The horror ... the horror ...

"What is it about a dismembered corpse that gets you so philosophical?"

And with that piece of dialogue from "Trauma," a short horror film by Portland-based director Dustin Guy, I settled into a long night of arterial spray, exploding heads, gratuitous nudity and a few catchy musical numbers belted by a serial killer.

Six lowest-of-the-low-budget horror flicks in a row. One right after another. How did you spend your Tuesday night?

This was my torment for missing the Killer Valley Horror Film Festival at Vibes earlier this month. I could have watched them then, comforted by the fact that I am not the only person drawn to this brain poison.

Horror movies and I go way back.

One summer evening when I was seven, my mother — a good woman, well-rounded and caring despite what you're about to hear — interrupted a game of catch between my brother and I.

"You guys should come in and watch this movie," said Mommie Dearest. "I saw it when I was a little girl."

The film: "Night of the Living Dead."

Good-bye naïve childhood innocence.

Hello world in which flesh-starved zombies shuffle through my dreams night after night well into my teenage years.

George Romero's undead opus branded my psyche in a way few works of art ever had or will. Its despairing, absolutely no-bull vision of zombie apocalypse holds the same power today as it did 40 years ago.

I had grown up with Vincent Price and the United Kingdom's Hammer Films which had me believing horror only existed in dank castles on the coast of England and in Inquisition-era dungeons.

"Living Dead" was filmed in rural Pennsylvania, which looks an awful lot like central Illinois where I lived. Plus, it looked like a documentary. For all I knew, the dead really had jumped over us on the food chain.

Soon, I was bingeing on the reality tinged blood-and-guts work of John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Dario Argento, Mario Bava, Tobe Hooper, Lucio Fulci and Takashi Miike.

Whether or not I did irreparable damage to my soul has yet to be seen, though I can say in recent years I've fallen away from the horror genre.

The form seems alive and well in Southern Oregon, giving me hope for the genre's future.

It wasn't easy slogging through these shorts, but it was worth it, even if I snuffed the last glowing piece of my soul in the process.

"Trauma" was the first, and one of the most memorable. It tells the story of two paramedics sent to clean up a gruesome crime scene. One of them meets his bloody end following a witty discussion of morality and mortality.

Filmed in Ashland, the short features one of the all-time great last lines I've seen in quite some time.

From there it was two by Portland director Alden Morgan of Nealham studio. "Remote Control Optional" can only be described as a serial killer musical featuring a psycho who preys on duct tape and shop vac salesmen. I laughed and rooted for the serial killer. I am not ashamed to admit this.

"The Button Pusher" comes off like a rated R episode of "The Twilight Zone." It tells the story of an out-of-work schlump who takes a temporary job as the grim reaper. Giving too much away would kill the experience.

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Medford director Randy Granstrom released a long trailer for his upcoming "Rise." I can't tell you exactly what "Rise" will be about, but the villain looks like a red-eyed vampire Jesus cum Charles Manson. Should be a hoot when finished. Bring the kids.

Keeping with the zombie tradition is the video for Medford punk band Virus 9's "We're Here to Wreck Everything." I gotta say, Medford director John Foote made a funnier zombie video than "Thriller." Better song, too.

By 3 a.m. the world had become bleary and hopeless. I had seen enough legs sticking out of garbage disposals for one night.

I decided to try Dan McCloy's "Dead Girls," a Satanic feminist zombie manifesto. I fell asleep just after the line, "Christians taste like chicken!"

My thoughts were surprisingly happy ones the following day. I bubbled with optimism that the next generation of horror hounds has society pegged.

If they are able to get to this guy, what chance do you have?

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Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471, or e-mail

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