I’ve been a fan of horror for a while—though I wasn’t always willing to admit it—but only in the last five years have I gone into overdrive, perhaps trying to make up for lost time. I understand my motivations and thus, I have accepted my fandom fate, even though other people might think it makes me a bad feminist. Luckily, I have a patient, open-minded spouse and a few horror-loving friends who both tolerate and encourage my obsession.
Still, I find myself adding more horror movies to my DVD queue than any other genre. I tend to gravitate towards Twitch Film, Bloody Disgusting, Rue Morgue, and Fangoria instead of other, more mainstream film websites. And I talk about horror movies all the time, even with people who aren’t necessarily horror fans. (Actually, this is the story of my life. Many self-proclaimed music fans I meet, for example, have been awestruck by both my ability and willingness to discuss the finer points of music history, fandom, and criticism for hours on end.)
Even those who don’t recoil in horror from my love of . . . um, horror . . . sometimes tell me I don’t look like a horror fan (whatever that means) or automatically assume I adore gore (for the record: if it serves the story, I’m fine with it). But horror fans don’t all look the same or like the same types of tropes. So what makes a horror fan?
Obviously we like to be scared and/or shocked to some degree. That’s just taking into account horror movies—although there are horror books, comics, and TV shows as well. What defines the culture of horror or horror fandom? Is it talking about the movies with others who “get it”? Is it collecting horror memorabilia? What about T-shirts? Tattoos? Toys?
When genre fans want to commune with other genre fans, they go to conventions. As a result, I love Rue Morgue’s Festival of Fear, the horror component of Canada’s largest annual genre convention, FanExpo. Not everyone likes the horror con experience, however; some are downright dismissive. One is tempted to speculate that some horror fans think they’re above even talking to other horror fans, much less mingling with them in a social setting. If you don’t like horror conventions, don’t go to them. Or at least attend some good ones before you write them all off (Trust me, there are plenty.)
Maybe some fans just don’t like to share. Yet, isn’t part of fandom the sharing aspect?
In an analysis of David Buckingham’s 1996 book Moving Images: Understanding Children’s Responses to Television, blogger pieto discusses the social aspect of horror fandom among children:
Fan discourse, as performance, as seen in Buckingham’s participants is the locus of tremendous pleasure as fans build social networks of hierarchy and equality; hierarchical because there is in the performance of discourse a sparring and contest of information accumulated and communitarian because there is a real sense of sharing and learning from one another.
In fact, the CHUD blog (Cinematic Happenings Under Development) presents a compelling list of reasons why horror fans make the best film fans: they’re prospectors, they’re committed and diverse, they respect history, they’re fun, and perhaps most important, they’re infectious . . .
Spend any time with a horror fan and you’ll walk away with a hundred recommendations: movies, books, TV shows, comics, you name it . . . And that’s the most important thing any film fan can do—spread their own love of movies to everybody they meet. Being a serious film fan is at least a little bit about being an evangelist, and nobody evangelizes like a horror fan.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not trying to determine what defines a “good” horror fan (though I do support the notion of some quality control in horror media, or at least some “discerning” taste). I just want us all to get along. Then we can focus on the real problem horror fans have, expressed succinctly by blogger PoppaScotch:
I have come to the conclusion that no matter how hard I try, there is no possible way that I could consume all of the horror media that I want to experience . . . It sounds like I’m complaining, but I assure you that out of all the problems a person can have, this is a greatest problem ever.
—Less Lee Moore, Managing Editor