Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen, Sharpen Your Knives... Again!

Greetings, my freaks! It's the weekend before October 1st and I wanna watch a horror movie. But it's too soon, too soon. Just ramped my Netflix account up to eight movies at a time, made sure my frontrunners were what I want. If I were a cartoon, I'd be rubbing my hands together, tying a napkin around my neck and gripping a fork and knife in my fists, droolingly gazing at the pig-with-apple-in-its-mouth on the table before me. This will be my fifth Horrorthon. I shiz you not, this is one of the most anticipated times of year for me. I love Horrorthon time.

And what an interesting place Horrorthon has become! All old faces and new faces -- mostly Avatar faces, of course, but Miko564, my old debate teammate? What are the odds? And now you're all going to concerts together? Hanging out in bars? How cool is that!

Last year for the new folks I did a Horrorthon nuts and bolts post, and I'm re-presenting it below. I'm going to revise as I go, so you vets might want to read it again. The earlier version is here.


HISTORY


Horrorthon began in 2000 as a contest between JPX and Johnny Sweatpants, who are brothers. "Who can watch the most horror movies during the month of October?" I believe that only two siblings could cook up such a rivalry and actually make it happen. They did this for four years, just the two of them. The first scores were in the twenties, but rose every year. And every year Johnny Sweatpants won. The score in 2003 was an agonizing 60 to 59, JPX having to disqualify his 60th because his copy of My Bloody Valentine crapped out halfway through.

I was in RI that year, and over the course of October JPX and I sat in my sister's massive leather barcaloungers and watched around seven movies with all the lights turned off. This was my introduction to Japanese horror, and if you want to hear about JPX scaring the bejesus out of me on one of those nights, read this.

The 2003 contest is notable because the reviews began that year (I intended to cover my seven movies but I never got around to it). The reviews started as one-paragraph capsules the boys would email back and forth to 1) warn each other about horrible movies that must be skipped, 2) tempt one another with news of good deaths, a decent amount of skin or, occasionally, a good movie, and 3) as proof that the movies had actually been viewed, since as lifelong siblings they had a healthy mistrust of each other.

In 2004 I was back in California with a stupid job and a stunted social life. I joined the contest full blast, and the numbers from that year have yet to be topped. I would get home from work, rent a stack of videos on the way home from the BART station, settle onto my bed that had a TV at its foot, and suck 'em down. I'd write my reviews at work the next day and that would be pretty much all I did until about 1 in the afternoon. The other guys were in pretty much the same boat regarding jobs and lives, so we fed off of each other's fury and the final score was 98-96-95. The newbie had taken the hill, and JSP had once again topped his older brother's score by one. And we had written hundreds of reviews of horror movies (okay, two-hundred-something, but that's technically "hundreds").

In 2005, instead of having these reviews pile up in our email folders, we made the blog you see before you. For eleven months the blog morphs and gathers members, and now it's a forum for chatter about movies, celebrities both loved and despised, strange technology, our common disregard for organized religion, showing off our work, keeping in touch with each other -- basically a place for flexing our weird and personal artistic brain muscles.

There are sixteen potential contestants this year, although I know the group is facing some handicaps. I've got the 3 and 1/2-month-old kiddo to take care of, Jordan's got a book deadline around Halloween, 50PageMcGee is starting graduate school in October, Catfreeek's got yoga camp to attend and scary makeup to apply, etc. etc. et freaking cetera.

And how about our resident European? I hope the recent Turkish Star Wars post means Anas Demens Purpurea will be joining us again this year. And what of Miko, who watched us battle last year but stayed on the sidelines... you in, boy?

Regardless, it's always interesting. And we welcome all levels of participation. 50Page only reviewed three movies his first year. At its heart the contest is about the numbers, but these days that's mostly to provide an impetus for fun and good writing.


SCORING (AND MORE HISTORY)


If you click here you will see the Horrorthon Score blog (the link is also conveniently located in our links sidebar on top of the main blog here, just beneath the now huge list of contributors). I've made a post for everybody's individual list of movies viewed and a scorekeeping post on top. I'll go in and add titles and numbers as the reviews pop up. This year I've also requested the help of JPX and Johnny Sweatpants to do the scoring, so hopefully the numbers will be up to date more frequently. PLEASE let us know if we screw anything up, since we are not infallible.

Also on the Score site, you can scroll down to see the scores and lists from the previous few years. JPX finally bested his brother's score in 2005, although I beat them both again that year. Then in 2006, after six years of battle, JPX took the top spot with a very respectable 67 flicks viewed. 50PageMcGee also joined in earnest that year, upping our contestant list to four.

Which was PEANUTS compared to last year, when no less than a full dozen people threw down. JPX once again proved he was here to win, watching a whopping 80 movies. With all the obstacles facing the group in '08, I must admit I'm hoping for a battle royale between our founders again. How about it, herr Sweatpants? Maybe you've got some more free time this year?


REVIEWS


You do have to write a review of a movie for it to count, but we hope that requirement should be considered as friendly and inviting as the player should want. A couple of sentences is fine, providing a brief plot description and your opinion of the whole affair.

Format for the reviews is pretty basic: the movie title is the title of the post, the post starts with the year the movie was made, then your rating out of five stars, then whatever you want to say about it.

Mr. Sweatpants put together this scale in the pre-blog days, and although every year we talk about amending his movie examples, we still haven't. Here it is yet again:

***** -- A horror masterpiece. Absolutely essential viewing. (Wickerman, The Omen, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, The Ring, JU-ON, Dawn of the Dead)

****1/2 -- Brilliant (Halloween 2, Exorcist, the Shining, Hellraiser, Evil Dead, Suspiria, The Others, Inner Senses, The Eye, Kairo)

**** -- Excellent (Blair Witch 2, the Craft, Phantasm, Poltergeist, Evil Dead II, Race with the Devil)

***1/2 -- Great, fun, worth watching (Candyman, Elm St.1, Friday the 13th 4, Return of the Living Dead)

*** -- Good, watchable, no real surprises though (Friday the 13th part VI, Elm St.2-4, )

**1/2 -- No big deal if you miss it, barely adequate (I Know What you did Last Summer, Bride of Chucky)

** -- Pretty lame (Scream 3, Leprechaun, Pumpkinhead, Motel Hell, Gothika)

*1/2 -- Really bad (Martin, Last House on the Left)

* -- God-awful, virtually unwatchable - save for the absolute bottom (Shocker, Return to Horror High, Return of the Killer Tomatoes)

It's generally understood that 3 stars is the base level for something worth one's viewing time. If you want to check out the reviews of years past, check the blog archives for October and November for 2005 through 2007. And if you find something worth less than one star, by all means say so. You've just watched a horrible movie, and you deserve the credit.


MISCELLANEOUS RULES


There aren't many. The contest starts at midnight, right after October 1st begins. The contest ends midnight on October 31st -- but, if you start a movie before midnight that night you can use the little bit of November to finish it off.

Last year we tried to impose a deadline of November 15th for leftover reviews, a deadline that later was pushed to the end of November itself. The thing is, once the buzz of October has past it's hard to keep typing, and everyone wants to know who won. For those of us who go for big numbers, it can be a bit of a drag. Last year Johnny Sweatpants took a lower score than the actual amount of movies he watched, which was too bad for fans of his writing (like me). I don't really have a great solution to the November woes; it's kind of part of the chaos that is Horrorthon, just like trying to whip together a costume concept at 4 in the afternoon on Halloween. I think maybe we should stick with the end of November as a review deadline, but maybe some discussion about disclosing the final score earlier... what do you guys think?

With the debut of the Masters of Horror series in recent years, we now limit the number of hour-long movies you can watch to five. Watching short movies is a time-honored strategy for getting your numbers up, but besides the MoH flicks it's unsual to find a movie that doesn't pad itself out to 80 minutes or so. We don't want people to get too sneaky.


FINALLY, WHAT MAKES A HORROR MOVIE?


I refer you again to the Horrorthon Score blog, where the full lists of all movies viewed for the past three years can be seen. That might help. Anything that imdb or Netflix tags as "horror" also counts. But basically, it's any movie designed to have some kind of scary thrill. There's a fair amount of spillover between horror and genres of action, sci-fi, thriller, suspense and comedy. We're going with a loose definition of things this year to be encompassing, so go ahead and use your judgement. Johnny Sweatpants pushed the envelope last year when he reviewed High School Musical -- obviously not a horror movie, but horrifying none the less.

(Of the genres I just listed, I'd say that maybe comedy is the one to best avoid, as it sort of subverts scary. But not always. Shaun of the Dead counts because it's actually pretty scary, Slither has some funny elements. In my opinion outright parodies like the Scary Movie titles wouldn't. A lot of the crappy movies that have shown up on Mystery Science Theater 3000 count, but watching them with the MST3K commentary would defeat the purpose. Again, in my opinion.)

Most of all, don't be afraid to experiment. We've never disqualified a movie after the fact, and I don't really see that happening in the future. The point here is to have fun.

What am I saying? The point is to CRUSH YOUR OPPONENTS!!!

HorrorTHOOOOOOON!!!

I love October.

9 comments:

Octopunk said...

JPX, am I right that My Bloody Valentine was your final flick that year?

DCD said...

Wa-Hoo!!

Thanks for the re-post, Octo. The only other thing I would add for the new people: I experienced some fret last year about disagreeing with the veterans' previous ratings, or whether or not my writing would pass muster. (The rest of you may not have any such security issues.) But just in case I only want to say - Don't fret. It's all about the fun and the vets welcome the new thoughts with open minds.

HorrorTHOOOOOONNNN!

Catfreeek said...

I am so psyched for this, I even scoured the internet to find a rare out of print copy of the classic "Two on a Guillotine" so I could kick off in style. I have warned my hubby that I will be engorged in gore for the next month. I'm as ready as I will ever be. Yay!

AC said...

awesome recap octo! your post has me totally fired up, and waiting eagerly at the mailbox for my first few picks to arrive.

horrorTHON!

JPX said...

Wow, what a terrific summary of Horrorthon history! I think there should be a link where this information can be found. Thanks for putting so much work into this, it got me excited about Horrorthon all over again! I've been stockpiling movies since the day after last year's Horrorthon and I know what I'm kicking the contest off with.

It's true, the ratings really need to be revised. I'll tinker with the list and ask the Horrorthon vets what they think. We made that list a number of years ago and over time, after watching many, many movies, it is clear that we were a bit overly-enthusiastic about some (e.g., Blair Witch 2 needs to be knocked down a lot).

To be clear, you guys can start watching movies tomorrow night at 12:01am. What, but you have to work the next day? Go to school? Pish posh, the spirit of Horrorthon, apart from watching tons of films and reading reviews, is that it's an endurance test. Sure it looks like fun to the uninitiated, but watching and writing about numerous movies in a finite period of time is not as easy as it looks...

Sigh, it's true, My Bloody Valentine did me in. It would've been the first Horrorthon tie, yet JSP smugly won again and never let me forget it. This was in the early days of DVD copying and I made a number of 'coasters' (nerd speak for bad DVD burn). If I recall I was fairly far into the film when it crapped out. Desperate I drove over to the crappy video store we had in Barrington at the time and of course they never heard of the damn thing. I have yet to watch it again because I'm still mad at it.

This is going to be fun...

Landshark said...

Couples points:

1) Totally kickass and fun and helpful post, octo.

2) Octo followed jpx's lead and introduced me to Japanese horror a couple years ago. I don't think I can go there on my own. With the lights off, anyway.

3) Has Octo ever admitted that the PG "Something Wicked This Way Comes" had the two of us squealing in fear? We were in high school at the time. Something about spiders under the bedsheets, IIR. Shudder.

Maria said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Whirlygirl said...

Octo, reading this got me even more excited about Horrorthon. I'm still waiting for the day when I'll have the time to beat JPX. He doesn't think it will ever happen, but it will.

I already have a huge list of movies for this year that I no I don't have the time to watch, but I still keep adding to it anyway. I keep finding myself wandering away from my school work to go to a horror website or Netflix because horror is much more exciting then studying.

I wish I could say that I deleted that comment because was saying something foul about JPX, but I just posted under the wrong account.

Johnny Sweatpants said...

Excellent summary Octopunk! I can't wait to see the depravity that gets unearthed in the next month. I am admittedly completely unprepared and need to come up with a plan FAST.