Born in sunny southern California but raised deep in the heart of the Midwest, I can't say with absolute certainty when I first recognized I had a healthy interest in horror films.
As a child in the '70s, I was thoroughly obsessed with the bubblegum onslaught that was Star Wars. (What kid in 1977 wasn't?) From collecting the action figures to battling it out with your friends and their plastic X-wings, I remember being wildly impatient for the 2nd installment from George Lucas.
My older sister and I were weekend matinee junkies and we would try to catch whatever new movie was playing that week. As soon as we could get out of the house to go see Jaws 2 (1978) or Damien: Omen II (1978), well, we were there! This was the beginning of the era of the blockbuster - and as such...these films still had a unique freshness to them.
I suppose my first real recollection that I especially dug horror came with Friday the 13th (1980). Now certainly I can recall seeing (and enjoying) John Carpenter's Halloween (1978). But in all honesty it was Sean Cunningham's rabid stalk n' slash that reeled me in...and kept me there.
For the next few years, I remember renting horror films (largely slashers) left and right. The video era was just beginning to take flight, but strangely enough...my first rental memories are of laserdiscs. l can still recall plunking down a few bucks to rent the player and the discs for the weekend, both components sheathed in large, clunky plastic casings.
My early nominees for repeated viewings were Hospital Massacre (1982), the moody My Bloody Valentine (1981), and Halloween II (1981).
I devoured Terror Train (1980) and Prom Night (1980) as if there were no tomorrow. And I couldn't get enough of Happy Birthday to Me (1981) or Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981). The quirky Motel Hell always came up a house favorite.
For all their bloody mayhem, to me slashers at that time seemed inexplicably 'safer' than watching Tobe Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I remember skirting around that one as best I could.
There was something too real and gritty about the original 1974 slaughterfest...something that suggested no matter how bizarre it all was, somehow it could happen. For real. And that made me always put it back on the store shelf.
I distinctly remember seeing Curtains (1983) on cable. More than once. Many times. And instantly falling in love with this half-baked, but effective, snowbound horror. There was nothing so shudder-inducing as watching the hag-on-skates scene, and then looking outside the window and seeing the snowy, foreboding woods staring back at you.
I believe it wasn't until just before college that I finally saw TCM in all its senses-shattering glory. And I remember thinking (to a certain extent), "this is where most of what I've been watching came from. I mean, this is clearly the base inspiration."
Around this time, another holdout that I finally gave its due was William Friedkin's classic The Exorcist (1973). Considering the last quarter century and its splintering of faiths, it's no real surprise that the 'demonic possession' subgenre hasn't fared as well as the slasher in terms of popularity. But for me, the power of The Exorcist remains intact. It's not only the progenitor of countless later imitations - it's also the best.
After that I was off and running, renting or snatching up almost every horror I could find, from '80s slashers like Just Before Dawn (1981), The Burning (1981), The Final Terror (1981), Humongous (1982), The Forest (1982) and The Prey (1984)...
...to zombie/apocalypse flicks, to low budget '70s Spanish terror (invariably populated by lesbian vampires), to assorted '60s and '70s Hammer, Amicus and Tyburn horrors (1975's The Ghoul is awesome), to Italian gialli and sleaze...
...to Universal classics from the '30s and '40s, to creature and sci fi terrors from the '50s, to supernatural and paranoia-tinged chillers from the '70s, to any and all schlock high and low.
I find classic Universal terrors warmly reassuring. Bride of Frankenstein (1935) ranks as one of my special faves, as does the original The Mummy (1932).
Second tier faves include Dracula's Daughter (1936) and She-Wolf of London (1946). I relish any and all Roger Corman/AIP horrors from the '60s, such as Fall of the House of Usher (1960) and The Masque of the Red Death (1964).
We began The Terror Trap in mid 1998, and it's metamorphosed through various incarnations to become the site before you now. From the beginning, we wanted to create a homage to horrors from the past because something told us that many of these films - aside from the small handful of classics - lacked a respectful voice.
There are countless horror websites out there (news, cult, specialty, subgenre sites). But so many online horror reviews & profiles are done through the protective veil of hindsight that lends itself to sarcasm and derision. How repetitive and uninspiring it is to see the same type of uninformative reviews over and over ("this movie sucks, "this is the worst" etc.)
With that in mind, we've always striven to review these films as if we were seeing them when they were initially released. That is to say, when we watch a horror movie from 1972, we try to see and experience it as if we're seeing it for the first time - in 1972.
Criticisms like 'too slow' or 'fake looking effects' or 'cheesy' (shudder), or attacks on the fashions of the time - we've purposely avoided these types of critiques. Because those are criticisms of hindsight. Do you think a horror film made in 2010 won't look silly when seen in 2035? (It's a rhetorical question.)
Early on, we decided the fairness due these movies was to view them not just through a healthy dose of nostalgia, but also through a vacuum of timelessness. It's the least we could do. After all, from Black Christmas, to Messiah of Evil, to Cathy's Curse, to Nightmare City, actual people worked hard to create these features: cast, crew, directors, cinematographers, composers. They began, and finished a product. So kudos to them.
The challenge of running The Terror Trap has been to take a personal love for horror films and attempt to turn it into hopefully something informative for others on a general level and for a broader spectrum. We want the site to be a useful reference source for everyone from soccer moms to wayward office workers to goth punks - and everyone in between.
It's no secret that the horror movie has always been impugned by critics and film intelligentsia. They've stigmatized it as the bastard subgenre, more or less unworthy of true respect. Ironically, today, there's academic study of horror films; there's comprehensive tomes dedicated to spotlighting various eras, franchises, directors, effects etc.
But even so, by mainstream standards there's still an underlying sense that the horror genre isn't a 'serious' contender in the world of cinema; there's still a shaky vibe that at best it's comprised of rare one-shots like the well crafted The Silence of the Lambs; at worst it's simply disposable trash.
A long time coming, we finally decided to add this basic info on the two folks who've run The Terror Trap since its inception. Hope you've enjoyed it.