I grew up in a small town and we had one, maybe two video stores that rented out some good films. There was one place in particular that always allowed me to borrow the certified 18 videos but the guy knew my parents so that is how we got around that. The allure of the shop alone was too much to bear with its dazzling array of sugary snacks tainted by a slight musty smell coming from the old brown carpet. The walls were slightly damp, so the posters were always peeling and the allure of the horror section tucked away in the corner was ridiculously exciting and always my first port of call.
Growing up in the era of the VHS tape came with its pros and cons. There were times when my parents would record over my favourite shows, then there was the noise of the tape being eaten by your machine (you can still hear that right?) and the smug feeling of never having a fine because you would always remember to rewind your films.
I was incredibly young when I was introduced to horror and it was mainly the Hammer horror films together with the 70s slashers that started it all. Weirdly enough I never knew any other kids that shared my love of horror, so it was something I did by myself on the weekends. The idea of My Little Pony and Barbie did not appeal to me too much. I was an avid reader of horror novels and picture books about the making of films; I was stirred by this darkness that would become a lifelong love affair with the dark side of celluloid.
I remember it quite vividly: I was allowed to watch the 1985 classic Fright Night (written and directed by Tom Holland) for the very first time when we rented it from our local store and I remember staring at its cover wondering what on earth I was about to watch. I’m not quite sure what year it was exactly but I know I was probably a bit too young to be watching it for its nudie scenes (but then I’m not sure I thought too much of it at the time).
Teenage Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) is a horror-film junkie, so it’s no surprise that, when a reclusive new neighbor named Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) moves next-door, Brewster becomes convinced he is a vampire. It’s also no surprise when nobody believes him. However, after strange events begin to occur, Charlie has no choice but to turn to the only person who could possibly help: washed-up television vampire killer Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall).
When those credits rolled, I thought how brilliant the film was and I wanted to watch it again. I loved its special effects, its subtle comic moments, and especially its most poignant scene when Charley Brewster discovers his next-door neighbour is a vampire whilst looking through his bedroom window. This was the moment I longed for a teenage life. I could not wait to be a teen. I was bored of being a little kid and playing little kid games. I was never allowed a TV and I was certainly never allowed a VHS player. I wanted to be like Charley with his neon Coors Beer sign hanging on the wall, a double bed all to himself, the TV playing horror films all night–and a vampire living next door to him. For me, this was the stuff of dreams not nightmares.
These teens were having a great time; they had cars, TVs, occult knowledge, and they were chasing vampires – to my young brain this was amazing. I mean, how cool was it for Charley being a horror fan to be living next door to a vampire? Surely the people around him would think he was mad right? This premise was the first idea that its writer and director Tom Holland came up with and then later developed it to include a Vincent Price type character: Peter Vincent (after Peter Cushing and Vincent Price). The dynamic of the group worked perfectly; if we were in trouble with the supernatural, who would we get in contact with? An adult that killed vampires obviously.
I never did get my vampire next door (thankfully) but in my late teens I moved to university and I had my own TV, a small collection of my favourite films, my own horror posters peeling off the damp walls–and I acquired some horror and occult knowledge too.
Do not take any notice what anyone says…dreams really do come true.