As a life-long horror fan about to end his fifty-fifth year, I have come to realize something obvious: Although there are certain films that are canon within the genre, it’s the ones that aren’t that give it — and us — our character.
Whether we connect with them or not, F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and William Friedkin’s The Exorcist will always be pillars of the genre, but what about the flicks that fill in the gaps between those pillars? For me, these are films like Philip S. Gilbert’s Blood and Lace, Peter Sasdy’s Hands of the Ripper and Brian De Palma’s The Fury, horror movies that I connect with personally, but that aren’t recognized as essential.
These are the films that add perspective to genre appreciation, the very thing that defines me as individual from you and your horror fanaticism. It’s a pleasure to be able to introduce a fellow horror nerd to a lesser known movie that I love, to be able to introduce them to my perspective, even though sometimes it’s a flop. You pays your money, you take your chances, so to speak.
Canon titles are essential, they are cornerstones of any genre, and if someone were to ask me about how to start getting into horror movies, I’d tell them to seek out those titles immediately. You know the ones, the ones that appear on pretty much every list.
I’d tell them to be fearless and without prejudice, to seek out silent movies, movies from every corner of the globe, get rid of any fear they have of subtitles, lousy dubbing, format, age, and god forbid, black and white.
If they get hooked, well then, they’re going to start seeking out the films that will give them their personality as a horror fan. They’re going to look for other movies from the director of a canon film they’ve connected with, or its studio, writer or country of origin.
Once we’ve moved through the canon, the joy is in finding the films that matter to each of us individually. That’s when we truly find out who we are as horror people.
One last thought about all of this: We need to allow people to have their own likes and dislikes, their own taste, and therefore, their own personalities within the genre. It isn’t up to us to say that this or that film is “shit”. It can only ever be up to each of us to say that we didn’t connect with this or that film.
We need to encourage diversity within the horror community, just as we need to encourage it in the world outside of our dark little cabal.