Hello! My name is Charles Pieper, and this is my traumafession.
When I was a little kid I LOVED horror movies. I saw my first R-rated films when I was just in Kindergarten! They were AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and PUMPKINHEAD. They blew my mind, and I was forever changed for the weirder. I was an instant weirdo, in love with gore and monster effects. The film’s effects didn’t scare me at all, for I knew they were made by the effects artists, who became my first role models/idols. In fact I met TOM SAVINI at my first Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors when I was just in the 1st grade. I also recall buying an artist made, full over the hand wearable reproduction of Freddy’s glove from NEW NIGHTMARE, there which I proudly wore while at the convention.
I became so obsessed with monster movies that I began adapting them into the stories I drew in elementary school, much to the chagrin of my often terrified and confused teachers. I’ve been chronicling those drawings at YOUNG MONSTERS.
I also started making movies at home with my family’s VHS camera. My first film was a mystery called ‘Murders at the Halloween Hotel!’ I still make movies today, specifically stop motion music videos, but it all started back there in my living room with some fake blood and a VHS tape!
My childhood bedroom was covered in posters of Freddy Krueger, GODZILLA, and CRITTERS. Every trip to the local video-store brought me to the darkened upstairs horror section, which was behind a roped off area, up a rickety staircase. The room itself was covered top to bottom in old VHS tapes, the type with the plastic sheet over the actual video that you had to squeeze at the bottom to release the VHS with that singular sort of skritchy sound. It was from this store that I rented all the sequels to NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, FRIDAY THE 13TH, and THE HOWLING, and that was how I learned my Roman Numerals!
My love for horror and gore grew and grew. Nothing seemed to phase me! My friends and family would freak out and I’d simply explain that it was only a latex head filled with meat or the like.
But then, some random things horrified me out of the blue, much to my parent’s and my own surprise. First was PET SEMETARY. I became so shocked watching it that my parents actually turned the tape off before we finished it. This was unheard of! What had scared me so much? Me, who didn’t bat an eye at zombies, devils, demons, and decapitations? Well, it was that damned cat! That’s right, I was afraid of the hissing cat.
The same went for good ol’ Jonesy the cat in the dream sequence in ALIENS. Gah! That sound! I became so frightened by cats that I convinced myself that my house was being haunted by a ghost cat, and that, at night, I had to sleep in bed in a special position with my head focused at the door so as to prevent cat attack!
The next thing to scare me was…MICHAEL JACKSON’s ‘Thriller.’ Me, who loved all and every werewolf movie whole-heartedly, was terrified of that Jackson werewolf…Was it the whiskers that made him look cat-like perhaps? Hmm…
And then came the big one….And believe it or not, it was one of the worst horror movies ever made that reduced me to a quivering mass of fear. It was….drumroll please…..NIGHT OF THE LEPUS. Yes, you read that right. NIGHT OF THE LEPUS, the infamous giant killer bunny rabbit movie. Something about it just floored my young self. Those slow motion shots of rabbits leaping over cardboard cars shook me to my very core. I remember going to bed after seeing that film and dreaming that a giant fanged rabbit with wide swirling eyes was standing at the foot of my bed, grinning and beckoning to me, like the skeletal host of CREEPSHOW!
In the end I came to realize that what got me so frightened about these things were that they were all REAL. Cats were a real thing. MICHAEL JACKSON too, was, more or less real. And rabbits were also certainly real! The fact that these things actually existed was what scared me, no matter how irrationally presented they were in these movies or videos. Real life was way more scary to me than any imagined monster in a movie ever could be!
And, all these years later, it certainly still is!