31 Days Of Horror: Week One | Haute Macabre

31 Days Of Horror: Week One

It’s that time again! Time for me to decide that I am committing to watching a horror movie every day for the month of October! Time for me to rationalize that one episode of a television series counts as a movie, that a music video counts as a movie, that a one minute and thirty-second trailer for a film that is coming out in 2022 counts as a movie! Historically, I have allowed myself all sorts of leeway in this regard and this year I am getting even more loosey-goosey with the rules. Are there even rules? Ha! Who cares!

For 2020, I have decided to experience at least one piece of horror-related media per day. That’s just…easier. Right? Who’s got time to watch a whole-ass movie every day? I mean I guess I did once upon a time, and from my Instagram feed I gather that many of you do, too, but if I am being honest….I don’t wanna! And I feel like this is not the year to make things harder on myself than they have to be, but I still wanted to try and do some version of this challenge.

In that vein, I am counting the following as “horror media”: full-length films, horror shorts, television series, books, comics, graphic novels, podcasts, YouTube, music, arts, and crafts. And to be honest, I think including a wider variety of sensory experiences will make this a lot more interesting! Also, I am going to be breaking up these horror-related watchings/readings/doings into four installments for both the sake of my sanity and your attention-span.

If you want to take a peek at previous years, I have included links to the past three years of 31 Days. I cheated a bit on all of them. By now, I think that must make it some kind of tradition….

2019: 31 Days of Horror-Inspired Ensembles
2018: 31 Days of Horror // 2017: 31 Days of Horror

Day One: Kuroneko.

Cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater! I initially began watching this 1968 black-and-white Japanese horror film back in September, but for some reason, I never finished it. Adapted from folklore, Kuroneko is a ghostly tale of two women’s revenge on the cruel samurai who violated and murdered them before setting their forest hut ablaze. The slain women are transformed into avenging cat-spirits after a black cat laps at the blood from their charred remains. Dramatic and austere, eerie, and elegant, this is a chillingly poetic and utterly gorgeous film.

Day Two: The Witch in the Window.

Undeterred by the realization that they’re most likely living with a malicious spirit, an estranged father and son continue their work on a fixer-upper farmhouse and in the process make strides toward repairing their relationship. I thought this film had a genuinely freaky moment or two, but mostly it was sweet and a bit sad. I appreciated the thoughtfulness that went into developing the dynamic between a parent trying to reconnect with a child who is growing up too fast, and I think the film’s effectiveness, for me, was rooted more in that emotional landscape than the ghost-witch-whatever was going on there.

Day Three: In Fabric.

What a weird fucking film. But I guess that’s Peter Strickland for you. In this strange, quasi-comedic commentary on consumerism and commodification, a swanky red murder dress on display at an eccentric department store curses and corrupts its ill-fated victims. (But it was on sale!) I suppose there are tinges of the giallo in this film, but it just…doesn’t feel like a giallo film to me? And the humor is off-putting in that oddly queasy way you feel when someone’s joke falls flat and everyone laughs a bit uneasily, and the silence afterward is unnerving and awful. In Fabric isn’t scary so much as it is disorienting and nasty and despite all of that, totally mesmerizing.

Day Four: Clown in a Cornfield

This book has been on my radar since it started showing up in several “hotly anticipated horror fiction for 2020!” lists back at the end of 2019. I don’t think I realized at the time it was a YA title, but honestly, there’s nothing kid-friendly about it. I mean, I’m not critiquing it for being a violent, bloody slasher-film-in-novel-format — it was actually a great deal of fun and was a retro reminder for me of some of the books I enjoyed as a pre-teen and teen (which I’m pretty sure were in no way considered YA, whoops!) A new girl trying to make the best of her situation, prankster classmates, generational tensions, and a highly implausible killer-clown situation added up to a delightful read that I sped through over the course of an afternoon. The pace and imagery really does read like a movie, so I was not surprised to learn that the film rights have already been optioned!

Day Five: Braid.

A sumptuous, psychotic dress-up parable of the perverse peculiarities of power; a bitter frenzy of nightmarish friendship, and the disillusionment of dreams. I don’t know what else to say about this one. I don’t know what the hell I watched and I’d surely watch that nonsense again. Also: Braid is very pretty.

Day Six: The Final Girls

My partner does not like horror movies. He reasons that real life is horrific enough and he doesn’t need the extra stress and bummers of celluloid brutality and monstrousness. I guess I get it, and while I don’t totally disagree, I think we are just wired differently. I feel somewhat similarly but whereas he is repulsed by horror, I am fascinated by it. At any rate, we do reach some compromises; if it’s a zombie film or a horror-comedy, I can usually talk him into sharing popcorn and a scary film with me. Our compromise this year was the 2015 The Final Girls, which we’ve actually been meaning to watch since. Well. Since 2015, probably. Even with the not-so-scary films, it takes five years of convincing with this guy!

Playing with the “final girl” trope, wherein because of the privilege of some sort of moral superiority (she’s usually a virgin), the final girl is the last girl(s) or woman alive to confront the killer, and ostensibly the one left to tell the story. I don’t love making the construct of your virginity to be your saving grace; it doesn’t change your value or your identity and I’m not really going anywhere with that but I just wanted it noted, I guess. Although I bet Alex and Andrea, whom I will be mentioning below, no doubt get into that very thing at some point!

Antiquated and problematic notions of purity aside, The Final Girls was a hoot. The plot centers on a young woman whose mother, an actress in cult-classic horror B-movie Camp Bloodbath, dies in a traumatizing car crash. Three years later on the anniversary of her mother’s death, she attends a screening of the movie, and when trying to escape an accidental fire set in the theatre, she and her friends somehow become trapped within the movie itself.

The Final Girls was a silly, stupidly gory movie with a surprisingly deeper emotional core than I expecting, weighted with grief and loss and survivor’s guilt, but resilience and catharsis, too. I wouldn’t be surprised if the writer of this film experienced the death of a parent and was attempting to exorcise their sorrow and suffering through the script. You learn to recognize that pain, I think, once you’ve experienced it on some level for yourself. Anyway, I might have had some issues some of the key ideas in play in the film, but I ultimately really enjoyed it and thought it was a lot of fun.

Day Seven: Faculty of Horror

I made an important discovery last week. A game-changer. One of those revelations that strikes you and you realize “I could have been doing it this way all along!” I learned that I can both knit a couple of fiddly repeats in a complex pattern AND listen to people talking about something! Typically I listen to instrumental music when I am knitting. Something darkly ambient and Lustmord-y or Hildegardbingen-y type monophony (which isn’t wordless I guess, but if I can’t understand the words, that amounts to the same thing.) I thought that listening to a discussion might become a distraction and screw up me and my stitches along the way.

It turns out I can do two things at once! I came to this epiphany whilst listening in to the most recent Faculty of Horror podcast, wherein hosts Alexandra West and Andrea Subissati examine the films Pyewacket and Hereditary, investigating the deepest depths of grief, despair and what we stand to lose (and gain) when we forsake our family for community.

Not only did I not drop a single stitch, I breathlessly hung on to every word of Andrea and Alex’s knowledgeable and passionate discussion of horror, through the lens of analysis and academia, along with their own individual perspective and personal reads. Before I knew it, the hour I’ve been dedicating every night to this slog of a shawl was up and I had barely aware it had passed! I will definitely be tuning into more Faculty of Horror and stay tuned in an upcoming installment of 31 Days of Horror when I dig into a more seasonally appropriate project!