Tuesday, October 29, 2013

31 Days of Halloween Presents: Last House on Memory Lane by Son of Celluloid

I am absolutely honored to bring you today’s Guest Post. It’s from an Atlanta horror legend named Nathan, who you may know better as the madman behind Son Of Celluloid.
Nathan surprised me last month by asking me if I would like to contribute to SoC’s Halloween celebration. I jumped at the opportunity to be featured alongside the likes of Allan Trautman, Sean Whalen, Cleve Hall, and Shane Morton, as well as Nathan himself. And of course, having gotten very slightly cannier over the past couple of years, I made sure to ask Nathan if he’d like to contribute to Needless Things’ 31 Days of Halloween.
So here now is an outstanding post about Nathan’s journey through horror and how he came to be…
Son of Celluloid

First off, I wanna thank Phantom Troublemaker for inviting me here to Needless Things as well as his participation in Son of Celluloid’s What Halloween Means To Me countdown. It’s an honor to be among folks who are both like-minded and out of theirs. I was asked to talk about my journey into horror and how Son of Celluloid came to be. The more I think about the origin of my horror geekery and how I became the SOC, the more I realize that I wasn’t your typical monster kid. It’s also fitting that, as I’m writing this, haunt season’s got me feeling both damn near crippled and happy as hell. Halloween represents my initial connections to the world of horror, and haunted attractions have been equal and parallel to horror movies as a driving force in my life. Join me as I take a trip to the Last House on Memory Lane.
It may sound odd, but I got my first macabre jollies from the Bible. You see, I’m the son of a Southern Baptist preacher man. In fact, until I was nine years old we were traveling evangelists, or “Jesus Gypsies” as I call them. Sure, I read about the Garden of Eden and Noah’s Ark, but the stories that always appealed to me were the gory ones. I remember more than one Sunday School teacher calling my folks in for a concerned chat about my drawings of David holding Goliath’s severed, dripping head aloft or my ridiculously bloody depictions of Christ’s crucifixion. My favorite part was the Book of Revelation, with its tales of seven-headed beasts from the sea and oceans of blood.
As you can imagine, horror entertainment wasn’t kosher in our household. That kind of stuff was “of the devil.” My saving grace, however, was that my parents weren’t against Halloween. Around All Hallow’s Eve, there was something spooky in the air. Skeletons, fake blood, and Elvira standups (which inspired my first sexual thoughts, coincidentally) possessed local stores. There were tombstones and cobwebs in the neighbor’s yard. Linus was waiting in the pumpkin patch, and monsters mashed all over the airwaves. I wasn’t allowed to dress up as something horrific (I ended up being Snoopy, a clown, a hobo, a pirate, a Viking, etc), but I was allowed to go trick or treating. I didn’t quite understand what was up with Halloween at first, but I was drawn to it. This time of year and the trappings of the holiday fascinated me, and it was through this avenue of exposure that the world of horror opened up to me. When I was eight, I recorded It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, Garfield’s Halloween Adventure, and Disney’s DTV: Monster Hits off of TV. That VHS, which also includes the Chicken McNuggets Frankenstein’s laboratory commercial (best ad EVER!), became my favorite thing to watch year round. Hey man, at that point I had to take whatever spooky entertainment I could get. In fact, I still have that tape and pop it in from time to time.
Everything changed one fateful night in early October of 1992. I had a black and white TV (complete with actual dials and rabbit ears) that I had gotten from my grandmother. It’s not that I’m that old; I’ve just always been WAY behind where technology is concerned. Anyway, I happened to stop on some long forgotten UHF station and saw that Night of the Living Dead was coming up next. I had heard the name before, though I don’t remember where, and I decided that it was time to taste a little forbidden fruit. It was the first horror flick I had ever seen, and something happened inside me as I sat there spellbound. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I consider the first time I basked in the glow of monochrome flesh eaters my awakening; the moment when I discovered who I really was.  I knew that this is what I wanted to be involved with, in some way, for the rest of my life. To this day Night of the Living Dead remains my favorite flick of all time. It was also the first horror movie I ever bought, starting my vast (and probably unhealthy) horror collection off right.
About two weeks after I saw my first horror movie, I was working in my first haunted house. That statement is akin to saying “I had my first beer and two weeks later I was shooting heroin.” I went with my folks to an event put on by First Baptist Church of Snellville called The Chilling Fields. It was an outdoor haunt that presented a full-scale reenactment of the Book of Revelation that had captured my imagination as a child. We’re talking rapture, four horsemen, ghastly punishments for not taking the mark of the beast, people rising from graves, the Battle of Armageddon, a 30 foot tall blindingly lit Great White Throne of Judgment, demons dragging screaming victims to Hell, the whole nine yards. Yes, there was a sermon at the end, but there was death, blood, dismemberment, violence, and pure, raw terror along the way. I had discovered interactive horror entertainment, and my mind was blown. I made them take me through again, and by the next night I was working there. In their minds, I was doing God’s work. In my mind I was just scaring the hell out of people. Can you imagine anything better at 12 years old than playing with a chainsaw and having adults run in terror from you, only to be told “good job?” Needless to say, I was hooked.
For the next few years I lived for October when I would get to play with madness again, but my growing taste for the macabre found other avenues. I soon discovered that basic cable had plenty of horror to offer. I would scour TV listings for fright flicks to record, and Saturday afternoon proved to be a goldmine. WATL (36) and WGN (46 I think) would each show 3 movies from 12-6, and more often than not they were horror. They would do franchise mini-marathons some weeks, showing 3 Nightmare on Elm Streets, Friday the 13ths, Halloweens, or Childs Plays. Other times we got random collections of whatever they could get the broadcast rights to for cheap. Sometimes they would switch it up and give us sword and sorcery flicks, Godzilla romps, sci-fi adventures, or post apocalyptic action epics. Then, in 1993, TNT debuted a show called Monstervision. For the first couple of years it had rotating hosts. One episode where Penn & Teller demonstrated how the special effects of Night of the Lepus were done particularly stands out. Then, in 1995, Joe Bob Briggs took over. You remember that big brother, cool uncle, or weird dude at the video store that helped you navigate the landscape of cinematic terror? For me, Joe Bob was that guy. I saw Phantasm, The Exorcist, Carrie, The Gate, They Live, Motel Hell, Return of the Living Dead, and many of my other favorites there for the first time. In talking to thirty-something native Atlanta horror fans, Monstervision almost invariably comes up as an important facet of their fear education. You’ll notice that I end all of my reviews on SOC with some variation of “Nathan says check it out,” a riff on Joe Bob’s famous sign off. That’s an homage to my idol.
Monstervision helped ease the pain when Chilling Fields eventually closed down. I moved from there to The Tribble Mill Haunted Trail, and from there to the legendary Blood Oaks in Snellville. The Jaycees ran it in an old farmhouse that was well known in the area for actually being haunted. It was all volunteer, with the proceeds going to charity. I personally think that every haunt actor should put in a couple of years at a no-budget charity haunt. It’s a great training ground. You should see some of the tricks I learned to do with a chainsaw there. Alas, after the 1998 season, the old farmhouse fell victim to “progress.” I still curse the souls of whoever lives in the neighborhood where it once stood.
During a slow night in 1998, the Blood Oaks crew had closed early and gone to Netherworld. I remember being amazed at the elaborateness of their costumes, sets, and props. I also remember being amazed that you could actually get paid for this. So in 1999, I became a member of the Netherspawn. For the first year of my tenure there I scared people on the grandest stage possible as everything from undead ghouls to GWAR-style monster warriors. The next year, I was reunited with my beloved toys and became the first person to operate a chainsaw at Atlanta’s largest haunted attraction. Whether or not my begging played into the decision to finally bring power tools into play is open to speculation. I spent the next few years as Netherworld’s resident chainsaw wielding maniac. My exploits are legendary, and the name of “Chainsaw Nate” is spoken of in hushed and reverent tones. That might be taking it a bit far, but it’s a delusion I like to maintain so don’t tell me otherwise. In 2004 I tore my knee to shreds in the middle of the Little 5 Points Halloween Parade while chasing children with a chainsaw in each hand (which was a lot of fun to tell the ER doctors), so I had to move to more character driven, less physically demanding roles.
By my Netherworld days, the Saturday afternoon movies had given way to sitcom reruns and baseball games. I had outgrown their “edited for TV” thrills anyway. Much more devastating was the loss of Monstervision in September of that year. I was working in a video store and had raided all of the other ones in Gwinnett County. During my 4 years behind the rental counter, I watched thousands of horror movies. Every single one on the shelves now existed as a second generation VHS dub in my collection. No one had anything I hadn’t seen. Then I moved into the Georgia State University dorms. With Videodrome and Movies Worth Seeing both within a 10 minute drive, a whole new world opened up to me. For years I had pored over those bootleg movie catalogs that you got out of the Fangoria classifieds and read them like textbooks of films I had to see one day. Now, those mythical paragons of debauchery were all at my fingertips. I also started haunting The Plaza Theater and The Starlight Drive-in. I had been making weekly Rocky Horror trips to The Plaza for a year or so, but now I could practically live there. My first event at the Starlight was a 2001 showing of The Hunger. If you ever get the chance to take 2 girls to a drive-in to see The Hunger, do it! Trust me.
In 2005, I moved to Savannah to drive tourists around in a hearse and tell ghost stories. It was a killer gig. I didn’t believe in ghosts when I went to “America’s most haunted city,” but I sure as hell did when I left. I spent quite a lot of time “communing with the spirits” on River Street as well. I could regale you with story after story of the spookiness and debauchery that went down in those days, but I’m not sure the statute of limitations has run out. Home Run video kept me stocked with sick shit to watch, and the Psychotronic Film Society hosted screenings of killer cult classics. Sleep all day, ghost tours at night, and booze and horror movies in the wee hours; it was a Sex, drugs, and shock & roll lifestyle straight from horror geek heaven.
Then real life terror struck. In December of 2010, through means we won’t discuss, I contracted a case of Necrotizing Fascititus. That’s flesh-eating bacteria in layman’s terms. The shit that killed Jeff Hanneman from Slayer. If you’re not familiar with it, go Google pictures. Nasty, huh? The doctors estimated that, when I got to the hospital, I was less than six hours from death. I’ll spare you the gory details, like my 14.5cm long/9cm deep incision or the 3.5 pounds of necrotic tissue they removed, but I was basically bedridden for a little over a year. Hell, I was one of the lucky ones. Only about a fourth of NF patients even live to tell the tale.
Laid up and not able to work, I had to leave my horror lover’s paradise and move back to Loganville to languish in mom’s basement. Those were some very dark days for me. But, as has always been the case, horror was there to pull me through. I was in desperate need of something positive to focus my attention on. With nothing but time on my hands, I discovered the online horror scene. I started reading horror blogs. I discovered a new crop of horror bands around the world. I was amazed at the sheer amount of information available about flicks I had never even heard of. I explored a new way to find and connect with people who were as passionate about horror as I was. I had been posting mini-movie reviews on facebook (there was a 420 character limit at the time), and people started telling me they were waiting on my review before deciding to see a movie or not. That’s when it clicked… I should start my own horror blog! Besides, I should use that useless film studies degree for something, right? So I figured out the bare minimum of web design, took a name from one of my favorite Clive Barker stories, and Son of Celluloid was born.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that writing the blog has been the most rewarding experience of my life. It drug me out of the deep depression I was in following my illness. It gave me a platform to share my love of horror and hopefully add something worthwhile to the genre that has, in a very real way, sustains me. It’s presented me with incredible opportunities. I’ve met and collaborated with some awesome, talented people. I got to work with Horrorhound until their political waters became impossible to navigate. I realized a childhood dream when I was published in Fangoria. I’ve seen films I probably would have not gotten to otherwise. I’ve interviewed icons and legends. And then there’s the best part… the free movies!
These days, you can find me all around the Atl horror scene. Since returning to my old stomping grounds and starting SOC, I’ve gotten to watch my home thrive as the horror capital of America. I’ve gotten involved in MCW. I returned to my Netherworld family where I traumatize thousands of people a year with my new love, Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches. And, of course, I watch more horror flicks now than ever.
So that’s my journey from horror-deprived child to horror-obsessed adult. Horror made me who I am, horror saved my life, and horror is what I’m all about. It’s been a long journey, and a long article, but I’d like to thank you for taking the ride with me. I would like, if I may, to leave you with two parting thoughts. First, horror is just like music or wrestling - the good stuff isn’t what the mainstream is offering. You have to dig for it. SUPPORT INDEPENDENT HORROR. The other is, simply, Happy Halloween from the Son of Celluloid. Too much horror business? No such thing.
Phantom Troublemaker vs. 31 Days of Halloween
I’m changing the format a bit this year in order to more accurately portray SyFy’s schedule and also to preserve my sanity. I had the genius idea to cut and paste the schedule directly from SyFy’s page rather than typing it out in my own format. This has saved me an awful lot of time and also means that individual episodes are listed rather than blocks of programming like previous years. So what I’m going to do is provide commentary where I feel it is needed rather than posting next to every single entry. Don’t worry – you’re getting the same amount of hilarious, then kind of funny, then labored, then thoroughly disenchanted Phantom content. Just in a different way.
Like last year, I am covering the programming from the time this posts until the time of the next post. That means that on Fridays you are going to be treated to a shit-ton of this stuff.
Let’s do it!
Face Off is a good show. I have to say, it’s rather fortuitous that SyFy is giving us good stuff here at the end of the month. This is the point where I have usually run out of steam, both from how busy October is and from being tired of writing about the same fifteen movies over and over again. But today I get a break. Because this is just solid TV.
Oct 29 11:00 AM Face Off Future Frankenstein
Oct 29 12:00 PM Face Off Gettin' Goosed
Oct 29 01:00 PM Face Off Subterranean Terror
Oct 29 02:00 PM Face Off Mother Earth Goddess
Oct 29 03:00 PM Face Off Trick Or Treat
Oct 29 04:00 PM Face Off Living Art
Oct 29 05:00 PM Face Off Cosmic Circus
Oct 29 06:00 PM Face Off Mortal Sins
Oct 29 07:00 PM Face Off The Laughing Dead
Oct 29 08:00 PM Face Off Dark Magic
Oct 29 09:00 PM Face Off Flights Of Fantasy
Oct 29 10:00 PM Naked Vegas Paint The Town, Red
I have no idea what this is, but they’ve been hyping it all month. I suppose I’m curious. Okay, well – given the title – “Paint the Town, Red” - very strongly suggests the presence of a redhead, you know I’ll be checking it out.
Oct 29 11:00 PM Face Off Flights Of Fantasy
Oct 29 12:00 AM Naked Vegas Paint The Town, Red
Oct 29 01:00 AM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie Ninth Gate, The
Oct 29 04:00 AM The Twilight Zone Mute
Oct 29 05:00 AM Paid Programming
Oct 30 06:00 AM Paid Programming
Oct 30 08:00 AM Ghost Hunters, Season 8 Dead & Breakfast
Oct 30 09:00 AM Ghost Hunters, Season 8 Moonshine & Madness
Oct 30 10:00 AM Ghost Hunters, Season 8 City Hell
And I am definitely tired of picking on the various ghost hunting shows. But I have to give SyFy credit for showing them. I may not be entertained by the format, but I have to admit that these shows are some of the most appropriate Halloween fare the channel could offer. Just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate what’s going on. And like I’ve said before – the show has been on for almost a decade – clearly I am in the minority.


  1. Thanks for the invite. Had fun getting all nostalgic.

    1. Thanks so much for participating. That was a great read.