I hate to say I hate things. Hate is the ultimate diss after all, isn’t it? When you say you hate something, you really don’t give a shit what happens to it. You don’t care if you never see or hear it ever again. That’s the force, the gravitas, of that word. It’s a word that should be reserved for very specific occasions, like unforgiveable acts (violence, deplorable human nature, etc.) As I’ve gotten older and more firmly grasped onto how the world works, I find myself recoiling from hate instead of leaning into it (forgive me for the heaviness of that statement and applying it to discussing horror movies.) I want to take care of the relationship I have with films because it’s the longest one I’ve ever had. Movies have always been there for me right from the start. I learned about life and death and way too many sexual innuendos from movies. I fell for these visual stories and once I saw horror, I was in way over my head. I didn’t just jump into its bed though, alright? I took my time with it. I tested the waters with Halloween specials and kid-targeted shows. I was scared at first (like you should be, duh) but I didn’t hide from it. Sure, I cried every time I went to my local haunted corn maze attraction. And yes, I may or may not have needed friends to walk me to the bathroom after watching a real doozy late at night. Being scared of the dark and things hiding behind doors are perfectly normal things for young-ish adults to experience and absolutely never, ever carry into adulthood. But man, once I grew up a bit more and started watching flicks outside the current box office, I was hooked. You couldn’t get me to talk about anything else. If you were one of the kind souls who wanted to be my friend during those formative years, you were subjected to a horror movie. You were going to witness the joy on my face when yours looked scared.
Now at almost 30 years old, I think back on why the hell my parents never talked to me about this stuff. Your quiet, dorky kid is shut in her room watching The Exorcist, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and The Silence of the Lambs on repeat damn near every day, not to mention the books she’s bringing home from the library and eBay. Were they worried that I was going to end up as a creep? That dark thoughts would take over my fragile mind? Did they fear for my slowly dissolving Christian soul? I don’t know and I’ll probably never know. It’s hard to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and view a younger version of yourself objectively. What you can do is think back on your mindset all those years ago. Mine was wonderment. Excitement. This macabre, dark stuff excited me. Not in a “I literally cannot orgasm without this stuff” way but in a “I feel properly alive when I watch this” way. The younger me who fell hard in love with horror felt that joy in the purest way. It was the one love, the one obsession, that’s never left me. But somewhere along the way, I found time for hate. I started to develop this jaded outlook on certain horror films and subgenres. I started to be “that fan” who couldn’t let a sleeping dog lie when someone commented on a particularly (and technically) shitty film. I wasn’t always vicious, just visibly irritated.
After that phase, I sort of just lost that twinge of electricity I felt whenever a new horror movie was announced. Not because of a lack of interest or love but because lately, horror had been letting me down. Everything from misleading trailers to insanely glowing reviews about okay movies had instilled this new sense of distrust in me. What was I to expect from this new “woke” horror wave after Hereditary and Midsommar completely blew us away? Could I believe the hype from ANYBODY anymore after being bamboozled two-too many times? It started to feel like a warning whenever polished, minimalist poster art dropped, with a sly wink that said “this isn’t anything like we’re selling it to be.” I was having my emotions played with far too much and not in a fun way. So there I was, stagnant. Shunning the horror movies that have inhabited my Hulu and Prime feeds for months and background-listening to my tried and trues that I knew wouldn’t disappoint me. And because of that, I stopped growing as a horror fan. I was on the cusp of being a grumpy dick hole who couldn’t let anyone enjoy their movies or support new horror. So, in an attempt to recapture that younger, more curious horror fan I have lurking in me somewhere, I’m revisiting the horror films that I have been quoted to say I hate. Don’t get me wrong, though. I can sure as shit tell when a film isn’t the greatest or when one strikes me in the right spot. I know opinions are simply that, opinions, and I’m in no way out to be a film critic. This is more of an effort to flex those stiff emotional bits in my brain to see why I felt that way about a movie and if maturity (or rather, aging) has altered my outlook on it.
Let me lay down some foundation. I love ghosts. I love vampires. I love gothic. I love horror that flirts with, not marries, true crime. I love films with clever humor. Despite my scaredy cat tendencies, I love well done jump scares. The whole point of this thing is to be scared, right? The Big Three for me are the ones I mentioned above. I never once not-loved those movies. They’re totally unrelated but each has something I’m subconsciously looking for.
What I’m not so big on anymore is slashers. They were beyond critical in my development of horror and I firmly believe one must indulge in the unholy trinity of Freddy, Michael, and Jason to kinda “get” the mainstream appeal of this genre. Are they on my hate list? Well… one might be. The other two I don’t have many qualms with. I think so many horror fans come from a place rooted in nostalgic adoration and I’m no less guilty. I’m a 90’s baby and I’d be a goddamn liar if I said it didn’t get belligerent whenever I see anything Goosebumps or Tales from the Crypt related. THAT’S my wheelhouse. I don’t get excited about Ghostbusters, Monster Squad, The Goonies, or that terrifying bastard E.T. You won’t see me waiting in line to watch found footage, rape revenge, zombie flicks, most 70s exploitation, the “devil” in any title, or straight-forward creature features. Most of my hate list are older horror movies that I simply did NOT understand the popularity of. Shit, I gotta stop using that word. These are the types of films that I DNFW- do not fuck with.
My corny ass insisted I name this refresher course of mine with a gaggy title (after all, The Crypt Keeper is a personal hero of mine). I came up with Take Another Stab, as it feel short enough, punny enough, and visceral enough for my purposes. I’m aiming to get these things out on a weekly-biweekly basis, but you know life happens and shit. This series will look a little like this; the first half of the post will be my initial negative outlook on it and the second will be, you guessed it, my outlook after a recent viewing. Will it change? Will it be the same? Will I actually *love* it? I hope you’ll stick around and find out. Maybe it’s a movie you don’t like too and we can have some cyber bonding over a shared dislike. Maybe it’s a movie you fucking love and you want to start some insignificant cyber beef with me. Either way, I’m going to have a great time wading back into the films whose existence, despite their flaws, make me oh-so-happy.