June 20, 2010
Father of Horror: Ode to my Dad
I owe my love of horror to my father.
For personal reasons, this year has been a tough one, so I find myself pouring over nostalgic memories and dwelling quite a bit on the past. While trying to remember exactly how I first discovered my favorite horror films, I made an unexpected revelation: Dad helped make me the horror fan I am today.
Now, Dad is not a horror fan. Except for movies as disposable entertainment, my father has never expressed much interest in any genre of art and literature (especially books). I love my dad and he's been nothing but supportive and good to me, but we don't share many interests as far as media is concerned. Yet, when I think back to my favorite horror films -- the films that profoundly skewed my interest in movies towards the fantastical and horrific-- it turns out that they were all recommendations from my father.
1.) Night of the Living Dead (1968)
I have been a lover of zombie media ever since. I don't know if I have come to zombies on my own (at least not with the same love), but my Dad's recommendation of Night came at a time where I was impressionable. It completely captured my imagination. Without Dad's recommendation, my other site -- The Zed Word zombie blog -- may not exist and I probably would not have become part of Horror in the Hammer through their annual Hamilton Zombie Walk. Anything I do relating to zombies, and all the friends I have met through zombie fan communities, I owe in no small part to my father.
2.) Creepshow (1982)
3) The Fly (1986)
"Just wait for the arm-wrestling scene."
Again, because I was growing up in the days before DVDs when our budget for VHS rentals was controlled by my parents who were not keen on renting horror films, I came to find some of my favorite horror films through TV. If I remember correctly, I saw a commercial for The Fly broadcast on TV, but the ad didn't give much info on the film save for some tantalizing and bizarre images. I remember asking Dad if he had seen it. He had, but he was unwilling to tell me many details. He said it as science fiction / horror (so I would probably like it), but he left me with one tantalizing tidbit: "Just wait for the arm-wrestling scene." What could that mean?
The Fly was probably the first gross-out film I ever saw. Watching Brundle slough off body parts as he mutates into a hideous fly creature that vomits acid on his food and enemies was like nothing I had ever seen before. The images in this movie (Brundle's peeling fingernails, the arm wrestling scene, the birth of the maggot baby) are embedded so deeply in my mind I can recall them with crystal clarity at a moment's notice. Even today, when I look at the stubborn hair growing on my shoulders as I age (thanks for the genes, Dad!), I can't help but think of Brundle discovering the first wiry fly hairs protruding from his own flesh.
Like Night of the Living Dead, The Fly also captured my imagination with its ideas. The terrifying but exhilarating avenues of body as a site of horror ingrained within me a love of body horror that compelled me to seek out Cronenberg's other work, namely Videodrome and Naked Lunch. Though my discovery of Cronenberg as a filmmaker, I was also exposed to the contributions that Canadians have made to horror. Viewing The Fly was, if you excuse the pun, a transformative experience. Had Dad had not made that cryptic comment about the arm wrestling scene, I might not have stayed up to watch The Fly.
So, this Father's Day I have to give thanks to my dad. Although we never discussed horror movies, in his own way he shaped my horror fandom. By recommending to me Night of the Living Dead, Creepshow, and The Fly, Dad unwittingly put me on the path to some great and horrifying experiences. Although we don't share many interests, we do share this odd and until now unspoken connection. He passed down to me these films that were memorable to him so that I could make them a part of myself. When I think of these films, I think of him.
And for that, I am very thankful.
Happy Father's Day, Dad!