost writer, I was up like a shot,” he said. “I’d had a bet years ago with Stephen King who would be the first one to actually see a ghost.”

Happily, King is still alive and kicking. The first novel of his I ever read was ‘Pet Sematary’, about a cemetery for pets built on an old Indian burial ground. But whatever is buried there comes back to life in demonic form. I remember reading this on my lunch break while I was doing work experience at my local vets!

I quickly moved on to the classic ‘The Shining’ and I think by that point my lifelong love of the genre was firmly established.

How My Childhood Love of The Horror Genre Started

The non-existence of broadband internet

These days, any kid with unsupervised access to a computer, tablet or smartphone can watch pretty much any horror film online without much difficulty. In the dial-up age of the 90s, however, horror was only really available through age-restricted VHS or DVD.

Since most parents don’t consider The Texas Chainsaw Massacre appropriate viewing for thirteen-year-olds, we had to resort to raiding our friend’s parents’ video collection when they were out of the house, or finding an independent video store which was dodgy enough to rent ‘18s’ to kids.

Because of this, watching a horror film was always a special experience, made all the more exciting by the effort we had to put in to actually be able to watch the film in the first place and the thought that our parents probably would disapprove.

How My Childhood Love of The Horror Genre Started

Horror sleepovers

Nowadays, I usually watch horror films alone. Occasionally I’ll see one with a friend or my girlfriend, but it’s nothing like the epic horror sleepovers you had as a kid. Nothing quite compared to having half a dozen or more of your friends round, taking over your parents living room for the night, telling them you were watching a Jim Carey comedy or something like that, and then putting on The Exorcist after they had gone to bed.

The experience of being scared is a communal one and probably is one of the reasons sites like this one thrive.

How My Childhood Love of The Horror Genre Started

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13 Comments

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      1. Hez Kaminski January 19, 2014 at 9:25 pm

        Thanks for sharing as I shared it too – so many memories are coming back its unreal How Great they are

      2. Hez Kaminski January 19, 2014 at 9:25 pm

        Saw NOES on my own when I was a kid in theatres amongst so so many others :)

      3. Denise Michelle Mitchell January 20, 2014 at 12:21 am

        Watched Creature Feature with my brother since we were tots in the early ’70′s…good times!

      4. David Leavitt January 20, 2014 at 4:56 am

        I used to watch usa saturday nightmares and tnts monstervision with joe bob briggs, I truly miss those kind of shows.

      5. C.Ó.Goibster January 20, 2014 at 5:23 pm

        Those reasons are mostly the same as mine. Goosebumps was so scary when I was younger. The living dummies episodes were my favourite. I’m only fourteen but I have three apps on my phone for movies. I keep on annoying my friends at school about horror movies. But those reasons inspir me to watch horror movies.

      6. changeling69 January 20, 2014 at 8:08 pm

        I have often thought about this in my life (I’m over 50!!!!!!). I’ve come to the same conclusion over again. Simple: US Anglo-Saxons simply became addicted to horror things from school. Don’t forget that we “study” and read Frankenstein, Dracula and Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde regularly in school, while other students in other non Anglo-Saxon/Celtic countries read Promessi Sposi (Italy). It’s strange, many peeps tend to think Shakespeare started the fire with Macbeth and Hamlet, but who influenced him? Dante with his Inferno…..and wasn’t that gothic in its right??! My Italian GF thinks so!!! I still remember Vincent Price replying to an interview many moons ago, when asked: “Sir, don’t you think watching horror movies might have a negative effect on society….?”; Mr. Price’s reply: “No, what is more horrible than horror itself? REALITY, my friend…REALITY itself!” Ponder people when you next watch the news on TV….now THAT is something that really should scare people outta their wits:):):)

      7. Aaron Cox January 21, 2014 at 4:29 am

        Agree with this… I remember watching goosebumps and are you afraid of the dark all the time. You hit the nail on the head for me with this, and the VHS rentals. I actually went to Hollywood Video every Friday night and grabbed about 5 horror movies every week. I actually got to a point where I had seen them all in the rental store that I had to re-watch movies again. I still love 80′ and 90′s movies. Some were cheap and dumb, and some were just freaking gems… But they made me love horror. Today’s horror misses the mark for me, but maybe because I am older. I remember watching Friday the 13th for the first time when I was five, and my dad pleading for me too choose something else. I was always intrigued with the movies and It is still something that I enjoy. I want to write and produce horror movies one day, I TRULY LOVE HORROR!

      8. Michael Allen January 22, 2014 at 2:07 pm

        Thanks for all your kind comments. This is my first article so I was worried about getting flamed or everyone disagreeing with me! =)

        • changeling69 January 22, 2014 at 8:34 pm

          Hey MA…well, since you had the “guts” (pun very intended, hehehehhehehehe:):)!) to write your 1st article, the least us readers could do was to appreciate it!!!:)
          Keep on keepin’ on:)

      9. Daniel Loubier January 23, 2014 at 3:33 pm

        Well done, Michael. I’m sure we all remember our horror “roots,” and yours help bring back fond memories of my own. Thanks for sharing!

      10. peraveen January 26, 2014 at 2:19 pm

        Completely Agree… Though am from India, my views, thoughts & memories are cope with u… Who can forget goosebumps & scooby doo… Badly miss those days… :(

      11. Michael Allen January 26, 2014 at 8:44 pm

        Thanks, changeling69 ;)

      12. Chloe Van Praet April 5, 2014 at 4:29 am

        My Dad got me into horror at a young age, I still haven’t grown out of it and neither has he :)