Hallowfest Octobfilm: 31 Days of Horror Movie Reviews

A married couple from Nova Scotia is sharing their love of horror films with the rest of us on their blog Hallowfest Octobfilm. Andy and Lilly Ashdown took some time out of watching movies to discuss their yearly tradition with The Racket via email and discuss all things Halloween and horror related.

Hallowfest Octobfilm has been running since 2013. The blog is inactive for most of the year but rises from the dead every October when the couple posts daily reviews of horror or horror related movies, including a Tuesday double feature. There are even themed days, which have included things like “Werewolf Wednesdays”, “Frankenstein Fridays” and “Silent Movie Saturdays”.

There perhaps is no better couple more suited to review horror movies than the Ashdowns. Andy and Lilly featured Frankenstein’s creature and his bride on their wedding invitations in 2015. In fact, the origin story for Hallowfest Octobfilm dates back to 2012 and the early stages of their relationship. “I stayed with Lilly for a week and because it was October we spent the entire time watching horror movies that one or neither of us had seen and eating takeaway food,” said Andy, who immigrated to Canada from Britain in 2015. “It was obvious from then on that we would at least watch a lot of horror each year.”

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The viewings became blog reviews when Andy purchased a Hammer Horror box set on Amazon and couldn’t find any information about any of the included twenty-one movies. He started to write about them and soon combined with Lilly who had been blogging already. These posts can be found on Hallowfest Octobfilm’s section “The HallowVault”.

Hallowfest Octobfilm has been running from its current home since 2015 and the Ashdowns are working at moving the earlier reviews over. By the end of this month they will have reviewed over 200 movies and surprisingly they aren’t running out of choices. “[P]eople might be surprised by some of the big horror classics that we’ve missed out,” said Lilly. “We only covered The Shining last year, for instance.” The Ashdowns leave no (head)stone unturned as they explore horror subgenres like Bollywood, New Zealand’s horror comedies (they recommend What We Do in the Shadows), and France’s New French Extremity, which the couple said are “some SERIOUSLY nasty movies”.

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Since Hallowfest Octobfilm happens only once a year, the Ashdowns have eleven months to choose which films to review. They usually have an idea as to what themes they want to hit, and then go from there with recommendations from friends and the internet. “One thing that we think is very important is that we hit a range of movies each year,” said Andy. “We will absolutely go to some of the more extreme ends [like movies that were banned when they were first released] but we also want to cover some movies that parents can watch with their kids - things like Scooby Doo and Hotel Transylvania. That breadth is important to us.”

While the Ashdowns have decided to avoid horror movies that are “so bad that they’re good”, they do not always agree on a film once the credits have rolled. “If something is really, really good, we’ll usually agree, and if it’s really bad, the same, but there’s a huge grey area in the middle where our opinions tend to be very different. Having said that some of our most entertaining reviews are when we don’t agree!” said Lilly.

We were curious as to what the Ashdowns think about what makes for the perfect Halloween/horror movie and they think it goes back to breadth. “[T]he perfect Halloween movie for a young family getting in from trick or treating is different from teenagers at a party, or a couple looking for a quiet night in and something spooky to cuddle up to,” said Lilly. “We hope during each Hallowfest that our readers can at least find something that they’ll find worth watching.”

The Ashdowns have been pleased with the internet’s response to Hallowfest Octobfilm saying that they get a good response from readers each year. “The main problem that we have with our fans is that Lilly especially is very, very entertaining and funny when writing about truly terrible movies,” said Andy. “People say ‘Oh man, now I HAVE to watch it’ and we have to go ‘No! You don’t understand, it’s HORRIBLE!’”

“We also get some comments from people who think we just review the bloodiest, scariest movies we can find,” said Lilly. “We’re staying with family for Halloween, and they literally said to us ‘We don’t want to watch any of your Hallowfest movies, we’ll watch Hocus Pocus instead!’” She pointed out that they reviewed Hocus Pocus a couple of years ago.

Lilly and Andy are planning on going as Jay and Silent Bob for Halloween and encourage you to check out Hallowfest Octobfilm, like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @hallowoctobfilm.  They even welcome comments and promise they are always up for a chat. You might find some inspiration for your own Halloween celebration!