To say these are dark times is an understatement with a constant current of dread running through it. As I write this, countries are clamping down, flailing to stay ahead of an invisible boogeyman that could come for anyone, and as concern turns to fear, preventative measures are in place to slow the spread. Social distancing (the polite way of saying “get the fuck away from me, thanks”), quarantining, and cleaning like your mother-in-law is coming for a visit have become top priorities for people looking to stay alive while helping those that are most vulnerable. Since so many people are forced to be at home, they will naturally turn to creature comforts: activities that act as a security blanket when anxiety and depression become overwhelming. If you’re reading this, chances are you turn to horror.
Horror is certainly not a catch-all for most folks; there are many that will self-medicate to the sounds of Beethoven or Bad Religion, perhaps even both or somewhere in between. Then there are those who spend their time doing crafts with their children, playing games to shield them as much as they can from the existential angst of our current situation. Some knit. The point is we all have a decompression valve that has been in vigorous use since this all began; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
But horror fans are a slightly different breed; we contain the same multitudes of introverts and extroverts as any other block of film fandom, but there is something special about our particular street corner.
As a horror fan I glom to the unkempt, the vicious, and the outrageous for pleasure. I often don’t see people like myself portrayed in mainstream cinema (short, stalky, anxiety ridden, good beard), so I turn to horror to spend time with people with emotional problems that usually manifest beyond their control. And sometimes I just need the kills ma’am, so I look to Jason (Friday V FOREVA), Freddy, Michael, and Victor Crowley (among others) to line ’em up and mow them down—and the more spectacularly, the better.
While many turn away in disgust, repulsion, and fear at horror’s offerings, I celebrate it, because for me it’s often a respite from the escalating awfulness of the world, and a reminder that someone is always worse off.
But what happens when I become that “someone”? Our current global crisis has thrust everyone into survival mode. With everything shut down, will we be able to function, to live with no means of employment? We worry—and rightfully so—about our very existence.
But the horror community can be—and often is—at its best when things seem hopeless. I’ve seen countless friends and acquaintances on social media reach out to one another for comfort, to check on one another, to offer support in any way we can. In addition to lending a hand, we have become each other’s distractions, funny memes and “best of” lists to take our minds off the world around us. At least for a moment.
It’s the same functions that our beloved movies provide: empathy and connection. We can watch Frankenstein and feel bad for the monster, or show remorse for The Wolf Man and his tragic curse, or grit our teeth along with Leslie Vernon as he grows frustrated with his place in the horror icon world. We care for these characters, and in turn, we care for the creators who make it and for the people who enjoy it.
This isn’t the easiest thing to do; when the world seems like it’s cratering in on you, it can be difficult to summon the strength to look past your own purview. This is not only normal, it’s recommended. I certainly hope that everyone takes the time for self-care. It’s crucial to one’s sanity and health. (And you need to be of sound mind and body to see all the horror movies, even Verotika. Okay, especially Verotika.) Be easy on yourself. We’re all on top of the ruins together.
I have seen some horror fans even reluctant to view a good portion of our vast genre catalogue, as it can just be too much. Siege movies are off the table for me; encroaching, palpable doom is not my bag at the moment. The same goes for nihilistic bummers, which roughly covers about seventy percent of my beloved ’70s. I find myself skewing towards lighter fare; horror comedies (the good ones, natch) have a way to bring a smile and the gory goods, or the over-the-top ridiculousness of the Italian greats (Fulci! Argento! Bava! Probably more Fulci!) as they wash over you in a wave of color and kinetic vibrations.
As horror lovers, we pick our own beaus; there are even those prone to bathe in the bleak beauty of a Martyrs to get them through. And who’s to say they’re wrong? Whatever it takes to ease your mind, or to give you hope, should be priority one. But one thing is for certain: we are here for each other, pole to pole; no amount of distancing or tragedy will ever tear us apart. And we will prevail.