When did I start liking horror? That's a hard question to answer. My guess is I was probably about 4 years old and living in Tallahassee, Florida when I (or my parents, I don't remember) turned on the TV and there was this guy in a shiny silver suit battling a fierce-looking lumpy reptilian creature. It was about the coolest thing I'd ever seen. The show was "Ultra-Man," and I fell in love with it immediately.
Now, I never much liked the silver suit dude -- but those creatures he fought, woo boy! Boy, I always hoped he'd get his chrome-plated ass handed to him by those cool monsters. He never did. It's still a fact I regret to this very day.
Well, anyway -- Ultra Man led to Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, Gamra, Gidra and the Smog Monster. I could not get enough of those Japanese men in suit movies. And as a kid, I loved the way they kept upping the ante on these movies. DESTROY ALL MONSTERS was like the ultimate multiple orgasm. From then on, I'd watch anything with a monster in it. My choices were limited to what played on TV, but fortunately once my family moved to Ithaca, New York we started to get Channel 11 WPIX -- and they showed a lot of cool 50s monster movies. I loved REPTILICUS (having seen it recently, I really don't know why.) But my favorites were THE DEADLY MANTIS and TARANTULA.
A few years later, I discovered the magazine "Famous Monsters of Filmland." I thought it was so cool, but didn't particularly like the jokey captions underneath the photos. (I took my monsters seriously.) Needless to say, my parents didn't much like my taste. See, I come from a fairly academic family -- my dad's an astronomer/astrophysicist, and my mom's a shrink. And I'm sure it was my mom who seemed to think that my love of ugly creatures had something to do with my self-image and self-worth. Aw, fuck that. I love my mom, but my inner reasons for liking these kinds of things have always been mysterious to me -- and I prefer not to analyze. Some people like pretty things and cute and fluffy bunny rabbits, but I liked lizards, snakes and monsters -- and I never really thought twice about it.
So I kept watching these movies, kept finding new favorites, and found some that were too damn scary for me to cope with. HORROR EXPRESS traumatized me -- I had bad dreams about blood and fluids running out of eyeballs for years. I probably haven't seen that movie since I was ten or eleven, but at that point it was the most horrifying, scary and traumatizing movie I'd ever watched.
The next turning point came when one day in 1979 I went to Mayer's Smoke Shop (our local magazine store) to get the new issue of "Famous Monsters." I bent down on my hands and knees (they always put these on the lower shelves) and started searching, when -- holy shit! I found a new magazine. One that would alter my life completely. It was "Fangoria" Issue Number One, and I'd found my people. I knew then that I wanted to direct horror films someday. I devoured every issue of Fango -- I distinctly remember reading the same article with John Landis in it about AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON ten times before I got bored of it.
Hold on, I'm getting a little ahead of myself. It was Fangoria that got me to go see FRIDAY THE 13th when it came out in theaters. For all my love of giant monsters and everything else, I'd never really seen one of these movies in a theater -- and let's just say I wasn't emotionally prepared. When the kid leaped out of the water and grabbed the chick in the canoe, I was so startled it felt like I had died. (My dad didn't really like this either -- the movie was rated R and, being a good father, he was my guardian that night.) I shook for three days.
In 7th grade my friend Jonathan and I made our own horror movie. We called it THE LAWN CHAIR MASSACRE. We shot it on Super 8 (of course) and it consisted of us crudely trying to emulate those Tom Savini blood tube gags on Jonathan's sister's friends. We never developed the film. My next magnum opus was an 8th grade school project. I conned my teachers into letting me "write" (ie, made up as I went along) and direct an originally titled slasher film, FRENZY. I did this completely unaware of the '72 Hitchcock film. Ah, youth. I even did a cool stop motion title sequence using chalk, a blackboard and some red food coloring. (That film somehow never got developed, either.) I think I passed the project on enthusiasm alone. If either Jonathan Kramnick or Matt (I think that was his name) have these films, please let me know.
Soon, names like "Romero," "Carpenter," "Hooper," and "Cronenberg" were as familiar to me as the names of my friends and family. As a matter of fact, these directors whom I had never met or corresponded with felt like family. And in a lot of ways (while it's much more complicated now), they still do.
After I graduated from high school, I went to Bennington College, where I entered my arty stage. I started listening to a lot of Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat, and The Misfits and reading William Burroughs, Hunter S. Thompson, Jim Carroll and Hubert Selby, Jr. I still saw all of the horror movies I could and majored in drama, still hoping to direct them someday -- but I have to admit that at this time I was more interested in taking drugs, listening to punk rock and trying to get laid. This would all change when I moved to Los Angeles...TO BE CONTINUED
Blood, guts & pussy,