What is #31Days?
The #31Days Challenge dates back to my early days of media criticism. I wasn’t published in non-fiction yet when I stumbled across a Halloween challenge at the old IMDB message boards. It was an elaborate competition hosted on their Horror boards. There were rules like bonus points for writing reviews, completing an entire series, or watching more obscure subgenres. This was a great excuse to learn more about the genre. The organizers focused on lesser known trends in the genre to create discussion.
This is something I’ve kept up with even as my schedule grew busier and writing reviews for every viewing meant either turning down outside work to complete them or giving up on other things like a consistent sleep schedule. I enjoy horror enough that the sacrifices didn’t bother me. When I didn’t have the energy to write 31 reviews, I watched a new film every day. It’s tradition at this point.
This year, I knew I wanted to go all out for the challenge. I established my own terms and rules to complete. I took the time to map out an entire schedule, complete with weekly categories like documentaries, TV series, and viewing an entire series in order. I picked popular and obscure films, new releases and forgotten classics. I even published the full schedule online so people could see what I was planning and watch along.
At its core, the goal of #31Days is to discuss a different horror property every day in October. October is that month where it’s culturally acceptable to enjoy horror films. The studio system established October and Halloween as the time for tent-pole horror releases. Speaking from experience, horror criticism performs better in October than any other month of the year. Having the #31Days challenge in October gives it a wider reach.
My awakening as a media critic came from a simple mission in my writing. I realized as a teenager that the films, books, games, etc. I enjoyed were different. They were less significant, artistic, or even valid as entertainment and art. These genres were horror, science fiction, and fantasy. If I turned in a genre story for a creative writing assignment in school, my grade was lower than my peers who wrote a more “literary” story. My teachers would promise to get literary stories published. They typically failed. Meanwhile, I had horror, sci-fi, and fantasy stories published at professional rates with relative ease.
I realized the biases extended far beyond the high school classroom. I never turned down an opportunity to study media criticism and theory. The best genre films would be recontextualized as a drama, thriller, satire, or experimental work. Then they could be discussed or awarded as “real” art.
These same people maligned newer styles in these genres for being immature or harmful. I distinctly remember the vitriol extended to the Saw series. The reaction was so toxic that “torture porn” became shorthand for “don’t watch this horror film” for over a decade.
Obviously, this does not reflect all of academic or critical writing. It just feels like it does. I’ve had countless articles, books, and panels rejected for not being “serious” or “significant” enough. If I add in a connection to something in the canon, the same topic is thought provoking and valid. It’s frustrating.
The #31Days Challenge happens in October to extend its reach. These films and TV series do not magically disappear from November 1 to September 30. They are real works of art/entertainment worthy of discussion, analysis, and celebration every day of the year.
The debut edition of #31Days contains newly revised and expanded articles from this year’s challenge. They’re presented in the order they were published.
There is brand new content, as well. I completed a 26 part series recapping and reviewing the Masters of Horror anthology series in October. There are recommendations based on every title discussed in the collection. Finally, there are multiple indexes sorted by release date, genre, and creator to help you explore the collection.
The last thing to know about this book is that this is a work of opinion. That’s true of media criticism as a medium. I’ve worked as a professional media critic for over 16 years. I spend a lot of time researching, engaging with, and reading about horror, in particular. I apply that knowledge gained from countless hours of research to share my opinion of a film, tv show, book, play, etc. in a broader context of its relationship to medium, media, genre, trends, etc. These are my opinions on media, not the last word on their true worth as art and entertainment. If I agreed with all the criticism I ever read, I would never have become a media critic.
I hope you find a new film or TV show to enjoy through this collection.