Every year, I invite a bunch of friends over to watch some horror movies. That idea alone seems simple enough, but I put a lot more thought and planning into the ordeal than most people realize. And over the years, I have learned some things.
Start Planning Early
The earlier you start planning your horror movie marathon, the better. Not only will this give you time to prep and think out all of the logistics, it will also give you time to hunt down copies of the horror movies you want to show.
I host my marathon in October. I usually start planning out the date and theme around mid-August. That allows me to give my guests a chance to get it on their calendars. This segues nicely into my next point…
Pick a Good Horror Theme
There are so many horror movies I love and it can be hard to pick which ones I want to show. Basically, my natural instinct is to play movie after movie, telling my guests that, “You HAVE to see this one.” I also want to blurt out the exclamations that annoys my husband to no end: “You haven’t seen that!? Are you serious?!”
That is exactly what I did during my first horror marathon. I started out strong with The Shining, but ended up jumping all over the place with Tucker & Dale vs. Evil and Nightmare on Elm Street. There were a bunch of other movies in there that I don’t even recall. By the end, my guests were glassy-eyed and worn out. I learned my lesson.
By picking a theme, you can keep yourself focused and give your guests an idea of what to expect. Last year, I did horror through the decades. I picked a movie from each decade that I thought was good. I started with Rosemary’s Baby from the 1960s, next was The Exorcist from the 70s, the 80s was Poltergeist, and for the 90s, I had a selection of 90s movies for guests to pick from.
This year, I chose to focus on supernatural/ghost films. It all stemmed from my renting Oculus and falling in love with it. I wanted to force others to watch it and that was the start of my theme. The movies included:
- The House on Haunted Hill (Vincent Price version, of course)
- The Ring
- Beetlejuice (to keep the crowd happy)
- The Conjuring
I’ve already got ideas for future themes too: slasher movies, monster movies, classic horror, demon horror, and Hitchcock films.
Think About Your Audience
Are your friends horror junkies who have seen everything? Would they find the movie Audition or Cannibal Holocaust boring?
Or are your friends the type who only occasionally watch horror movies? Maybe they saw the latest blockbuster but if you start talking the finer points of Argento’s catalog their eyes glaze over?
The types of people you invite should guide your decisions. I would not show High Tension to my friend who asked me if I would show Ghost and Casper this year at my marathon. Think about who is coming and try to find movies that suit everyone’s interests. That isn’t always possible, but it’s worth considering.
Food for Your Horror Marathon
You are going to want snacks while you watch those horror movies. Some fun things I have made over the years:
- Witches’ Brew punch ( I make this every year)
- Martha Stewart’s sinister guacamole (this got me a lot of kudos this year, even though I forgot to add the cilantro; whoops)
- Martha Stewart’s petrified cheese log (surprisingly delicious and easy to make)
- Thomas Keller’s bat cookies (which were my first foray into whoopie pies. DELICIOUS.)
I also usually buy a bunch of chips, stuff for a meat & cheese platter, nuts, candy and other goodies.
But this is just the stuff that sits out throughout the movies. When you are watching (and presumably drinking) several movies, you are going to need real food. To make it easy, we usually order pizza. We have also picked up boxes of tacos from Taco Bell and the wonderfully gluttonous Crave Case from White Castle.
Decorating to Scare
I plan my horror marathon around Halloween. It just makes things simpler. I have all sorts of creepy, horror-themed decor at the ready this time of year. I like to hide fake bugs around the house and replace all my real art with creepy art like this:
One year (and I always plan to do this but hardly find the time; another reason to plan ahead), I cut out black silhouettes of rats and crows and taped them all over my apartment. The rats were pasted all along the baseboards and in the dark corners. The crows hovered on top of frames and shelves. I got a lot of compliments on those.
Spider webs, fake skeletons, candelabras covered in wax all help the atmosphere and set the marathon apart from any other evening watching movies with friends. It’s not necessary, but it helps make it more fun.
Test Your Movies
While it’s fun to wait until the marathon to watch the movies, you are going to want to watch the movies at some point in advance of the event. If anything, you don’t want some technical glitch to kill the mood. Trust me. It can happen.
This year, I had ordered a new Blu-Ray version of The Ring to show. Of course, it froze halfway through the movie. I’m lucky it only froze once, but it totally killed the mood and irked me. In the future, I’m going to test all media in advance.
If it’s not fun, why do it? I’ve said a lot of things and given a bunch of advice about horror marathons, but make sure you don’t forget to have fun hosting your marathon. Pick some movies you love and want to share. When you care about something, it’s contagious. Your friends will have fun too.
Happy horror watching!