Newfound horror hound

Our next Uniter Speaker Series event, a conversation with the hosts of The Faculty of Horror podcast, will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 25. It’s an event that I’m looking forward to for a somewhat personal reason: over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve become a horror fan for the first time in my life.

I’d always had an appreciation for certain horror films, but my taste was probably what most real horror fans would consider snobby. I liked (and still do appreciate) “artier” stuff like The Shining, The Witch or Vampyr. Slasher flicks and found-footage movies seemed like generic retreads pumped out by studios at bare-minimum budgets and quality to cash in on intellectual properties.

But after the death of a close friend in September, I found myself in desperate need of a distraction from grief. With Halloween fast approaching, I made the impulsive decision to watch the entire Friday the 13th series, knowing that it would take me a lot of time to watch them and that they wouldn’t be too challenging emotionally or artistically.

To my surprise, that distraction quickly turned into enthusiastic comfort viewing. The gauzy photography, sincere performances and goofy awkwardness of ’80s and ’90s slasher flicks were like hot soup on a cold autumn day. In the span of about two months, I burned through the entire Friday, Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street franchises, as well as plenty of other one-offs and oddities.

There’s probably some Freudian explanation for this phenomenon, that narrative horror makes the boundless horror of real life seem finite and manageable. All I know is that Freddy Kreuger is cozier and more comforting to me now than Santa Claus ever was. I dig his taste in sweaters.

Published in Volume 75, Number 19 of The Uniter (February 25, 2021)

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