Member Article

Morbid Curiosity: From scared shitless to loving embraces.

Samuel Dougherty
Insta - @beardeddonut

One of the earliest memories I have as a child is standing in the aisles of my local Blockbuster and deciding what movie to watch. It usually went something along the lines of entering the store, being told by mum and dad to go pick a film, rushing through the kids section to find something that looked fun, and then immediately after standing smack bang in the center of the horror section. I had this morbid curiosity with the covers of these films, though I’d never seen any I always made up stories in my mind as to what terrifying concoctions the tapes contained. That alone was enough to send my mind into a flat-spin as the pictures before me aided in my imagined psychological torment.

So every fortnight or so it was the same routine of going to the Blockbuster to see what was out, running off to the horror section and making up more tales judging a book by its cover. The two that forever stuck in my head are Leprechaun and A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. Leprechaun I guess because they’re meant to be whimsical but this one looked twisted and evil, a feat that my 6 year old self couldn’t fully understand. But Freddy’s Revenge, that artwork is beautiful. The oil painting poster where Jesse embraces Lisa but his reflection shows this ghoulish other half with a giant claw hand still draws me in to this day. It’s embedded in my consciousness; horror movies are in my blood.

From a young age my parents taught me that if something was really scary in the movie, or on the TV, that it wasn’t real. It was all a trick by the people who made the films in order to make us feel uncomfortable; it was their job to scare us. I saw Terminator 2: Judgment Day on TV at the age of 6 or 7, and The Matrix around the same time. I always held that notion close to myself, and effectively they had taught me a more complex version of “It’s Only A Movie…. Only A Movie... Only a Movie…” Many of those who’ve met me know that Freddy Krueger and “A Nightmare On Elm Street” are my favorite horror villain and film respectively. But few know the film that first scared me, and I mean truly scared the ever-loving shit out of me as a child.

How To Make A Monster.  Not the original 50’s film that I am yet to see, but the 2001 Tele-movie starring Clea DuVall and Tyler Mane. As a kid I loved video games, I’d talk alongside the character, throw myself into fits of rage when I lost, and immerse myself in the culture wanting to know as much about what was coming out as soon as I could. So naturally when I saw my father watching a movie about a group of people creating a videogame I jumped in along side him to see the action first hand. I’ll preface this next part by saying that I was warned by my father that this was not a film I should be watching, he tried to get me to leave the room, but I was stubborn as a mule and refused.

About 30 minutes later, with the blood drained from my face I left the room in shambles. I didn’t sleep the next night in fears that the sentient robotic amalgamation of flesh was going to come through my bedroom door wearing my father’s head as its own. It was the second dip into horror world that I remember, and having since grown up and watched the film as an adult it shouldn’t freak me out but it still did. Much alike you never forget your first love, I will never forget my first horror film experience. It wasn’t only a movie anymore, for better or worse I had felt something change within me.

A couple of years later I begged my mother to record Robocop for me on TV one night. I didn’t know about the film just the presence, An R-Rated movie about a robot cop. What more does a young boy want? Watching Murphy have his arm forcibly amputated via shotgun was shocking enough, but I’d grown up by this stage so it was all just a movie. Watching Emil crash into a tank of toxic waste before emerging as personified puddle, that was freaky. Not enough to terrify, but my attention was caught. I wanted to see more like this, I wanted to find out what the scary stuff really was in movies.

I was about 11 when I started the horror movie kick. I saw Freddy Vs. Jason for my birthday on DVD and everything spiraled out from there. I had fallen in love with Freddy, and to a slightly lesser extent the malevolent towering terror that is Jason Voorhees. So with no older siblings to help upon my journey I started with a Friday night fright series on Foxtel. Friday The 13th followed immediately by the original A Nightmare On Elm Street I made it through Friday before bitching out in the opening sequence of Nightmare. But I vowed to finish that film, so the next weekend I made the trip to Video-Ezy and rented the first three Nightmare on Elm Street films. Hooked. That night I became an addict. Be it the adrenaline or once again that morbid curiosity I had finally jumped head first into the world of horror movies.

Between the ages of 12 and 15 not a fortnight went by where I wasn’t at the video store renting something from the horror section. I must’ve seen near on everything they had. I started with the classics where I could, Friday the 13th, Child’s Play, The Exorcist, I wanted to devour it all. In the height of my early teens the Torture porn craze was at its peak. Saw, Hostel, Teeth, The Ruins - it was all going off like a frog in a sock. I became that kid at school. You know the one, watches all the weird shit, the fucked up movies. They came to me wanting to know what was and wasn’t worth checking out for dates, or movie nights, or just what to show their friends to scare them half to death.

I was one of the first to see The Human Centipede at my school.  Everyone else thought it was terrifying, I thought it was schlocky gory fun. By this stage I’d sat through High Tension and Martyrs, I considered myself a bonafide gore whore. Then in 2010, my second last year of high school, it happened. The horror film to shock and disturbed all generations. A Serbian Film. This is what I had been waiting for, I’d grown bored of all the American torture stuff, the French weren’t hitting a nerve anymore, this was the messiah. I got hold of it and wound up watching half the film in one of my IT classes. It only occurred to me to stop when a fellow classmate caught a glimpse of what I was watching and asked in a mortified tone “Dude! What the fuck are you watching!?” Luckily it wasn’t the now infamous "New Born Porn" sequence or I probably would’ve been expelled.

I continued this love of horror throughout my teens side by side with my cousin as we bounced what we had and hadn’t seen off of each other trying to one up where we could. Then in 2012 a once in a lifetime event came by that I couldn’t pass up. “Shock Horror: The Nightmare Returns” A small convention focused on my favorite franchise A Nightmare On Elm Street. Alongside Ken Sagoes (Kincaid from Dream Warriors), Lisa Wilcox (Alice from Dream Master and Dream Child), and a surprise visit from John Jarratt and Greg McLean, the man himself was there. Robert Englund. FREDDY FUCKING KRUEGER HIMSELF. I got my copy of Nightmare signed, and of course a picture with the legend. However possibly the biggest thing I gained from that convention was meeting David from the Melbourne Horror Film Society.

Friendly, approachable and knowledgeable beyond my belief it was a solid friendship in the making. Admittedly it took me another year before I a) got my license and b) finally dragged my lazy ass down to one of the screenings. It was a chance meeting that has furthered my love of horror cinema tenfold. The first screening I came to for the horror film society was a double feature of Splinter and The Fly 2, a couple films I’d seen before but I felt at the time it was better to check out something I knew just in case I had to prove my passion. It was a great night and since then I’ve been at near on every screening since, give or take a few for holidays or a dislocated knee.

So I guess what I’m trying to say with this article is that horror isn’t just a series of films for me. It is the crux that my life has been hinged upon. My once morbid curiosity has turned into a life long love that I get to share with wonderful people along the way. Since joining the Melbourne Horror Film Society it’s been a pleasure to discuss with Bob, Mel, Adam, David and all the others who come every month the intricacies of the cinema and soundtracks, as well as what’s new within our own worlds. This society isn’t a bunch of members getting on a high horse and only having one view to follow, it’s a group of friends discussing and interacting over what it is they love or loathe about horror. Every month it’s a loving embrace that the kid who was once scared shitless by horror films is glad to have, after all it’s only a movie…