Sunday, October 30, 2011

How to Make a Marathon the Hard Way

We've been talking a lot this Halloween season about movies that are pretty damn scary. We've been talking about Exhumed Films and their Basil Hayden's premium level 24 hour horror-thon. If you're reading this than you are a 100% horror fiend. You listen to horror music. You probably read horror novels and try to convince you English Prof that the curriculum could really use a few Jack Ketchum novels. Halloween is your Christmas. Friday the 13th is your Valentine's Day. Valentine's Day is a day to celebrate Harry Wardin's birth even if it isn't Harry's birthday. Friday the13th is a day to celebrate Jason Voorhees's birth and might be an invitation to write dear old mom a letter. Our spouses hate us. Our friends won't talk to us unless its October. We are the unsinging, undancing... well, you know.

Images adapted by my good friend Marc who holds some of the best weekly double feature/marathons. He does an excellent job with invite design. This is a great way to get people to take the experience seriously.

So we watch our one off horror movies. Every weekend we're in front of the boob tube, but there's a great big void that we need to fill. We need some compatriots on our respective couches to snuggle up to, laugh or puke with and most of all, scream ludicrous humorous remarks at the screen with. I'm fairly certain that only 4% of the world actually loves horror flicks as much as we do. Half of those are closet horror lovers. 1% are serial killers or dead (but sitting in front of the TV). Well that leaves plenty of us scattered across the globe, but we need some companionship now damn it! I'm not talking about eHarmony level dating (although horror dating...get ready for the sequel). How do you bring together a bunch of fly by night, one-time-a-yearers? MARATHON THEM!

When you wanna get your friends into a few choice pictures, say a Lucio Fulci zombie gore epic or cannibal driven rape fest you need to get people together under the guise of a friendly movie marathon that "wont' really be the focal point of the night" teeeee heee heee. It's really an excuse to drink and eat popcorn and hopefully screw somebody's brains out. Well, that's what they think (well all that too). Horror fans, our marathons can have a secret agenda. We can take the opportunity to expose our friends to new and exotic film choices of which they might not be otherwise aware. We are librarians or Free Masons or some kind of sacred ritual holders that pass on from generation to generation morality (horror is the next best thing to Grimm when it's good). So you wanna make some new horror friends? You can't just find them in your locale. They're near impossible to find and when you do locate one or two you have to hold their hand and love them dearly so they don't go away to a place where there are more horror movie fans. It's a brutal game. Making your own ala Frankenstein is the safest bet. The horror movie marathon or horror-thon for short is the perfect opportunity to put Abby Normal right inside their normal little world.

The method of the marathon is as wide and varied as their are horror fans. How long do you want them to be? What's the balance of films? One genre? Historic? Chronological? Subgenre based? Director or actor? Maybe you go hodge podge. Maybe you let 'em vote. The most important thing is to have fun creating the marathon and the mood you're going for. Let's discuss some of the finer points of the horror-thon. How to plan it. Who to invite. How to pick your films. What you might do to otherwise entertain your audience.

Picking the date:
Any day is a good day for a horror-thon. First things first. If it's gonna be a long one, say over two features, you need to make sure that your audience has the time and that they don't have class or work the next morning. There's nothing worse than losing your marathon mojo when you lose your comedian or your drunken horror movie screamer. Holidays are the perfect occasion. Any and all of them apply. Christmas... we've got movies for that. Valentines' Day... you know we can do that. Graduating college? St.Patrick's Day... Tuesday. Wednesday... any day. Just make sure that if you're doing a theme that you match it date, time of day or work schedule appropriate. When I was a kid we used to throw our marathon's on Friday night because if you had it Saturday you'd lose half the kids to church goers and your parents would come down every five seconds telling you just how loud you were being. Tedious. Planning is everything. Of course Halloween and the month of October generally great for this kind of party. It's easy to get the asses in the seats.

Picking your line up:
Now that you have them in the seats and they can stay awhile, what do you plan on showing them? Like we said before you can pick topic you like. We'll list a bunch out through out this blog, but you are limited only by your imagination (so go watch the Muppet Babies and get some ideas flowin'). One thing to consider is that you don't have to have a theme at all. The movies you decide to choose could be luck of the draw. Flip a coin or randomly pick movies out of a hat or a stack. You might also create tournament style brackets and have the films battle it out. You might consider having your audience vote for their favorites. In the tournament style pick, you might have them "battle each other". You'd choose a movie to move forward based on any criteria you like. Let's say strength of villain or quality of movie. You work through the movies as if they were boxers or wrestlers fighting to move forward. This is a favorite for the non-horror fan because it brings a competitive, sports like feel to watching movies.

Some topics/themes to consider might be:
Exploitation Films
Holiday Themed movies (you are limited only by what you celebrate... get kinky)
Man Made Monsters
Children based horror fiction
Movies featuring naked stars
Best one liner pictures
Troma movies or movie done by your favorite independent studies
Italian horror
Japanese horror

... add your favorite in the comments below. This is a very tame list full of non creative ideas. Remember, your trying to get folks into horror flicks or trying to bring a greater appreciation for the more obscure pictures (or maybe you're just trying to get your crowd ready to be bedded). Get them excited. (perve). Remember that getting the audience involved in the selection can excite them and really movie your marathon forward, but don't expect them to know what they're picking and make sure you guide them by choosing a satisfactory pool of films. Not all marathons have a theme with a common thread. The best typically include a variety of pictures and genre without thread and with clever attention to the ebbs and flow of the pictures conscious of audience energy levels.

What to serve your guests:
I have found that beer and whiskey make excellent horror movie companions. This is why I have ceased to drink. Booze and horror films can go a long way. Drinking games based on the movies will get your only so far. Sure your guests will pay attention for awhile, but once they've had too much you might have trouble wrangling them in. That's if they can remember that they are watching movies or will remember them the next day. So make sure that your motive is more social then educational. Make sure that you buy plenty of booze too. All night movie marathons can require plenty of liquor. I hosted a 16 movie film marathon at my friends house once over the course of a weekend. We went through two and half widowmakers of Jack Daniels and plenty o' beer. We had take out food on tap, but we didn't make it through all the movies. The silent pictures (like Der Golem failed) and even getting them to sit through a classic like A Nightmare on Elm Street was a struggle. This is marathon where I actually gave them the chance to vote on the movies too. They didn't know what they were voting for even though I labeled the films "silent". We had a blast but we barely made it through half of the films.

Do not try to get complicated with your food. Keep it simple or theme appropriate. Again, make sure you have enough to last the entire marathon or you'll end up leaving the films to stay alive. You can really throw off the flow of a horror-thon.

The Devil is in the details:
Make sure you set the mood. Sleep bags... great choice. Make your guests feel like its a slumber party and they'll be transferred back to their childhood. They'll revel in it until they wake up the next day with an achy back. Make sure to put scary decorations up that are holiday or theme appropriate. Setting the mood will say "it's time to watch some scary movies". I made tickets for one of my marathons. Just printed them off my home computer. You don't have to get elaborate,but invitations, tickets, voting ballads, coffins with guns in them (see House on Haunted Hill with Vincent Price)... they'll make it an experience and not just another boring night in front of the boobtube. If you show your friends that you take these movies serious enough to set up your home like a spookhouse, then maybe they'll take the movies just that much more serious.

You can make them come in costume (you kinky bastard). You can play party games especially around Halloween. Those could definitely include drinking games but could be trivia or truth or dare... maybe you could play a game of Ghost in the Graveyard, a horror board game, a video game (Silent Hill or maybe Friday the 13th for the NES... maybe Castlevania). Maybe midway through you hold a game tournament then back to the movies.

Guest selection:
You have a variety of friends, but the best groups usually mimic the group of teens from the Breakfast Club or some reasonable stereotype grouping there of. You can put too many jocks together or two many prisses. Too many nerds work a-ok, but they have to be horror nerds. You can lose your audience. That doesn't mean that you can't just invite your buddies over, but know your audience. They are your friends after all.

I guess that about wraps it up. Make sure you stick to the rules you set but it's not a public event (unless it is a public event). Make sure you pick out the movies and have them ready with back ups in case something happens. You can get a squeamish horror-thoner who can't handle Cannibal Holocaust and then you're done for... especially if you're back up is Green Inferno or Make them Die Slowly. Plan ahead. Do you're homework. Be the best horror dork you can be. I hope that they come back for more or ask you about "that Argento guy" more often after you show them a couple movies.

Happy Horror-thoning.

-Dr. Terror

PS: Send them home with goodie bags!