The Horror Closet #4 — Interview with Horror Journalist, Trace Thurman

Horror Closet - Trace Banner

I recently had the chance to conduct an interview via email with out horror blogger and journalist, Trace Thurman of the website, Bloody Disgusting. It was exciting for me to pick his brain as an article he wrote a while back (which we discuss in the interview below) was a huge inspiration for this very column.

Halloween Love: Most readers will know you as a writer for Bloody Disgusting. How did you snag the gig?

Trace Thurman: Pure luck. I had started writing my own blog in May 2014, about 6 months before I inquired about a position at Bloody Disgusting, and was writing one blog post a week. One of my recurring themes in my posts was one in which I defended films that had a poor reception, and in November of that year I saw BD post an article titled “In Defense of Scream 4“, so I submitted my defense of Drag Me to Hell and Brad [Miska, editor of BD,] posted it. I volunteered to keep submitting posts and a few months later I became a part of the team. They get inquiries every day from people who want to write for them, so I was honestly pretty surprised that they took me on. I remember I asked Brad one day why he hired me and he told me I just caught him at a good time. So, yeah. Pure luck.

Drag Me To Hell

HL: In May of last year, you wrote an article for BD entitled “Coming Out Screaming: How a Gay Man Found Acceptance Through Horror”. Tell me what brought you to write that post?

TT: Honestly? I saw that Harvey Milk Day was approaching and I wanted to do something in honor of that man. Whenever I’m planning out my monthly writing schedule I look for upcoming holidays or days of significance, release date anniversaries for films, etc. So when I saw Harvey Milk Day I was just going to write about the representation of homosexuality in the genre. Something just sparked in my brain and I decided I wanted to write something personal about my connection with the horror genre as a gay man. I spent about two nights working on the piece (I have a regular 9-5 day job so I do all of my BD writing at night) and submitted it to Brad (Mr. Disgusting) for review.

HL: The response was pretty huge. I, personally, found it refreshing just to have you repping for the gay horror nerds. Were you surprised by how many BD readers seemed to identify with the post?

TT: Yes and no. I happen to live in Austin, Texas, which is a very liberal area of Texas (the blueberry in the tomato soup, as it’s usually called because Texas is a red state but Austin always votes blue). I’m surrounded by many like-minded people. So I know a lot of other people in the LGBTQ community who are just as into the horror genre as I am. That being said, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Brad prepped me by saying they would be on the lookout for hate-speech in the comments but I told him I didn’t want anything to be taken down unless it was life-threatening or something like that. I was aware of the potential negative reactions the article would get so I steeled myself for them. Luckily, many of the responses were overwhelmingly positive. Even some of the site’s biggest trolls came forward with their support (surprisingly, many of them were also gay). I had many people contact me directly to tell me that they don’t know any gay people other than themselves and that it gave them hope that one day they could find a community that supported them. It was a wonderful feeling to know that I gave people hope. It really warmed my heart.

HL: It honestly made my day when I read that article and saw the out-pour of support that followed. It really could have gone down differently, but I’d like to think horror fans in general are a bit more progressive in their thinking. I’ve always felt the genre is much smarter and more important than it’s given credit for. As you stated, though, there are always “trolls”. How do you deal with them, and do they ever wear you down or make you censor yourself on the site…or your everyday life, for that matter?

TT: Trolls are something that I’m still getting used to. I used to get REALLY bothered by them in the beginning and would reply to every single troll-y comment (I still do this to an extent), but I’ve learned to sort of ignore it. I’d like to think that the bullying I endured in middle school and the beginning of my high school career helped steel me against the trolls, but I’m still a people-pleaser at heart so I still try to interact with them. Most people back down when they realize they’re actually talking to a human being and not a faceless name on the internet. This really helps when I reply to rude comments on the Bloody-Disgusting Facebook posts for my articles. I don’t censor myself though. I try to think ahead and consider what a troll may reply to something I’ve written and address in the article (see my recent post on Fox’s The Exorcist for an example of that), but at the end of the day I’ve resigned myself to the fact that trolls will be trolls and they all probably look like the World of Warcraft guy from South Park. They’re just sad people looking for attention.

HL:I completely agree regarding The Exorcist! I thought the first episode was kind of “blah”, but now I will be so upset if it ends up getting canceled.

As I’ve talked about before, sometimes being gay and loving horror makes you feel doubly an outsider. Now that you’re fully immersed in horror culture, do you feel there is a larger gay horror community than most are aware? If so or if not, explain your reasoning.

TT: Absolutely. I actually think that many of the commenters on the site are part of the LGBTQ community. But there is definitely a large horror following within that community. I think it would make a fascinating research study, but I’m certainly not qualified to conduct an official study or anything like that. I’m not saying that all LGBTQ people are horror fans of course, but I do think there is a correlation there.

HL: Yes, I feel like the horror genre is already the “outsider” genre. Even in today’s age of nerd culture leaking into the populace mindset, horror is still the redheaded stepchild. It would make sense that the LGBTQ community would embrace the genre.

In past articles you’ve mentioned growing up unable to watch R rated films. I take this to assume you had a religious upbringing. What was it like coming out in that environment? Were your parents accepting?

TT: My mother was raised a strict Catholic in Louisiana and my dad was raised Baptist, but they raised my sister and me as Catholics. It wasn’t super strict, but I would say we were a religious household. Coming out was something I sort of blurted out at the dinner table when I was 16. I had just started my junior year of high school. By that point I had been out with my friends for a few months (I was a theater kid so everyone in that group was accepting). My parents were shocked (their word, not mine) and didn’t see it coming. There was definitely an adjustment period (two years, to be exact). They told me they weren’t trying to change me but they wanted me to see a therapist to discuss the issue. After one session the therapist essentially “sided” with me and said that I was 16 and clearly knew that I was gay. My parents weren’t wild about that, so I stopped going to therapy and they told me I wasn’t allowed to date. I still did, mind you, but in secret. It wasn’t until the summer before I left for college before I sat them down again and told them that nothing was going to change and they were going to have to accept me as I was. That was a long time ago though. Now they’re 100% accepting. It just took some time. I’m 27 now and getting married to a wonderful man in February, and they will of course be there. I love my parents very much.

HL: Well, congratulations! No Halloween wedding, or would that have been too predictable? Care to shed any light on the actual wedding plans?

TT: Ha no. No Halloween wedding for us. We didn’t want to be too theme-y. Without going into too much detail, we are incorporating some horror into the wedding (one of the cakes will be covered in “blood” and the pre-ceremony music will be string quartet versions of horror movie themes), but nothing too theme-y. Coincidentally, my fiance occasionally writes for Dread Central, a rival horror site. But we at least get to do a lot of press stuff together because of it.

HL: Was there a film that stands out in your mind from when you were younger as being something you know you shouldn’t have been watching?

TT: Many movies, because I really wasn’t allowed to watch any R-rated films. That was more my mother’s rule than my father’s. He did let me sneak a few movies over the years. The first one was The Faculty when I was 10, and then we marathon-ed a bunch of movies one week when I was 13 (this included Scream 1-3, Jeepers Creepers, Deep Blue Sea, Halloween: H20 and Scary Movie 1-2). Actually, now that I look at that list, I think Scary Movie was the first R-rated movie I saw where I thought “I should really not be watching this.” The Sweetest Thing was a close second, too. I remember watching that when I was 13 or so and feeling very guilty. My mom frowned upon sexuality in film more so than the violence. That was the Catholic upbringing though.

HL: I think most religious upbringings are part and parcel with sexual guilt. I know my parents were the same, and I was brought up Pentecostal. I suppose the Bible is incredibly violent but not terribly sexy. I feel that oppression easily lends itself to horror, the idea of something “evil” struggling to be free – monster in the closet and all.

I would imagine there was a sense of the forbidden to sneaking around and watching gory horror fare. With that in mind, do you look back in any way at the time when you came out and your love of horror as having some correlation?

TT: As I mentioned above, my dad would sneak me the occasional R-rated film every now and then. I didn’t really consider my sexuality until I was a teenager. Growing up in a Catholic household, I didn’t ever really think about sex. I always thought I was straight because I did really like girls. I had more girl friends than guy friends. It wasn’t until I was 14 or so that I started realizing that I was sexually attracted to men and not to women (I just enjoyed hanging out with my female friends and mistook that for sexual attraction). During those two years that my parents and I weren’t on the best of terms, I sort of lost myself in horror films. I had lost my parents for the time being, so I spent all my time either working on theatre stuff for school or immersing myself in horror films. So I guess that would be my correlation. Horror helped me feel less alone. It gave me something to cling to. Does that make sense? Did I even answer the original question? I can try to clarify more….

HL: Yes, I believe you answered the question. :) I think it’s important for someone to have an outlet when dealing with anything difficult in life. As you said, horror was your escape. It’s comforting to face you mortality in a safe environment such as a film and realize no matter how tough things are in your life, at least you don’t have a masked psychopath hunting down you and your friends. What was your “chicken noodle soup” movie, that one movie that you could always count on to whisk you away from your troubles and comfort you? Give me one horror and non-horror movie.

TT: I have a few non-horror ones: Steel Magnolias, Fried Green Tomatoes, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, Drop Dead Gorgeous and Bad Teacher. For horror, I would say Scream 2, the 2003 Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, Sorority Row, John Carpenter’s Halloween and Deep Blue Sea.

HL: I love Drop Dead Gorgeous and Romy and Michelle. They’re two of my favorites, but I feel like a bad gay – I’ve never actually seen Steel Magnolias. Also, both versions of Sorority Row are loads of fun…the remake is just way more bitchy.

Drop Dead Gorgeous
As a theatre boy, is acting something you’re interested in? Any other horror-centric ambitions beyond journalism?

TT: I think I enjoyed the community of theatre more than I enjoyed the acting. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED being on stage and the thrill of being in front of an audience is something that few things can match, but I wasn’t a great actor or anything. It was just high school. But I made some of my best friends in theatre.

I studied film in college (my two Bachelor’s Degrees are in Public Relations and Radio/TV/Film), so I would love to be in the film industry, but I didn’t take the film production route. I just did film studies, so that’s where the journalism aspect came in. I would love to die in a horror movie though (in a really gory way). It’s on my bucket list. That being said, my least favorite tactile sensation is stickiness, so I’m not sure how I would be able to handle the fake blood. But I would love to be killed in a movie at least once.

HL: Ha. Well, if – or- when I finally get my next film off the ground, I’ll be sure to write in a gloriously gory death for a horror journalist cameo. It’ll have your name all over it.

What’s the gayest horror flick you’ve ever seen, whether intentional or not?

TT: I suppose the cliche answer would be A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge or Jeepers Creepers 2, but I’ll take this opportunity to bring up a lesser known horror film: Hellbent. It is definitely intentionally gay though. It’s a slasher film from 2004 about a killer who wears a devil mask and stalks gay men. It’s not what I would call a great movie, but it’s pretty fun.

HL: I really enjoyed Hellbent. I wrote about it a couple weeks ago here. It succeeds at being just as generic a slasher as its straight counterparts. It was cool to get a horror film with gay characters that wasn’t about them being gay. I wish it had launched a franchise, but…oh, well.

Hellbent - Devil 2

I’m currently doing a piece on the state of “gay horror”. It seems the vast majority of horror films made now for a gay male audience are done so with the only intent of having muscular dudes run around with their shirts off. The other “letters” in LGBTQ seem even less represented. Do you think this is something that will change, or should we expect it to?

TT: I think it will change, but it won’t happen for years (or even decades). It’s not unlike the representation of anyone in horror films. It’s always beautiful, skinny women. The straight men are usually muscular dudes too. But there isn’t much of the LGBTQ community in the horror genre in general. I think we first need to hope that more LGBTQ characters are at least put in films at all. Once we at least get a decent amount of representation then we can dig into the types of representation we are seeing. We do not yet live in a world where it’s the norm to see a gay character and have their sexuality not brought up. It is usually a defining characteristic of the character, and we need to reach a point where that is not the case. That’s why I really liked Robbie (Eric Knudsen) in Scream 4. His sexuality was never brought up until right before he died (it was a punch-line, but still). He was a gay character, but it didn’t mean anything in the context of the film. We need more characters like that in horror. I wish it was an issue that could be tackled all at once, but that’s just not something that I think can realistically change overnight.

HL: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions and dropping by “The Horror Closet”. Any parting words for the readers?

TT: Just be yourself and try not to let other people’s negative words or thoughts get to you. Caring so much about what other people think has held me back from doing what I wanted to do in the past and your fears just prevent you from being the person you are meant to be. If you feel alone, find some sort of social group and reach out to them. If you suffer from depression and/or suicidal thoughts, reach out to someone or call a hotline. Life can be really tough, but you are not alone (even if you live in a tiny town in Texas). I’m elated that my article touched so many lives, and I hope that I can continue to do that for more readers, be they gay or straight.

Horror Closet - Trace Scream

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Zachary Paul

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I'm a long time horror nerd and wannabe director. My inspirations are varied from Wes Craven, Dario Argento, George Romero, Lucio Fulci, John Carpenter, and even some John Waters and Joss Whedon. My tastes are all over the place within the genre. Give me highbrow, gross out, slow burn, rubber suit wearing, action/horror hybrid...I love it all. I enjoy writing and talking about all aspects of horror. BONUS FACT: I love cooking and eating anything with pumpkin in it.

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