To paraphrase the late, great Robert Burns: “The best laid plains of mice and men often go askew.” I’ve always believed in this little adage but rarely have I had the opportunity to observe it in action quite as clearly as I did over the last several months. You see, your humble little mouse host made plans, drew up the diagrams, double-checked the figures, looked both ways before crossing the street and still managed to get run over.
As longtime readers will know, The VHS Graveyard holds few things as sacred as the month of October. While most folks are content to just celebrate the finale with costumes, parties and a scary movie (or two), we like to celebrate all 31 days of the month. The rules are simple: nothing but horror, fantasy and sci-fi films for the entire month, with themed screenings and pairings as often as possible. Some folks carefully prepare lineups for their fantasy sports leagues, creating charts, graphs and comparisons in order to help them put together a winning team: we prepare lists of potential films, cross-reference with past viewings, make sure that a proportionate number of newer vs. older films are represented, etc, etc. In other words, we plan the month down to the last minute (or as close to it as possible).
Unlike the last several years, however, these carefully laid plans were not to be. After aggravating an old shoulder injury in September, I found myself in constant, tremendous pain, immobilized and unable to do much of anything but sit in one position with my arm strapped to my side for dear life. With my surgery scheduled for the end of October, I was looking at (roughly) a month of uninterrupted agony, followed by (at least) twelve weeks of painful physical rehabilitation. I was in pain, frustrated, angry and counting every miserable minute between doses of pain medication like I was ticking down the end of a life sentence. Needless to say, for the first time in roughly 20-odd years, my seasonal viewing was the last thing on my mind.
Being stuck on your couch for weeks on end is certainly not fun, gentle readers, but it does have one silver lining, at least if you happen to be an avowed film fanatic: it gives you lots and lots of time to watch movies. With nothing else to occupy my time, I would often watch films from sun-up to sun-down, one after the other. Tossing my plans aside (for the most part), I would watch whatever was handy: as long as it fulfilled the basic tenets, I watched it, careful programming be damned. It was chaotic, to be sure, but completely exhilarating: I’d put my body into “sleep” mode and given my mind the reins. With nothing else to distract me, I could focus on each and every film, giving them all the attention they deserved, be they high-minded prestige material or crappy C-movie.
When all was said and done and the clock hit 12:01AM on November 1st, I had managed to rather handily blow away any of my previous October viewing records: after screening 63 films last October, I ended up watching 110 movies this October. Not, obviously, the way that I originally planned it but any silver lining in a storm cloud, eh?
Since my injury restricted my ability to write the longer reviews that have been The VHS Graveyard’s modus operandi since its inception, I was forced to resort to mini-reviews of the various films, figuring that getting a few thoughts out was better than getting no thoughts out. I’d like to think that I’ll (one day) be able to go back and give each of those 110 films the time that they (mostly) deserve, although that’s probably not a realistic option, especially as my pile of “watched films” continues to grow.
Such, however, is life and if the last couple months have taught us anything, it’s taught us to just roll with the punches and do the best you can. After all is said and done, The VHS Graveyard and its shadowy puppet master are still alive and kicking: sometimes, that’s the very best that you can hope for.
Coming up, we’ll finish off October properly with our picks for the very best (and very worst) films that were screened in the month. After that, onwards through November and into December: like the Energizer Bunny, The VHS Graveyard just keeps going and going and going.