In a few weeks, I will be headed to my first Texas Frightmare Weekend. I’m beyond excited (have you seen that guest list? Dario Frakking Argento!), but I’m also pretty nervous. You see, I have a bit of a fandom inferiority complex. No matter how much I know about a subject, I’m always convinced that I don’t know enough to call myself a “real fan.”
“But Jessica,” you may ask, “if you don’t think you know enough about horror to be a real fan, what makes you think you know enough to write a horror blog?” Well, my friend, I think the more important question is this: what kind of snake did I hide in your house, and where did I hide it?
Before you go searching your air vents for what may or may not be a black mamba, let’s look at this “real fan” idea. I don’t see as much elitist gatekeeping in the horror community as I do in my other main fandom, the comic book community. (That’s just my experience, though – some of you may have encountered a lot more of that in your horror travels. If you have and you want to school me on horror snobs or you just need to vent, please leave a comment!)
However, I do see some fans get in contests to see who can handle the most gore or who is least scared by a movie. I get that, I really do. Everyone wants to be tough and strong and savvy; everyone wants to be one of the cool kids. As a gorehound, I love talking gnarly kills, but I have learned that gore isn’t for everyone. My parents still haven’t forgiven me for taking them to see Saw III. Despite what you may have heard, pig chum is not fun for the whole family.
Though I can handle gore pretty well, I startle very easily, and jump scares almost always get me. I consider myself a fairly sophisticated viewer, so I usually see them coming, but even then the cheapest of jump scares can still jolt me out of my seat. With my fandom inferiority complex, that embarrasses me: I think that as a horror fan I should be immune to jump scares. In my mind, I routinely fail the “Seriously? That scared you?” test.
But isn’t that the whole point? I like scary movies because I like to be scared. (Not all jump scares are created equal, though; I have a post coming soon dealing with exactly that.) So when I considered the idea of the “real” horror fan, I tried to come up with a list of the scary movies you must see before you can call yourself that. Every time I put a movie on the Real Fan list, though, I would scratch it out again. There are some classics that I think everyone needs to see, but I soon realized that there’s no single movie that confers upon you the title of True Horror Fan as soon as the end credits start rolling.
So you love horror but you hate slashers? Well, you and I have very different tastes, but you’re still a real horror fan. So you love horror but you’ve never seen The Exorcist? Then hie thee hence to Netflix, but don’t tell yourself you’re not a real horror fan.
With that in mind, I still want to give you a couple of lists, but neither one will say You Are Not a Real Horror Fan Unless You Have Seen All of These Movies. Instead, the first list is kind of a Horror 101: 20 Movies to Watch If You Want to Become a Horror Fan. I tried to list movies I view as classics that also represent the wide range of horror movies. Because, y’all, horror is possibly the most varied and rich genre there is. Trust me, I haven’t forgotten my promise to post about 73 subgenres.
I approached this list as something to give people who have never seen a horror movie in their lives, but I think it can also be useful to experienced horror fans. If you’ve seen every zombie flick ever made but you haven’t explored cinematic lycanthropy or silent horror or giallo, maybe you’ll find some inspiration here.
As always, if you notice some of your favorites missing or if you think there’s a better representation for that particular type of horror movie, let me know in the comments.
20 Movies to Watch If You Want to Become a Horror Fan (in chronological order)
- The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
- Bride of Frankenstein
- House on Haunted Hill
- Carnival of Souls
- Night of the Living Dead
- The Exorcist
- Deep Red
- Dawn of the Dead
- The Shining
- An American Werewolf in London
- John Carpenter’s The Thing
- 28 Days Later
- Ju-on: The Grudge
- Trick ‘r Treat
The second list is movies I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve never seen. Look for posts on these movies before TFW (individually or as a group, depending on my thoughts on the films). Hopefully that will keep me honest and make sure I actually watch these in time for the con. I’m always looking for good horror recommendations, so if you have any other suggestions for movies I need to see before TFW, hit me up in the comments.
10 Movies Jessica Needs to See Before TFW So She Feels Like Less of a Fraud (in random order – strikethrough text means I’ve finally seen it!)
- Dellamorte Dellamore
- Dracula (Spanish version)
- The House of the Devil
Please join me in my secret shame: what horror movies are you embarrassed to admit you’ve never seen?