Call it a passion project. Last year, around Oscars week, I had an idea: let’s take the Hell of Fame and give it its own fancy week at DE. I’m not big on awards shows, as they all seem rigged and none of them—music, movie, book or otherwise—ever seem to nominate pieces of art I enjoy. But with a Hell of Fame Week, I could rein in the art as I saw fit, and honor several inductees in a buildup for a full week.
The first attempt in 2017 hit some hitches along the way, but it was a fair start as far as the concept went. Year Two was the time to hone it, enhance it, and make it better than it was in Year one. I went in with a plan, and though it wasn’t perfect, it was a great second effort at my passion project. I’ve reflected the last few weeks on our 2nd Annual Hell of Fame Week, and so here are some of my reflections:
Putting the “ensemble” in Death Ensemble
I’ve never run the numbers, but I personally write probably over 90% of DE’s content. When I chose to name the site “Death Ensemble,” it wasn’t just to grab a cool Slayer reference; it was to get a number of other contributors to join in, so DE could provide a vast range of unique perspectives. That doesn’t happen so much, as you can see from last year’s Hell of Fame week, which only had one piece from another contributor, Nicole Fiss. This time around, I vowed to address that issue. I put out feelers and invites to a number of horror fan friends, letting them know they could nominate anything in horror they loved.
Brian Skutle was first to answer the call, with a piece on Five Iconic Horror Themes. I love thrash metal, but I can’t really speak to music the way I can to movies and literature, so it was great to get this perspective from a music aficionado. Nicole saw my induction of Kincaid from the Dream Warriors, and wanted to write a piece on her favorite Warrior, Taryn. Great, because Nicole loves her women of horror. Not to be left out (but always one to twist my balls), Heather Elle wrote a loving piece about Chandler Riggs, whose character Carl had just been killed off her beloved The Walking Dead. The best thing about these inductions is that I never would have written any of them. Those aren’t my passions, but my writers put their hearts into these inductions, and that made me feel proud that DE is a true ensemble.
Interestingly, I put out a few offers that I thought would come back, but never did. Chadworth was pondering a piece on Eric Freeman, and April Sheehan was gushing over Supernatural, but I never got those inductions. I like to think they’re the first two inductees for the 3rd Annual Hell of Fame Week.
The Highest Form of Respect
A few months back, I inducted HALLOWEEN 4 into the HOF. That flick has always been a personal favorite of mine, and I have no shame in saying so. I got silly when I wrote that induction, because I was in that silly sort of mood. With the HOF Week pieces, I was in a wholly different frame of mind. On the Hell of Fame homepage, I boldly state, “Only a select handful become the stalwarts, the titans, the legendary… Only they are inducted into the Hell of Fame.” I took that to heart when writing my entries this year, and put some profound thought and emotions into the writing process this time around. I stand by my HALLOWEEN 4 induction, which proves to me there are all sorts of ways to honor the great ones at DE.
Black History and Women of Horror Months
February has the distinction of being both Black History Month and Women in Horror Month. One idea I’d played around with during the 1st Annual week was honoring a Black person and a woman who were important to horror. One thing I didn’t want to do was say, “Hey, here’s a Black actor and a female horror character because it’s time to celebrate Blacks and women!” because that would make those inductions seem like token entries, and every induction in the Hell of Fame is sacred here at DE. Nor would I want anyone to think I was giving those causes lip service without any real resonance in those inductees. So I made a decision: I would indeed honor Duane Jones and the Bride of Frankenstein, but I would never mention Black History or Women in Horror month. No extra fanfare outside of their actual inductions. Honor quietly and respectfully. I think it worked rather nicely.
The overlap among inductees resonated on a deeper level that really moved me. When I inducted Big Daddy and Kincaid, I made profound connections to Duane Jones, as the former two are both directly and indirectly related to the latter and his importance in history as the lead male in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. As I wrote their inductions, I came to a greater appreciation both for them and Jones. It’s great to see that Ben continues to influence Black males in horror 50 years later. As for Taryn, her direct connection to Kincaid made it feel to me like we were forming our own Dream Warriors in the Hell of Fame. They’re part of such an important 80s milestone in horror that I’d love to see someone induct other Warriors in the future.
Just How to Induct?
I posted last summer on the day George Romero died that I’d have more to say about him at a later date. Even back then, I understood he had to be inducted during HOF Week. I also wanted to induct a film, and John Carpenter’s THE THING is a milestone in my path to becoming a horror fan. But I’d already reviewed every film in Romero’s catalogue, and did a whole NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD Retrospective, so what else could I say? With THE THING, how would I attack it differently than if it were a review? I knew I’d honor both, but how?
The answers took some contemplation. As for Romero, a conversation with X gave me the idea that I’d been honoring George since I started DE, with the Romero Retrospective, the series of interviews I’d conducted with his collaborators. I’ll never interview George now that he’s gone, which makes that collection of interviews even more vital to DE. And it’s nice to revere my idol through the words of the fine people who toiled at his side.
As for THE THING, that induction was a nice way to honor not just the film, but my mom. Junie was a trip, that’s for sure, and I still can’t explain her obsession with the movie. Well, maybe I can, because it’s a near perfect horror film which stars Kurt Russell in a giant beard and awesome hat. Remembering back on waking up in the middle of the night to find her watching it on cable brought back all sorts of emotions about my childhood, and how much I love and miss my mom. Mom wasn’t a huge horror fan, so I have fond feelings for the few times she and I crossed over on horror. I have warm feelings every time I write about her, including right now, so honoring THE THING really came down to honoring her love for it. And that’s kind of sweet.
Best “Best of” Designators
“Best Performance by an Actor in a Lead Role” is boring. “Best Job of Kicking Ass by a Black Performer (Non-Living)” rules. I came up with twisted titles for each of the inductions last year, and followed suit this time around. I enjoyed making up the silly titles almost as much as writing my inductions.
Love for the Process
I work a lot of hours, and devote most of my energies to managing restaurants. I took some time off for myself back in February, which allowed me to do all sorts of things for myself personally. One of those things was to devote my energies to writing. I often have the ideas but not the stamina to sit myself down and craft pieces for DE. Hence why it’s been three weeks since I last posted anything. So getting the chance to rest up and let the words flow off my fingers was extremely gratifying. I feel my entries this year are among the stronger pieces I’ve written in seven years running DE, and it’s extremely gratifying on a personal level that those pieces now reside for all time in our revered Hell of Fame. I couldn’t be happier, or any more proud.
Reflecting on this year’s Hell of Fame Week, I find the concept to be a success. My passion project made it into Year Two, and will continue for many years to come. I hope you’re looking forward to the 3rd Annual Hell of Fame Week just as much as I am. I promise it’ll be worth the wait.