Editors’ Letter: The Horror Years

Debbie Reynolds in Halloweentown (1998) dir. Duwayne Dunham. Disney Channel.

by Claire White and Odalis Garcia Gorra | October 29, 2020

2020 has been the most terrifying year to date (in our personal lifetimes). From the bushfires in Australia to the earthquakes that rocked Puerto Rico, and then the larger impact of a global pandemic. This year, we have also confronted the harsh realities of a changing climate, the ever present rise of far right politics, and the much-needed mainstream recognition of global racial injustice. We have been living in horror and it’s been scary to be alive. Somehow, we have all made it to October. And though it is always a joy to be in the “spooky” season, this year Halloween has kind of lost its edge. How do we find the thrill of being scared out of our minds when the other months of the year have already done that, twofold?

One thing that this pandemic has taught us is the need to indulge in what brings us deep pleasure. When it comes to the month of October that means movies like Hocus Pocus and Halloweentown and eating all the pumpkin-shaped chocolate we can find. And although Halloween may be “cancelled” (we implore you to stay home and stay safe!) there is still some delight in dressing up for your own self. 

Films and TV shows are a reflection of our society — at Grow Up we understand that better than anyone else — they pre-package difficult lessons that we take with us to understand what we are living through. Movies and TV shows that deal in horror show us a darker edge to our mortal conflicts. This past year we have understood that the boogeyman doesn’t just live in our nightmares and that sociopathic killers don’t have to wear a ghostface or hockey mask. Instead, they are real and tangible beings, that dampen our spirits, will to live, and just overall self. And so how do we come out on top? What tools do we have at our disposal to dismantle the systems that continue to haunt us?

We knew from the beginning that we wanted to have a Halloween issue. There is nothing more terrifying than being a teenager or young adult. And if scary movies have taught us anything is that the things that go bump in the night, love to horrify us to death (Final Girls, excluded). Thus The Horror Years was born. When we read through the pieces that you’ll read, we didn’t realize (yet) what it was that brought all of them together. What does menstruation in film (Plug It Up: Menstruation As A Teen Horror Movie Monster by Eliza Janssen) have to do with Satanism in a beloved Netflix series (Satanic Cannibal Witches: How the ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ Creates Its Own Brand of Satanism by Elliott Ryan)? How does Rocky Horror’s influence on Netflix’s Elite (The School of ‘Rocky Horror’ by Alexander Gonzalez) connect to Black Christmas’ creation of the teen slasher genre (“The Calls Are Coming From The House!” A ‘Black Christmas’ Retrospective by Jamie Tram)? What we found in each piece is that at every turn, these films or TV shows subvert and mould stereotypes to their own will.

Ultimately, we are all living in a Horror Year. Although escapism (and escape) feels out of reach for so many of us, there is hope that through the terror we can find a way to fight. To unsettle and overthrow the systemic oppression many of us live under. From patriarchy to racism to colonialism. Movies and shows that deal with darkness are proof, and a reminder, that neither a monster, a slasher, or the Devil himself, can keep us from surviving.

XOXO

C + O 

Claire & Odalis

Grow Up Co-Founders