Mark Kermode (Age 36)
My first introduction to the world of horror and sci-fi came in the early 1970s through watching a regular spot on ITV called 'The Monday X Film'. At around about 11.00, when everyone else was in bed, I would sneak down into the family living room and sit entranced by a selection of creaky (but crucially always colour) horror flicks, usually from the Hammer or Amicus stable. No matter that I had to have the volume turned down so far that it was impossible to hear anything that was being said: what was captivating was the electrifying atmosphere, the sense of watching something that was forbidden, secretive, taboo. It was, indeed, my first real experience of discovering something that was uniquely mine, something that existed outside the domain of my parents' control and authority.
I also sensed from the very beginning that there was something incomprehensibly significant about the actions being played out on-screen, something which spoke to me in a language I didn't quite understand. Like a novice watching opera for the first time and recognising something in the gestures but nothing of the language, I felt from the outset that beyond the gothic trappings these movies had something to say to me about my life. I just didn't have any idea what…
Like any enthusiast, I rapidly discovered that there was secondary literature available about my particular obsession. I remember first finding a copy of Castle of Frankenstein in a local newsagent, and being both thrilled and terrified, desperate to buy it, but frankly scared of what buying it would mean. What would the newsagent think? Would he look at me in a different way from then on? Would he tell my mum? More important, would he actually sell it to me? The bizarre realisation that the newsagent neither noticed nor indeed cared what I was buying soon gave way to a weird sense, first, of anti-climax, then of dawning horror when I finally got to read Castle of Frankenstein. What was disappointing was the fact that the magazine didn't