Thursday, September 29, 2011

Countdown to Horrorthon Contest! 2 days to go: Read This!

Greetings. For several years now the council of blog geezers has recycled the following slab of text, usually on the eve of October. It's been updated once or twice, but more often just pasted as is, and since it's been a while and we're changing some stuff this year, I'm running it through my Revise-O-Tron. At the end I'll be asking for your input.


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 that's when the reviews began (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, the three of us staged a vicious battle, and the numbers from that year weren't bested for three more years afterwards. 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.


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). My cohorts have made a post for everybody's individual list of movies viewed and a scorekeeping post on top. We'll go in and add titles and numbers as the reviews pop up. 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 2007, when no less than a full dozen people threw down. JPX once again proved he was here to win, watching a whopping 80 movies.

Since then the roster has remained pretty hefty, with about 12 to 15 people jumping in to varying degrees. We've got 19 people in our writer's room right now, and maybe we'll hear from everybody. No matter what, I know it's going to be interesting.

No history of our score would be complete without mentioning the coming of Catfreeek in 2008. My measely record of 98 was shattered by the never before seen three-digit total -- not just by Cat with a lethal 110 movies viewed, but also by JPX with 107. Cat has claimed the title for the two years since then, not only racking up skull-exploding numbers but also finding an eye-popping array of weird, obscure titles that none of her fellow horror fiends have ever heard of. HOWEVER, we have a new blogger this year who might be a dark horse contender, Cat's friend Abduscias.

Whatcha thinking, Abby? You going to topple our horror queen or what?


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. 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. Generally a couple of sentences (summary, opinion) is standard, but there aren't any actual requirements about review content other than there being some.

It's particularly important to note the loose format this year, because for the first time we're adding a deadline to combat the burnout that comes in November when you've got leftover reviews to write. Hopefully the deadline will spur the completion of more reviews, and a loose format will help that to happen.

I have a complex about finishing all my reviews, and on more than one occasion I've been squeezing the last few out in the final days of September before the new contest begins. Since I can't do that this year, if I'm hitting deadline crunch I plan on cranking out some single sentence reviews -- or maybe a review in haiku, as has already been done by Mr. AC. So don't worry too much about form; it's more important just to get into it, watch a horror movie, and rap about it.

This is usually the spot where you'd see the guide to the five-star rating system, but I'm moving that to the bottom because that's what today's constest/discussion is about.


The best and fastest reference for that question is the Horrorthon Monster List, the wonderful, Johnny-Sweatpants-created compendium of links to our vast library of reviews, arranged alphabetically by movie title. If you can find it there, it counts. 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 the genres of action, sci-fi, thriller, suspense and comedy. We've been operating with a loose definition of things for some time now, so go ahead and use your judgement. Johnny Sweatpants pushed the envelope one 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 like surprises.


We're adding some new stuff this year! I've compiled our short list of rules together, old stuff and new.

1. Watch horror movies between midnight on September 30th and midnight on October 31st, with a grace period for the movie you started on Halloween night that didn't end at midnight.

2. Post reviews of your movies on Horrorthon to get them counted.

3. Maximum of two reviews posted daily, but this limit is revoked once the deadline is a week away (see below).

4. Maximum of five movies viewed that are only one hour (or less) in length.

5. ALL reviews must be in by midnight local time on Sunday, November 20th. (If we like how this works out, the ongoing rule will be the third Sunday in November.)

6. Winner is the one who watches the most movies.

Note on #3: It occurs to me that the two-a-day limit plus the deadline means anyone with more than 102 movies (yikes!) would be breaking the rules to post them all. To make sure that doesn't happen, and to help out those who do things at the last minute, the two-a-day rule is lifted after Sunday November 13th.

Note on #6: I love the quantity-based nature of Horrorthon, because it's that drive to consume and share that makes the month of October so festive. But because we're not three guys with no social lives anymore, there's a lot more variance in score than there was during Horrorthon's humble beginnings.

So this year, to go along with our tidy schedule, we're going to add some other categories of appreciation that everyone can shoot for and vote on. Here's what the final roster of accolades will look like:

Straight-up Most Movies Watched (obviously we don't vote on this one)
All-Around Favorite review
Funniest review
Best So Bad It's Good review
Best Discovery
Best Screenshot
Funniest comment

On November 21st or thereabouts we'll do a "Everybody Vote!" post and pick some winners. But take a look at the list now, so you can note your personal faves as they happen. Horrorthon is voluminous, and not something you want to hunt through weeks later.


Revamping the following has been on the blog's to-do list before there even was a blog, and by gum we will do it today. Here are the ratings as they exist now:

***** Five stars: This goes to a horror masterpiece, something you think is essential viewing. (The original Halloween)

****1/2 Four and a half stars: Top notch movie, but not quite perfect. Or a would-be perfect movie with a notable flaw or two. (1408)

**** Four stars: Great, solid stuff. Not really edging into the realm of perfection, but satisfying and fun. (Phantasm)

***1/2 Three and half stars: A viewable movie with a little something extra to make it stand out. (Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives)

*** Three stars: This is the baseline rating for something you want another Horrorthonner to know is worth their time. Perhaps without any real surprises, but a movie with all the parts in place that's still fun and at least somewhat engaging. (Hellbound: Hellraiser II)

**1/2 Two and a half stars: Just short of universally recommendable. Noticably of lower quality but still possibly worth checking out, but no big deal if you don't. A lot of so-bad-it's-good movies get this rating. (The House That Dripped Blood)

** Two stars: Pretty lame, but maybe it's got a good monster, or some notable deaths, or some notable boobs (Mantis in Lace)

*1/2 One and half stars: Really bad, but with some element that keeps it from total suckitude (Leprechaun)

* One star: Godawful, virtually unwatchable. Save for the absolute bottom of the barrel (Jason X)

ZERO STARS: Not a rating to throw around, but some movies make you envy Helen Keller. (Beyond the Wall of Sleep)

Okay, I'm sure you noticed that I only included one example for each rating, and this is where I need your help. You don't have to think of something for each of the ten different rating categories I just outlined, but if you can throw out a couple of examples I bet we can cobble a descent list together.

But that's not all! Horrorthon starts at midnight TOMORROW. If you've got any questions or input (especially other achievement categories to vote on), here's the place.






Jordan said...

He's getting a fax...from H. P. Lovecraft... He's faxing the spell... The lawyers work for the monsters... I give up.

JPX said...

Wow, excellent summary, Octo! It’s like a Horrorthon dissertation! I notice that you scrapped the old rating system completely. I sort of tinkered with it every year and thought I had some pretty good examples in there – where can I find the old ratings? I think we can still extract some good examples from it. My best example for a ZERO rating would be “Return of the Killer Tomatoes”.

DCD said...

I'll have to look at the Monster List a bit more, but I'd say off the bat that Ju-On and The Ring are in the 4.5 to 5 star category.

I also have been meaning to say for several days how much JSP ROCKS for putting that Monster List together and linking all the reviews. That has been an amazing help during these posts when I wanted to find something to comment about. Whoot, JSP!!

Excellent wrap-up, Octo. I am psyched for this year and I still want to try to get my Best-Of list posted before H-thon actually begins.

I'll think about what other movies to throw into the ratings system. YAY!

Catfreeek said...

Martyrs should be a 5 star, other then that, well I guess I need more coffee before I can think properly.

This is a great post, actually I have enjoyed all your posts. I'm really pumped for this year as well, I think it's going to be great.

Octopunk said...

You're right, JPX, there are a number of good possibilities in the old list. Honestly I don't think we should use all the examples I just posted in the final version (1408? Really?), I was just going for movies that I myself had rated accordingly.

Oh! I just found a JPX post from 2008 that added a whole bunch of examples. I started this post with an older version. Here it is:

***** -- A horror masterpiece. Absolutely essential viewing. (Psycho, Alien, The Wickerman, The Omen (original), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (original), Halloween (original), The Ring, JU-ON, Dawn of the Dead (either version), The Exorcist, The Shining)

****1/2 -- Brilliant (Evil Dead, Suspiria, The Others, Inner Senses, The Eye [original Japanese version], Kairo, The Last Man on Earth, The Thing [1982])

**** -- Excellent (I Am Legend, Hostel, Wolf Creek, The Craft, Phantasm, Poltergeist, Evil Dead II, Race with the Devil, Hellraiser)

***1/2 -- Great, fun, worth watching (Saw [franchise], Vacancy, Creepshow, Halloween 2, Candyman, Elm St.1, Friday the 13th 4, Return of the Living Dead, Pumpkinhead, Dementia 13, Trilogy of Terror)

*** -- Good, watchable, no real surprises though (Bride of Chucky, Blair Witch 2, 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)

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

*1/2 -- Really bad (The Ring 2, Twilight Zone: The Movie, Martin, Last House on the Left)

* -- God-awful, virtually unwatchable, not even so-bad-that-it’s-good, just bad, a painful exercise to endure - save for the absolute bottom (Shocker, Return to Horror High, Return of the Killer Tomatoes, Creepshow 3, Ring of Terror)

AC said...

i'm thinking (hoping?) eegah will be a * movie.

silence of the lambs is on my ***** list.

Octopunk said...

Hmm, let's see. This list is in much better shape than the last version I had (I think I had JSP's original). I'd still change a few things, though.

Grouping the second to fourth Elm Street movies together seems wrong, as #3 is so much better.

I don't think The Omen is really a five star movie.

DCD said...

I think Slither is in the 3 star category. All those who reviewed it gave in 3.5 except JSP who rated it a 2.5. But I think it fits the bill as something definitely worth the time and has the fun element as well.

...And I just got totally distracted for an hour looking at all the reviews on Monster List. Re-read Octo's review of Cloverfield, tried to find the movie most reviewed (looks like Trick R Treat with 10. TEN!) Man, I'm never gonna get any work done today!

DCD said...

I think JSP, (because who else would do it?)should next make a list of movies based on their star ratings. Then we could see which ones have been rated tops by our peers.

Has this idea already been thrown out there?

Octopunk said...

I always thought a spreadsheet might be good. Maybe a Google doc would be the thing. I've never actually made one, but my Lego User Group uses them. Everybody can sign in and check out the Excel-type spreadsheet. And we all have gmail addresses already...

By the way, go write some more haikus, people! Some great stuff in yesterday's post, but many clich├ęs are still untapped.

JPX said...

Okay, gang, I tinkered with the list some more and this is what I came up with - all feedback welcome!

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

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

**** -- Excellent (The Craft, Phantasm, Poltergeist, Evil Dead II, Race with the Devil, The Orphanage)

***1/2 -- Great, fun, worth watching (Halloween 2, Candyman, Elm St.1, Friday the 13th 4, Return of the Living Dead, Elm St. 3, The Omen, Trick R Treat )

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

**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(original))

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

JPX said...

I also added:

ZERO STARS: Not a rating to throw around, but some movies make you envy Helen Keller. (Beyond the Wall of Sleep, Return of the Killer Tomatoes)

Killer Tomatoes doesn't deserve 1 Star

Landshark said...

Return to Salem's Lot is always my benchmark for a ZERO star film in any genre. First movie I ever walked out of in the theater. And it was a "playing hooky" day from BHS, a matinee at Seekonk, and the damn thing was so dumb that we decided to bail about 45 minutes in.

Should we have a separate rating for "so bad it's good?" Which Howling is it that takes place in Australia, and it's basicallly just a hillbilly home movie? That movie is fantastic in its sheer lunacy and amateurishness.

Landshark said...

Also, I'm going to respond to Octo's "4 Days to Go!" post here just because...

What I'm watching:
Game of Thrones (described as Tolkien meets the Sopranos, and that's not far off)

Treme (awesome if you like music or food or New Orleans...or good writing, I guess)

True Blood (maybe overrated, but we're along for the ride at this point)

What I'm reading:

Watchmen (been 25 years since Octo loaned me his copy, and now I'm teaching it next week, so time to revisit)

Just finished Maus I and II--so now I'm reading a bunch of essays on them

Y: The Last Man - Brian Vaughn's series about a dude who surives some sort of plague that wipes out all the men on earth. So 3 billion chicks and him.

Clash of Kings - the 2nd book in the George Martin series that Game of Thrones is based on.

JPX said...

I will add Return to Salem's Lot on your word, Shark!

Catfreeek said...

So glad to see you Landshark, I always look forward to your movie picks & reviews. We're also "along for the ride" with True Blood. Game of Thrones is great & Treme is pure genius!


Crystal Math said...

Thanks a bunch for posting this, Octo! Now not only do I have a comprehensive list of rules but I also know the ridiculous history of the origins of Horrorthon! :-D