OcTerror · Writing

How I Create My OcTerror Review List

               Although it may be June, OcTerror is well underway behind the scenes and, after five years, I thought sharing some of my creation process could be fun. Although all of my reviews and posts are scheduled for October, I often begin brainstorming and writing them months in advance. Half the time I’m already thinking ahead during it! While there are a lot of cogs that go into my month of horror, I wanted to focus on how I create and curate the films I end up reviewing.

               For the first three years, OcTerror was finding its form. The first reviews I posted weren’t very in-depth and I only picked about thirty or so films. (Plus, we had that whole definition debacle with ‘the decline’ versus ‘the resurgence’ before it finally became ‘The Experiment’). Since OcTerror began as a way for me to expand my horror cinema knowledge and background, I focused on the basic films I’d missed like Halloween or The Exorcist. However, as time has gone on, I’ve developed further criteria for what has expanded to at least sixty films in a month. It’s my hope that if you’re thinking of writing similar themed blogs, you may find this useful or interesting.

               First, I don’t repeat films. This not only captures my education about film and the horror genre but allows me to spend more time on other movies. There are two small exceptions to this. Obviously, I may reference prior reviews or feelings if I talk about another film in the franchise or if I’m discussing a remake/reboot. That means any change in feeling I’ve had has become necessary. The second—more relevant this year—is if I’m changing the format of the review itself to a different genre of writing. For example, moving away from a compare/contrast to analysis or something of that nature. Even with Macabre Movie Mondays and their individual themes, I won’t repeat a prior film.

               Second, I roughly stick to the Eras, Kid-Friendly, and my annual Theme when choosing these films. We have forty films for Classics (1920-1969), Heyday (1970-1996ish), Experiment (1996ish-2010), and Renaissance (2010-). We have ten movies that could be aimed at a kid-friendly experience, and at least ten films for my annual theme (which has included Sequels, Asian Horror, and Remakes/Reboots previously). Within the time periods, I try to balance out the years I’m selecting from. Some of these eras have more decades to choose from than others. 2007 was a great year for horror, but I can’t let it completely dominate The Experiment. This allows me to show not only the changes in horror over time, but what is coming out more recently. In the past few OcTerrors, my eras have not been posted chronologically for more of a general impact. I still learn something new watching more silent films and pre-1980 horror films every year.

               Third, I try to avoid a certain monster, Big Bad, or subgenre dominating OcTerror as a whole. This is more difficult because I love vampires, and I’ll put together my initial list and notice about a sixth of the movies have them. Even if slashers were popular and prevalent in the Heyday, we also had lots of other things going to give attention to. With a wide world of scares and terrors, I try my best to balance it out, but it is obvious when there’s a certain lean. This is why I created Macabre Movie Monday; so I could focus on one particular thing and give it a good amount of attention and see those connections that filmmakers love to create.

               Fourth, I am trying to include more diversity as I go forward. This not only includes films directed, written, or produced by women, but also films that are made by BIPOC, LGBT+, and other minorities. In addition, my list in the past has been very America-centered and, while we do have a booming movie industry, I’m searching out films from other countries too. After watching movies from East Asia, I’m determined to include more films in different languages to show the breadth of cinema when all you have to add is subtitles. It’s also amazing to see how terror can be translated across borders, cultures, and experiences.

               Fifth and final, I balance out popular better-known titles with indie or niche films. A good chunk of the horror community gets psyched up for films years before they’re actually released (see my enthusiasm for Nia DaCosta’s Candyman in 2019), but many others go under the radar even after they’re out. I’ve missed a lot of those “Must Watch” horror movies in my life so I’m trying to make up for that, but I’m trying to pay it forward and celebrate some that may be forgotten or that I personally enjoy.

               When I first started OcTerror, I only reviewed films I could find a physical copy of but—with the growth of streaming—I’ve removed that limitation. Anything is up for grabs as long as I have access. I try to pick some films from my physical collection (especially ones I bought without watching) as well as movies anyone can find on Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Tubi, or Amazon among others. Some of the films I review I’m watching for the first time, and others I’ve seen before.

               When it comes to choosing the theme for Macabre Movie Mondays, I actually have a backlist of ideas I’m pulling from because it’s one review post a year and I’ve been doing it for many. As of now, I have the theme for this year, 2023, and 2024 planned out. Since there are a lot of things I could focus specifically on, it’s easy to create lists and find films that fit the idea I have.

               Lastly, I always remind myself I’m doing this for me. 2022 will be my sixth OcTerror and, while it is a significant portion of my time and blog, it doesn’t gain a whole lot of views or attention. And that’s okay. I’m still in it to learn more about horror movies and the genre I’ve come to love. I get to share my thoughts and recommendations with the people who do read them (longer though they may be), and, honestly, I love writing reviews.

               I started putting together my film list in January. Although not everything on it currently will end up in the final product, I like to think every year is the best one yet. It is June, and I am almost 40% of the way through my reviews. (I’m trying to be better about planning ahead and procrastinating this time). Since we’ve worked out some of the kinks and have five years to show for it, I can roughly tease that we will have at least one new column this year. I think you’ll like it.

               Till the next behind the scenes or till October, keep the scares coming.