Monday, January 17, 2005

when I first got into horror - pt 2

In October I wrote in this blog a piece called 'when I first got into horror', where I talked about my life in the early 90's, when all the horror hitting the theaters and video stores was complete crap. Nonetheless, I declared horror to be my favorite type of movie. I promised my readers that I would talk about the rest of my formative years, the years I thought I had everything figured out. We will continue with the end of middle school and early high school in Lexington Mass.

Around age 14 I was real into Poison, Slaughter, and Queen, and bands like that. I'd read Metal Edge and Hit Parader and put posters of the bands up on my walls. There was this one year when Guns N' Roses took over the world. They were the biggest thing to ever hit and were on the cover of Circus four months in a row. I saw them at the Worcester Centrum on the Use Your Illusions tour and I swear we were about five rows from the back, but they played every song I wanted to hear and then some. Duff's bass had a Social Distortion sticker on it and that gave them the G N' R seal of approval. Here in Orange County they would not need it, but far away on the east coast that was a real incentive to check them out. They did have a couple of songs on rock radio. 'Bad Luck' and 'Cold Feelings' sounded pretty good on the playlist next to Kix, Firehouse, and new bands like Soundgarden. Magazines were calling Social Distortion 'the last punk band'. I'd heard of punk before, what kid had not seen a punk Halloween costume or Chipmunk Punk, but I would not have been able to name a punk rock band if asked. An ad in the paper showed that Social Distortion was opening for The Ramones and that honestly was insensitive enough to buy a couple Ramones CDs. I liked those albums too and continued to learn about other bands through their associations with the first few punk bands that I'd heard of. I'd learn by reading books about punk at the Newbury Comics in Harvard Square and then running over to check the bins and see if these CDs were available. Or I could just buy anything from the Taang! store. Soon I was only buying music that could be labeled as 'punk rock'.

I'm supposed to be writing about horror movies, but went off-topic for a reason, to show that my interest in punk eclipsed my interest in horror movies throughout my high-school years. I went off to a boarding school full of punk rockers, and punk became more about belonging than standing apart. It was the be-all and end-all. I had very few non-punk interests. As for movies I was most interested in those that had punks in them, or referenced punk music in some way. Outside of school my interests were going to The Rat for shows, or doing animal rights work, with others who's musical interests defined their political beliefs.

At this time horror was beginning it's Scream inspired, 'smart', 'ironic', teen slasher phase. This period has been disowned by the horror community and I can honestly say it had little impact on me.

The first year of college was a shocker. I was as politically correct as one could be and dropped into a school considered to be one of the most conservative in the country. There was nobody like me, period. No punks, no straight edge kids. My roommate, to my absolute horror, had a confederate flag on the wall and pinups of Sport's Illustrated swimsuit models. Looking back, it's absolutely hilarious to see how freaked out and horrified I was at the beginning of the year. I felt like a victim, but my rights were not being infringed on in any way. My (over)reaction was to move into the one safe spot on campus, the 'vegetarian' co-op.

I was 19 and that was the year I changed the most.. I felt at odds with the hippies and activists (a minority on campus, but a handful existed, I mean a College without hippies is like a horror convention without overweight people) in the co-op dorm. Their priorities seemed all mixed up to me. Everyone wanted meat and cheese in their food. The vegan food prepared for me was like the non-vegan food, but without the flavor. I got real skinny and resentful. If they did not care about my cause why should I care about theirs? For the first time since Sophomore year in high school I decided to make up my own mind on issues, and not just follow the peace punk, left wing, path. My awakening began as a sort of backlash against the progressive community. Particular individuals became my targets. I referred to my pot-smoking, bearded R.A. as 'Charles Manson'. I decided that one of my super-liberal, yet very wealthy, professors was the antichrist (recent media events involving her, as well as reading 'People of the Lie', have strengthened this view). My 1st website, Total Liberation, which I worked on in my dorm room, was very popular at the time. This was due to there being less websites in existence, worldwide, but also because of my unorthodox opinions and shit talk about bands, politics, and individuals that I knew. This website (the horror blog) has the potential to get out of hand as well, though so far I am showing more restraint. Eventually I am sure to preach about my correct world views and I will no doubt condemn others. But back to the story..

I dropped out, moved back in with the parents, and got a job at the big Tower Records that dominated Newbury Street in downtown Boston. The first floor held a massive video department on the first floor, and I, an employee, was allowed three free rentals per night! However, I was short on time. My commute was about an hour and one half each way, with some walking, a bus down Mass Ave., a subway ride, and a trolley ride. Most of my rentals did little other than make my bag more full and make the packed trains more crowded. What's worse is that I was wasting my time renting videos of rock concerts. Some were memorable like the Black Flag Flipside video and the S.O.D. live tape, but most I've surely forgotten.

this was the best picture I could find of the S.O.D. video

I remember that our store had a copy of Last House on the Left. Somewhere I head that was a good one, but did I rent it, no! I was grabbing stupid stuff because the covers were flashy, the ultimate example being Uncle Sam, with it's moving image on the box. Seriously this store was famous for it's collection and I barely made use of it. The most obscure thing I rented was probably Skinheads: The Second Coming of Hate, an action b-movie where teens and a WW2 vet have to defend themselves against crazed skinheads in the woods. It sucks, but you gotta see it, you know? Definitely a genre classic. There is an S.O.D. poster in that movie.

I did have one life changing experience, up on the rock floor, far from the video rental desk. We played CDs over the speakers, but like many large record stores, we had TV monitors everywhere. The floor manager would grab a tape from downstairs and play it on repeat for the whole shift.. One day I got to see a nasty Troll raising hell over and over again. "Wow he looks cool, I thought, much cooler than the effects in movies today." Ordinarily on the TV screens would be the movies that just came out like the new Lost in Space or The Mod Squad with Claire Danes. This stuff sucked pretty bad. I decided then that I preferred puppets and rubber-suited monsters to computer effects and animation. From that point on, I said not just "I like horror movies", but "I like horror movies with puppets". This lead to me specializing in one field of horror knowledge, which opened the door to more fields that I am still exploring today. I'll always like puppets, and though I no longer carve them out of foam rubber in my spare time, my recent Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys review reveals that I still consider those movies to be an important part of my life.

Becoming a horror fanatic was still a couple of years away. It's only for the last four years that I've been a true horror fan. In 1999 and 2000 I had some dark spells where I moved back in with the folks and didn't work or go to school much. I remember that either myself or a friend declared that to leave one's house in sweat pants, even if just to go to the video store or to the convenience store, meant that you had given up on life, and planned to commit suicide. I know that I did indeed walk to the Lexington Videosmith from my parents' house in my sweats, and that it was a bad sign.

There was a guy a video store that I did not care for. He was older than me and looked like John Travolta, the current John Travolta, not the younger one in Saturday Night Fever. He would chat with all the Lexington High kids who hung around downtown at night. I hated the kids cause I was older and got suspicious that this Travolta guy was secretly laughing at me when I rented wrestling videos. Was he my enemy? One day he confronted me and asked why it was that I now came to the video store everyday, but had been seen there zero times prior to making it a daily routine. I explained that I had lived in the area for a while, but my movie fix was covered by working at Tower Records up until I left that job. Only since then had I made Videosmith a habit. I think I even realized then that I was saying something 'cool'. Travolta looking guy dropped his guard confessed to me that he loved that Tower and spent hours and hours there whenever he could. Is a guy that spends five consecutive (or total) hours in Tower worthy of being my nemesis? No. And then the ultimate victory came to pass. One day I came to drop off my tapes and saw that he was wearing sweat pants. Wearing sweat pants to work is way worse than wearing sweat pants to the video store! He was more depressed than I was! I did not hate the Travolta guy anymore.

My dark period did not end until the fall of 2001 and it included some semesters back at the same school that had fucked up my life the first time. The summer of 2001 was when my true horror appreciation started. I had dropped out of school for the final time and was holed-up in an apartment in Alston watching three horror tapes a day. Yes, depression during that summer was the reason I watched some many movies, but it was then that the foundation for everything I know about horror was laid down. When the depression lifted, I had all the background knowledge to be a true horror scholar. I believe that every film expert or genre nerd had to have a period in their life like that, a period where they immerse themselves to escape from real life. Without it they never would have become more than a casual fan. Most of these eccentrics probably went through that phase at a younger age, but my journey was long and it's now been documented here. Thanks for reading.


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