Every day is like Halloween for Jamie McDaniel. At least, any day of the year is a good day for the Pittsburg State University English department faculty member to enjoy being scared by ghosts, ghouls, zombies or vampires.

Every day is like Halloween for Jamie McDaniel. At least, any day of the year is a good day for the Pittsburg State University English department faculty member to enjoy being scared by ghosts, ghouls, zombies or vampires.

“I’ve just always enjoyed being scared,” said McDaniel. “I started early on. One of my earliest film memories was when my cousin, unbeknownst to my parents, sneaked me into a theater to see ‘Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2.’ All I had to do was cover my eyes at certain points.”

He also read a lot of R.L. Stine books in elementary and middle school, and went to horror movies with his friends most Saturday nights when he was in high school.

He went on to earn a bachelor of arts from Samford University and a master of arts and doctorate from Case Western Reserve before getting a position at PSU in July of 2010.

“I was hired to teach technical writing, and I love technical communication,” McDaniel said.

His other academic specialties include 20th and 21st century British literature, digital literacy and new media, gender studies and feminist theory, adaptation theory and practice, women’s writing and, of course, horror on both the screen and printed page.

“When I was an undergraduate I discovered you could study these things academically, and I’ve made presentations on horror at academic conferences,” McDaniel said. “Last semester I taught a class on horror.”

He admitted that sometimes the horror genre gets a bad rap because of the violence horror works sometimes contain.

“Some of this is deserved, as in ‘Saw 4’ or ‘Saw 5’,” he said. “But horror films and literature isn’t just about being scared. It can tackle some serious themes.”

For instance, when he showed his class “Night of the Living Dead,” he also pulled up scenes of race riots in Birmingham, Ala., with police dogs attacking civil rights demonstrators, as police dogs were also subduing zombies in the movie.

“A student asked me, ‘Why are there no African American zombies?’ because all the zombies we saw were white,” McDaniel said. “This led to a discussion about race and gender issues, and socio-economic issues.”

He noted that, in  “Night of the Living Dead” and many earlier horror movies, women were passive characters.

“They were looking for the guys to tell them what to do,” he said. “But in the 1990s remake of the movie, the women were much more take-charge characters. One woman kept telling the men to just walk out of the house where they had taken refuge and knock over the zombies. Nobody listens to her, but she’s the one who survives.”

In addition to the pleasure of being scared, horror movies also give audience members somebody they can feel superior to.

“I think we want to identify with the hero; we want to be the savior and stand up to the fear,” McDaniel said. “We like to feel that we would not be the silly person who opens that closet door or goes down into the basement.”

He said that he feels compelled to see every horror film that comes out, and feels that some truly are poorly made, with violence for the sake of violence.

“There are more subtle films made, such as ‘Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark’ with Katie Holmes,” he said. “It didn’t get good reviews and wasn’t very popular. It’s about a house with little people in the basement who are basically tooth fairies. It’s not about blood and guts and death, but I thought it was very atmospheric. There is a place for films like this.”

McDaniel admires the work of stylists such as directors Wes Craven, John Carpenter and particularly Dario Argento.

“Argento has been called the Italian Hitchcock,” McDaniel said. “My dream academic project would be to write a book on him.”

And, if he wants to watch a special horror film on Halloween, he’ll probably pick something by Argento.

“I grew up in Heflin, Ala., which has a population around 3,000,” he said. “We had one red light in town, and I think they might have gotten rid of it. I always heard stories about cemeteries out in the middle of the country, and bridges where, if you drove over them very fast, you’d see the face of somebody who had died.”

But he doesn’t find anything horrible about Pittsburg and PSU.

“I love it here,” McDaniel said. “Everybody is so nice and I’ve made a lot of very good friends.”