While I may be making a name for myself as a romance writer, my other great love is horror. It’s hard to pin down the exact moment I became a horror lover, just as it’s hard to say the precise point at which I realised my sexuality. It was a love that developed gradually.
Before I was ever allowed to watch a horror film, I pined for them. They were a forbidden fruit that I was desperate to taste.
I remember dying to stay up late on Saturday nights to watch the horror double bill on BBC2, but my parents were strict about bed times. I managed to catch the odd glimpse on the black and white portable in my bedroom, but my clandestine viewing was usually discovered before I had a chance to enjoy more than a few minutes.
Then, on Saturday 28 June 1980, I was allowed to stay up and watch the first of that evening’s double bill (I had to look up the precise date on Wikipedia). The movie was Night of the Demon (1957) and it remains a firm favourite to this day. It was followed by The Ghoul from 1975, but I was under strict instructions to go to bed before this more modern offering started. I think I managed to watch about half an hour of it on the portable before my older brother came to bed and switched it off. I’ve seen it several times since, and love it.
My horror hungry heart was finally set ponding by Hammer House of Horror. This 13-part anthology series was screened on ITV between 13 September and 6 December 1980, and it was on early enough in the evening for me to see it. It terrified me (I was a sensitive soul) but I loved it! I’ve seen it since and it doesn’t terrify me anymore, but it’s a wonderful piece of nostalgia. At the time though, certain episodes and scenes had me lying awake for hours, reliving them in a state of genuine fear – the doppelganger hitchhiker with the long black finger nail; the werewolves being looked after by a human nanny, played by the wonderful Diana Dors; and blood pouring from a water pipe all over a party of little kids in the episode called The House that Bled to Death.
But my real horror awakening came at the age of 15 when I went with my mother to visit my aunt in California for three weeks, during which time my older cousin rented every horror film available from the video store. I was introduced to The Exorcist, The Amityville Horror, The Entityand so many more during those sun-drenched weeks. And after that, there was no looking back. My parents finally invested in a VHS recorder and started renting videos from our local newsagents, and as long as I didn’t stay up past my bed time (and yes, I still had a bed time even at the age of 15/16) they seemed happy for me to watch all manner of horror.
My next golden age of horror exposure came a few years later when my friend Heather introduced me to the sordid wonders of the Scala Cinema in Kings Cross, but I’ll save that for another blog. The Scala deserves a blog of its own.