A Love Letter to my Father
Everyone remembers their “firsts.” Whether it is a first kiss, first Phillies game, first cigarette, first trip to Disney, first alcoholic drink as a 21 year old, first R rated movie or first comic book, we all have those monumental “firsts” that inspire us, mold us and shape us into who and what we become later in life. Since this is my first post for The Krypt, I figured I’d talk about a monumental first for me that has since shaped my likes and dislikes since; the first horror movie that scared the ever living sh*t out of me.
Now, I have to give credit where credit is due…my dad is single handedly responsible for (in my opinion) my wonderful taste in movies and music and has always been by far my best friend and biggest supporter in this world. Growing up in the Pennsylvania countryside during the 50s and 60s he was a proud self-proclaimed nerd before it was cool to be one.
He worked for “the state,” a period of his life which to this day he cannot disclose anything about due to confidentiality renewals and then for FEMA for 30+ years until his retirement. During these times he met/worked with 7 presidents, saw the world change through a presidential assassination, another attempted assassination, four wars, countries rise and fall and the civil rights movement just to name a few. These jobs took him all over the world and far from home and family. But no matter how much he was gone he always made family his priority.
My father and I meeting Chevy Chase this past November. Doesn’t Chevy Chase look SO excited to meet the legend that is Dave Thomas?!
He is a wide-eyed storyteller who loves to enlighten my own children with tales of his youthful adventures just like how he once did with me. He tells them all about: how he once had a pet fox, how he loved to take apart radios to learn their insides and put them back together, how he built massive structures using erector sets, how he was a proud second generation boy scout who earned his Eagle Scout award, about when he picked peaches on a farm for work, his achievements as a star high school track athlete, when he was a janitor at the legendary Bethlehem Steel Company where my grandfather was one of the head engineers or when he tearfully remembers his childhood best friend Bobby Fry who died of polio at the age of 6, something that during the current Covid-19 crisis hits all too close to home.
The legendary storyteller himself doing what he does best; being Grandpop.
One of my all time favorite David Thomas stories was when my grandparents took him to see Elvis play at a local flea market and how his most vivid memory of such a once in a lifetime experience was being on my Grandpop’s shoulders staring at the mounds of bird poop that covered the rafters in the pavilion above them. He told me all about how he would go to the movies every Saturday morning to watch monster movie double features like The Thing From Another World, Dracula, Them or The Fly. He loved to talk in detail about the time he saw The Tingler starring the one and only Vincent Price.
What set this one apart from the others is that it famously incorporated a Disney-like gimmick to physically involve the audience called Percepto! which was essentially a vibrating device wired into the theatre chairs that vibrated and shook your seat along with onscreen action. This terrified my dad. The movie…is not good. But the experience surrounding his viewing of the film is what has solidified it as one of my dad’s favorite “classic” horror movies. He loves it so much that one year i was lucky enough to find him an original half sheet poster from its release for his birthday. A poster the old man still needs to get framed god damnit! I love that story, because thanks to my father and one experience in particular, I can relate to it.
It was the summer of 1988 and a 6-year-old Kevin (me) was super into his parents VHS collection. I remember this like it was yesterday. I can still picture my finger touching each tape reading each title looking for something I had yet to watch and just like that there it was. The word “Werewolf” immediately caught my eye and I was filled with intrigue. I pulled it off the shelf and read the title out loud An American Werewolf in London (John Landis) scrawled along the spine.
“Beware The Moon” by Vance Kelly.
I took it to my father begging him to put it on. He calmly warned me that it might be too much for me to handle but then went on to tell me how the special effects were quite astounding. Something that didn't cause me to take head of his warnings whatsoever. That was something he always did to get me to watch these more “mature” movies with him. In order to help me realize everything I was seeing was fake, he would explain to me how they were made via special and practical effects.
That was all I needed to hear. I knew I wanted to watch this movie and nothing he said short of “no” was going to stop me! So, he agreed…something I can picture him doing while giggling inside excited to witness whatever was going to come from this impending sh*tshow. So with that, he popped in the VHS, pushed play and away we went.
Griffin Dunne as Jack Goodman in “An American Werewolf in London.”
Not far into the film there is a certain dream within a dream scene where the main character brilliantly played by David Naughton dreams that his family is ambushed and murdered by a bunch of Nazi zombie monsters after his own throat is slit. Up until this point, An American Werewolf in London had a much lighter comedic tone to it. That was all I needed to see. I was done.
I remember looking at my fatherlike he was the biggest asshole in the world. How could he let his 6-year-old son watch such a graphic movie?! WHY DID YOU DO THIS?! I was so furious. He looked back at me sitting there with a smirk on his face trying not to laugh which only made me even more mad. My knee jerk reaction was to jump up, push the eject button on the VCR, grab the tape and run to the front door where I proceeded to physically throw it outside as hard as I could onto the front yard. I slammed the door behind me with the purest most terrified feeling of satisfaction I haven’t experienced since.
Karma’s a bitch though and reared its ugly head about 10 years later. I somehow convinced Dave to take me to a Marilyn Manson concert in 1998. I looked over towards him with a smirk and saw that same look of terror and intrigue in his eyes wondering what was going through his head. Once again, I felt that same devious satisfaction I had years prior when heaving that VHS out the front door of my house.
Dave and I at one of the many concerts I’ve forced him to go with me to over the years.
Thankfully, he never held it against me and is still the coolest guy I have ever met.
Looking back I can’t help but laugh at how much being tricked into watching a scary movie at the age of 6 made me fall in love with the genre. From Halloween to Big Trouble in Little China to the Monster Squad, I have always been into horror movies, cult classics and pop culture in general.
I would go as far to say that the very direction of my art has also been inspired by my love for it all. Some of my most favorite and meaningful posters that I have created are horror, sci-fi or pop culture related.
If your mom or dad had this same kind of influence on your life like mine had - give them a hug and say thank you for making you awesome with unf*ckwithable taste. The moral of my story is this: horror movies are for the children and bring families closer together. All you need to do to is get in your car. Go to your moms. Kill Phil. Grab Liz. Go to the Winchester. Have a nice cold pint and wait for all of this to blow over.
Follow Kevin at @deathkatdesign on Instagram & Twitter and /deathkatdesign on Facebook.