Personal Essay: Of all the gifts I’ve been given throughout the years from my mother, the love of horror is perhaps one of the best I ever received.
As a child, I diligently toed the line between being in constant terror and being completely fascinated by the macabre. In my youth, I was absolutely and completely scared out of my wits by horror movies; even stuff like Signs left nine-year-old me in a state of unhinged sleepless fright. However, there was a budding horror fan hidden in my tiny body, constantly dotted with bruises — because not only was I a fearful child, but I was also an extremely clumsy child.
My love of horror started like most youngsters, with a deep, deep reverent love of creepy and spooky tales. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was formative for me and many tiny creeps in training. I reveled in all that Halloween had to offer. I watched Tremors on repeat and adored Gremlins, and I worshipped at the altar of Jurassic Park. Already I had a preference for morbidity, a kid who most desperately wanted to be a witch and soak up all the darkness that people perceived as odd, if not outright wrong.
I can fully say I am a product of my parents. We all are, for better or for worse.
For as long as I can conceivably remember, my mother has watched horror movies, watching them with a religious sort of fervor. I remember small me being left at home with my dad so she could go catch a screening of Halloween: H20.
Being the terrified kiddo that I was, my mom would often wait until I was asleep to watch any hardcore horror movies. However, I did often hear her talk about them with other people and was curious about the whole spooky film experience since I was already well versed in spooky stories.
There were the times when we watched horror sporadically. I can easily recall the time we watched the 2002 TV movie version of Carrie, with me sitting on the living room floor of my childhood home. We watched Gremlins all the time, and one of my first cinematic loves was Billy Peltzer. Beetlejuice, as mild as it seems now, left me in a state of fright, but I loved how bizarre it was. It was these little moments from my horror-dotted childhood that I remember with a certain fondness and joy. My parents took the time to stoke the fire of cinematic love within me.
I was around the age of 11 when I finally started regularly joining my mom in watching horror movies on a regular basis.
It started off small and slowly built into our own little tradition, one that my poor father was often roped into, though he never seemed to be dismayed. I can remember sitting around and watching a heavily edited version of Heathers and other horror adjacent fair, such as the iconic musical send up on B horror movies, Little Shop of Horrors, on television with my mom. My morbid curiosity afterward could not be sated.
The times spent watching horror with my mom became some of my most cherished memories from an admittedly turbulent youth. I was a bullied kid, so my parents were my best friends. And books and movies were the worlds that I escaped into. Mom introduced me to films that have been most influential on me as a writer myself, films that I absolutely needed when they came into my life. There’s nothing more powerful than a first watch of the original film version of Carrie when you’re stuck in the middle of abusive peer hell.
I owe all of that to my mother.
One of the moments that I think defined, not only my relationship with my mother, but our relationship as shared lovers of horror, was when she sat me down to watch the American remake of “The Ring”. Naturally, that was one my mom had on DVD already.
I settled in with mom on the couch. My dad was working nights, so we were home alone. Of course, I was uneasy because the film does carry an eerie atmosphere that is haunting to this day. On screen, when Rachel gets her call from Samara beyond the grave, our home phone started ringing at the same exact time. My mother of course made me get up and answer the phone. To make matters worse, it wasn’t a harbinger of death on the other end of the line but a telemarketer who was calling way too late in my opinion.
That tiny little rush of terror was amazing though, and to this day it makes a great story to tell every time something about The Ring comes up in conversation.
Many of my weekends as a young teen was spent watching horror movies with my mother.
Maybe it’s not the most eventful or fantastic way to spend weekends, but that doesn’t mean those weekends meant any less.
I wasn’t often happy in my youth. Depression and anxiety hit me at a young age and took root, but I was happy when I was bleary eyed from exhaustion watching horror movies into the wee hours of the morning with my mother. Sometimes the best and the happiest moments you spend with your mom, or anyone who has been a parental figure to you, aren’t the most spectacular ones.
Sometimes simply being there is enough.
The older I get, the more special the times I spend with both of my parents is. The parents who allowed a young me to watch R rated horror with complete abandon, and encouraged my interest in everything from serious foreign horror to dark horror comedies. Some of the best times of my life were sandwiched in between my parents in a dark theatre, too young to actually buy a ticket for the movie we were seeing together. It was how I saw Jennifer’s Body, Zombieland, Let Me In, and many, many others.
My mom’s lifelong, enduring love of horror is one of the things she passed down to me.
It’s our bond that we share. It’s something that’s special.
When I recall being in my teens I surely do remember all the heartache, all the taunts, and all of the ridicule. But I also remember going to the theatre to watch whatever horror movie was playing that weekend when dad had to work, and it was just mom and me. Those good memories make a difference, and I am glad that I had them. Because of my parents — and because of horror in general — my teen years don’t seem like such a waste. I’m grateful, and I feel extremely blessed to have had the love and support throughout some of the most difficult times I have faced.
I know many of us in the horror community are parents with equally mor