As a child, Chris Moore had his feet set firmly on both sides of the horror line. On the one hand, he was a self-described scaredy-cat who could easily be freaked out by certain Halloween costumes. On the other, he was absolutely fascinated by the images he would see in the horror section of his local video store.
“The horror section of the video store was a very good place to have nightmares,” he said laughing as we sat down for an interview for Horror Pride Month, “and for some reason I would always just stare at the boxes. I would pick them up and look at the back and I would see all of the pictures and I would create a story in my head about what was going on in each one of those pictures. And of course it was always completely different once I actually saw the films. I would concoct all these stories and give myself nightmares all the time.”
His first memory of seeing part of an actual horror film came when he walked into his mom’s room where she was watching Carrie. It was the scene where Carrie is being dragged into the closet and locked inside with the creepiest statue of St. Sebastian ever and the poor guy fled the room screaming.
It was at five years old, however, that horror really took root as a form of entertainment rather than something to only fear.
“My dad sat me down on a Sunday to watch House of Wax with Vincent Price and that movie changed my life,” Moore explained. “I got all the way through it. I was on edge a little bit here and there but I had so much fun. And after that I just started to devour it. The weird part was all my nightmares slowly started to go away once I started to watch the films.”
More classic films followed on the heels of House of Wax including Psycho and a little later Night of the Living Dead, though he admits he wasn’t quite ready for that last one when the time came.
“My parents were like, ‘It’ll be fine.’ I made it through most of it until the kid came out with the garden tool and started to chop up her mom and then I was out. I was terrified. I ran out screaming like a banshee!”
A few years later, he was at a summer camp and some of the boys there discovered he was a bit skittish when it came to scary movies and stories and they did, unfortunately, what boys do. They cornered him and began to tease him.
They told him not to get too close to the lake because Jason might get him. They told him even if he survived Jason, Freddy could still get him in his sleep. They told him if he went out trick-or-treating, he should make sure he’s home early because Michael would get him.
Then they told him the story of each of those franchises up to their current iterations.
Did it scare him? Absolutely. Did it also make him want to see the movies? Of course!
“I made it a goal to check all of these movies out,” he said. “If they were on TV I would seek them out and watch them. I remember Scream coming out that same year and I snuck in to see the last five minutes of the movie and I was obsessed with it. I conned my mom into renting Scream 1 & 2 for me. I waited until they were both out to rent. I conned her by telling her that all my friends had seen it and I told her if I didn’t get to watch them they would think I was a nerd. She felt really bad about that. So I got to see those.”
As his love of horror grew, so did the burgeoning storyteller and filmmaker in him. He remembers fondly making up little plays or skits that he would act out with his action figures in his bedroom most of which involved at least one figure being dropped into a cup of water AKA a vat of acid.
At around the age of 10 or 11 years old, he began using his family’s camcorder making his own movies, incorporating his friends into the “productions” as his mother stood on the sidelines with the camera and a boombox to record and provide the film’s soundtrack. There were no scripts; everything was improvised. They were, he admits, terrible, but he was having the time of his life.
Something else important happened at around this time in Moore’s life as well. In fact, it happened on March 12, 1999. His mom took him to see The Rage: Carrie 2, and from the moment Jason London showed up on screen, he was absolutely smitten.
“I fell in love with Jason London that day and I thought, ‘Oh this is weird,'” Moore said. “Then I went home and turned the on the TV and Dazed and Confused was on and there was Jason London again! I had that epiphany, and I didn’t know what to think about it. I was about 10 years old and it just took me for a loop.”
Eventually, Moore realized that he needed to write actual scripts if he wanted his films to succeed. He needed to put that work into organizing his thoughts to tell a cohesive story and his desire to do so became more real.
“I started to actually write scripts and the first movie I would claim, I guess, I made in my senior year of high school called Perversion,” he said. “That was my first fully developed script that I had. That was the first one of my films that actually made some sort of sense and from there I grew. I went to film school in North Carolina and learned that a lot of the bad habits I had could be corrected and that was great and I’ve grown from there I guess.”
Since he’s begun making films, Moore has never shied away from creating the type of LGBTQ representation he wishes he’d seen as a horror fan growing up. He also opened up about the kind of stereotypes and tropes he’s really tired of seeing in film and television.
Hollywood is famous for its stock characters built on stereotypes of marginalized communities. There’s the flighty flamboyant gay, the soapbox gay, the sexless gay, the hyper-sexualized gay and of course, the out of control partying gay.
All of these have been used to cast a certain disparaging light on the LGBTQ community. When people don’t know someone from a marginalized group, personally, they draw their ideas from representations they see in media which is problematic when the media only uses these two-dimensional caricatures.
“They’re [gay characters] are so often only concerned about getting high, getting drunk, or getting dick and we’ve seen this already,” he pointed out. “And of course, there are a lot of gay men who are like that, but I would like or prefer a gay character every so often who just happens to be gay. We can see them with their partner but I don’t think it needs to be all about that one trait. I see films all the time that are about straight people and you never see their boyfriends or girlfriends. Their relationships aren’t that big a deal and they’re just treated like everyday Joes and I kind of think that would be an interesting kind of representation to see.”
In his newest film, A Stranger Among the Living, he personally plays a gay character that he wrote into the script, an out and proud, outspoken character that he’s excited for people to see.
The film involves a teacher who has a vision of a school shooting and manages to avoid it when it actually happens but he’s soon haunted by ghoulish figures intent on bringing him to the other side.
“It’s very different from what I’ve done in the past,” Moore said. “I think if you saw my film Triggered and then saw this film, you wouldn’t even think it was made by the same person.”
Hopefully we’ll be seeing more of Chris Moore and his films in the future. Covid-19 managed to shut down so many projects and festivals, but he is still working and is particularly excited about a podcast he started during lockdown with co-host Kevin Michael Jones called Homos on Haunted Hill where they dig into some of their favorite horror films.