Get ready for the spooky season by exploring the horror genre in this interview with Shannon Duffy and Barb Croom, our very own horror film aficionados.
Have you been a fan of this genre for a while, or is this a recent discovery?
Shannon: I’ve been a fan for a while! When I was 11, my older sister rented the movie Scream for a sleepover I was having. I loved it so much, I started seeking out all of the movies they reference, and reading as much as I could on the genre. If a director talked about being influenced by a particular movie, I’d go to the video store (or, you know, the library!) and look for it.
Barb: I’ve been a fan for about 40 years!
What is it about this genre that you love?
Shannon: I thought a lot about this question, and I still don’t have a great answer! I think there’s something to be said about feeling scared in a safe environment. It’s like going on a roller coaster: it’s thrilling, and you get an adrenaline rush, but you’re not in any real danger.
Barb: I am fascinated by the imagination of the authors that can create these types of stories and what inspires them. It is exciting to experience scary things through film, knowing that they are not actually real. I love the psychological aspect of the genre and looking at how people respond and react differently to fear.
If someone asked you to describe exactly what you feel like when watching a horror movie, how would you describe it?
Shannon: It depends on the movie. Sometimes tense, sometimes intrigued, sometimes excited. I don’t think it’s that different from what people feel when they read a good mystery or listen to a true crime podcast. You might feel unnerved, but you also want to see how it ends.
Barb: It is hard to describe but overall, it is exciting, and I love the feeling of anticipation for what is about to happen.
What is one of your earliest, or most significant memories, of a horror film from your childhood?
Shannon: I was always delighted by spooky stuff, even as a kid. I remember being 7 or 8 years old and convincing my mom to let me watch Killer Klowns from Outer Space. I told her it was supposed to be funny, not scary (which isn’t a total lie!) and she shrugged and said, “Fine, but if you can’t sleep later, I’m not letting you stay home from school tomorrow.” If I remember correctly, I slept fine!
Barb: My earliest memory was when I saw Nightmare on Elm Street. It was my first experience with this type of movie, and I was thrilled and instantly hooked. I specifically remember the scene where Freddy’s arm reaches all the way down the alley to get to his victim.
Do you have limits when it comes to this genre? Are there some types of horror films that you avoid?
Shannon: I tend to gravitate more towards campy, obviously fake depictions of horror. Anything that shows realistic, explicit torture is too much for me. I can’t help but picture myself in those scenarios. I don’t have to worry about Freddy Krueger in real life, so I can just turn my brain off and have fun.
Barb: I tend to avoid gore and zombies. Zombies just don’t excite me at all, probably because they seem too far-fetched, so I just don’t really buy into the story.
What is the single biggest jump scare you’ve experienced?
Shannon: Jump scares don’t get me very often because I’m anticipating them, and if you watch a lot of horror, you start to get a feel for when they’re coming. Recently, though, I was watching a movie called The Ritual that got me in one scene. It’s about four friends who go hiking in Sweden and wind up lost while taking a shortcut through the woods. It’s a good mix of Blair Witch Project and The Wicker Man. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll leave it at that.
Barb: There is a scene in the movie Hereditary that completely shocked me. I’m not going to elaborate because I don’t want to spoil it.
What is the film that made you the most consistently fearful, and what age were you at the time?
Shannon: The Exorcist is the first movie that I can remember watching and being genuinely scared by. I appreciate it now, but I was probably 15 when I first saw it, and it was just too much for me. There’s a scene with a flashing image of the demon’s face, and it kept me awake at night for weeks.
Barb: The Amityville Horror was really scary for me because it was so believable, it really got under my skin.
Are you a Halloween fan? If so, do you have any traditions to celebrate the holiday?
Shannon: I don’t dress up as much anymore, but I love the Halloween spirit. My favorite tradition is going to the Music Box Theater in Lakeview for their 24-hour horror movie marathon. They show a lot of movies I’ve never seen before, some of which become new favorites. Everyone gets a little delirious during the overnight hours. It’s like having a big slumber party with hundreds of other weirdos like me.
Which horror element or creature consistently gives you the chills?
Shannon: I’m a city girl, so anything that involves being alone in the woods or in a secluded town always scares me. Some people find peace in the middle of nowhere, but I find it incredibly creepy- probably because I’ve been watching horror movies my entire life.
Barb: Witchcraft and voodoo! They feel a little too real to me.
What are your top 3 favorite horror films and/or books (in no particular order)? Tell us what you love about your picks.
Shannon: I have a hard time picking all-time faves, but here are three that I love.
Creepshow (1982) (Available on Kanopy)
A horror anthology written by Stephen King and directed by George A. Romero, Creepshow consists of five short stories reminiscent of 1950s horror comics. I love that watching this movie feels like reading an old comic book: it’s colorful and exaggerated and oftentimes very funny.
The House of the Devil (2009) (Available on Hoopla)
A college student takes on an unusual babysitting gig to make some quick extra cash, but as the title might indicate, there’s something fiendish going on. This movie is a great example of a slow burn. It starts off innocently enough, but things get more tense as the movie goes on, and eventually it completely boils over. It also features (Barbie director / co-writer) Greta Gerwig in an early acting role.
Train to Busan (2017) (Available on shelf at RFPL or online with Hoopla or Kanopy)
Passengers are trapped on a speeding train during a zombie outbreak in South Korea. A lot of care goes into the character development in this movie, which isn’t always the case with horror. It makes you root for everyone on the train and genuinely feel for the poor schmucks who don’t make it.
Would You Rather I loved this film because it makes you think about the lengths people will go when they are in a desperate situation.
The Box is a film that makes us consider moral dilemmas, which is why I really enjoyed it. Who gets to decide who lives or dies based on your needs? What are the ramifications of the choices we make? Does money really have that much power?
Devil is a film about five people trapped in an elevator, one of whom is the devil. This film really made me think about life’s choices and being honest. It makes you realize that you never really know people’s true characters. People have layers and it might take extreme circumstances to know what’s under the surface.
Do you have a favorite horror sub-genre?
Shannon: Slashers. They were the first horror movies I really loved, so I’m always a sucker for them.
Barb: Psychological thrillers. I love films that make me think.
What is the worst horror film or book you’ve ever seen or read?
Shannon: Calvaire is an early 2000s French horror movie that made me feel so uncomfortable and awful, I needed a hug afterwards. It’s about a touring lounge singer who has car trouble and winds up stranded in a secluded town. It builds suspense very well, but then just goes off a cliff. Very bleak, very gritty, very explicit- if that’s your thing, have at it, but it wasn’t for me.
Barb: I can’t think of one!
What is the most obscure horror film or book you would recommend?
Shannon: This is a tough question because obscure is such a relative term. A lot of horror is obscure if it’s not a genre you typically enjoy, but for people who love it, you have to dig deep to find something unknown. I’ll aim somewhere in between and say The Invitation (2015) (available on Kanopy and Hoopla). It’s about a man who gets invited to a dinner party at his estranged ex-wife’s house, and slowly suspects that his hosts have sinister intentions.
Barb: The Platform is a Spanish film about a vertical prison with one cell per level. Two people per cell. Only one food platform and two minutes per day to feed. (Available on Netflix)
Dead Birds (Available on Kanopy)
Shannon Duffy joined our team as our new Operations Manager in July 2022. Shannon works closely with the Director, sharing responsibility for library administration, finances, and facilities, as well as overseeing the Materials Services Department.
Shannon has a Master of Library and Information Sciences from Dominican University. When not working, Shannon enjoys reading all types of genres, watching horror movies, and playing the guitar.
Barb Croom has been with the library since 2011 and is responsible for checking in books and shelving. Her organizational skills help us to keep our shelves neat and tidy. Looking for a great movie recommendation? Ask Barb! She’s a movie buff.