TLDR: I've decided to spend this October attempting to watch a horror film a day + accompany each movie with a quick drawing.
Since retiring my New Statesman comic - In The Frame - earlier this year, I've spent the majority of my time securing illustration work and making sure the next year of freelancing was going to be as comfortable as I could make it. I also set-up the Artists Fight Back list, co-edited and designed a book about Poetry Comics with Chrissy Williams, and drew a Phonogram b-side - so while I have been working on really fun and exciting projects, I still haven't really worked on anything just for myself this year.
So this is me setting some time aside to do something creative, fun, and with no expectation to do anything with it afterwards.
And to watch a whole load of horror films.
The idea is that I'll watch a horror film every day during October (usually in the evening, but maybe over lunch depending on how my workload/schedule looks) and then draw an illustration/sketch the next morning as a warm-up before tackling other projects. My hope is to experiment with each drawing and try something different - but we'll see how I get on and what my time allows. I don't want this side of the project to become a chore or get stressful, so I'll aim to spend no more than an hour or two on each drawing.
When I came up with the idea a couple of weeks ago, I asked Facebook and Twitter for recommendations and was overwhelmed with brilliant suggestions. In the end, there were about 90 movies that made the list and I've gone through and made a rough plan regarding which 31 I'll try and watch this month (who knows, maybe I'll do this again if it goes well). You can see this list here, along with a list of films I've already seen and enjoyed so if you have a suggestion that isn't on either list, I'd love to hear from you. The selection isn't set in stone and I may change my mind last minute depending on what's easily accessible via Netflix/getting a lot of endorsements/I'm just in the mood for.
I've always loved horror movies and while I consider myself a fan, I have so many blind spots and embarrassing cultural gaps so I'm really excited about filling some of these in. But when I decided to do this, I've had people ask "what is it about horror films that you actually find enjoyable?" which is a tough question to satisfyingly answer, but one I should probably try to before I get started, so:
- Horror movies are often low budget affairs which generally make their money back and, more often, make a profit - so it tends to be a genre where a lot of interesting and unique directorial voices make their debuts away from too much studio interference. Which often means, even if the movie isn't perfect, there are some beautifully directed and ambitious horror films to be discovered.
- It's a bit of well worn truism, but catharsis. It's not always comfortable during the running time, but facing your fears and being allowed to experience or explore your worst nightmare (from a place of safety) is a really exhilarating way to spend a couple of hours. Horror films are usually trying to craft a story/mythology around deep-rooted fears or things completely outside of our control. It's a really comforting thing when you think about it. Right guys?
- Related - it's an opportunity for a cowardly, shut-in artist like me to pretend to be brave for a little bit.
- There's something enticing about the purity of the horror film and it's success or failure largely resting on it's ability to genuinely scare or disturb despite our knowledge that it's just a movie.
- On that note, as someone who studied movies for a while, and spends a lot of time watching and reading about them, it can sometimes be hard to turn the analytical side of the brain off when watching a film. When there's a horror movie that scares me into doing just that, it's like going straight to the source and feeling like a kid again.
To get me in the mood, I've made a little horror playlist. Seeing as my earliest memories of horror films are from this era, all the songs are things that sound like they'd be playing in a club in an 80's film while the main characters are trying to find help. The playlist is here.
I also re-watched the Mark Gatiss History of Horror doc which can be found on youtube here (I assume it's okay to link to it if no dvd exists?). Worth a watch if you haven't seen it. Watching it led to this quick Karloff's Monster sketch:
In honour of horror maestro Wes Craven, who died earlier this year, I'll be kicking off the month tonight with The Serpent and the Rainbow - a 1988 zombie film starring Bill Pullman which Craven took on after the success of Nightmare on Elm Street. If I have enough time, I may also watch the more well known Last House on the Left which I've also somehow managed not to have seen.
It also only seems right that my first illustration for this is of Craven himself:
If you fancy joining in and watching along with me, or if you have a suggestion - follow me on Twitter here and get in touch!
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The archive of the Horror Month drawings will be here if you want to bookmark it.