Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Birthday 44 - My Personal Path To Horror, Part One

*In honor of my birthday this past week I decided to think back about all the various influences in my life that made me the horror fan I am today.  There are so many random things that I thought of that this list really became a real hodge-podge of weird stuff.  Some are extremely obvious if you know me or have read this blog on a long-term basis.  Other items will surprise. And it got so long I had to split it into two parts, because I wanted 44 total.
Only one guess why.

1) Jaws:  I adore everything about Jaws. So much so that I just bought the brand-spankin' new Blu-Ray - and I don't own a  Blu-Ray player yet. There is no doubt on this earth that this film would make the top of any list of favorites for me, for anyone that knows me knows I live and breathe this blockbuster and this one.....

2) Psycho: I've oft said Norman Bates is my homeboy, and those words are truth. I've had a long-standing love affair with him and the Bates Motel for oh....say, 30 years or so.  That's longer than I've been married. Sometimes I feel wed to this movie, as any time I'm feeling down it cheers me up.  xoxo

3) Ghost Story: The Novel.  While I'm a huge fan of the film, it was Peter Straub's excellent book that really spooked me out.  I'd read several Stephen King novels before picking this one up (on King's recommendation, actually) - but I was blown away by it's dreadful tone. It just reeks creepy and is my favorite novel.  Period.

4) The Liberty Theatre:  I grew up watching movies at this old theater (since torn down) in my home town.  And though I was too young to watch significant horror here, I watched many an old Disney film here, and was blessed with seeing my first sci-fi film here: Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  I vividly recall the poster for Jaws being on the Marquee though, and I can still smell that musty scent and the stale popcorn if I close my eyes....

5) The Legend of Sleepy Hollow:  I've been mesmerized by this Washington Irving short story for most of my life.  I read it as a young girl and its vivid imagery always stuck with me. I was able to recognize chilling atmosphere in the written word, even back then. Great stuff!

6) John Carpenter.  Long before Fulci, Cronenberg and Argento came John Carpenter.  The man knows how to subject his victims theater-goers to a real scare.  The first time I saw Michael Myers standing behind that clothesline in Halloween, I shuddered in my Nikes and knew I was done for. What a thrill!

7) Clue:  The board game.  While not firmly planted in the horror genre, it sits in my favorite sub-genre of mystery and is near and dear to my heart.  There is no possible way to count how many times I discovered it was Professor Plum in the Billiard Room with the Candlestick.

8) Stephen King:  As a too-young reader of many of King's early works like Carrie and  The Shining (still my #2 book, all-time), King showed me the path to horror and I spent countless nights under my covers with a flashlight to try and finish one of his tales without my mother making me go to sleep! I still consider him my favorite author.

9) Edgar Allan Poe:  Discovering Poe in probably the eighth grade or so made such an impression on me that I tried my hand and writing macabre poetry for several months.  I may or may not have succeeded - some day I need to pull out all those old notebooks.  Nevermore.

10) Friday the 13th (1980):  Recently I waxed poetic in great detail about the slasher film that jump-started my life-long obsession with horror. I've seen this campy (sorry, had to) cautionary tale of woe at Camp Crystal Lake more times than almost any other horror film (save my top two). I remember watching it on a weekend sleepover at my house, four or five of us screaming in all the right places.  Do not pass not collect 200$...but do take off your boots and stay for a game of strip Monopoly...

11) A Christmas Carol: Written by Dickens in 1843, this short story scared the poop out of me when I was younger.  My grandfather (the minister!) used to read it to me, acting out all the various voices - except the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. He'd just point.  Gah!  Still makes me shudder.

12) Halloween: The Holiday.  I've always loved the most wonderful day of the year.  Whether I was dressed up as a gypsy and trick-or-treating, hanging out in cornfields downing beverages I was too young for, or just simply having a horror film fest on the comfort of my couch, Halloween is just the best. It's my Christmas.  This year, I am taking the entire week around Halloween off work. I'm serious about my passion, people.

Yours truly at the NOTLD cemetery.
13) Cemeteries:  I have lived my whole life adoring graveyards.  I can't explain it.  I love to wander around in the quiet resting place, checking out all the old stones in our local cemetery.  Some date back to pre-Civil War times.  I had my first kiss in a cemetery, drank my first beer in a cemetery, had make-out sessions with my future husband in a cemetery, and nearly everyone important that I've lost lies in that same cemetery. They are spooky yet calming.  A wonderful combination.

14) The Twilight Zone: Between Burgess Meredith breaking his glasses and William Shatner wigging out about something on the wing of the plane, The TZ is near and dear to my heart.  I still love watching day and night-long marathons - it just never. gets. old.  Am I right?

15) Profondo Rosso (Deep Red): My first taste of Dario Argento.  Simply due to the VHS cover. I was young - had already seen Fulci and was looking for more Italian horror.  Wow, what a shocker to experience the visually striking world of Argento (in surprising contrast to Fulci's gore-fests).  I quickly moved on to the rest of his catalogue.  Why hello, Suspiria!  How's it going, Tenebrae?

16) The Amityville Horror: The book.  It wasn't so much the whole ghost/demon/haunting story that got me, it was the fact that Ronald DeFeo killed his entire effing family in the dead of night and not one of them woke up when they heard that first shot.  That is so disturbing, and stuck with me long after I read the book that was supposedly a "true haunting" and saw the movie that "inspired" it.

17) Abandoned houses:  When I was a teenager, several of my friends and I had our own little 'ghost hunters' group before it was fashionable and current and making tons of money on reality television.  We'd find and explore old abandoned houses - the further out in the country or off the beaten path the better.  Many a time did we scare ourselves senseless, hearing or even seeing strange things.  A few times, it really was unexplained, and those are the memories I still come back to and shudder.

18) Disney's Haunted House albums:  You know the ones.  The ones that have eerie sound effects certain to send you screaming in fear. I loved them as a kid, and my grandfather fed my passion and bought me as many as he could find.  One of these records held Poe's short story The Tell-Tale Heart. I still have a special place for it in my own.

19) 1981: The Year.  So many films came out in this particular year: An American Werewolf in London, The Burning, Dead and Buried, Evil Dead, Escape from New York, The Entity, The Funhouse, Friday the 13th Part 2, Ghost Story, Halloween II, Hell Night, My Bloody Valentine, Ms.45, Nighthawks, Omen III, Scanners....well, you get the picture.

20) Jane Eyre:  By Charlotte Bronte.  The classic gothic romance that influenced me as a teenager like nobody's business.  I read a lot of classics - including Austen, Dickens, Wilde, etc.-  and Bronte's Jane Eyre affected me the most.  Such a moody, melancholy piece of work.  Perfect in every way.

21) Lake Mungo:  This little 2008 indie flick restored my faith that movies can still be unnerving and scary yet again.  While The Strangers (another well done 2008 film) was a giant step in the right direction for me, Lake Mungo was a massive jump. There is just something SO unsettling about that film.  I can't recommend it enough.

22) Dick Francis & Agatha Christie:  A tie!  As a younger teen, I discovered one of the most famous mystery writers of all time -Agatha Christie- and set a goal to read all her works.  While that didn't quite happen (yet), I did read a great number of her classic mysteries. As a young twenty-something, I found out that there was an author out there writing mysteries that were based around the world of horse racing.  Well holy shit!  As an avid - no, obsessive - horse racing fan, I was in love with Dick Francis. And though both these grand masters are gone, their work remains for all to enjoy. And I do!

Stay tuned for Part Two.....


teddy crescendo said...

Little darlin`, are you really 44 ! ?, i genuinely thought you was about 36, to me you look 8 years younger than you actually are.

William Malmborg said...

I love this post. It brings back memories of my own personal path to horror, one that has many similarities to yours it seems -- I even had a really cool local theater that I would go to almost daily that has now long since been missing from my hometown. The only difference it seems is while you were reading Stephen King quietly in fear of being told to go to bed, my mother was reading it to me as a bed time story (fearing monsters were around always kept me quiet afterward so they could not locate me).

I also love that you mention the game Clue. We played that game all the time during sleepovers and I must say, when quietly roaming that board in the middle of the night, there is a certain level of eeriness that takes hold. I'm not sure why, but I get a chill just thinking about it now.

Great posted. I can't wait for Part 2.

Christine Hadden said...

teddy (a.k.a. jervaise brooke hamster, a.k.a. eddie lydecker, a.k.a. Anonymous): Because this comment is somewhat complimentary and marginally related to the post itself - and you didn't mention the words 'bugger' and/or 'grope', I will publish it. But the many other comments on the last several posts here at FWF are in "delete-Land". Please also know that I don't give two shits about any of the actors from Poltergeist. I'm too old for your shit. That is all.

Bill: Your mother read Stephen King to you? She's my hero!
And I love that you played Clue, too! Isn't that the best board game ever? I remember my parents getting me this really cool electronic board game called Stop Thief, and despite its modern and updated formula, I still preferred Clue. (And I don't see Stop Thief on shelves these days, either!)

And it does seem like we had similar upbringings! Glad I'm not the only weird one. (Weird in a good way, of course!)

The Mike said...

I will assume it's 44 because you love horror 44 times more than most people. Yup.

Love the abandoned houses thing! It was mostly abandoned barns for me growing up, and I was always a little scared of each of them.

Looking forward to part two!

Christine Hadden said...

Yep Mike, you guessed it! So perceptive! That's why I like the hell outta you ;)

Glad I wasn't the only one sneaking around in the dark (a.k.a. trespassing) when we were young!
I'd be interested in hearing about more of your influences... hint hint ;)

James Gracey said...

Wonderful post! Got me thinking about my own journey to becoming a horror nut.

Christine Hadden said...

Thanks James! It's been fun thinking back to the "good 'ol days". I'm currently working on part 2...

Michele (TheGirlWhoLovesHorror) said...

I love that you mentioned Clue as well because that is by far my favorite board game ever! My family and I actually played it this past weekend (although sometimes it's like pulling teeth to get anybody to play with me - they say it requires too much "thinking"... pfft).

And Jaws, Psycho, Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe, Halloween, John Carpenter, Halloween (the holiday), and cemeteries? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and YES! A true love of any one of those things should be enough to make everyone a horror fan for now and for life.

And your picture of you at the NOTLD cemetery just gave me a great idea for a new post...

Christine Hadden said...

Michele: Clue is completely awesome and no one will tell me any different! A lot of fellow horror fans like ourselves seem to love Clue. Everyone has played it at one time or another, I'm sure.

And I'm quite curious about your new post.....

Franco Macabro said...

The Amytiville HOrror and Halloween where two of the films that scared me the most as a child as sweet old dad took me to see Amytiville to the theaters! When I was something like four years old!

And Halloween II I saw with my cousins in a darkened room, boy, after that movie I was seeing Michael Myers everwhere! Even in the closet of my own room!

Nice article, enjoyed your personal horror story.

Franco Macabro said...

I agree, the bible is a pretty scary book, how's about that part in revelation that says that when god is coming in judgement day, those who do not serve him will have their tongues melt away?

Or how's about that angel of death coming down and killing all of the egyptians first borns? Spooky.

Or hows about that possesed guy that Jesus talks to called 'Legion', the one that says "we are many"...the dude goes around walking in grave yards, cutting himself up with stones...naked.

Scary in deed!

Christine Hadden said...

TFC: I can't believe your dad took you to Amityville Horror when you were four! Yikes! That movie scared the tar out of me!

And I don't know who actually wrote the Bible, but wow! Nasty stuff, that. We sinners don't have a chance, eh?

Thanks for the kind words. I always like reading about others' path to their love of horror!