Last night, I watched a zombie movie. Tonight, I'm watching a zombie movie. Tomorrow night, and for the next 28 nights, I will be watching a zombie movie. This is not normal. Not for me. Not for anybody. But it's what I've done every year for the past five years, and what I will do every year for the foreseeable future. Why? Because zombie movie marathon month, that's why.
Okay, I know that's not really a reason. How does "Because zombie movies are awesome!" sound? About the same, right? The truth is, there's no deep, meaningful reason that I do this to myself every year beyond the fact that I did it once, I really enjoyed it, and I decided to make it a tradition. For me, being the slightly obsessive weirdo that I am, once you call it "tradition," you don't really have any choice -- it's just what you do.
The first year's marathon was borne of poverty and boredom, a way to kill the unbelievable amount of free time I had in the wake of separating from my then-wife. I had no money but all this fucking time, and Blockbuster had a deal that let you borrow as many movies as you wanted, one at a time, for $20 a month. It also had a shitload of zombie movies. Add all these together with the tossed-off notion of "We should watch one of these a day, every day this month to get our money's worth" and boom, it was on.
That first year's marathon transformed me from "guy who really likes zombie movies" to "zombie movie guy." Subsequent years deepened this obsession, at least until about year three or so. Since then, it's just tradition, like carving jack o' lanterns or singing Christmas carols. You don't always love it, and sometimes you'd rather be doing something else, but you do it anyway. Sometimes it's awesome, though, and I'd actually recommend it to anyone and everyone who loves some niche genre in the film world.
A marathon like this will do wonders for your appreciation and understanding of the thing you love, even as it exposes you to its weakest links and biggest flaws. Watching thirty (or 31, ever since I moved it from June to the more appropriate October) zombie movies back to back made me understand the genre in a whole new way. Themes emerge, strange connective tissue that you were never aware of before. And in zombie movies, lots of connective tissue gets ripped out, as a bonus. You see the tropes and cadences that underlie the best films in the genre replayed in lesser films and you find good ideas hiding in the weirdest, worst films. Most of all, it forces you to go deep. All those films that you meant to get around to seeing get pulled out, dusted off and put on. You can transform yourself from a poseur to a connoisseur in just thirty days. And you can tell people you've done it, earning yourself strange, suspicious looks and questions like, "Why?" and "What the fuck is wrong with you?"
Also, I'd like others to suffer along with me.
With those kind of incentives, it's hard to resist, right? Well, if you dare engage in your own marathon -- be it zombies or anything else -- here are a few things I've learned along the way that might help you survive and even enjoy the experience.
Pick a genre you love For me it's zombies, obviously, but if zombies don't do it for you and Japanese monster movies do, then by all means kaiju the fuck out. Come on, you've always wondered what Rebirth of Mothra 3 is all about, right? The thing is, thirty is a lot of movies and you're never going to make it if it isn't something you love to start with.
Mix up the old and new If it's a genre you love, chances are good you've seen a lot, maybe even most, of the "classics" of the genre. Don't hesitate to mix them in even though you've already seen them. Last year I settled on a fifty-fifty split of new and old, alternating nights. One night I choose something like Dawn of the Dead, which I have seen probably two dozen times, the next night I'll watch World War Z, which I missed in theaters because babies don't leave you enough time to go to all the movies you're interested in (well, mine doesn't, anyway).
Stick to it I'm not going to lie -- at some point, you are going to want to quit. You will be tempted to give up and shut off the dog of a film that is boring you to tears. Don't do it. You'll never stick out the whole thirty days if one bad film can derail you, no matter what you tell yourself. And don't skip nights promising to make them up later; that just sets you up for failure, and horrible nights where you try to watch three Chucky films in one sitting. No one can do that and keep their sanity.
If you're anything like me, you'll come out of this experience renewed, with a fresh love of the genre and a handful of new films to cherish (plus a bunch more to hate for eating up so many hours of your life). If you're really like me, you'll parlay that newfound love of whatever your thing is into a website, a significant portion of your writing career and the kind of obscure obsession that works wonders at alienating normal people and annoying the shit out of your wife.
Like I said, with those incentives, how could anyone resist?
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