Blame it on Dr. Shock.
Joe Sherlock grew up in New Jersey, in a location where he could watch a Saturday afternoon TV double feature highlighting generally B-level horror movies. "Dr. Shock" (a Philadelphia magician named Joseph Zawislak) was the host, and the young Sherlock was spellbound by flicks such as "The Incredible Melting Man" and "The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake."
He was hooked.
And, eventually, Sherlock started offering some B-level shocks of his own: After years of drawing comic books (good training, he said, for crafting movie storyboards) and fooling around with Super 8 cameras, he started making inexpensive horror flicks of his own, hawking them in ads in the back of magazines that specialize in independent horror.
His first real effort, "when I tried to actually make a real movie," came in 1995, with a film called "Dimension of Blood."
Since then, he's churned them out on a regular basis, fast and cheap (his production company at first was called F&C Films, for, well, fast and cheap, although he joked that "Nothing was ever fast.") And the films have gained an audience, playing at places such as Salem's Northern Lights theater pub and at horror conventions in Seattle.
Starting Tuesday, Sherlock gets a home stand: For four consecutive Tuesday nights starting Oct. 1, the Darkside Cinema in Corvallis is showing four of his most recent efforts.
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Well, and this too: "I guess I picked them because I think they're my best ones," he said.
The four films that are part of the "Hometown Horror" series cover a variety of horror genres, he said, from the blood-soaked body-count effort "Blood Creek Woodsman" to the more subdued horror of "Drifter." There's even an occasional nod to the influence of horror master H.P. Lovecraft, in films such as "Beyond the Wall of Fear."
Sherlock, who works in the marketing department at Linn-Benton Community College, said it usually takes him about a year or so to write, shoot and edit each new film. A typical film might cost about $1,000 to produce.
But the horror genre, he said, lends itself to relatively inexpensive filmmaking: "I can't make 'Star Wars' on that budget, but I can make 'Dracula.'"
And there's an audience for the independent horror films such as the ones that Sherlock creates — in fact, he calls it "a rabid fan base."
"I actually equate it to the heavy metal community," he said. "When they all get together for a concert or a festival, there's that sense of community."
And horror (currently enjoying a big-budget renaissance thanks to movies like "It" and "Us") is a movie genre that has stood the test of time. Sherlock has a theory as to why: "People compare it to a roller coaster. It's the idea that you can have a experience that's thrilling and tense but at the end of the day, you're safe."