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, Iloz Zoc (that's me) lazily borrows heavily from previous interviews to conveniently provide excuses for my cheeky horror excesses.
I remember it all quite well.
I was old enough to hate the babysitter and young enough to play the guilt trip on my parents. So I admit I ruined their night out at the movies by sitting between them during Roger Corman's The Terror. They were married so nothing naughty would have happened anyway; except for the effect on my impressionable young mind. This was my first time at the movies, and my first experience with horror. My most vivid memory, to this day, is watching the girl melt away into bubbling goo as Jack Nicholson looks on in terror and my parents taking it all in stride, like scenes with melting girls happened every time they went to the movies. The horror bug nipped me that night.
And so it began. I loved watching Shock Theater movies on television, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone, and my mother--a big horror and sci fi fan--took me to the best and worst movies, like Night of the Living Dead, Dr. Phibes, and Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster. Speaking of that last movie, we actually went to see James Bond in From Russia With Love , but the theater, I don't remember why, was showing that hokey movie instead. We stayed anyway.
I was lucky to have two theaters in walking distance when growing up, so there was always something for us to catch on the big screen every weekend. She either fed my appetite for horror or infected me with it. You’ve got to be wired a certain way to really appreciate horror movies; and after the night we caught Night of the Living Dead, and the two of us had to walk home through the potentially-zombie-filled-streets--me and my balls stuck high in my throat, I was ready to run at the slightest hint of shuffling undead; and her blissfully ignorant she scarred me for life. Okay, just for two weeks really. I learned all about what it's like to be scared to the bone. And walk away uneaten. That night the horror bug bit a lot deeper.
My mom was an aspiring writer. She ordered the Famous Writers Course Rod Serling was hawking back then. It helped get me started on the royal road to procrastination and writing. That and two English teachers, one in high school and one in college, who pushed me to push myself, who made me able to cross my i's and dot my t's. I eventually learned enough to know the difference between a good story, a hackneyed one, and a just-covering-the-bases-but-fairly-well-done one. I now apply all this to how I look at a horror movie, then add on my personal bias (admit it, we all do it) to form my expert opinion of the film. For what it's worth, every good and great horror film is a good or great movie first. The horror is just sweet icing on the cake.
As a teenager, I read lots and lots of comic books, and Creepy and Eerie magazines. I picked them up at the corner luncheonette, run by Joe, who looked like Popeye the Sailor, and his wife, who didn't look like Olive Oil. They'd spot me if I was short a dime or two every now and them, and boy, was their magazine rack always stuffed with Marvels, DCs, Harveys, Charltons, and those bad boy Warrens. My mother vowed to write a letter of condemnation after paging through the first issue of Vampirella. She let me keep the magazine anyway.
I also read lots of classic literature and books from my favorite author Ray Bradbury. And, of course, I read Stoker’s Dracula, Shelley’s Frankenstein, and many other classic horror novels and stories. I shadowed Lovecraft in Providence, explored the dark woods with Arthur Machen, faced the unknown with Oliver Onions, did not doubt August Derleth, clashed swords with Robert E. Howard, listened to the verbal rhythms of Clark Ashton Smith, and sat beside Sherlock Holmes in a hansom cab whisking us through the fog-bound streets of London. I dared to stare into the fun house mirror of Bradbury's Dark Carnival, and listened to a voice in the night's whispering to me as I walked the upstairs rooms of William Hope Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland. So books, short stories, poems, anything, I read extensively.So much of my time was spent reading--I was quite the geek growing up--my dad complained I must be a mushroom because I preferred to stay inside reading than be out in the daylight and fresh air. At one point I even replicated 221B Baker Street in my bedroom, and chopped a hole in one wall to create a secret passage from one room to another. My parents weren't too pleased with that one.
Universal’s monster cycle had the greatest influence on me, followed by the ‘50s monsters and mutants. In the 1960’s, the jolt of unrelenting horror from Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, followed by the unstoppable slashers and now the ever closer-to-reality genre fare, make watching horror a lot more, let’s say, uncomfortable. Ironically, the closer to reality horror movies become the less fun they be to watch. Being safely scared is one thing; being unnerved enough to puke up your popcorn is another. Making an audience sick is easy: really scaring them is hard. Don’t get me wrong: I like Hostel and SAW, but the escalating gross-out aspect of these films can and often gets in the way of good storytelling. So all I’m saying is we need to keep things in perspective and not let the grimmer aspects of our genre take precedence. I don’t want kids coming to my door on Halloween dressed as the Jigsaw Killer (the puppet's okay) or Hannibal Lecter; there’s just no fun in that. Those guys are too seriously real.
I started blogging Zombos' Closet of Horror a few years ago when the monsterkid in me took note of the expiring writer in me. Starting as a monsterkid in the 1960’s, I had watched lots of movies, read lots of books, but hadn’t thought about combining the two until blogging became the next big thing since sliced bread and email. I wanted to share my enthusiasm for the horror genre with other fans, or annoy them with it depending on whom you ask, so blogging afforded me the greatest opportunity to do both.
The League of Tana Tea Drinkers, LOTT D for short, started on a whim. I received, out of the blue, an E for Excellence from fellow horror blogger Brian at The Vault of Horror. You’ve probably seen the emblem here and there on various blog sites. Originally, I think, it was created by a mom somewhere who wanted to acknowledge wholesome, family-oriented blogsites. So Brian sends me this thing and tells me how much he enjoys my blog. I’m honored and flabbergasted at the same time. Coming from a fellow horror blogger it meant a lot. It started me thinking and I realized horror bloggers needed their very own badge of excellence. The horror genre itself tends to get enough bad press, and fans of horror are often considered to be barely holding onto the evolutionary scale between Australopithecus and Stupidiculous; so the onus is always on us to prove how erudite and charming we can be when comparing and contrasting scream queen’s bodacious ta-ta's, gore-soaked bodacious ta-ta's, and how the next torture device the Jigsaw Killer uses or why the thousandth zombie movie or novel are metaphors for either the roiling amoral stock market or the crass, mass consumerist and palinesque thinking watering down our spiritual and intellectual gravitas.
LOTT D unites unique, insightful, and exemplary horror bloggers who otherwise might not have connected sooner. I started by inviting bloggers I enjoyed reading to join, then we hashed out the criteria we use for selecting new members. The League now has thirty-four members, including professionals and amateurs, who express their passion for horror’s many categories and styles, whether classic, slasher, or trash-art, and everything in-between. I’m very proud to have started it, but it’s the members who keep making it better and better.