When I was around seven, I remember being at my grandmother’s house with my younger brother and even younger cousin and hearing them in the next room laughing hysterically at something. Curious, I went to find out what it was—only to discover that they were watching Child’s Play. Now, I was old enough to know that this was a movie we were definitely not allowed to watch and that the reason was because my parents and my cousin’s mom would have expected it to terrify and traumatize any child under seven years old. And I would have agreed with them. But my brother and cousin were actually laughing. Maybe not at the movie itself; maybe at the fact that they were able to sneak and watch it and get away with it, But, either way, they obviously weren’t even remotely frightened, as they should have been.
Suddenly, I had to see this movie. We’d known that my uncle owned it, and kept it hidden in a box with other forbidden movies at my grandmother’s house; and I’d always accepted that it was off-limits and would probably scare me too much anyway. But knowing that these two boys younger than me had seen it and weren’t scared—well , I now had something to prove. I had to prove that I could watch it and not be scared, too.
(While this story doesn’t contain any romance, it is still most certainly the story of how a young girl fell in love for the first time. )
I’d be lying if I said that Child’s Play didn’t scare me. At the time, I was embarrassed to admit it, but looking back, it made perfect sense for that movie to scare me, but not the boys. See, they didn’t have dolls. I did. For me, the idea of Chucky was a lot more real.
But now I remember Chucky fondly. It’s even become one of the affectionate nicknames my friends gave me growing up (mostly because my hair was always wild and unkempt like his, but still…). Child’s Play was my very first exposure to horror. And though I remember being terrified, I remember the thrill of being that scared. I loved that feeling; even that young I realized that horror was fun.
It would be many years before I understood that my first exposure to Chucky and his world was my first taste of something I would come to consider a great love; because my parents didn’t let me see a horror movie for years after that. It was like having your first playground crush, and then either you or that crush moving away just as quickly.
But thanks to my uncle and his ever-growing box of movies at my grandmother’s house that he pretended to keep hidden from us kids (but was always telling us what new movie he’d brought for us to watch), I wouldn’t be kept away from horror forever. When I was about 12, he brought us Scream. Watching that movie with my brother started a bonding tradition that we still carry on even today, 15 years later. We loved with that movie immediately, and spent at least an hour talking about it after we saw it.
For me, being introduced to what would become the Scream movies was like meeting your high school sweetheart or your first true love. Having just discovered feminism—as well as the concept of what I would later know as the “final girl”—I was impressed by the idea of a horror heroine who was smart and normal-looking; who wasn’t perfect but wasn’t just some partying bimbo, either; who broke all the rules and still survived.
Watching that movie (and the ones that followed) and discussing them with my brother like a true budding film nerd- that was how I knew I was falling in love with horror. And no age restrictions or strict parents were going to keep me away from it. In fact, when the third one came out we had an older cousin describe every scene to us in great detail after she saw it, many times, until we were able to convince our parents t rent it later.
My brother and I still get together at least once a year to relax, watch the Scream movies, and talk about them and the horror genre at large. Not only that, but thanks to these movies, we get together about twice a month to watch a random horror movie that we’ve never seen or heard of. It’s part of the way we bond.
The horror genre has given us one of my greatest film nerd loves of all: the Saw franchise. Most people who have met me since freshman year of college know me most of all as “that chick who’s obsessed with the Saw movies.” There are obviously a lot of horror movies that I love, but these films are the ones that made me want to be a filmmaker one day. If Scream was the horror-loving equivalent of a first love for me, then Saw was like meeting your one true love that you just know you’re going to marry some day.
What’s so great about these films is that they embody everything that made me fall in love with horror in the first place. The iconic villain Jigsaw; the gore of the traps, the suspense of waiting for that twist ending and trying to guess the twist in the meantime—those things are what make a really great horror movie. You gotta have suspense, an iconic villain, and lots of gore.
But at the end of the day, it’s much, much simpler than that. The thing I love most about horror is that horror movies give me the best movie-going experiences of my life. If you’ve ever been to see a horror movie opening weekend you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s the only time in a theater where everyone is a friend—whether you know them or they’re a perfect stranger—and where it’s okay to make noise during the movie. People talk to one another, yell at the screen, and laugh at themselves and each other for falling for the false scare. Horror movies are so great because you come out of the theater not only feeling like you just saw a good movie, but that you also had a pretty awesome experience.
To this day, I make sure that come hell or high water, I always make time Friday or Saturday night of opening weekend when a horror movie comes out.