Poltergeist, Wes Craven and The Evil Dead: How I fell in love with horror


The path to the horror genre is different for everyone. Some stay, some run away, others visit only during Halloween season. Looking back, I realised my history with this genre can be divided in three: Poltergeist, Wes Craven, and The Evil Dead.

But first, an introduction…

My mom constantly asks why I like the (dark) stuff I like because I’m the only one in the family that is into horror. Funny thing is, that it’s all her fault, in a way. She was the one who told me we should watch this show because it was fun and the characters were cool – the show was The Addams Family, and the same happened with The Munsters. She was right, they were fun! And they definitely had a lasting effect on me.

This also happened with a movie I had never seen before but she insisted on watching it because “look, they turn kids into mice!” – The Witches. And to this day she asks why I like witches so much. Years later came the boom of kid-friendly horror TV shows: Goosebumps and Are You Afraid of the Dark. Now, I suffer from coulrophobia from a traumatic experience when I was two (circuses, man. Why are they like that?) and I’m also scared to this day of ventriloquist dummies so, naturally, Goosebumps was a big “no!” for me because Slappy was too much (Sorry, Slappy. We’re good now). But I was all about the Midnight Society in Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Rewatching some episodes a few years later, I understood why people (uhm, adults) constantly asked me why I watched that show, and if I could sleep at night. I never had a problem with it, other than a certain discomfort towards the static on the TV, which only got worse after a minor incident.

“They’re here!”

Public broadcasting was quite irresponsible with its content back in the 1990s – at least where I come from. The channel dedicated to “family friendly content” more often than not broadcasted movies that were not exactly suitable for all family members, and they did so during “family hour”. All this is to explain how 6-year-old me accidentally watched Poltergeist, which is certainly not the most suitable movie for a child.

And yet, even though I was scared and Carole Ann did not make it any easier, I watched it all. And I loved it and still do. For years, Poltergeist was my favorite horror movie, and I 100% forgot about the clown doll for years (defense mechanism, maybe?).

Also, one day, when I was in first grade (first grade!) the teachers didn’t know what to do with us, so they took us to a classroom that had a TV and a VHS player, and decided it was a good idea to show Child’s Play. Cut to: a bunch of 5 and 6 year-olds traumatized for life. All I remember is that I was hugging my friend because she was extremely scared, and I was one of the few that actually watched the movie.

Those experiences can really have a strong influence on a person’s formative years, don’t you think?

Horror -Brad Dourif in Child’s Play – Courtesy of MGM

“What’s your favorite scary movie?”

Another defining moment for my love of horror was Wes Craven’s Scream trilogy. I can’t remember how I came to watch them, all I remember is that it was thanks to them that I said “I want to make horror films!” What’s not to like about a horror film that doesn’t take itself nor the genre too seriously, and yet it’s true to the slasher genre?

It’s thanks to Craven’s work that I started watching more slasher films, and finally made amends with Freddy Krueger (who I also watched at a very young age, but I’m not sure if it was accidental or not).

And to this day, I strongly believe Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is pure genius.

Horror-Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street — Courtesy of New Line Cinema

Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and a Cabin

My love for horror was already well established, and I was on a quest to become a filmmaker. Then I came across Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead and it was everything I didn’t know I wanted. Possessions? Yes. Haunted forest with an abandoned cabin hiding some dark secrets? Check. Practical effects? You got ‘em. Bruce Campbell?! Sold!

The way I see it, The Evil Dead is a masterclass on how to achieve a well structured horror movie with a low-budget – one with a main character that has the potential of becoming something bigger than the movie that made him. I love Ash Williams, guys.

It was around this time that I went through the rite of passage that is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which truly changed my life. After all, one not only falls in love with horror films, but with horror stories in general (fictional, of course).

Horror -Ellen Sandweiss in The Evil Dead (1981) Courtesy of Renaissance Pictures

With all the horror sub genres there are (in film and literature), you are guaranteed hours and hours of entertainment. What’s not to love about that?

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I learned from a wise man that horror films help us explore and understand evil on many different levels in a safe manner, which translates to real life as understanding and empathy towards some of the true horrors that the world brings sometimes, and I stand by this.

What are your favorite horror movies? Let us know your picks in the comments section below.