To the student body of VLU…it’s nearly time.
As you know, it’s nearly October. And as well know, October is the month long celebration of all things spooky. Speaking personally, I find it endlessly satisfying to spend the month immersed up to the metaphorical gills in horror. This time of year clearly gives us the best candies, best decorations, and most enjoyable music.
But a sincere horror binge is not something that can be done willy-nilly. While I might personally bristle at the thought of someone telling me how to GET SPOOKY, it does pay to have a plan. I therefore have a proposal. I would like to lay down some simple guidelines for the coming season.
Media binging is obviously not a new concept. Since the arrival of wide-spread on-demand media, many prefer to not absorb media in episodic format. Consider for a moment how many times you or a loved one have spent an entire weekend watching one show. Binging is applicable to film franchises, premier TV, even podcasts! But Halloween media is more than mere movies. Halloween media is multi-disciplinary, multi-platform media. As such, our approach must be multi-faceted.
Part One: Right Environment
When is it appropriate to watch a horror movie, much less many horror movies? Should the room be dark? And should you have your phone nearby? The greatest minds of the 20th and early 21st century have been debating this since the release of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. (My intensive, evidence-based research of Google has shown that the first Blu-Ray of The Cabinet in 1955 caused quite a furor.) A comprehensive recipe for optimal binge-watch environments is outside the scope of this brief lecture. However we should acknowledge some possibilities for this upcoming season.
For example: should a film prominently featuring daytime scenes be watched during the day or the night? Or whether or not snacks/beverages will improve a film going experience. Silly as such small contrivances may seem, they are questions worth addressing.
Many horror purists, such as The Scaredy Cats podcast, have put down the rules that horror movies must be watched at night, uninterrupted, without the presence of phones. And while I respect the expertise of the podcast’s hosts, I respectfully argue that this approach is ultimately incorrect. All of this is good for a singular film, but it is not feasible if you are planning on watching multiple films in a single sitting. I would argue that the film should match the environment as best as possible. Black and White classics such as the original Night of The Living Dead are best absorbed at night, where the desaturated colors are easier on the eyes, and immersive in their tones. Phantasm, on the other hand, lends itself to early evening on the account of it’s surreal, hallucinatory tone.
And to the point of refreshments, I wholeheartedly endorse their consumption during film during any film, and especially during a binge. The longer your experience goes, the greater your need for supplemental nutrition will become. Furthermore Halloween binging is a pre-written excuse for consumption of Halloween candy and themed cocktails or sodas. Again: multi-disciplinary and multi-media.
Part Two: Franchise vs. Curated List
So what are we watching? Astute students of horror will know the stress of attempting to have the right films for the occasion. So should you give in to the simple desire to pick a pre-arranged franchise of films, or should you do something more personally intensive?
This decision seems to be largely a matter of the time you have available to freely dedicate. For instance, one could easily spend nearly half a month dedicated the Halloween franchise. At 13 films, this offers you a seemingly simple guidepost. Or if you want this time frame more compacted, there are 10 Hellraiser films. That is an easy way to spread a massive dose of horror over a mere handful of days.
However, that approach has it’s flaws. Academic communities have raged with argument over whether or not Halloween 3 should be included in the canon of the Halloween franchise. And that says nothing of the religious schisms caused by the Hellraiser entries that de-emphasize Doug Bradley as Pinhead.
As an alternative, curated lists of films are an option with profound flexibility. One could easily create a list such as “Roger Corman Productions,” or “Slashers from the 70s and 80s only.” This list approach offers a profound degree of personalization options. The exchange, however, is in that it requires time and effort to create these sorts of lists, whereas film franchises have strict guidelines.
Part Three: 31 for 31
Arguably the greatest challenge available for horror fans is the 31 Days of Halloween, or sometimes called “31 for 31.” Put simply, the goal is to watch 31 horror movies in the month of October, potentially watching a single horror film every day of the month of October. Like the pre-hibernation eating of bears to the onset of Winter, this approach offers horror fans the ability to carry a dose of Spooky with them throughout the remainder of the year.
But 31 for 31 is a daunting challenge. It requires dedication and grit. Students of VLU are no doubt accustomed to the rigors of serious horror study. (See my maddening discussion of Folk Horror, if you have somehow shaken off the trauma of that initial experience by now…and stop emailing me to pay your therapy bills. The Court’s Orders are clear in their rejection of your claims.) The decision to watch this amount of horror is reserved for either the foolhardy or most iron willed.
As such, your trusted professor has decided to undertake this challenge. I set down some simple parameters for my attempt.
- The films on the list must represent a broad stroke of genres and time periods.
- The list should be a mix of familiar favorites and films I’ve never seen.
- Roughly half of the list must be at the suggestion of my most esteemed colleagues.
- No direct sequels. Thematic sequels are acceptable, but numbered/titled sequels are stictly forbidden.
As such, I present the Professor Yochum 31 for 31 Challenge of 2020. This list is in a mostly random order, and presented as a way to cover as much ground in a month as is possible.
- Colour Out Of Space
- Event Horizon
- The Platform
- The Spiral
- Castle Freak
- The Mummy (the Boris Karloff original)
- Dark Water
- The Ninth Gate
- Tigers Are Not Afraid
- Chopping Mall
- The Autopsy of Jane Doe
- The Witch
- The Wicker Man
- Night Of The Living Dead (original)
- The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
- As Above, So Below
- Ju-On: The Grudge
- The Changling
- Horse Girl
- Hell House LLC
So, to our dear students, we here at VLU look forward to hearing how you intend to spend the month of October. Please remember to share your notes with fellow students.