Recently, I've taken a little hiatus from writing this column. Work, other projects, life in general, all conspired to keep me from focusing on what has long been one of my true loves—writing about the world of Horror and Exploitation film. To be honest, I was burnt out … unable to find new inspiration, or new ideas, in the current horror offerings; and tired of rehashing older classics that, though well-loved, had been thoroughly explored in these pages. Though I still loved the genre movies, I had begun to believe that I had run out of things to say regarding them.
It was at this point, quite frankly a low one for the ol’ Unimonster, that something happened that changed my outlook on the situation, and reawakened my muse. The Uni-Nephew, with whom I've always shared a love of the big-budget super-hero, sci-fi, and fantasy blockbusters, turned fifteen. Suddenly, he began to take more of an interest in horror films; even those gore films which a short time before would have been far too intense for him. We saw several of the new crop of horror at the theater or Drive-In; this only fueled his desire for more. Of course I, being the doting uncle, was all too pleased to serve as his guide to the genre that I love so much, and have since I was far younger than he. Now, frequent “movie nights” have become an anticipated event for the Unimonster, the Uni-Nephew, and his cousin the Rug-Monkey. The Monkey has long been a horror fan, and was eager to get a crack at the Crypt’s Movie Room.
|The typical aftermath of "Movie Night."|
The typical movie night begins with my picking the boys up at my sister’s after work, and ends in the not-so-wee hours of the morning when I dump them off again. In between, there’s a twelve hour long festival of pizza, chicken tenders, nachos, Mountain Dew© and Monster©, farting and fart jokes … and of course, horror, action, and exploitation movies. In short, everything that your average fifteen-year-old male finds entertaining—well, nearly everything. The movies we watch run the gamut, from gut-munching zombies to stoner comedies. They've been introduced to the FEAST trilogy, and the original DIE HARD; Jess Franco and Rob Zombie. The movies themselves are less important than the act of viewing them together, of exposing them to great movies. Most are selected for sheer entertainment factor, but at least one movie per session is intended to expose the two novices to some aspect of great horror, some movie that they need to see in order to further their education. It might be Neil Marshall’s superb 2002 werewolf film DOG SOLDIERS, or it might be Sam Raimi’s classic THE EVIL DEAD (1982). The purpose of these picks is to present a lesson—a lesson wrapped in an easy to enjoy, eye-candy shell. Both boys, unfortunately, suffer from a malady all too common among the young: An eagerness to dismiss anything that’s older than the latest YouTube upload.
This prejudice isn't easy to overcome, but it can be done. The key is to gradually acclimate them to ‘classic’ horror. Though I’d love to screen the Universal horrors so beloved of my childhood, or the giant bugs and alien invaders of the 1950’s, I know both the boys would rise up in revolt at the indignation of sitting through a (shudder) black-and-white movie. At least, they would now. But with every movie that they watch, their tastes grow more refined, more appreciative of the great wealth of cinema that’s available if one only looks past Hollywood’s remakes, sequels, and uninspired knock-offs. Soon perhaps, they’ll ask to see those Universal Horrors that captivated me more than forty years ago.
At least that is my hope. Like all good things, I know that ‘movie nights’ won’t last long. The Uni-Nephew is already looking forward to the day he’ll have his learner’s permit in one hand and a steering wheel in the other, and, like his sister before him, he’ll find that there are much more entertaining things to do than hang out with one’s uncle. That’s okay … that’s life, and I understand that. It’ll still hurt when that day comes, but I’ll understand. I just hope that before that day comes I can pass along to him a lasting love for genre film, and an ability to appreciate the great horror films of the past hundred years, be they silent, black-and-white, or whatever. That will be my gift to him.
And his gift to me will be the knowledge that I still have things to say about these movies that are, and have always been, such an important part of my life.