Many fans of horror, amateur and professional alike, have devoted themselves to blogging about the thrills, chills, and no-frills side of the genre as seen in cinema and print. In this ongoing series that highlights the writers behind the blogs, we meet the unique personalities and talents that make the online horror scene so engaging. Up close and personal.
In this installment, T.L. Bugg of the Lightning Bug's Lair reveals his initial distaste for the fear, his passion for a guy named Bela, and a rich background in horror.
As Bill Cosby once said back when he did standup and was funny, “I started out as a child.” like Mr. Cosby, I also started out as a youngster and a rather fearful one at that. While I was obsessed with images from the Universal horror films of the 1930’s and 40’s, I could not be coerced by anyone to see a modern horror film. I recall one afternoon when a next door neighbor recounted to me the story of C.H.U.D. It was enough to trouble my sleep for at least a week.
My parents fondly recall when they tried to show me the Disney approved horror film, Something Wicked This Way Comes. I got about five minutes into the film, the kids saw their own heads getting cut off, and I was done. I have not ever attempted to see that movie since. The last early memory of my yellow steak was when Hellraiser came out on videotape. My folks called me in to see the part where Frank’s body rises from the floor and reconstitutes. It took me some time to recover from that as well.
At the same time that I avoided horror in Technicolor, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff were both great favorites of mine, and each year for Halloween I would request to be a vampire. More than being a bloodsucker, I wanted to be like Bela, or Dracula, the two almost inseparable in my young mind. He was intimidating with only a stare, suave yet dangerous, evil but sophisticated about it. It was around this same age that I discovered old time radio due to my love of Abbot and Costello films. (It surely did not hurt that they crossed over with the Universal monsters a few times.) While my tastes ran mostly toward the comedic programs of Fibber McGee and Molly, and Burns & Allen, there were quite a few nights where I clutched my Walkman to my chest in the darkness of my bedroom and listened intently to the horrors of the Inner Sanctum or (Shock Theater).
As I got older, I got a bit braver, and by the summer between middle and high school, I finally came to embrace gore as a way of life. On certain days of the week, my parents would cart me to Phar-mor (a Wal-Mart clone that didn’t make it), and I was allowed to rent huge armloads of movies at the bargain price of 2 for $1. While I feel certain that I first raided the classics and comedy departments, it was not long before I was drawn to the modern horror titles. I especially was interested in finding out what all the fuss was with Freddy and Jason. From there it was only a hop, skip, and a jump to the films of Sam Rami, Hershell Gordon Lewis, and classic schlock like Chopping Mall. I would spend hour after hour holed up in my room eating orange slices, downing Dr. Pepper, and reveling in my newfound appreciation of the gross, the gory, and the ghastly.
It was around this time that we got out first real computer, and I’m talking about a bare bones affair here. No Windows, no fancy graphics, and certainly no Internet. When I wasn’t playing games on 5.25 floppy disks, I found my way into the writing program and began to record my thoughts on all the films that I saw. There along with ratings denoted by 1 to 5 * I began my humble career as a film reviewer; but perhaps I’m getting ahead my myself as I forgot to mention that when I discovered my love for B-movies of all types, my father turned me on to the writing of one Joe Bob Briggs. Not only did I love all the ongoing storylines in Brigg’s book Joe Bob Goes to the Drive In, I also loved the way he talked about the cult films that he reviewed, breaking them down to how much kung fu, boobs, blood, and breasts the film contained. He still remains my primary inspiration for everything I do with my film reviewing.
Somewhere along the way in 1990, my freshman year of high school, three important things happened in my life as a cult film fan. First, I discovered the films of Edward D. Wood Jr., or more specifically Plan Nine from Outer Space. Not only was it considered the granddaddy of cult film, but it even featured half an appearance by my dear old friend Bela Lugosi. Secondly, for Easter that year (and this will tell you a bit about my upbringing), my parents got me a bootlegged copy of Rocky Horror Picture Show. In the small Southern town that I lived in, there was no chance of seeing this on a Midnight showing and it would still be a few years before it got an official release on VHS. About every time my friends came over they could not wait to get a chance to check it out, and soon I had all the words to the soundtrack memorized backwards and forwards.
The last event I barely remembered until a friend of mine unearthed a copy when cleaning out one of her closets. 1990 was the year I put forth my first reviews when I published my first very clumsily made, dot matrix-printed fanzine, The Horror Show. The title was no doubt inspired by the Brion James/ Lance Hendrikson film of the same name which I had become a big fan of in the summer past. In the first issue I reviewed a few films, Romero’s Dead Trilogy and H.G. Lewis’ Blood Feast being chief among them. When I recently got my hands on The Horror Show again I was mortified to see that the snotty 14 year old brat that I was criticized Night of the Living Dead for being poorly written and Blood Feast for the bad effects. Clearly, while I was a fan, I was not quite getting it. I don’t recall another issue of The Horror Show being printed, but I put out several ‘zines over the next few years always touching on the horror genre in passing at least.
Fast-forward a few years and after a couple of aborted attempts at higher learning, I got married in 1998. For many years I devoted myself to one obsession or another whether it was WWE Wrestling, making music, or reading voraciously. Horror and cult films were never far from my mind though. I even spent two seasons working in a Halloween store just to be around the spooky stuff for a quarter of my year. When VHS began to fade and DVD became all the rage, I was managing a video store and would come home with armloads of trash cinema for my viewing pleasure. I still find something wonderful about popping in a videotape rather than the sterility of a DVD. I spent many weekends with my friend Fran, who I had met because she worked with my wife, watching all manner of crazy flicks and such.
Strangely, the tipping point that really got me back into the genre came when I got my iPod. Quickly I discovered pod casts, the best free entertainment out there today, and after soaking up some old time radio shows and pod casts about World of Warcraft (my latest obsession), I stumbled on a show called Cinema Diabolica. I have always thought of CD as the Ramones of the pod casting world. It is said that everyone who saw the Ramones started their own band, and sometimes it seems like all the fans of Cinema Diabolica went on to start pod casts of their own, Outside the Cinema and The Gentlemen’s Guide to Midnite Cinema, or their own blogs. I fall into the latter group.
It was a strange turn of events. First I heard about the Sleepaway Camp movies on Outside the Cinema, and I knew I had to see them. Then I found a boxed set of all three of them the same day in a thrift store. Finally, that fateful August evening, while my wife was at work, I got bored and started looking at horror blogs on the web. I thought I wonder if I can do that and signed up for Blogger, posting a greeting inviting people back to see my reviews of the Sleepaway Camp movies. The rest as they would say is history.
For over a year now I have continued to review films, and my focus has taken me everywhere from action to comedy to classics, but at it’s core The Lightning Bug’s Lair is a site where horror is the grounding force and will always be.
I’ve met so many great people, been given great opportunities, and had so much fun that the site has become one of the best things that I‘ve ever down. Cult and Horror films have become my biggest passion, and at its core, I feel that that’s where the love of cult and horror films stems from. Sure we may not watch the best films, ones that don’t have the pedigree of an Oscar winner or the substance of an art house flick, but no matter how good or bad the film, Horror fans have a good time watching and talking to each other about them. It doesn’t matter if it was the greatest or the worst thing ever seen. Either way it is pure fun. So, here’s hoping for many more years of films of both good and bad and many more years dwelling in The Lightning Bug’s Lair.
Yay! The Bugg is the best!!!
Posted by: Rev. Phantom | September 28, 2009 at 12:06 PM