2017 10 16 Modern Dread Guest Feature

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My First Experience with Horror

Written by Ryan Fassett


As a kid, horror movies never really got to me. I absorbed them for as long as I can remember, spending many a night sneaking downstairs while everyone else was asleep and watching whatever B monster movie I could find on TV at such an hour. They just never frightened me. I can’t say why, but I always liked the monsters and felt more for them than the people in these films. Frankenstein and Dracula were like my buddies or something. They were weird, I was weird, so it was all cool. The only movie that bothered me was the ending of “Ghostbusters 2”, when Vigo came out of the painting. I had a thing with people in paintings when I was little. Maybe I watched too much of “Rod Serling’s Night Gallery” with my grandparents or something, I don’t know.

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But even with Vigo doing his damnedest, that wasn’t really a moment where I understood horror. Nope, that came when I was four and was introduced to a film about a couple of guys fishing for an ill-tempered 25ft great white shark. I loved sharks as a kid, and one day on TV, they had a commercial for the not-so-beloved “Jaws: The Revenge”, which was airing sometime soon. All I saw was “JAWS” though, and I bombarded my parents with demands to see this epic shark movie. “JAWS!!!” I demanded over and over, and after much debate between them, my dad rented the original Spielberg classic and we gave it a go. My mom told me over and over as it started, “If you’re scared, just say so and we’ll turn it off!” But there was no way that was happening.

I loved the film and to this day it’s my favorite film ever. But I took away more than a favorite movie from that experience. I remember looking over at my parents multiple times through the film and seeing them: scared and tense. They were still suffering from Jaws PTSD from seeing the film on the big screen in their teenage years. That film was a cultural event that absorbed (and scared the hell out of) everyone. It was a defining terror in their life and it was one that stayed with them years and years later, even in seeing it on a small screen in the safety of their living room.

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That moment hit me like a ton of bricks. It was a realization for me and I really saw the power of a good story and especially the long-lasting power of a good scary story. Once something scares you deeply, that feeling will be with you forever. A good effective horror story becomes like a muscle memory, where when put into that situation, all that feeling and reaction floods back, almost instinctively. I loved what I saw on the screen that day and maybe I loved the reaction from my parents even more. One thing was really clear to me though: I’ve got to get this reaction out of people some day!

Ryan Fassett co-wrote Modern Dread with Pat Shand, an anthology about today’s greatest fears. From tales of infected tattoos to sadistic Uber drivers, from stories about young motherhood to internet trolls, Modern Dread ushers in a new generation of horror. Modern Dread is now live on Kickstarter.

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