Monday, September 22, 2008

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

October is drawing near, and with it comes an inevitable rush of horror films. In terms of what comes out in theaters, I usually dread this time of year. Most releases will likely be bullshit remakes, and the ones that aren't will probably be bullshit ripoffs. (Excuse my cynicism here, but I feel I've earned it.) Yet I can't deny that I do get a certain itch to indulge in the lower depths of my cinematic pleasure around Halloween. While I may be reluctant to drop upwards of ten bucks on a shitty horror movie, I am more than willing to let them trickle in all month via Netflix. In fact, in years past I've been proud to take part in a certain noble tradition, started originally (I think) by my friend Good Ben, known simply as "The Month of Terror."

The idea is this: during October, the Month of Terror participants will watch at least one horror film per day.

This sounds easy enough, and it sometimes is. But there are no exceptions. Have a paper due the next day? Fuck you. Have to wake up at 6AM to go to work? Fuck you. Friends and relatives in town? Fuck you. Girlfriend/boyfriend doesn't like horror films? Fuck you. No horror movies on hand? Fuck you.

In fact, to accomplish a totally successful Month of Terror takes a certain amount of planning and forethought. It usually requires a Netflix queue, an account at a handful of video stores, one or more friends with a large horror collection (if you don't have one yourself), and possibly a subscription to some movie channels. The logistics of having a new horror film on hand at any given time can be tricky, especially when the mail is involved. It may even be wise to upgrade to the 5-at-a-time Netflix plan for the month. (I think this actually saves money in the long run.) Then of course one must decide on the movies themselves. Usually it's a good idea to think at least a week in advance, and to have a selection of standby titles ready in case of unforeseen disaster. (It occurs to me that Netflix's "watch now" feature will be endlessly useful in this regard.)

Of course there are various strategies for success. Sequels help fill out the month, for instance. If you watch all the Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Halloween, and Hellraiser movies, you're basically home free. This kind of thing is discouraged, though. While there's no official Month of Terror "rule" against this, it does go against the spirit of inspiration the month of October is supposed to instill in a self-respecting horror buff. Sequels are okay, sure, but it's generally best to branch out further if at all possible. Use your imagination.

It should be noted that there's no rule against watching movies you've seen in the past, although counting a movie more than once for that particular month is understandably frowned upon. And besides, the Month of Terror is a perfect opportunity to catch up on all those horror flicks you don't otherwise get a chance to see. When else are you going to sit down specifically to watch Phantasm III, or April Fool's Day? And what about the horror movies that you don't really want to go out of your way for, but are mildly curious about? I'm talking about things like Cabin Fever here. Or the newest Saw or Hostel or whatever else is lying around in the horror section of your local video hole. Sure you wouldn't normally be interested, but October is a month of equality for horror films. If it sucks, you've got another one to watch tomorrow.

Watching more than one movie per day is allowed, and is actually encouraged. Watch as many as you can stand! Just know that this doesn't count for multiple days. Remember, at least one every day. So you can't, for instance, have a double feature and skip the next day. That's cheating. And now that I think of it, I should also mention something about the definition of a "day." Generally for the Month of Terror, a day is defined as the span of time between when you wake up and when you go to sleep. Time isn't necessarily relevant. So if you watch one movie at 10PM, then another at 1AM, they're both still technically in the same "day." The converse is also true: if you watch a movie at 1AM, go to bed, then watch another movie the following afternoon, it counts as separate days. The date on the calendar was the same, yes, but that doesn't matter.

So I'm sure you get the picture by now. And really, the most important thing is to get out there and watch some goddam scary movies. A properly executed Month of Terror can even help you enjoy the worthless piles that will be released in the theater during the coming weeks. It's win-win! Just make sure to keep from blowing your horrific wad too early, because ideally the whole thing should culminate on Halloween itself, with a glorious (drunken?) hurrah. Typically this calls for marathons, parties, violence, orgies, &c. Make it count. It only happens once a year.

There's one danger I should definitely mention: after an entire month of horror flick glory, it can be tricky to stop. In all seriousness, the horror binge is a habit-forming substance. You may find your days feeling empty without perpetual assaults of tits, blood, and torture. The best advice I can give for the newfound horror addict is to bring yourself down slowly. Maybe cut down to one movie every other day, or just a couple a week. My own Months of Terror have been known to stretch well past Christmas and into the new year, though I have yet to hear of one lasting until the following season. Should this be the next challenge?


Make it happen.

Also, if anybody out there feels like it, I don't think a Month of Terror has been properly documented yet. You've got a blog? Keep us updated! What movies are you planning to watch? When? What kind of marathons do you have planned? Any Month of Terror related events? What's your Halloween movie going to be? Reviews of little-known films that the rest of us should know about? Maybe even use your blog to track down other horror addicts in your area for citywide murderfests. The possibilities are endless. I'll try to document my run as much as possible, but between work and school I'll have to do my best just to watch the movies, much less write about them. But we'll see...

Happy October!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Circle of Shit

Last night was a full-on sensory assault. Having just returned from the loudest show I've ever been to (Mogwai/The Fuck Buttons @ The Regency), I decided I should finally sit down with Pasolini's Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, which had arrived in the mail via Netflix last week. Like any cinephile, I had heard a lot about this movie before watching it. Most offensive film ever made... most disturbing film ever made... et cetera. I was half-drunk on overpriced beer, had a high-pitched ringing in my ears, and was up for a challenge. And it must be said... Salò was a challenge, if nothing else. All exaggeration aside, it was the closest I've come to vomiting during (because of) a movie. Even closer than Window Water Baby Moving. Apparently the only thing I find more disturbing than birth is coprophagia. Who knew? (Two Girls One Cup certainly never elicited a response like that... I guess that says something about the nature/power of fictional engagement. Also about how shit isn't gross as long as it looks like delicious chocolate ice cream.) Sade has never been handled this way on film before, and when married to Pasolini's particular pedantic (political) playfulness, something exciting is born. Too bad he got run the fuck down by his own car before we got a chance to see what might have come next.

Long story short: I think I'm going to have to disagree with Julia Kristeva's notion that what happens in Sade isn't abject. Salò is abject as hell.