Growing up, I wanted to feel as fucked up as possible. I had so many things going on in my personal life that seeing blood and carnage on screen felt like the greatest release around. While most kids in my area were wearing mullets and break dancing to impress the popular girls, I found myself making nonstop trips to my local video store to rent Faces of Death andManiac. I’d hand over my weekly allowance and take advantage of the wonderful five movies for five days for five bucks promotion that was a staple in my upbringing. I grew up sexually and physically abused throughout childhood, so I had such a need to be transported into stories of horror and enduring the terror in front of us. But as time went by, I just wanted to see a lot of carnage played out in front of me and if a film was gory and fucked up, it was everything I wanted.
I find myself looking back at that time of my life and while it was a lot of fun watching Fulci and Lustig films on repeat, I’ve noticed that my sensibilities have changed somewhat over the years. The reason for that change is quite simple: I had kids. It wasn’t an overnight change, the films I gravitated towards. It used to be that if a film was hardcore enough to incite walkouts and riots, then I knew I’d love it, but it’s only quite recently that I’ve noticed that I’ve simply grown out of a lot of films I used to adore. When A Serbian Film was released, I bought pizzas and beer and showed it at my brother’s house, packed with friends. After the film, my brother stared at me and just said, “What is wrong with you?” And I found myself laughing. I felt that I needed to show people the film because it would be fun to see their reactions. These days, I have zero interest in that film or any of the transgressive-leaning films that I used to run to. It’s just not easy for me to watch those films. I don’t mean to say that people can’t or shouldn’t enjoy them. Art is subjective. If someone enjoys those films, then more power to them.
While at Fantastic Fest in 2015, I watched a screening of the Ti West-helmed The Sacrament and when it was over, I needed to call my children to tell them I loved them. It hit me, it hit me hard. Seeing kids who looked like my own getting killed led to a change in my soul. It caused me to examine how I felt about films that push the boundaries for gore’s sake, and how I just grew out of Faces of Death,A Serbian Film and American Guinea Pig. I didn’t need to see a man being drugged and unintentionally raping his kid. I didn’t need to see someone stomping on the skull of an infant to escape in The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence). Don’t even get me started on sitting through a character raping women with barbed wire around his penis in that same film.
Having children calmed the spirit in me. I didn’t need bloodshed and carnage anymore, I needed to feel something greater than bloodlust and I need to lean towards films that really spoke to me in ways that allowed me to think about my own life and what being a human and even more importantly, being a father meant to me. Seeing a film like Hereditarywrecked my soul in a way I can barely articulate. Charlie’s death in that film shook me to my core, but what it did in ways that the films I used to love didn’t do for me, is that I allowed me to address what I thought about mortality, lineage and loss. The Lodge was another one that led to some deep introspection, regarding what situations we put our children into, without caring what effects it will have on them. Adam Egypt Mortimer’s Daniel Isn’t Real let me ask myself about the mental illness passed down from my mother to myself and most likely will be passed down to my kids. It allowed me to think about how I can combat that and be open to my children suffering, thinking of ways to help them.
Again, I’m not dissing films like a lot of what Unearthed Films puts out. They have their audience and I’m all for people enjoying what theY like. I just lost the interest in seeing people put through the worst for no reason other than how far we can push the boundaries of what we are seeing. Not every film has to be some profound experience, trust me, I will champion films like Hell Fest till I die because having fun is just as important to me. That said, I’ve realized that the films I tend to revisit more often are ones that, for one reason or another, challenged how I felt about life and morality. Films that challenged how I felt about what happens when we die and the imprint we leave. It’s impossible not to realize that having kids changed me and what I’m into. I’m very much in love with leaving a lasting mark on those around me, and I think the films I gravitate towards these days are ones that fully enforce that.
Who am I and what will I leave behind is a question I ask myself quite often and it’s impossible not to feel that bleed into the art I consume. Genre filmmaking has the ability that very little other genres have: to cause us to not only live viciously through the characters we’re seeing but the ability to move us. To inspire us and to make us think about how we feel about the situations around us, the pain and suffering in the world. While seeing how hopeless we all can be during this odd existence we’re living in right now, the horror that has helped me the most is the horror that can destroy us, yet also causes us to examine our own souls and question what being alive really means.
Maybe I’m boring now. Who knows, maybe I lost my edge. That said, what makes the horror genre so great to me is how inclusive the genre is. While this entire article speaks on me growing out of gore-fests, I’m most certainly happy they exist because we all have our precious gems and it’s great to see how different we can all be, yet we’re all in love with the best genre around. Whether we’re seeing men masturbating with sandpaper, a kid losing her head against a pole or a man having to shoot his own son to save the kid from giant monsters, horror causes us to think and I love it for that.
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