Every person I know who loves to watch horror movies can usually pinpoint when their relationship with horror movies changed. Let's face it - we all start as a horror virgin. Some people remember watching a really scary movie at a really inappropriate age, some people remember being irrationally scared of some sort of horror movie boogeyman, some people may not even quite remember a time when they didn't love horror movies!
As it happens, yours truly experienced 2 out of 3.
It's true - I used to be a horror virgin.
As a child, I remember being aware that the movie Child's Play existed. I absolutely couldn't tell you how; all I know is that, for years I would take a running leap into my bed every night for fear that Chucky a) lived under my bed and b) was definitely going to grab me and pull me under the bed with him.
As a result of this irrational fear, I spent most of my childhood and early teen years doing every single thing I could to avoid horror movies. Avoid watching them, avoid seeing the trailers on tv, avoid everything about them.
In 2002, as a 14 year old, a little movie called The Ring came out. It was quickly branded as the scariest movie anyone had ever seen. Obviously, I wanted nothing to do with it. My friends, however, had other plans.
My two friends, Ivy and Noelle (not their real names), and I planned a sleepover at Noelle's house to stay up late, talk about our crushes, and watch movies. God, even the thought of it now? The nostalgia is almost unbearable. Little did I know - the movie they planned to watch that night? Well, I'm sure you know.
Long story short, they sat on either side of me and held me firm on the couch so I couldn't run away, and laughed while I cried at Samara crawling out of the TV. Dicks.
As I got older, I started to lean into my more morbid curiosities about the world. Going into college, I chose to major in psychology and criminal justice. I started to learn about real life boogeymen - the Bundys, the Dahmers, the Mansons, all the classics. I was fascinated by their pathology, their upbringings, what exactly it was that made them tick. What I didn't quite realize at the time is that opening the door to true crime was what would take me from horror virgin to horror obsessed.
The obsession, albeit burgeoning through my 20s, was still a long way off.
It started off with watching movies that I deemed as "safe" horror movies. Older movies, like The Shining, Halloween, and Poltergeist; then starting to increase my level of bravery with movies like Let Me In and Open Water; never touching "the scariest movies of all time" like The Exorcist or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Yeah, they were made in the 70s, but if they've stood the test of time and can still be deemed that scary? Hard pass.
The biggest turning point for my horror journey was not actually a movie - it was the limited series The Haunting of Hill House. I was so curious about it, having read the book. I couldn't not watch it! I could get through it! ...couldn't I?
It took me no less than 4 weeks to make it through the series - starting and stopping the episodes every 10-15 min if they got too scary, giving myself days long breaks between episodes. And by the time it was over, I was mesmerized. To date, it's some of the best television I've ever seen (you'll have to just trust my word that I watch entirely too much television).
The final nail in the coffin (ha) of my horror obsession came in January 2021. I had to take a full day off work for a minor medical procedure, so my plan was to post up on the couch and watch whatever movies or TV shows I wanted the entire day. I ate a ~*relaxing*~ gummy and the second it kicked in, I thought to myself, "F*ck it. I'm watching The Exorcist."
And to my absolute shock and surprise...it wasn't as scary as I'd built it up in my head to be! I watched the entire thing, start to finish, no stopping, no nothing. I watched The Exorcist and...survived?
This got me thinking. What other movies have I been missing out on all these years? What else is out there that was so much worse in my head than it was on screen?
Two hundred and fifty two movies later (thanks, Letterboxd!), I can safely say that I missed out on so many incredible movies. Now, I try to watch absolutely every horror movie I can get my hands on, and I haven't even scratched the surface of what's out there. 2022 has been a particularly special year for horror in my opinion; I would have avoided The Black Phone, Nope, Smile, Scream, X, Pearl, and so many others. I can't imagine!
Why was I so scared of this genre for so long? Perhaps I've beat this point to death. Our imaginations are always so much worse than whatever can possibly be on the screen. Yes, even when you include movies like Hostel, The Human Centipede, Terrifier, and Martyrs - while those movies are horrifying in their own right, most horror movies can't even touch the depths of our fear. It can scratch the surface, it can make us jump out of our seats and scream obscenities at our screens, it can even make us afraid of the dark every once in a while.
At the end of the day, this genre still has all the amazing things we look for in every other piece of media we consume - the excellent writing, the poignant directing, the beautiful cinematography, the jaw dropping acting. Why would we miss these things for fear of… well, fear?
TL;DR - you're braver than you think. This is my promise to you as the girl who cried so hard she almost peed her pants during The Ring at the age of 14 only to turn around and watch Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum as a 33 year old woman in complete darkness and sleep soundly.
Being a horror virgin doesn't have to be a lifelong commitment. October is the best time to be as brave as you want to be! You could end up watching your next favorite movie. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and see what you might be missing!