The horror community: Real monsters among us

Photo: Darcy the Mail Girl in The Last Drive-In.. Image Courtesy Shudder
Photo: Darcy the Mail Girl in The Last Drive-In.. Image Courtesy Shudder /
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As Joe Bob Briggs’s Drive-In Oath reads: “We are drive-in mutants. We are not like other people.” To me, that means we members of the horror community are a weird sort of family, and we should be helping one another.

Those of us who truly love horror know that we are “outsiders” to a certain degree. I have several great friends with whom I hang out regularly, but only two of them will go see a horror movie with me, and one of them isn’t even really a fan. The rest of my friends don’t understand how I can watch those films, yet still sleep at night.

I once dated a guy who regularly told me he just didn’t get it: how could a nice, seemingly normal girl like me enjoy watching people get murdered? After all, I was “pleasant Carla from Pleasantdale” (the street I grew up on). And, I couldn’t explain it then.

Now, I would tell him that I enjoy the adrenaline rush, the heart-pounding anticipation, the need to know what is going to happen next. I also think that because I watch “that stuff”, I might be able to remain calmer in a crisis than someone who doesn’t get horror. I mean, I am pretty confident that I would know what to do in the event of the Zombie Apocalypse.

Does the horror community stand together and support each other?

So, given the fact that we who love horror are misfits of a sort, it seems logical that members of the horror community would stand together, and support one another, right? Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. The constant barrage of online bashing that affects the rest of the country has oozed its slimy way into the horror community as well, and it breaks my heart.

horror community
Erik Kristopher Myers. Photo by David Hartcorn /

After 1428 Elm ran my story on the anniversary of The Blair Witch Project, Erik Kristopher Myers contacted me through Facebook, suggesting that I might like his small, independent found footage film, Butterfly Kisses. He was right, I did like it, and we struck up a social media friendship of sorts. We both belong to a found footage appreciation group, and Butterfly Kisses often comes up as a recommended film. Naturally, there are people who don’t recommend it, though the majority do.

That’s ok, though, not all members of the horror community are drawn to the same films. What’s not ok is how vicious people can be about a film that just wasn’t to their own liking. I remember one woman commenting on a thread about Butterfly Kisses: “I hated it, it was just garbage to me.”

Garbage, really? Is it exploitive, excessively gross and gory? Does it feature bad special effects, a sloppy script or bad acting? Not at all. It’s an inventive story that adds something a little different to the found footage genre. The acting is solid, the cinematography is artistic and eye-catching.

But, the reason this term really got under my skin is that this person was callously insulting an independent film with a small budget and no big PR firm or major studio behind it. Someone reading that nasty comment might decide not to watch the film. Worst of all, she was casually dismissing Erik Kristopher Myers’s art, a project he put his heart and soul into.

I reached out to Erik when I was writing this piece, and he had some great things to say on the subject.

"Erik Kristopher Myers: “The world of independent film suffers most from unfiltered audience feedback.  Low-budget movies made by creators trying to rub two nickels together and create something that looks like ten bucks are already fighting an uphill battle without their work attacked for being exactly what they are: compromised by limited resources. In a world in which indie artists have to perform double-duty as their own marketing team, and where social media and streaming services share content to prospective viewers based on the most number of reviews and ratings, films are hobbled by unnecessarily harsh write-ups from people who are absolutely entitled to their opinions, but aren’t always vocalizing informed opinions. In other words, not everyone should be a critic if they don’t understand the strata of productions, namely their funding, or the fact that positive reviews on platforms like Amazon or IMDB don’t necessarily mean that the director had his or her friends and family compose glowing praise in order to create a false impression of quality. Sometimes, people just see a thing, and like a thing. The very people who use the term “fake reviews” are often the same ones shouting “fake news,” and they’re also unwittingly spreading misinformation. Opinions are subjective, and art provokes a response. There’s nothing wrong with liking or not liking a thing. The problem comes from 1) criticizing a product for perhaps aiming higher than it can reach, rather than recognizing the intent and restrictions that compromised it, and 2) feeling that having an internet soapbox like Facebook or Twitter warrants attacks on the work (and the people involved) that have less to do with criticism than insult. Saying my movie sucks just because “it sucks” isn’t even something my eight year-old would say, whether to a person’s face, or even just about the work. That isn’t critical thinking; it’s an immature response spoken atop a soapbox, amplified by the bullhorn that is your social media account. Nor is it informed or intelligent to mock something that was financed on credit cards for a few thousand dollars because it doesn’t look or sound quite like a similar product that was funded by a studio for one hundred times that amount. That’s a lot like insulting someone with one leg for coming in last in the race. They had to work twice as hard, you know.”"

None of this is to say that we all have to like the same films. Look, I did not like Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, and that’s not a popular opinion. But I can appreciate its artistic value, and would never refer to it as “garbage.” I understand why some people love it, regardless of my own feelings.