RMU’s Aficionado of Fear
You wouldn’t know it to look at him, but Ray Zaparoni is a zombie purist.
“I like the old school, slow, George Romero-type zombies,” he says.
Ray is Robert Morris University’s videographer and resident horror guru. Things that would give you and me the chills give him the warm fuzzies.
“What can I say?” he says. “I like being scared.”
During the day Ray works in RMU’s Academic Media Center, where he helps students and maintains the studio and gear. In his free time, however, he lives in a world of horror. Literally. In addition to an impressive collection of 16mm horror film, Ray owns roomfuls of horror toys, masks, DVDs, movie posters, and other memorabilia.
Ray’s fixation with fear began when he was a kid.
“My friends and I used to make 8mm films as kids,” he says, “running around in the woods with a machete.”
As he grew older, so did his interest in the genre. Today he’s a regular at annual horror conventions like Horror Realm, Cinema Wasteland, Monster Bash, Horror Hound, and Horror Find, as well as the many haunted houses in the Pittsburgh region.
“I’m just a big kid. I like the campy-ness and the fun of it all.”
Ray’s main obsession, however, revolves around the horror film industry, specifically the flicks of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. His favorite year was 1981, which saw the release of such films as “The Howling” and “Friday the 13th – Part 2. Ray was a teenager at the time, and he says the VHS boom made it all more accessible to kids like him.
“I like VHS. There’s just something dirty and gritty about it that adds to the experience.”
Currently he’s working on a documentary with Bruce Lentz, the former owner of the now closed Incredibly Strange Video in Dormont. The film focuses on horror fans and their fascination with the dark genre—something that Ray can certainly relate to.
“We’re trying to find people who use horror as an escape,” he says. “We’ve actually found a lot of families that use it as a way to bond.” He and Lentz hope to be done filming by spring.
In the meantime, Ray says he’s looking forward to this year’s Steel City Con in December, where he hopes to meet Linda Blair, the star of 1973’s “The Exorcist.”
“It would be really awesome to meet her. She’s like the Holy Grail for horror autograph hounds.”
Sounds like a head-spinning good time.
Written by Valentine J. Brkich
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