There are a lot of ways of getting into film nerdery. No two people seem to make the journey from regular joe to movie maniac in the same way, but in my travels I have found that almost 80% of the most dedicated and hardcore film fanatics got in the same way:
Which isn’t to say they’re still exclusively horror hounds today. But again and again I meet people who are absolute adorers of the cinematic experience and in their past lurks a horror movie that opened the way. Here are my guesses as to why horror fans make the best film fans.
6) They’re Prospectors. Being a horror fan isn’t easy. There’s a lot of horror out there, and you have to wade through a whole bunch of dross to find the gems. But that’s what any good film fan should be doing anyway – not just waiting to be handed the best of the best but be out there, on the ground, sniffing out the best. And the best way to really appreciate the good movies is to spend a lot of time with the bad movies.
5) They’re Committed. If you’re running a rep house theater and you want to pack the place, I recommend one thing: show a horror movie. If you have a big space that you rent out and want to fill it with people, stage a horror convention. Nobody comes out and shows their support like horror fans. Committment might be the single most important quality for any real film fan – you have to be willing to track down rare films, to go out of your way to see the greats, and happy to throw lots of time and money into their passion.
4) They’re Diverse. One of the great things about horror as a genre is its diversity. The genre runs the gamut from the intellectual to the visceral, from the incredibly smart to the incredibly stupid. Horror can appeal to prudes or perverts, to out of their minds wackos to completely straight people. And the fanbase reflects that – not every horror fan has dyed black hair and tattoos of Reagan from The Exorcist. And horror fans, I have noticed, tend to be more varied in race, in gender and in age. And that diversity carries over into regular film fandom for these folks; horror fans are willing to give lots of odd, interesting things a try. Outside of indie snobs nobody has seen more microbudget features than horror fans, and outside of martial arts enthusiasts nobody has seen more foreign films than horror fans.
3) They Respect History. If I’m being honest, part of the reason horror fans are so into horror history is because horror films get remade more than any other genre. And because there’s so much junk out there, horror fans tend to have to be open-minded about older films. The great thing about horror is that technology doesn’t help it so much – older films with older FX may actually work better than modern films with CGI. But even with all of those caveats, I’ve never seen a fanbase as aware of their own history. Iconic characters like Frankenstein’s Monster and Dracula remain cool and viable today, and respect is still paid to forerunners like Lon Chaney Sr., even among the less hardcore members of the fanbase.
2) They’re Fun. Horror is an essentially social genre. While some horror movies work best in a dark room all by yourself, the true gems of the genre are the ones that kill in a packed house. And that social element – actually going out to see horror movies as opposed to watching them home alone – is part of what makes horror fans so much fun to be around. On top of that is the fact that their chosen genre, while it can be serious and thought-provoking, is most often about thrills and chills and you get people who take things much less seriously than continuity-beholden scifi nerds. My experience is that if you want to go to the best party, go to the party filled with horror nerds (and they’ll also have more girls at their party. See #4!).
1) They’re Infectious. Spend any time with a horror fan and you’ll walk away with a hundred recommendations: movies, books, TV shows, comics, you name it. While some fandoms are painfully insular, going so far as to speak made up languages or create impenetrable cliques based on how much you know, horror fans always want to share their love for the genre with new people. When a horror fan says ‘You haven’t seen that movie?!’ it isn’t snotty, it’s genuine shock mixed with sympathy, and it’s sure to be followed immediately by ‘I have a copy I can lend you.’ Horror remains a genre fed by word of mouth, and horror fans love lending their mouths to the cause. And that’s the most important thing any film fan can do – spread their own love of movies to everybody they meet. Being a serious film fan is at least a little bit about being an evangelist, and nobody evangelizes like a horror fan.