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The Exorcist

Black Sabbath


Why not?

Horror films and stories have captivated me pretty much as far back as I can remember. The idea that something we know is fiction (or supposedly based on fact) can generate the emotion of fear in us seems pretty powerful. (More precisely the idea that any fiction, be it written or played out on stage or screen, can generate any emotion within us at all is actually fascinating to me. How can we become emotionally involved in something we know to be totally false, a figment of some writer's imagination? The human capacity for sympathy and or empathy must be very powerful and must hearken back to a time when community and communication were in their evolutionary infancy.) Fear is such a base emotion. Raw and reptilian, fight or flight, kill or be killed. We've toted around those feelings for literally millions of years, long before we had a sense of love, kindness, community, or sadness we felt fear. Fight or flight is the basic response of everything from earthworms (although the fight may be left out) to humans. It doesn't get much more 'base' than that.

For me it all started when I was about knee high to a grasshopper. My parents are much older than parents of most people my age (my dad was 45 when I was born and my mom wasn't too far behind). They always told the stories of walking to see the horror movies at the local theatre, and then walking home after dark, too scared to "take the shortcut". I was growing up at a time when network TV played what they wanted after the local news so access to broadcast horror movies was pretty easy. We had Friday Fright Night on the CBS affiliate every Friday at 10:30, Science Fiction Theatre at noon on Saturdays, and we had Creature Feature (with Crematia Mortum) every Saturday on channel 41, which later became a Fox affiliate and is now an NBC affiliate but at the time wasn't anyone's affiliate I guess. So I loaded up every weekend on 30s ("Dracula", "Bride of Frankenstein"), 40s ("The Cat People", "Son of Dracula"), 50s ("Creature From The Black Lagoon", "War of the Worlds"), 60s ("The House of Usher", "The Terror"), and 70s ("Trilogy of Terror", "Phantasm") horror flicks. Also a little later USA began broadcasting Night Flight and would occasionally play classic horror ("Night of the Living Dead") or offbeat horror ("October Garden").

I guess there are three movies that stand out in my mind. One was called "Don't be Afraid of the Dark". It's the story of a young couple that move into an old house and begin to fix it up. The wife wants to use the old fireplace in the den; the old repairman doesn't think it's a good idea. She does it anyway and these small rat monkey like things come out in the dark and whisper things. Of course no one believes the lady and she gets hysterical so they sedate her and... Well that movie scared the crap out of me. I was pretty young when I saw it and was terrified to go into a dark room by myself for some time to come. So why would I want to repeat that terrible experience? But repeat it I did. The next horror movie memory I have is "Black Sabbath", Mario Bava's classic trilogy of tales hosted by Boris Karloff. I don't remember even seeing the first two tales but that third one has stayed with me until this day. A lady is asked to stay with a corpse until the coroner can come in the morning to pick it up. The lady notices a nice ring on the corpse and figures "who's gonna know?" Of course she wasn't figuring on the corpse knowing, which it does. Wow, that one freaked me out big time. Was I done with horror movies then? No way! I wanted more and more. (I have an addictive personality!) So one night my parents were having a party and everyone was downstairs and to my great luck, "The Exorcist" was being played on broadcast TV that night. It was then that I really learned how powerfully frightening something like a movie could be. I couldn't sit still and watch it all the way through; I had to keep changing the channel but then, because of some unknown compulsion, changing it back. I was scared bad after that so naturally I watched more horror.

By the mid to late 80s the networks pretty much took over full time and local origination stuff was all but gone. Luckily I was old enough to sneak into the movies. I road my bike to see "Poltergeist" and a little later I remember SD and I sneaking into "A Nightmare on Elm Street." Those were the days! I didn't get to see as much horror but it was exciting when I did get to see it.

Now we live in the DVD and instant gratification age. There are thousands of Websites like this one, thousands of books to read and study the genre, thousands of places to buy, rent, sell, and view horror movies. There are expanded editions, collector's editions, special editions, boxed editions, and anniversary editions of tons of horror titles. Yeah some of the adventure is gone, but the selection more than makes up for it. And so does the price. I have a pretty extensive horror movie collection that, through judicious use of Ebay and DVD box sets, I figure to have spent less than $3 a movie. Less than renting each movie would be, if you could even find some of these movies to rent (although sites like NetFlix are changing that).

So that's where it stands. Horror Movies are my second hobby, behind only my love for listening to and playing music. I started writing these reviews as kind of a yearly tradition to send to friends every October and it has come to this. Hopefully I will continue to expand and add to this collection of reviews and hopefully you'll get some use out of it. Feel free to email me to argue or comment:

David A. Burns

tastes like road kill