Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Treats and tricks

We’re getting close enough to the longest, darkest nights portion of the year that the sky is only barely starting to get light when my morning train arrives in Crystal City. (And that’s when it’s not raining, this also being a pretty reliably rain-heavy time of year.) So of course I’ve been arming myself with as much entertainment as possible, because the commute may run through the dark but inside the train it is reasonably well-lit.

We’re also getting close to Halloween, obviously, and once again I’ve given over the entirety of October to the horror genre for my personal pop culture consumption. A week and a half in and so far I’ve read a comedy-sci-fi-monster mash-up novel entitled Go, Mutants! – which was basically one long game of “I see what you did there” but as I happen to be a big fan of that game, that worked out well for me – and I’m about halfway through Frankenstein. Amazingly enough I’ve never read Mary Shelley’s best-known novel before, and that particular book is doing double duty not only as a Spooktoberfest entry but also as a Classic Book I’ve Never Read, since crossing off twelve of those was one of my New Year’s Resolutions. (It will be number eight, so I’m a bit behind, but I remain optimistic about finishing the year strong.)

This time last year I was pretty much only reading books on the commute, but nowadays I’m rotating in plenty of tv and movies on DVD as well. Spooktoberfest would be an ideal time to continue working my way through Supernatural, but I seem to be a victim of my own good fortune precluding that possibility. Two of my buddies chipped in together to buy me a Blu-Ray player for my birthday, which was touching in its generosity even if it may have been motivated in part by their selfish desire to be able to talk to me about various shows and films they’d be happy to loan me but only have in Blu-Ray format themselves. To wit, one of those buddies presented me with his copies of seasons 2 and 3 of Supernatural on Blu-Ray along with the player. So since the first of the month I have, in fact, been catching up on season 2, but only at home since my portable player option remains exclusively DVD-oriented. (This has been yet another dubious silver lining in the ongoing saga of everyone in my household falling ill, except me: while my wife and kids have been taking convalescent naps, I’ve been watching the Winchester boys deal with creepy killer clowns and pacifist vampires played by Tara from Buffy. Good times.)

(Also despite, or more likely because of, how resonant any suggestion of debilitating illness might be for me right now, I have no plans to go in the direction of any plague/zombie-themed horror during Spooktoberfest. Too soon.)

No false advertising here.
So, falling back on DVDs, last week I watched the movie Drag Me To Hell which … was a moderately entertaining modern gypsy-curse tale, but it seemed a bit overstuffed with competing ideas that didn’t really add up to anything (except perhaps a running joke where Alison Lohman keeps screaming while gross stuff – blood, bugs, death-ooze, etc. – is coming at her and said gross stuff ends up in her screaming mouth.) I remembered it getting fairly good reviews, which is why I wanted to check it out. I used to love horror movies when I was younger, from classic monster riffs to z-grade gross-outs to psychological suspense and just about everything in between. But lately, like many a diversion from my youth, they’ve just kind of fallen off my radar screen. I figured with a theme-powered October and a Netflix account I still haven’t cancelled, I might reacquaint myself via more recent offerings. But either the movies have changed, or I have, or possibly (probably) both.

I’d love to exhaustively research the question, with multiple samples from 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and 00’s horror cinema, but it’s amazing how fast a month goes by. If I choose wisely, don’t miss too much work due to sick days, and generally things go according to plan, I can probably read one novel a week, Monday through Thursday, paired with one movie on Friday. Which means by the end of Spooktoberfest I would have consumed four novels and four movies. And on the one hand that’s great, and a lot more leisurely brain-candy ingestion than a lot of people can scrape out the time for. But on the other hand, I can probably name ten books and twenty movies I’d love to include in the horror marathon. It’s just that the commute-time math doesn’t work in my favor.

Around the end of the month I suppose I’ll have to give an accounting of what did and did not make the cut for the Spooktoberfest slate. Assuming the world keeps turning, there’s always October of 2012 to pick up where I left off.

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