Long before the Big Moment in the shamelessly delightful “Clash of the Titans” remake, somewhere between the Winnebago-sized scorpions and the fatal gaze of a slithering Medusa, it occurred to me that I’ve been squealing with delight at monsters longer than, well, I’ve squealed for anything else. And I still can’t get enough.
My first boyhood crush was on a dead man. He was a zombie named Quentin Collins, with eyes that pierced my gay soul and sideburns the size of the Florida peninsula. He stalked across my TV screen on weekday afternoons at precisely 3:30, when the series “Dark Shadows” introduced me to all manner of vampires, werewolves and ghouls.
Quentin was dreamy (literally, since he spent a lot of time staring into space in a zombie trance), and had a lonesome, lost quality I recognized but couldn’t yet identify. I saved allowance money for the album (“Quentin’s Theme” should be played at my wedding, or my memorial, whichever comes first), and replaced the Bobby Sherman poster in my bedroom for one of Barnabas Collins, the series’ vampire star.
But I set aside boyish things — and graduated to horror films. Slashers did the trick for a while because I delighted in those oversexed straight couples getting whacked. If my love dared not speak its name, I found it satisfying that straight love was so damn hazardous.
But it was never the killing that attracted me. It was the mysterious, gruesome, self-loathing monster. Here I was, in the midst of full pubescent hormonal freak out, with a body revolting against me and villainous carnal desires. I didn’t just sympathize with the Alien and Pinhead and Freddy, I wanted to take them to lunch and find out how they managed to make it through the day.
My taste for cinematic horror took a break for a decade or so, during the worst of the AIDS crisis. Something about watching “Re-Animator” on VHS while my friend Lesley lay dying in the guest room, well, let’s say it severely reduced the fun factor. AIDS was the monster, and my sympathy was spent. For at least ten dreary years I stuck to lame romantic comedies.
So if the state of my personal AIDS crisis can be measured in movie genres, my trauma must be subsiding because movie monsters are back with a vengeance. I’ve been popcorn-munching to zombies, saw killers and Halloween remakes and having a ball. Which brings me back to the Big Moment from Clash of the Titans.
That would be Liam Neeson as Zeus, growling with magnificence as he commands “Release the Kraken!” No three cinematic words since “you complete me” have so enraptured my senses, and they are worth the wait. The Kraken gets unleashed and all manner of body parts start flying.
And I stand by my gay monster metaphors, because the Kraken is just a lonely gay kid, too. You should have seen the stir I created at the 1977 Junior Homecoming when I arrived, the school’s weird gay creature, wearing platform boots with tight khakis tucked into them at the knee. I relished in unsettling the crowd and seeing the jaws drop and the fingers pointing at the beast. No Kraken could have cleared the dance floor as fast as my solo disco moment, just before being chased to my car.
It’s hard running in platform boots. I could have used some monster scorpions for backup.