It is beginning again…
Welcome, one and all, to our celebration of all things dark, unsettling, discomfiting, and possibly unnatural, CINE-WEEN! This is our 5th year of setting aside October as a month-long celebration and remembrance of Halloween. For the entire month of October, we will attempt to flood the site with things related to horror, fall, dread, creepiness, and anything else our incredibly talented staff and friends decide is inspired in them by this time of year.
One of the reasons this celebration happens is how important Halloween and horror are to our community. Many of us on the site consider horror our first cinematic or literature love, and if you have been paying attention to our content throughout the year, you’ve definitely seen a bent towards all that is dark and macabre. That, of course, then begs the question: why make such a big deal of it now? If horror (and not just the film genre, but an appreciation for the unsettling in general) is such an ingrained aspect of this particular outlet, why make such a big deal out of Halloween? To many of you, jumping into the spooky season phenomena might strike you as a bit “normie” of us. To you, I say “pshaw!”
I think a practice that we still participate in often, but perhaps have lost connection with, is the creation of special time or sacred space. I don’t mean sacred in a traditionally Christian sense; rather, what I am trying to get at is the idea of setting apart time as a way to celebrate, remember, mourn, or otherwise live out a section of time that in our attention becomes special. There are a myriad of ways cultures, societies and religions have done this, and any way I have to describe this will inevitably be tainted by my Western and Christianized description (it is entirely possible that the very idea of “religion” as we commonly use it is a creation of the Christian tradition and often deployed as a way to make other traditions seem less legitimate or authentic). My point, though, is less grand than some huge thesis on the nature of the sacred across culture; it is simply pointing out the ways that holidays or memorials or any celebrations are created. This aspect of their nature is key, because it reminds us how important setting time aside and keeping it has been to people throughout time.
You see, from birthdays, to religious ceremonies, to anniversaries, none of these moments have any intrinsic meaning. Halloween is a great example, because within the very particular context of certain climates, it marks the time when fall beings to end and winter starts to come out. That is, the end of the life and vibrancy of spring and summer, and the transition to the dark cold (death) of winter. However, that context for the holiday which I love so much is entirely contextual. One need only move to a different climate, let alone a different hemisphere, for this reference to lose all meaning. Halloween for Australians serves likely the exact opposite function (though if you hate warm weather, it might function in a similar manner).
My point is simple, but important. Take one of our more universal customs across a number of cultures (though no custom is truly universal), the funeral. The thing itself, as so many of us are unfortunately aware of, is nothing. Simply gathering because someone has passed carries no intrinsic power or meaning. It is the memories, the love and the pain, the loss as well as the gratitude. If we are gathered out of a pure sense of obligation, the ceremony will often reflect that. If we gather because the passing of this person is a great tragedy, the ceremony will often be weighted with that reality. In a sense, what I am saying, but with far less poetry, is that the source of the magic is us. In creating these traditions, ceremonies, and celebrations, we bring our own lives and thus impregnate them with meaning. That is why they matter.
For me, Halloween then is not so different from a funeral. That might seem flippant, but often, a funeral — or, let’s say a wake, or anything designed to take both death and life into account — can function however a community needs it to. Halloween for some might simply be fun, a caricature of all that scares us, and becomes a play at death. For others, they might need this time to literally remember their dead, to express not only mourning for their loss, but deep gratitude for the lives they have shared. This month, for many of us, is also a time to remember our youth, our childhoods spent hiding or confronting the evils of the world with music in one hand and horror films in the other.
Nostalgia has become endemic to the punk and adjacent community, but it is an inclination that feels essentially opposite to it. Cine-ween could, if we let it, descend into nostalgia. For the ways horror once was, for how our lives have brought us here, for a time when we felt the world was more infused with wonder than it is now. It is not nostalgia I am seeking to embody, but memory. By that I don’t just mean something more true or authentic, but the honoring of what got us to this point so that it lives with us here. Not just remembering the dead (though that is definitely part of the shared traditions of this time of year) but remembering the failures and the triumphs, the trauma and the joy, the cliché that is our lives. Each of us likely laughed and cried and mourned and bled, and we shared all that pain, and joy, and fascination, and boredom with our community and the world. This space we are setting aside is about remembering that, and honoring how the darker, colder, more horrific things kept us going through all of it.
I pray, and I do mean pray, that as we take pleasure in fear and smut and grand guignol, we allow for the ways that this shadowplay, this reenactment of death and suffering, creates space to be healed. To exorcise our fears, to face our demons, to celebrate the things that gave us the willies and to understand how incredibly resilient we are. I want us to say thank you to a world that includes those spooky skeletons, as well as those moments of light and joy. At minimum, getting a little spooked might help us feel more alive.