Hi I’m Tim, and this is Fence Grade Smoke.
Before we begin, I’d like to fill you in on what’s new.
Recently I’ve been seriously considering the idea of adapting Fence Grade Smoke into a YouTube channel. A text based blog is great, but I’d rather try something more interactive and challenging with a wider audience. I think that YouTube is the next step for Fence Grade Smoke, but no promises! I’m not the most prolific person in the world but I’ve long dreamed of starting a channel of videos that showcase my storytelling and analysis skills in a format that I haven’t yet explored personally.
I’ll be working on a spec piece (perhaps animation?) in the coming weeks, so be on the watch for that. Of course I’ll still be keeping up with the blog and my other personal projects, but I’m ready to start something new.
So in the spirit of that, let’s get right into today’s topic.
I love horror films. My admiration was seeded at a young age. I still remember watching The X-Files with my mom when I was four years old. She would fold laundry on Sunday nights and I would lay on my parents bed with a pillow ready to cover my eyes during scary moments. It was fascinating to watch Mulder and Scully casually break down, with scientific reasoning, the monsters on-screen (or at Scully would while Mulder dived head first into the dark underbelly of the paranormal). There were afraid, but rational. Their lack of fear kept me calm, too.
I felt so cool entering this strange new world of monsters with my mom and sometimes even my dad. I was safe on the other side of the screen, yet not. There was no stopping the monster – not until the end of the episode – so there were plenty of moments when my parents would yell “EYES!” (a signal to cover them with my hands, or with the aforementioned pillow). By the end of each episode, especially ones focused on aliens (a topic for next time), I would be shaking. My parents assured me that it wasn’t real, it was pretend. “Okay, but I just saw a werewolf attack that lady!” Nope, pretend.
I was raised during the golden age of horror television, particularly for kids. Goosebumps and Are You Afraid of the Dark? are national treasures (they’re Canadian but I stand behind that statement). They each had their own different flavor. Goosebumps went right for the jugular, aimed to scare the hell out of you, and at 3pm on a weekday, no less! Whereas Dark? had a slower, more “classical” approach, adapting old urban legends and horror tales for a modern audience. There were some unforgettable episodes but, for the most part, it didn’t nearly hold a candle to the fright fest that was Goosebumps.
Fun fact: The two part episode The Werewolf of Fever Swamp is without question the best episode of the series. It’s also a staple of my yearly Halloween binges, and has been since I was a young kid. When Fence Grade Smoke becomes a YouTube channel, expect this to be one of the first episodes.
Another fun fact: I didn’t read the Goosebumps books as a kid because the cover art grossed me out. No joke.
I didn’t hit my horror stride though until halfway through my teenage years. There wasn’t a need to scare myself from the ages of nine to fifteen. I was bullied, moved around the country every two to three years, losing touch with more friends than I could ever count, and at thirteen was reeling with onset depression. There were more things to be concerned about than Dracula or the human-plant hybrids in some guy’s basement (obscure Goosebumps reference). I soon understood that there were monsters in the world but they weren’t colorful pretend monsters. I didn’t need to bother myself with what wasn’t real.
As I said, that changed when I was fifteen. I was starting high school, and I had built a pretty good network of friends. They always had my back, never allowed any one to give me shit, and helped me to build a base of confidence and self esteem. These friends were diverse too – gamers, athletes, musicians. Having a foot in different cliques was something I never had before, and I treasured it. But there was one common thread between all of them.
Horror films were the shit.
My friend Alex, whom I’m still good friends with to this day (I love you, buddy) turned me onto the Disney film The Nightmare Before Christmas. I remember watching it and thinking, “I don’t get this at all.” It took at least a couple years to have a complete one-eighty on my feelings toward the film, but something had changed that night. Some forgotten feeling was awoken. Excitement. The depression had left me feeling numb most of the time, but even watching a scary kids movie, I felt that tender sweetness that only horror was able to touch.
I began to dip my toes back into the horror genre. I affixed a more analytical approach to my viewing habits, not just trying to scare myself, but trying to understand why horror was good. So I branched out my options. Which were the scariest films? The most gruesome? Heart-wrenching? Psychologically torturing?
I ate it all up.
It started small, with polished re-watches of Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Goosebumps, which transformed into classics like The Thing (1982), Child’s Play, and The Hills Have Eyes. Once those were done I zipped through modern films like Cabin Fever, The Descent, Shaun of the Dead, and more. Speaking of, Shaun introduced me to horror comedy, and that was an entire trip and a half to see how horror could be considered funny. Suspiria showcased that death scenes could be beautiful, and The Human Centipede taught me that horror didn’t have to be “good”, that it could be dumb but still enjoyable as hell (aka B-movies).
It’s been almost a full decade since my horror obsession blossomed but in reality, I’ve always been a lifelong fan. The feeling of catharsis that one can garner from watching horrific displays of violence is endearing, and I owe much of my writing career to the genre. As I round out my latest piece (a monster story!) I wanted to take a look back and write about the roots of my most beloved genre. Horror is a significant aspect of who I am. Without it, I’m not me.
Before I go tonight I will advise you to check under the bed. If you listen closely, there’s something scratching underneath…
Until next time.
Image source: Google Images