Many fans of horror, amateur and professional alike, have devoted themselves to blogging about the thrills, chills, and no-frills side of the genre as seen in cinema and print. In this ongoing series that highlights the writers behind the blogs, we meet the unique personalities and talents that make the online horror scene so engaging. Up close and personal.
In this installment, League of Tana Tea Drinkers' member Michael Petrucelli of Billy Loves Stu looks for the gay and lesbian subtexts in horror movies as well as the 'straight' scares.
My love of horror began at a tender age. As a kid I was exposed to the classic Universal horror films Dracula, Frankenstein, etc) by my father. When these movies came on the television, he’d call me over and we’d watch together in the small living room of our row house in South Philadelphia. Often, my dad would add to the flavor of the films by talking like the characters, he did (and still does) a terrific Bela Lugosi as well as Boris Karloff. Later on, well after the movie had ended, he’d come into my room as I was preparing for bed, and freak me out by telling me that he was in the basement earlier and found machines that were probably once used to create a monster, or that he thought our next door neighbor was a vampire (our next door neighbor, Mr.Calabrese worked nights). Needless to say, I was mortified – and yet at the same time, I was fascinated. Many sleepless nights ensued (and I always kept my eyes peeled for Mr. Calabrese), but I never turned down an invitation to watch a scary movie with my dad.
There was this old movie theater a few blocks from where I grew up, you know, one of those palatial houses with marble arches and velvet curtains; and on the weekends, they’d show triple feature horror films, usually something from Hammer studios in England. Often, they would also incorporate a “spook show” between films (which was usually some poor usher made up like a low-rent werewolf walking up and down the aisles of the movie house) and give out prizes for those “brave enough” to make it through the afternoon of horrors. Over time, I accumulated dozens of cheesy door prizes that I displayed as proudly as some kids did with their baseball trophies.
Even though I loved horror films, that did not mean that I was not occasionally freaked out by something I saw on the screen; Vincent Price melting away to a pool of psychedelic colored goo in Tales of Terror, man-eating Jell-O raining down on a crowd in a movie theater in The Blob, and of course Godzilla: What is it about a giant lizard looming over Tokyo that would freak me out?
I was 14 years old when I saw The Exorcist for the first time. It was Christmas Night, 1973, and I went with several of my cousins (who were all much older than me), I don’t think any of us knew how intense an experience we were about to have … suffice to say, Linda Blair’s demonic aerobics, pea soup vomit, and masturbatory habits blew my little Catholic mind. I was literally shaking like a leaf when the film was over, and slept with my light on, as well as with a set of Rosary beads under my pillow for several weeks. Seriously, The Exorcist almost ended my affair with horror, it was such a strong and horrifying experience.
A similar event occurred a few months later when I saw Night of the Living Dead at a local drive-in. My best friend and I went to it with my friend’s older brother. Since we were younger, we had to sit in the back of my pal’s brother’s pick up truck, and when we watched the black and white ghouls chowing down on those hapless folks in that farm house, I think we both were sort of traumatized.
Funny thing being scared; you might swear it off but after a while the need comes back. I understand how drug addicts feel. One day you are convinced that you’ll never watch another horror film, and the next you are back on that roller coaster – with a vengeance!
I remained a horror geek all through high school and college, and even managed to get a showing of Night of the Living Dead for a fund raiser for our college’s pop culture magazine. We gave out a prize for the person who showed up with the best zombie make up; a pound of head cheese – man, that stuff stunk out loud.
In the early 80’s, when we first got cable television at my parent’s house, my kid sister and I would stay up late on Saturday nights and watch Saturday Night Dead which was a local program out of Philadelphia that featured horror hostess, Stella (The Man Eater from Manayunk as well as Chiller Theater, which was shown on a New York City station. Soon, we became fans of such little seen classics like Death Dream, Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, and What’s the Matter with Helen? I am happy to report that my sister, besides being a suburban wife and mother, is still a devoted horror fan and she had done her best to instill the love of fright films to her daughter, my niece, who’s cell phone’s ring is the theme from Halloween.
As a gay man, when I watch horror, I sometimes read homosexual themes into the film – obviously vampire films (especially the Hammer movies like The Vampire Lovers – blatantly lesbian centric) are chock full of homoerotic goodness; but sometimes I see, or think I see – it’s all in the eye of the beholder – more subtle variations on the theme. Peter and Roger (the two National Guardsmen in George A Romero’s Dawn of the Dead) have, what I think, is a very homoerotic relationship. And then of course there is the sad case of Billy and Stu, the crazed teen killers from Scream, who obviously were freaked out by the fact that they were attracted to each other and subsequently became psycho killers. If only they’d consummated their relationship, Woodsboro would have avoided a massacre. Of course It makes sense since sexual frustration seems to be a running theme in most slasher films. Imagine if Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers ever got laid, that’d be the end for both of them; heck, they’d put down their machetes, yank off their masks, and start writing poetry.
My blog is nothing more than a silly attempt to draw attention to the gay overtones of some horror films, as well as giving my two cents on the scare genre in general. Obviously, there are some really talented bloggers out there, and frankly I am not one of them (ZC Note: Not true!) – but I hope that when someone stumbles across my little blog, they have a good time and maybe, just maybe, the next time they watch A Nightmare on Elm Street II – Freddy’s Revenge, they’ll understand that it’s something more than a low-rent sequel.