Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Monster Movies & Me

I have an interesting history with monster/horror Movies. For a time, they freaked me out. I blame one man for that - Christopher Lee. For a little kid growing up in the 70s, Hammer films were everywhere. Christopher Lees portrayal of Dracula was scary, seductive, and menacing. It freaked me out. That man scared the living bejeezuz out of me. In college, I went back and watched the Hammer films and discovered their allure. I love them now, but if seven-year-old Rick saw Christopher Lee on the street, would have pissed himself in fear. There was a movie that also terrorized me as a kid was 1975's Trilogy of Terror starring Karen Black. It is a three act anthology movies with Ms. Black starring as different characters in each segment. The act with the Zuni Fetish doll scared me beyond belief it was a total wig out moment when I saw it. Another thing that got me was a trailer It’s Alive. I never saw the movie just the trailer and to a six year old me that was enough to traumatize. It was about evil mutant babies and if you are a younger kid who has baby sibling you know that is not too far off from reality at least in a little kid's mind.

Let us start in the beginning. I used to check out those Crestwood Monster Movie books as a kid. I thought they were cool. I loved a lot of horror comedies like the Abbott and Costello Meets series, Mad Monster Party, The Addams Family, and The Munsters. I could handle the Universal monster movies, Vincent Price films, Roger Corman films, Ray Harryhausen films, Godzilla movies, and a great deal of the sixties schlocky films. Like all young boys, I thought they were cool and neat. Ray Harryhausen was a childhood hero of mine. I was fascinated with the Sinbad movies he did, as well as with Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans. Many of his movies were more action and adventure and less horror. Now, I was more into super heroes than monsters, but many monsters are found in comics, too. Vincent Prices element of camp made his movies a bit more palatable. That may have worked for me, allowing me to laugh at what scared me. My mom let me read the kid-friendly monster books from Harvey Comics - Casper, Wendy, Spooky, and Hot Stuff. Those were easier on me than some of the other stronger scary comics.

I grew up in and out of hospitals and as a little boy, I knew what real horror could be. The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock, Outer Limits, and Hammer horror films freaked me out, maybe due to their intense emotional content. I just know that I could not watch them for the longest time. My uncle was a huge fan of the Warren horror comics, EC reprints, DC, and Marvel horror lines. I was able to handle those because of they were hand drawn. In 1982, I went to see Poltergeist in the theater, and this was the rekindling of my love of monster and horror movies, television, books, and comics. I got into the Nightmare and Elm Street films, the Return of the Living Dead films, and so much more.

As a teenager, I discovered that according to certain Eastern European superstitions, I would have been expected to become either a werewolf or a vampire just because I have a cleft lip and palate. This made me curious in my twenties. I watched and read many vampire- and werewolf--based media, including the White Wolf World of Darkness role-playing game setting. As an adult, I began to see a trend in which the monsters were not the real evil; humanity was. This was through the Clive Barker film Nightbreed and many of the Zombie media as well. With my experiences as a young child this was not refuted. I started going back and checking out those things that scared me as a little kid: Hammer Films, Twilight Zone (I watched those when I was 13), Outer Limits and Alfred Hitchcock. I began to read Horror, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy and Mythic Fiction. I saw that the line between these genres were thin. Charles De Lint and Clive Barker often blurred the lines between them often.

The theme of what is the true monster - the other or us - is a theme from the ages and it continues today. These monster movies can be used to tell allegories we otherwise would not be able to handle. Sometimes understanding our darker nature as a species is not easy. My history with monsters in movies went from the safe as a kid, to the more philosophical as an adult. With certain childhood experiences and even certain adult ones, I learned what true monsters were. Using the supernatural, horrific and grotesque to examine these ideas in a safe forum, we are able to ask and answer some very hard questions about ourselves and our natures. That Is My Not So Humble Opinion.

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