It started years ago as a childish fancy I thought about every time October came about and Halloween loomed over – to watch horror films for all of the month. Halloween has a tentative grasp in the United Kingdom, missing most of the cultural background of the holiday, and only really consisting of horror films becoming more noticeable (at cinemas, on TV...) and for consumer products from costumes to specialist ranges of cake and sweets being put on the shelves; we carve pumpkins like the Americans do, we go trick-or-treating, but I don’t think many of us, including myself to be bluntly honest, know of the origins like an American may have of growing up with it as an American holiday. And yet the idea of the holiday is still fascinating and encourages many of us on both sides of the Atlantic to reveal in the ghoulish and the macabre. For the film fans and those who like horror cinema, it’s as if the moon and the stars crosses a certain way at the start of the season, a once-per-year event, and causes them to suddenly want to watch as many horror films within the Autumn month. Blogs long before me have done 31 films for 31 days, and one group known as the ShowShow podcast have even braved 31 podcast reviews for 31 days, and have managed to make it a yearly occasion of their own speciality despite the loss of sanity and potential cinematic hangovers it may have caused. My own mind loses its self-control the moment October is even just a month away, obsessed with it from childhood, but the idea of a whole month’s marathon was always procrastinated upon, barring at least one Halloween day where I attempted to cramp four to five films in a single night. I cannot remember all I put on to watch, but imagine the combination of Ingmar Bergman’s Hour of the Wolf (1968), a very cerebral art film despite being truly powerful horror cinema, matched with an anime short work (Blood The Last Vampire (2000)) and (possibly) John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) together in a marathon...said grouping also proves that my take on this sort of October frivolities, without blowing my own trumpet, was already eclectic, unconventional and insane even before this project all those years ago.
Now this year, since the start of September, I’ve decided to go through with the idea, and to further show my insanity, attempt to write 31 blog posts about 31 films for the month. It terrifies me a little to attempt this, and I fear I may struggle to keep up with it, but the challenge is enticing for me. The fact that I’m watching 31 films itself is what made me want to do this in the first place. Paradoxically I am in the middle of a period where I am becoming less and less interested in mainstream and even ‘in-the-know’ areas of cinema, not the disinterest I had before but a literal sense that I am wasting time on things I gain nothing from, but may become far more of a fan of cinema as a result of this. Cinephilia as an idea still entices me but, and I will be honest about this even to complete strangers reading this blog, my current state of unemployment from graduating from university a year ago has left me in a peculiar state. Life even for a twenty three year like me seems far more important the more fed up with my current situation I am, and I am shifting into my own furrow of interests even within hobbies shared by many. I am both drifting back to geek culture like Western comic books within the last month or so that I went away from a year or so ago, but I am becoming disenfranchised with a lot of things because they lack the depth or even the sense of creativity to them. And yet I am becoming more enamored and gaining a lot more from certain areas of popular culture – classic works (from cinema to literature) – and my interest in areas like spirituality and mythology, which frankly are ostracized in certain areas of pop culture or made conventional and uninteresting , is making its voice heard in my thoughts a lot more. My taste in cinema is both becoming more personal but also more respectful for works that, critically praised, truly deserve their credit as I see them finally, especially far older films. This mentality should go against this idea of 31 horror films within all the days of October, but the advantage this kind of cinema, or any that has its fingers in the supernatural, the macabre or the uncanny, is that, for all the crap the makes three-quarters of it, there is still plenty of things that are worth seeing. The terrifying, the perverse, the strange, the demented, the disgusting, the erotic, the silly, the fun, the campy, and many more adjectives all exist in this area of film, and despite the lack of mainstream horror films for me that look interesting, I have the ability, as with all of us film fans, to look to other places instead. I can go back to older cinema as far back as the silent era, I can raid the horror films of non-English language countries, I can even dip my toes into areas like Japanese anime which, strangely doesn’t have that much horror animation within it, despite what you could be to do even on a TV series budget and television censorship in Japan, but still has a few potentially tasty morsels available. Even you the reader, if you only seen a few horror films in your life, can sidestep the new Paranormal Activity sequel and find something more peculiar and interesting nearby; if your library has just one non-current horror film on its shelves, and you rent it, you have immediately dived into something different even if is a mainstream Hammer House or Universal horror film.
This mentality continues into the selection for this first attempt which, despite not having a concrete list, was already planned to be eclectic. My decision to let randomness take over a well will help in its favour in that, as I’ve already described, I am more interested in the least conventional. This matched by the fact that I’ve seen most of the main canon of horror cinema - and don’t intend to bring them into this project with an exception or so - and like many people have more access to technology like the internet and multi region DVD players allows me to create a more personal, if scattershot, series of viewings. With this though, I have decided to put down a few tentative, loose rules which both help me to go through the project but also allows me some breathing space within it.
- Even though I have talked about horror films I want to step out of the genre and include films which are still appropriate for the list like a 1950s sci-fi film. If it fits the mood of the month or would be the kind of film shown on a Halloween night, I will include it and justify it if necessary.
- Real life is more important than this project. If something happens, even if it’s minor, that disrupts my ability to carry this out for a day or so, I will concentrate on my everyday life. But if possible I will try to make up for it in some way.
- There is a possibility, depending on how it goes, that the only film I will see on one of the first few days of October will not really fit into this project. If luck is on my side, then hopefully I can still get a more appropriate film in. If not, I may have to include a review for the film instead if I see it. To my advantage said film, while not necessarily fitting, is surreal and abstract enough in its nature to sit alongside the motley crew that makes up the rest of the month.
- I will limit the amount of rewatches I have. I want to re-see a few films within my DVD collection for this, both because it has been a long time since viewing some of them them and that a few are perfect choices for reviews. However I am going to try and have as many first viewings as I can. First viewings can be a fickle thing, especially if your view on said film drastically changes on the next viewing, but for me digging through films I haven’t seen before is still a thrill. Considering most of the reviews on this blog were first viewings, it feels out of place to go against this style of review unless any serious concerns about the attitude are discovered.
- I must be as varied as possible. As many decades of cinema I can cram in, as many countries as possible and as many different types of films as possible. Limits in terms of availability and how the month goes on may affect this, but I want to avoid being predictable with my viewing and gain a lot from varied viewings in my normal film watching habit. The number of films I’ll be watching, 31, isn’t that large either when you start putting together a potential viewing list in your mind, but my desire for eclecticism will hopefully lead to some interesting choices for reviews.
- Even though I will mostly stick to feature films, I would like to at least have one thing that is from a different format. There’s at least one short TV series I want to include for the project, but if I take a fancy to something like a short film, I would like to include it into the reviews.
- I will not attempt to do ‘proper’ reviews. Time and the day-to-day, especially if you are planning to watch 31 films and write 31 reviews for them, is going to be difficult for anyone even if you have the spare time as you need to think about the latter as well as write them. If they are shorter than my usually work, I will still intend to write something of interest even if it’s a stream of conscious thoughts.
- As with the case with most film fans, if there is free time, and you don’t concentrate on another hobby or task instead, you will end up watching as many films as possible depending on your preferences. Given it is October, and many of us end up watching horror films non-stop because of the time of the season, there may be as much chance of me watching more than 31 films. That may sound like bragging, but unless I manage to consistently see good works, I may likely skim through crap as my film watching habit does usually. If this scenario does happen, any film that would be a waste of time to write a review for will be ignored. If there is something that is worth a word or so about though I will add an additional note about it in the reviews depending on what films get prioritised for coverage.
- No films that have already been reviewed for the site or for my profile on MUBI.com (http://mubi.com/users/227381). I can still rewatch Possession (1981) or Things (1989) for myself, but unless a review needs a drastic update on either, I would prefer to write new works.
- I will watch Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982). If bad luck happens and this is impossible, then it doesn’t matter, but it is a film I want to desperately see just for Halloween let alone for this project.
And with this list, there’s little else to say except that I hope for the best with this idea. Again, I have not got a set list, but if you keep looking on the blog you will hopefully come across some fascinating or good choices for reviews. If I can get something for everyone who reads the reviews I will be happy. I will enjoy the season as it passes and hopefully my writings within it will bring out interesting thoughts for myself as well as any readers. I can say at the end of it, even if it fails, that I will have seen at least one good film and a handful of memorable ones, and that I’ll enjoy every second of this ill-advised idea fully.