I've loved scary movies since I was a little gay boy growing up in Arizona. I saw my very first at four years old when my babysitter slipped a TV-taped copy of Poltergeist into our VHS player. My mom was horrified when she got home, but not me:
I was HORROR-FIED.
From old-school classics like Psycho to creature feature camp like Critters to more recent gems like Ti West's X and Bodies Bodies Bodies, I consume all things horror like it's, well, The Stuff (my all-time favorite B-Horror).
Over the years, I've thought a lot about WHY horror is my favorite genre. What is it about these films that make me so damn giddy? Why do they make me simultaneously scream, laugh, jump, and clap for the bad guy? Well, I now have a theory.
This past summer, I took in the eclectic crowd at Monsterpalooza, a biannual horror convention in Pasadena, CA. All kinds of horror peeps were waiting for Neve Campbell's (!!!) autograph. I spotted the usual mix of punks and goths but also many queer folks, BIPOC, and people with disabilities.
Seeing all of us marginalized communities in one room, celebrating what we love together — a HORROR RAINBOW CONNECTION, if you will — was when I had my "Oprah Aha Moment." Presumably, we had all, at some point, felt a little different from others, especially when growing up. Maybe we were dismissed, stereotyped, and bullied; even called a "freak" once or twice. Or, in my case, way too many times to count.
A freak, huh?
I believe this is why I and others in the Horror Rainbow Connection adore the genre and its villains. Because, in some people's eyes, that's who WE were (or are):
Horror fans don't root for the victims (characters who are typically young, hot, popular, straight, and white). No, we cheer on Freddy, Michael, Jason, and Chucky, waiting for our horror heroes to get some revenge FOR US by shedding bright, cherry-red blood. Finally, the jerky jerks who made our childhoods less-than-ideal are getting some much-needed payback on the big screen by our favorite monsters—catharsis at its best. For people not in our community, we horror fans are some of the sweetest darn people you'll ever meet. Ever. We only like violence served fake, thank you very much.
Before I was a writer, I was an actor, which I call the "gateway drug" into the entertainment industry. And in 2004, while studying theatre at Cal State Northridge, I found out I had been cast as the lead in a horror movie called, The Pumpkin Karver (yes, with a "K"). I was to star alongside Minka Kelly, who would soon be seen in the show Friday Night Lights. So, feeling super excited about making my horror debut, I dropped out of college (I was young, and this was WAY before being diagnosed with ADHD) and headed North on the Antelope Valley 14 Freeway, where the movie was being filmed.
Sure, The Pumpkin Karver, a straight-to-DVD slasher, was no John Carpenter masterpiece. We also shot the movie off and on over two torturously long and dusty years in Lancaster because of funding issues. But I was gonna be a freaking Final Girl! Okay, fine, a Final Guy. But in reality, I was a Final Gay: Even though I was supposed to be Minka Kelly's boyfriend, I was clearly serving some Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge Mark Patton swish n' swirl. Regardless, my dreams of horror movie magic had finally come true!
And in the final scene of the film, there's a big twist, y'all:
I WAS SECRETLY THE KILLER THE ENTIRE TIME!
Yes, I was the one who stabbed all those young, hot, popular, straight, and white people at the low-rent Halloween farm bash with my dinky pumpkin carving knife. I was the one who hollowed out Minka's perfect face like a jack-o'-lantern (lit candle included). It was me. I was the bad guy. The producers hired an openly gay twink with flat-ironed hair as the freak.
See? I think I'm on to something.
About the Author: Mike Zara is an LGBTQ film and TV writer in Los Angeles. His credits include TNT’s MAJOR CRIMES, the upcoming series CRIME FARM, and the Syfy holiday horror comedy LETTERS TO SATAN CLAUS. Mike and writer/director Nicholas Verso currently have a YA horror project in development with Stampede Ventures.
Follow Mike on Twitter: @ZaraTalks
[Editor's Note: Main article image above is courtesy of Travis Falligant! We've also included a look at the trailer for 2006's The Pumpkin Karver below!]