[Editorial] Why I Love Horror

theshiningelevatorblood

So, let me first start off by saying that today is my birthday and therefore I’m writing this, well…because I can. However, it’s because today is my birthday that I’m reflecting back upon my years on this planet and the things that bring me joy; strumming tunes on my guitar, playing a video game or two, hanging out with friends and family, traveling, cooking up an awesome meal for my pals (my hot wings are becoming famous), etc… One of the things that also brings me a great amount of joy is my love of horror, which I have been enjoying ever since I can remember. And since today is my birthday, I figured I’d share with you a bit of my horror journey and why it means so much to me.

I was one of those kids that was drawn to horror ever since I can remember. I sneakily stayed up late to try and watch episodes of Tales From The Crypt, even though they terrified me. I would always borrow Schwartz and Gammell’s The Scary Stories Treasury from the library because the images were so amazing (and the stories weren’t that bad either). I was more drawn to facing Dracula in Castlevania than fighting Bowser in Super Mario Bros. on my NES. My first horror movie memory (as well as my first movie memory in general) was seeing Freddy Kruger burst through Joey’s waterbed in Nightmare On Elm St. 4 on TV.

As a kid, yeah, my love for horror was simply because I craved the blood, gore, and monsters. How cool were they? These were the stuff of nightmares, the things my parents didn’t want me to see because I, “…wasn’t old enough yet.” They were forbidden or, at the least, frowned upon, which was enough for me to say, “I WANT IT!”

As I grew, I began seeing horror in a somewhat different light. While I still loved the gore, creatures, and blood, it became more about what kind of horror movie had the ability to frighten me. After all, since I was watching one horror flick after another, I became somewhat desensitized. I was able to watch “The Year’s Most Terrifying Film!” and not even once wince.

But there was something else that happened in my life that had a rather lasting impact upon me and my ability to appreciate and, in a strange way, connect with horror. When I was very young (about 4 or 5), a family member developed a disease that required them to stay in the hospital for a couple of years. Don’t worry, they’re doing fine now. But for those few years, especially during a time where I was so impressionable and my mind so malleable, the constant trips to the hospital to visit said family member became less and less scary and more and more normal. As a matter of fact, to this day I have no worries of fears when going to a hospital.

I remember a day when my dad took me to the game room so that I could play some NES while he and the doctors did some discussing. The last thing any parent needs at that time is some whiny, sniveling little brat complaining that they, “…just want to go home!” This was also before consoles were put on those wheeled TV stands so that kid wouldn’t have to leave their rooms. So, as I said, off to the game room I went. Now let me paint you a picture of the game room, shall I? It was very well lit, with lots of windows that let in a great deal of sunshine. The walls were painted with happy imagery, such as trees, smiling animals, the whole shebang. However, and here’s where things get a little surreal, the kids who were in that room, playing on NES consoles or putting together puzzles or building a new Lego sculpture, were patients. Many of these children had, for necessary reasons, limbs amputated. Some had tubes running in and out of them. Others were bald and gaunt from treatments. The sight of these children in a room so cheery felt almost like some nightmarish circus.

But this room became very familiar to me. It became my playroom away from home. It was the family room TV where I had my NES hooked up, only in a hospital and with many other children playing nearby. These children, whose great suffering was so easily seen both physically and mentally, became my pals. And, as you can imagine, there were times when I would go in and those children wouldn’t be there anymore, either because they died or because they were well enough to go home.

This surreal lifestyle was a way of life for me. It made me see deformities and physical handicaps in a completely different way than had I never gone through these years. The creatures in horror films were now relatable. They could be understood, if one were to simply empathize a little. They were simply the “Other”, that which we may not understand and which the vast majority of us choose to not understand.

I had two choices when I was going through this at that young age: I could’ve feared and mistrusted those poor children who so desperately needed a distraction from their grueling everyday pains OR I could’ve done what I ultimately chose to do, which was face them head on and not avert my eyes. I’ve stared deep into the eyes of people who knew that they were basically the walking dead, where any breath could very well be their last. I saw their strength, their constant will to fight, and it inspired me. And horror was the way that I could take the reality of the situation and give it an outlet, a way to come to a conclusion where the true enemy could be defeated.

For me, horror is seeing people in terrifying, seemingly unwinnable situations and finding the strength to push forward, to persevere, to fight for every moment of life. And I love that. I love seeing people appreciate what they have.

I also love horror because I see the strength of the community. We may bicker and complain about remakes, sequels, reboots, whether a film is horror or not, etc… But at the end of the day there is this bond that only we can understand. We can look at each other and recognize the passion and the love. For many of us, horror is our outlet from the daily drudgery that is life.

I’ve been a writer for Bloody-Disgusting for over three and a half years and every day fills me with joy. I get to be a part of the greatest community on the planet (yeah, some bias may be showing here) and while I may not agree with everything each of you say, I respect the hell out of each and every single one of you. We’ve each gone through our own difficulties and we’re here, stronger with each day.

We are society’s “The Other”. We are our family’s “black sheep”. We are, according to other students, “the weird one”. But that won’t stop us. That has never stopped us.

And that, my dear readers, is why I love horror. Because of you. Because of what it has taught me. Because of how it has shaped me to appreciate every single moment I have.

Now, having gone all sentimental and personal with all of you, I’m off to enjoy the rest of my birthday with a sushi dinner, some free birthday shots, and a horror movie or two.

P.S. The reason the banner image is from The Shining is because that’s one of my all-time favorite horror films. That’s all.

Got any thoughts/questions/concerns for Jonathan Barkan? Shoot him a message on Twitter or on Bloody-Disgusting!

 
  • WalkingDeadGuy

    Happy Birthday, Jonathan! Great post.

    Horror is also something that I have always been drawn to since I can remember. The first image that I remember not being able to shake from my head was Tina’s death scene in NOES; seeing her being dragged by the ceiling did a number on me, but I relished every minute of it. The same can be said about John Carpenters music theme for Halloween; never has “sound” been so scary and exhilarating.

    I would literally spend every Friday night renting all the horror nasties, and yes, it was always a battle convincing my parents to allow me to. I remember watching ‘Scream’ for the first time in the theater at the age of 12 and being completely blown away by this new modern turn in horror. From that day I knew I wanted to become a horror screenwriter and produce work that will hopefully one day be as appreciated and will resinate the same way the classics do by my fellow horror fans.

    I am now 28 and I’m happy to say that horror is just as important to me as it ever has been. They might not have the same effect on me, as I too have been desensitized, but they warm my heart the same way ‘It’s a Wonderful life’ does when I watch it on Christmas.

    • JonathanBarkan

      Thanks for reading and thanks for the great story!

  • Matt

    I agree wholeheartedly with both of your posts. Fantastic ways of putting horror. I remember my dad, when i was young, told my local video store that i was allowed to rent rated-R movies with no adult present. So i would always go on a friday night right after school, me being about 7 years old, and renting 5 horror movies for 5 Dollars. I have just always been really drawn to horror. It is an outlet of all expression and emotion, and i simply love it.

    • JonathanBarkan

      I WISH my rental store would’ve allowed that OR that my folks would’ve been that cool, haha!

  • minya

    A VERY Happy Birthday, wonderful article, many of your points expressed my youth, my life, you speak for a great many of us sir, we thank you!

    • JonathanBarkan

      Thank you! I really appreciate it!

  • Kwonkicker

    My first horror memory was watching A Nightmare On Elm Street with my cousin when I was 8. Needless to say, I was scared shitless and couldn’t sleep that whole night. Horror as since become one of my favorite genres. I’ve said it before and I will say it again; THIS is the year that horror dominates.

    Happy Bday and long live horror!!

    • JonathanBarkan

      First memory NOES buddies! Long live horror!

  • BloodGutsnGore

    NOES was also my first horror film and i was 5 i told my dad after trick r treating that i wanted to watch the scariest movie ever and that wat he presented me… and boy at the time of my life he was right.

    • JonathanBarkan

      Right? Freddy is just so good at terrifying yet enticing children. He’s so entertaining.

  • ThunderDragoon

    “We are society’s “The Other”. We are our family’s “black sheep”. We are, according to other students, “the weird one”. But that won’t stop us. That has never stopped us.”

    Damn, man, that hit me hard! I’m both gay and have social anxiety so I truly am the black sheep of my family. You truly make me appreciate how amazing it is to be a part of this community. This was so great. Thank you for sharing your story with us. Happy birthday, Jonathan!

    • JonathanBarkan

      Thanks! And don’t ever hold back because of who you are. I live in a community where there is a strong LGBTQ community and they’re some of the best people around. Plus, you’re one of us, so you’re already in a great spot!

  • SuperKilla

    Happy Birthday man! Nightmare on elm St. 2 was my first horror film glad to see that series inspired all of us.

    • JonathanBarkan

      Thanks for the birthday wish! And that series seems to be the launching point for a great many of us. ANOES has so much of what we love in the genre, so it makes total sense.

  • Incinerated

    Very cool editorial and happy birthday. I like the aspect of it that focuses on what I will call the ‘ugliness’ in life. I like how you bring out coming not just to some place of cold normalization through looking at ‘ugliness’ but to a deeper place of empathy in that normalization where you found that maybe that ‘ugliness’ isn’t ugly at all.

    The new Texas Chainsaw comes to mind since it took an interesting empathic route.

    • JonathanBarkan

      Thanks very much!
      All one has to do is look at things with a slightly different perspective. It’s like turning the Hellraiser puzzle box and suddenly solving it (although that usually ends rather poorly, so this might be a bad analogy).

  • katshot

    Signing up under every word. It’s like family, i know this well, because i have no such family (no friends-horror-fans irl) for now :(
    Still, happy birthday! I’m happy that i find Bloody Disgusting some time ago, now that’s my favourite page in whole internet :D

    Cheers, bro!

  • JonathanBarkan

    Cheers right back! You’re always welcome here!