Monday, February 27, 2012

The cost of being a horror fan


If you are new to the horror genre and you start poking around YouTube looking at all the videos of people with huge horror collections then it will undoubtedly make you wonder how much all that stuff is worth. You may start to think that ever being in the same position is beyond you and it will probably make you extremely jealous and discouraged as well.

The truth is that it doesn't really have to cost you anything to be a horror fan. All you have to do is read a few books and watch a few movies and, with the advancements in technology, you can do all that online for free.

Obviously, to be a "horror collector" is another matter. I am not a huge horror collector myself although, yes, I do have a massive horror DVD collection, a few books, toys, autographs, posters and other merchandise which I've acquired over the years. I never set out to do it but it just sort of happened.

In the middle of the 1990s, long before eBay existed, I admit that I went a bit mad at all the car boot sales in England. I bought books and VHS tapes with every penny that I had but it certainly wasn't all horror. I just loved movies of all kinds and, fairly quickly, I went from owning 4 pre-recorded VHS tapes to 40, then 400, until, finally, ten years later, I had around 3000 tapes. The cost wasn't so much financial, as I didn't pay more than a few pounds for each one, but the time and space needed to store everything.

Of course, moving to America meant that I had to let most of that go. I bought a lot of replacements on DVD, gave stuff away left, right and centre, and even burnt some of it. Yes, I can imagine how much the thought of destroying collectibles may horrify you but, trust me, some of the things I had really should never have existed in the first place.

Over the last four years, I tried to avoid collecting again. Collecting is a sickness which isn't far from hoarding except that it usually involves a desire to organise and catalogue everything. Essentially, you become a museum curator of a load of crap which is really only of interest to you.

Anyway, I was almost free of surrounding myself with junk when I discovered Big Lots and their $3 DVDs, and then pawn shops with 4 for $10 deals. The temptation was too great to resist and so I began buying again but certainly not to the same extent as before. I limited myself to one or two DVDs a week and things were fine.

But, sometimes, I've started to want it all again. Rather, I want it all but I don't really want the same things which I already got rid of. Basically, there are some horror movies which I absolutely loathe and have no desire to ever watch again but, if I was ever to become a serious collector, I'd have to buy them for completeness. So I've stopped myself before it got out of control. I even sold 150 of my DVDs at a yard sale.

It's bad enough watching horror movies compulsively without having to hunt down every single title for a tiny moment of satisfaction when the DVD goes into its place on the shelf. That's a bit sad really and even I can see the madness in it.

I have worked out that during my entire life, I've probably spent close to $100,000 on my horror obsession. I probably spent four times that amount smoking so it's not a big deal really. If I'd had to spend it all in one go though, it would have been crippling.

Nowadays, I've noticed that a lot of younger horror fans have collections of what appear to be every horror DVD and VHS in existence and I wondered how that was even possible. Remember that I had to wait for most of these movies to appear in cinemas and then get a VHS or DVD release. Kids today are spoiled as they can buy the whole back catalogue of horror movies in one go if they have enough money and, let's face it, it's a finite collection as there aren't any good horror movies coming out anymore.

So what does it cost to acquire every horror movie ever made? Depending on where you shop, I estimate that you could now have all of them for $1500 to $2000. Books are a different matter but, then again, nobody reads books anymore anyway. For another $500 or so, you could buy enough little dollies, posters and t-shirts to really make yourself look hardcore and therein lies a problem.

I don't believe that the new generation of horror fans are really into the genre as much as just buying all the props to make it look as if they are. They have no discernment and there's far too much of what I call "hipster bullshit", praising the lamest films they can find just because the titles or artwork on the DVDs amuses them. I don't get it.

We've all seen the collectors with their unopened action figures, shrink-wrapped comic books and such, but what never ceases to amaze me is the number of them with still sealed DVDs of movies which they have never watched and, in all likelihood, will never watch either. It's one thing to be a horror collector but it's another thing entirely to actually have watched every horror movie and read every horror book.

When I see some 20-something horror fans showing off on YouTube with all their gear, I feel a bit sorry for them because it will take them another 20 years to have been entertained by it all. The true cost of being a horror fan is time.

If, by some fluke, I suddenly had $3000 to waste recklessly on horror movies, you can be sure that my own collection would magically transform itself into something that would make video rental stores envious instead of being made up of only the best films which I have sifted out from the chaff. The big difference between me and a horror collector is that all my stuff is nothing more than a reflection of things which I've used to entertain myself. Horror is not my life although I've certainly spent enough of my life on it.

Okay, so I'm getting a bit ranty about things here, but the point I'm trying to make is that if you want to be a serious horror fan then you have to invest more than a couple of thousand dollars into a room full of DVDs and VHS tapes. You should choose your movies carefully, watch them, enjoy them and toss the ones you don't like.

My advice is to watch and read everything but only keep the things which you know will entertain you again later on. Horror books and movies aren't some great works of art, they are just entertainment. Making them out to be anything more than that will cost you not only your time and money but also your credibility as well.

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