When I was a kid, my mom would always sit us down to watch whatever cartoons or action movies were on, while she went off to cook or clean. Back then, we didn’t have cable, but we did have many VHS movies, and most of them were horror movies that my mom kept in a chest in her room, away from us.
My mom would make it a stern rule not to watch these movies. Which is weird considering they never cared when we saw violent action films, or gory science fiction films. And wouldn’t you know it? I never killed anyone in my life. Good parenting goes a long way, folks. As you can guess, she had a library of the classic horror films. You know the classics I’m talking about. But, she’d trained us to be horror fans, and to quench our thirst for the frightening, we’d watch stuff like “The Monster Squad,” and “Goonies.”
All films that were creepy, but not scary enough to keep us up at night. And every once in a while, she allowed us to watch frightening stuff like “The Willies,” and, my childhood favorite, “The Gate.” Eventually, as we got older, like a druggie with their fix, the dose of horror she gave us just wasn’t enough anymore. We were thirsty for horror films, and one day, we busted into her chest, stole five of her horror movies, and watched them all day long without her knowledge.
I could watch almost any horror film. Any horror film but the zombie films. You couldn’t pay me to watch a zombie movie when I was a kid. Not even sitting with adults during the day made me re-consider a zombie movie. But every now and then, I’d get curious and peek while my mom watched stuff like “Zombie,” and “Dawn of the Dead.” And I paid for it. Dearly. I’d stay up all night quivering, and flinching at every shadow and sound, and I lost a lot of sleep.
Zombies just scared the living soul out of me. Something about them, to this day, just gives me the case of the cold sweats. Maybe it’s their movement, maybe it’s their need for cannibalism, or maybe it’s the fact that they’re humans eating other humans, I can’t explain it, but zombies just scare me, to paraphrase Dennis Hopper.
I now write Dawn of the Dead Fan Fiction at Fanfiction.net and the stories I’ve written have gotten a wonderful reception. And why is that? My nightmares. Since I was a child, zombies have been my specter of horror. I couldn’t sit through a zombie movie without breaking into tears, and after viewing only ten minutes of Bob Clark’s “Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things” I stayed awake for a month. You think that’s funny? There are people out there afraid of tin foil.
Undead Flyboy is still a rather horrific character to me, and looking at him instantly makes me feel like running in the opposite direction. So at nights, as a child, with a mental illness looming since who knows when, my nightmares were frequent, complex, and utterly horrifying.
I’ve spent many a nights tearing myself from my sleep thanks to a rather horrifying nightmare about the end of the world at the hands of the undead. As a child I’d awake near screams, drenched in sweat, and I’d have to sleep with my little brother. As a boy I could never go with my dad to offices, and basements he cleaned, because I always feared the inevitable attack from the walking dead.
And “Dawn” permanently did for me with elevators, what “Jaws” did for the public with the ocean. Dreams of standing in the middle of the house in “Night of the Living Dead” trying to find a place to hide as I heard the dead walk outside the house was one that left me near tears as I awoke, and another of being trapped in an office building with two relentless zombies also caused a drenching of sweat and horror one night.
When I was a kid, my nightmares kept me up at night, they had me looking toward the door, and trying to stay awake. I’d also barricade my closets and kept weapons near by. Yes, it was that extreme. But now, in my mid-twenties, as an aspiring writer who has written almost five novels… they’re inspiration.
What do I do when I have a nightmare? I awake, I pant, I recount the dream in my head, and I turn them into stories. It’s almost as if all my viewings of horror films have now become fodder for my writing, and what with the realistic scenarios, and horrific situations, I just feel like something in my brain is giving me the material to write these stories.
I was taught to use my limitations as an advantage all my life by my parents, and my madness, and overall insanity has been a wonderful key to horror, because horror movies are only instrumental in activating the fear receptors in our mind. What we fear after the horror movie is all in our head. So why not use it to our advantage? And I did.
I’ve written almost ten “Dawn of the Dead” fan fictions, all at almost two hundred pages, and I’m currently working on a short horror story, and a big horror movie anthology. And I use everything I fear to my advantage; my fear of the dark, my fear of heights, and even my fear of the walking dead. And I think I’ve churned out some rather good fan fictions. It’s an addiction and one I’m not shabby on.
And I’m also very careful not to rip from “The Walking Dead.” These days many people are still rather tired of the zombie sub-genre, but I think there’s still some good to be had, by the right creative mind. Look at “Xombie” and “The Walking Dead” for fuck sake. It’s possible! New ideas and new concepts can still be capable of giving an old dog a new trick. With the right person we can end up with “Shaun of the Dead,” or we can end up with… “Zombie Bloodbath.”
These days, zombies still horrify me, but not as much as when I was a kid. I sleep well enough, and I can sit through many zombie movies. In the last four years I’ve made an effort to watch all the zombie flicks I was too afraid to watch before. “Dawn” I saw for the first time in 2004, and I love it. “Day” I saw a few months later, and I loved it. And of course, there’s “Land of the Dead,” and “Shaun of the Dead.”
But zombies have remained fictional for me, as I’ve matured. They’re no longer the possible monsters that could creep up on me, just the scary figments of sick imaginations. Growing up, I’ve learned there are more terrifying things out there than the walking dead.
Global warming, the Iraq war, going homeless, cancer, losing my family, this damn heart problem, and just so much more things. In 2003, I had open heart surgery. I was in the hospital for almost a week with a tube down my throat, and the possibility of infection. That, my friends, was scarier than anything I could imagine.
But at night, as I turn in to sleep, I wonder what my brain has in store for me. Will I have a sweet dream? Will I have a dream of being in high school for the thirtieth time? Or will I have another run in with the walking dead who try to feast on me and my loved ones? I’m not sure, really, but one thing’s for sure, I always have a pen and notepad nearby when I wake just in case the inspiration should strike.