Ginger Nuts of Horror
It's a question that everyone who is into horror must get asked a million times, "how did you get into horror". We all have different stories to tell, most of which will share common themes and appearances from many of the same horror genre staples. Alex Bowley takes us on his own journey of what got him onto horror.
So how did you get into horror? What draws you to the genre? What was the catalyst the sparked your lifelong addiction? Those are questions that I get asked all the time.
For me, it all started when I was 3 or 4 years old. I, along with the rest of my family, would visit my grandma in Liverpool. My favourite thing to do there was to plonk myself down in front of her bookcase. And proceed to take the books out one by one and examine the covers (It probably arose from my mam always reading books with me), except my grandma's bookcase, was full of horror novels not the children's stories I would find at home. I’m not sure why I was attracted to looking at the covers, maybe I liked scaring myself, an image frozen in time, my imagination running wild about what the pictures meant, what stories awaited inside that I would never read, maybe it was just childhood wonderment of a new experience.
And so my addiction was born. As I would get older, I would feed it by whatever means I could. I was lucky enough to be alive during the home video boom; that meant that a hell of a lot of shops had a video rental section. So on Saturdays, when my mam and dad dragged me to the local Co-op department store, I would be found, not in the toy section looking at the star wars figures I longed for (okay you would half the time) but in the video rental section carefully examining all the horror film box art. Where I would be found reading the synopsises and tag lines, allowing my imagination to go into overdrive wondering at the terrifying delights, I was not authorised to watch.
The tag lines served their intended effect on me most of the time, whether it was Phantasm suggesting that if it wouldn’t scare me, I was already dead or Squirm -the night of crawling terror is coming.
The tag line that disturbed me the most was 'The Things’ ‘MAN IS THE WARMEST PLACE TO HIDE’.
In my child's mind, this had nothing to do with the cold temperatures of the films setting. It was more about this unnamed beast snuggled deep inside someone, lurking there, its horror slowly taking over the mind and personality of the host body.
Looking back I suppose it seemed an odd ‘hobby’ to have, going straight to the video section of a shop spending hours gleaning whatever information I could from the often lurid VHS sleeves.
I used to think I was alone in my misspent youth roaming the video aisles until hearing an episode of the now-defunct Killer POV where the hosts confessed to spending a disproportionate amount of their younger years obsessing over the lurid box art of the VHS era.
Kids these days have no idea how easy it is to watch horror films. In my day, it was a case of scouring the TV guide and setting the video to record them all. Even then, they all had to be viewed first by my dad first to see if they were suitable or not. He Held the power of veto over my obsession. So I got to watch all the old Hammer films and the excellent Amicus Portmanteau films which I still get great joy from today.
Some movies I was denied viewing, 'The Thing’(that unwatched film sure had an effect on my young brain) is the one film that always sticks in my mind. My mate was allowed to watch it and was kind enough to record the audio onto a cassette tape for me to listen to. I appreciated the gesture I gave up after 15 minutes as the effect wasn’t quite the same, not to mention the audio quality was dire at best.
Some films I got to watch because my dad watched the first half hour then gave them a pass (he would have been sacked by the BBFC). Holocaust 2000 fell into that category, a brilliant film when your 11 or 12 not quite so good on re-watching nearly 30 years later.
One day I was allowed to watch Alien, I think my parents thought it might scare the shit out of me, or that I might throw up at the chest burster scene and scare me straight. I think their plan may have failed.
My horror education continued over the years, gradually being allowed to watch 15 rated films from the video shop, and so the likes of Terrorvision, the excellent House, and the ‘I don’t remember it being this awful’ Ghoulies were eagerly consumed. At the time I had the fortune of being young and free of responsibilities and so films were watched repeatedly until having to be returned to the shop.
Aged 14 (I know fairly late) I finally got to watch my first 18 rated film from the video shop, it was round my mate's house and was a double bill of A Nightmare on Elm Street and Day of the Dead, these films I would still put in my all time top ten. I remember before I watched Day of the Dead thinking that it must be absolutely terrifying judging by the VHS cover, and yet it wasn’t, it's true your imagination is far scarier than anything that could be out on celluloid.
Aged 15 I managed to rent my first 18 from our local video shop on my own, so from that point on it was no holds barred, the world of horror films was my oyster, all the horrific delights of the video shop were there to be devoured. The only thing stopping me was the BBFC who were very draconian at that point.
I could get into 18 films at the cinema so got to see Nightbreed and the Exorcist 3 on the big screen (another 2 that would make it into my top ten, don’t pin me down on it though as I would never be able to pick just 10) I still hadn’t seen the exorcist thanks to the BBFC. The Exorcist 3 will forever live in my memory as the only time I've seen an entire audience jump in unison; you know what scene I'm talking about.
Here I am aged 41 still with my addiction intact. I couldn’t tell you how many horror films I've watched, like you I've watched my favourites countless times. I have bought movies on multiple formats starting with VHS, moving on to DVD and now on to Bluray, do I really need the 4K scan of chainsaw massacre steel book when I already own the seriously ultimate edition? HELL YES. Horror is my addiction, and there has never been a better time for me, horror tv series are popular, the BBFC are a lot more lenient these days, and I can find anything that is still cut or banned on T'internet. We have the likes of Arrow video and 88 films bringing out classic films in glorious Blu-ray editions, and yet I still long for those days sat in front of my Grandmas book case with my imagination going wild.