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Professor shares his passion for zombies, vampires and other scary things

October 26, 2011 12:00AM

Dr. Jamie McDaniel

Jamie McDaniel loves zombies, but vampires also get his blood pumping, so to speak. Dr. McDaniel, an assistant professor in the Pittsburg State University English Department, includes horror movies as one of his specialties and has taught classes that examine monsters in film and literature.

"Like many people, I enjoy being scared," McDaniel said.

McDaniel said his interest in horror films and literature began at an early age.

"In elementary and middle school, I read a lot of R.L. Stine in addition to the classics," McDaniel said.

One event, however, stands out in McDaniel's memory as formative.

"When I was young, my cousin sneaked me into a theater to see 'Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2,'" McDaniel said.

He was hooked and today he shares his passion for scary, creepy film and writing with a new generation of fans. He said the body of work included in the horror film genre is massive, beginning with one of the first silent films ever made.

"Since the beginning of film, we've been trying to scare audiences," McDaniel said.

McDaniel said he believes scary literature and horror films appeal to readers and viewers for a variety of reasons.

"We all want to identify with the hero," McDaniel said. "Also, we like to think that we're smarter than some of the victims. As the actor walks into an almost certain disaster, we all think, 'I wouldn't be so dumb as to go into that dark closet,'" McDaniel said.

And then there's just the rush of being scared.

"It is fun," McDaniel said.

There is a serious side to the genre, however.

"Sometimes the horror genre gets a bad rap because of the violence in some of the films," McDaniel said. "That's true in some cases. Some of them are pretty poorly made."

But according to McDaniel, some of the best horror films have important things to say to audiences.

"It's not just about being scared and it's not just about having fun," McDaniel said.

Many films in the horror genre include important, serious themes, according to McDaniel. Filmmakers have used horror films to make political statements or observations about topics such as race relations, gender, and even technology.

McDaniel said if he could choose any film to watch on Halloween, it would be one of the many films made by Italian film director Dario Argento.

"They call him the Italian Hitchcock," McDaniel said. "He really puts thought into his films. He's a definite stylist, which is something we've been getting away from."

But, McDaniel said, he doesn't need to wait for Halloween to pop in a good scary movie. Any day of the year, he said, is a good day to be scared.

©2011 Pittsburg State University