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 John W. Morehead of TheoFantastique tells us about his life-long journey with the fantastic on film and television, and how it provides a catalyst for his studies in religion and culture.
I have had an almost lifelong connection to the fantastic, including horror. Some of my memories going back to early grammar school in Stockton, California include my dad's offer to my brother and I to forgo the weekly family viewing of The Wonderful World of Disney for a scary movie. Although we loved Disney, we jumped at the chance to see something we had never seen before. The movie that evening was The Creature from the Black Lagoon. I was younger than eight at the time, probably five or six, and although the creature frightened me, it also opened the door for a love of horror and science fiction even at this young age.
After this experience I discovered a number of sci fi films on television such as Invaders from Mars, War of the Worlds, The Thing From Another World, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Later I would discover fantasy films, particularly the stop-motion animation classics of Ray Harryhausen, and his cyclops of The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad contributed to my deep appreciation of this art form. Continuing into the 1970s as I grew up we had our local Creature Features host, the late Bob Wilkins, who at one point had weekly programs out of both the San Francisco Bay Area as well as Sacramento, California.
Through Creature Features I discovered horror in greater depth, beginning with the classic horror films of Universal from the 1930s and 1940s, moving to the remakes and re-envisioning of these classic cinematic treats through Hammer Films.
Added to this mix was the Star Trek television series in early syndication at the time, and of course the release of Star Wars created a situation in the culture in which geeks of the fantastic were joined by rank and file members of the genuine population who were willing to publicly express their enjoyment of the struggle for good and evil across the universe "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away."
The fantastic on film and television had a profound effect on me, nurturing my imagination, stretching my thoughts about what was possible, and perhaps even enchanting my understanding of the boundaries of reality itself. Later I would become a person of religious faith in a conservative religious subculture, and for a time I thought that my faith was incompatible with the enjoyment of the fantastic, particularly the darker sort as expressed in horror. Several years later I reassessed this way of thinking and once again embraced my love for the fantastic.
As an adult I have had the opportunity to reflect anew on these things, not only as a continuing fan, who at times feels the tug of nostalgia and for a moment experiences the fleeting memories of childhood as the television and movie screen flickers with its images of wonder and fright, but also to ask myself what these things mean as an adult. By education and training I have a background in intercultural and religious studies, and I have discovered that these disciplines provide insights and the means for appreciation for the fantastic that helps me explore the fantastic beyond its entertainment value. Who would have thought that King Kong might have something to tell us about racism of the 1930s, that Invasion of the Body Snatchers can shed light on McCarthyism and fears of conformity in the 1950s, that John Carpenter's The Thing has something to say about AIDS and the fear of the loss of bodily integrity, or that The Dark Knight metaphorically explores the Bush Administration's war on terror?
In my academic exploration of the fantastic I tapped into the growing body of academic literature on the topic. I discovered fellow scholars thinking through the same issues and exploring the same films as I was, and as a result, their explorations became the source of further personal explorations. And many times, these same authors were often all too willing to discuss their thoughts through interviews on my blog TheoFantastique. Once the first interview was posted I then pointed to it and invited other authors. Soon I had a collection of interviews not only with scholars, but also other authors, editors, indie horror actors, and even one Hollywood horror and science fiction film director.
I am pleased and humbled that TheoFantastique has been well received. I am enjoying the journey that I chronicle through its posts, and I hope that it continues to be valued by my readers.
TheoFantastique: A Meeting Place for Myth, Imagination, and Mystery in Pop Culture