My Favourite Horror Movies

When you meet someone, what’s one of the first things that you tell them about yourself? For me, it’s that I love horror movies. I love getting scared by them, I love laughing at their campiness, and I love analysing them thematically.

Every week, I call my best friend on the phone and we pick a horror movie to watch and chat over. It’s one of the highlights of my week, and it’s got me revisiting some of my favourite horror movies, watching some new ones, and discussing how movies use horror elements to explore larger themes.

I’ve put together a list of my favourite horror movies and why I love them. I recommend them all, but keep in mind that they aren’t necessarily what I consider the best horror movies. It’s a mix of nostalgia, genuine horror, and how fun a viewing experience it is. While I love a proper scary movie, I don’t think that horror movies have to be scary to be good. I’ll include a TL;DR at the end of this post, but read on for a list of my favourite horror movies: the spooky, the fun, and the fucked up.

THE SPOOKY

The Grudge (2004) / Ju-On

Honestly, this whole franchise deserves a spot on my list. The Grudge was one of the first horror movies I ever saw, and I think it’s what really sold me on the genre. At its most basic, The Grudge is about a house that is haunted by an angry spirit, and those who go into the house suffer from her curse. Though conceptually simple, the movie combines jumpscares, subtle scares, and a pervasive feeling of dread. The Grudge isn’t a perfect horror movie; I know that my enjoyment of this film is highly influenced by nostalgia, but even over a decade after originally seeing it, I’m still jumping at the scares. As far as J-horror remakes go, The Grudge feels inspired by the slow pacing and quiet moments of Japanese horror, and has a lot of involvement from the cast and crew of the original Japanese film.

If you’re interested in exploring foreign horror cinema, I’d also recommend checking out the original Ju-On franchise, especially Ju-On: The Grudge and Ju-On: The Grudge 2. The franchise is so iconic in Japanese horror, there’s even a 2016 Freddy vs Jason syle smackdown between the ghosts from Ju-On and Ringu (The Ring). If supernatural/dread horror is your thing and you haven’t explored J-horror, you’re missing out.

Session 9 (2001)

I’m sharing a clip instead of the trailer for this movie because the marketing was abysmal.

Session 9 is one of those movies I just like to look at. Shot on location at an abandoned mental instutution, this movie feels like an urban exploration experience. An asbestos removal crew is tasked with cleaning up the abandoned asylum (based on its real life counterpart) in order to turn it into an apartment complex. The asylum in the film begins to feel like its own character in this slow-burn supernatural thriller, as the crew discovers tapes from the therapy sessions of a significantly disturbed patient. It’s not the most original concept, but it’s so well excecuted that we can go ahead and cancel the entire rest of the “asylum horror” and “abandoned building” subgenres. Based on its genre and marketing, this movie has no right to be as good as it is. It’s a mega-recommend.

Oculus (2013)

This movie scared me, and I didn’t expect it to. You can probably guess by now that my horror tastes skew supernatural (thanks, The Grudge), and while there are some excellent movies in the subgenre, there is a lot of shit to sift through to find it. I was expecting a pretty standard “haunted object” movie, but Oculus really delivers atmosphere, tension, and some damn good scares. A pair of siblings steal an antique mirror that their father had owned, seeking to prove that the mirror was responsible for their traumatic childhoods and family misfortune. This movie does not let up on the scares, and way that it blends illusion and reality means that there are some seriously shocking and scary moments in this movie.

Honourable Mentions:

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019) – A movie that taps into the millenial nostalgia for the iconic book series. A very “sleepover horror movie” movie about a small town haunting caused by a book of short scary stories coming to life.

1408 (2007) – Adapted from a Stephen King short story, this movie is an unrelenting psychological thriller about a haunted hotel room.

Mirrors (2008) – A pretty standard PG-13 supernatural horror movie, but a bit of a standout for its scary imagery.

The Mist (2007) – Another top-tier Stephen King adaptation. Almost a proto-Walking Dead story where the interesting part is the character dynamics of the survivors, rather than the threat itself.

The Fun

Cam (2018)

Cam isn’t the obvious choice for a “fun” movie – it’s not a horror-comedy, nor is it particularly campy. It’s actually a decently scary movie. However, this movie is just so enjoyable to watch. A camgirl who wants to make it big finds her online account hacked and replaced by… herself. Only it’s not her. I don’t usually like social media horror, but Cam nails it. The scariest parts of this movie derive from the main character, Alice, being a sex worker (stalker fans, exploitation, and the like). However, Alice is proud and passionate about her work, and is a badass and enjoyable character to root for. It’s interesting and exciting to see a sex-positive horror movie, and it was written by an ex-sex worker, so it feels authentic instead of exploitative. What makes the movie fun instead of scary is a script full of tongue-in-cheek humor and clever dialogue, as well as visuals that are steeped in bright colours and stripper glitter.

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2011)

One of my favourite horror movie subjects is Rural horror, where good city people go to the backwoods and are terrorized by the inbred hillbillies that live there. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil takes this trope and turn it on its head. Tucker and Dale, two good country boys have just bought a fix-er-upper cottage, and some college kids from the big city are on a camping trip nearby. Thanks to a series of misunderstandings, the college kids believe that Tucker and Dale are the evil hillbillies that you’d expect from a violent slasher film. Absolutely hilarious hijinks ensue, and this movie had me laughing out loud, which doesn’t usually happen. Tucker & Dale knows exactly the type of movie that it’s making fun of, and is probably the best wide-appeal horror comedy out there.

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)

I don’t usually like horror comedies that debunk horror and slasher tropes. Movies like Scream and Cabin in the Woods take common horror tropes and probe the audience: “you know that horror movies do this! It’s dumb and we both know it!”, and to be honest, I don’t love it. It feels disdainful. Movies like that feel like they’re made for people who don’t really like horror.

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is an absolute love letter to horror fans. It’s a mockumentary about Leslie Vernon – a man who wants to follow in the footsteps of horror icons like Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers – as he sets up his “big night” of killing a bunch of teens and earning his place in horror history. He spends an inordinate amount of time discussing horror tropes, their value, and why he has to include them in his killing spree. It’s not only important to have a “final girl” (trope), but there has to be a chase down a hallway, or a tunnel, because should the final girl survive the night, it will come to represent her passage through the birth canal, being reborn as a new woman, a survivor (academic analysis). As someone who is a big fan of horror for its academic value, this movie spoke directly to my big nerd heart.

Honourable Mentions:

Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter (1984) / Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986) – The two most enjoyable and campy films in the Friday franchise. Part IV for the most enjoyable group of teens, and Part VI for its self-awareness as a cheesy slasher.

Final Destination 3 (2006) – One of my favourite “teens die” movies (I can’t really call Final Destination a slasher), with creative kills and thouroughly unlikeable victims.

The Fucked Up

Hereditary (2018)

Hereditary succeeds because it was not initially meant to be a horror movie. Hereditary is a severely uncomfortable movie to watch, as it tells the story of a family dealing with grief, mental illness, and the occult. Initially, there was no occult elements, and the film was initially intended to be a family drama. I think this is why the film is so strong; the characters and their relationships are so powerful that everything that happens to them feels uncomfortably real. Toni Collette is phenomenal as the mother of a disintegrating family. I don’t want to spoil too much of this movie, and I urge you to watch it as spoiler-free as possible.

The Invisible Man (2020)

I had not expected to like this movie nearly as much as I did. It was hard to watch. Following the suicide of her sociopathic husband, Cecilia is plagued by unexplained events that others explain away as PTSD. She is convinced that her husband is alive, sabotaging her life in an effort to force her to return to him. No one believes her. It’s a surprisingly difficult watch, with high emotional stakes echoing fears that are familiar to women – having their abuse be ignored or denied, and being unable to escape from an abusive relationship. It was a difficult movie to watch, but I loved it and would highly recommend. I think it’s a great example of how modern “remakes” can do exciting and creative things with preexisting source materials.

Us (2019)

I’m a huge Jordan Peele horror fan. He’s not afraid of creating horror media that is thoughtful, but in a way that forces audiences to think about uncomfortable subjects. That’s why I’ve put Us on my list of the fucked up. While it’s a bit less gut-wrenching than Hereditary or The Invisible Man in its initial viewing, it’s the subject matter that lands it on this list. Us is an uncomfortable exploration of privilege, American identity, and government exploitation of the underclass. If you want a great deep-dive into the movie’s social commentary, check out the Dead Meat podcast episode about Us. While it’s theme-heavy, that’s not to say that it isn’t also genuinely scary. Scary concepts, creepy visuals, and a haunting performance by Lupita Nyong’o make this a top-tier horror movie.

A lot of the more fucked up horror movies I’ve seen are more contemporary. I think that we’re in a golden age for movies that incorporates real world trauma into horror, and Us is an excellent example of this.

Honourable Mentions:

Midsommar (2019) – A beautiful folk-horror movie that explores a disintegrating relationship and what it means to belong. If a movie fills you with dread while drenched in sunlight and flowers, thats how you know it’s truly scary.

Inbred (2011) – One of the most shocking films I’ve ever seen, and definitely the most fucked up on this list. An impossibly isolated Yorkshire town tortures and exploits urban community service workers for no real reason.

American Psycho (2000) – An 80’s Wall Street Yuppie struggles to balance his performative and psychopathic identities. A modern classic of psychological horror.

I don’t want to read, just give me a list!

Spooky Movies:

Session 9 (2001)
Ju-On: The Grudge (2003)
The Grudge (2004)
1408 (2007)
The Mist (2007)
Mirrors (2008)
Oculus (2013)
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)

Fun Movies:

Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter (1984)
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)
Final Destination 3 (2006)
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2011)
Cam (2018)

Fucked Up Movies:

American Psycho (2000)
Inbred (2011)
Hereditary (2018)
Midsommar (2019)
Us (2019)
The Invisible Man (2020)

Note that for this list, I’ve skipped movies that I’ve included previously on my Favourite Halloween Movies list, since I’ve talked about them in detail in that post.

I’d love to know your thoughts on any of these movies. Did you like them? What else belongs on this list? What doesn’t belong? Let me know!

The Best Looks of Drag Race UK (Season 1)

I’m a mega-fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race. While I love all the different elements of drag, my favourite is always going to be the costume design and creation. As a hobbyist costume designer and cosplayer, I love seeing queens come to life on the runway living their fantasy. With the season finale of Season 12 airing tonight, I thought I’d combine my love of Drag Race and my current perspectives on British culture by revisiting and rating all the looks of Season 1 of Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK!

I’ll start off with a bit about drag in the UK. I think that Drag has a much richer history in the UK than it does in North America, by nature of being more accepted as mainstream culture. This isn’t to say that North America doesn’t have a long and vibrant history of drag, but rather that it is kind of set apart in its own scene. Drag, particularly camp drag, is much more incorporated into British stage, television, and film productions – think Monty Python, or Christmas pantomimes (which traditionally have a comedic female role performed by a man in drag). American drag is more polished, has more roots in pageant culture, and more emphasis is placed on glamour. This isn’t to say that American drag doesn’t have camp or comedy or weirdness, because it does, but rather that it just feels a bit more put together. I’m not claiming to be an expert in drag history, but these are just some things that I’ve noticed. I think that this tweet says it all:

Anyway, without further ado, here are my picks for the best of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK!

Week 1: Queen of Your Hometown

Cheryl Hole

I thought this Essex Girl look was such a fun and cheeky representation of Cheryl’s hometown. While it’s not the most detailed or over-the-top look, but it’s a uniquely British charicature, and the sheer amount of toungue-in-cheek details and Cheryl’s performance on the runway really sell it.

Week 1: Queen Elizabeth Realness

The Vivienne

This was a great choice for a first category on Drag Race UK. A literal British Queen. There were a lot of really creative interpretations of the challenge, and it was hard to pick a favourite! Crystal’s “Pound Coin” Queen and Sum Ting Wong’s “Stamp” Queen were close to the top for me. Ultimately, my favourite was Queen Elizabeth as she would be at Balmoral Estate. I think it was just such a unique and choice that complemented British camp/comedy drag, and was very well executed. A bold choice to go on the first runway as a 93-year-old woman in a tartan coat and wellies, but that’s what makes it so good.

Week 2: Bond Girl Looks

Cheryl Hole

What a great choice for a runway category. An iconic British franchise, but make it fashion! I like this one the best for it’s classic style and homage to the early films. The reason why I choose this one as best of the week is because a lot of the other queens had more villainous characters. Bond Girls are the love interests and side-kick of 007, and while some of them are femme fatales, they don’t tend to be straight-up villains. While it’s up to each competitor to interpret the category as they will, I think that Cheryl represented it best. Is this nit-picky? Yes, yes it is. But it’s my blog, so that’s my stance.

Week 3: Posh on a Penny

Sum Ting Wong

A classic Drag Race challenge. Sum Ting Wong looked amazing and I will fight you. It’s polished, nicely tailored, and tells a story. Cheryl Hole’s pot scrubber dress should have made the bottom two instead. And yes, there were some beautiful haute couture looks on this runway. But the challenge is posh, which isn’t necessarily haute couture. It has more connotations of being fancy and looking smart, which are notes that I think this look definitely hits. Obviously it’s just a British-slang take on the classic “Drag on a Dime” challenge, so the “posh” element isn’t really key here, but like, if my challenge brief was Posh I would put together something smart and polished too!

Week 4: Snatch Game

Baga Chipz

Another classic category. Another category that was difficult to choose a favourite. I chose Baga Chipz’s Margaret Thatcher over The Vivienne’s amazing Donald Trump for two reasons:

  1. Margaret Thatcher is a British woman, and I liked seeing British public figures being lampooned. I don’t think you necessarily have to choose women for snatch game (I liked Sum Ting Wong’s Sir David Attenborough and, previously, Kim Chi’s “Kimmy” Jong Un). However, I think that Baga’s Margaret Thatcher was good drag impersonation, wheras The Vivienne’s Donald Trump was just a good impersonation. My list, my rules!
  2. I liked the visual interpretation of Margaret Thatcher with the red eyes because she is an evil, evil woman. And the house slippers. Again, this just further emphasizes that this Snatch Game character was a more unique interpretation, and I liked that.

Week 4: Weird Science

I didn’t love this theme for the runway. , but it was a good chance for the queens to represent the weird and club-kid elements of drag. I just didn’t vibe with a lot of the looks this week. I think it had potential given the right set of queens, but this wasn’t it.

Blu Hydrangea

That being said, Blu had an amazing look this week, with or without the headpiece/face makeup. I love the look of the veins and tissue behind the eyeball. It’s very conceptual, and has such careful details implemented. This appeals so much to my cosplay-costuming tastes. I want to wear this look!

Week 5: A Day at the Races

Divina De Campo

Again, I think that this is a great runway theme that combines something traditionally British with fashion, and leaves itself very open to interpretation. I really loved Cheryl Hole’s pretty purple ensemble, but it was a bit too on-the-nose to be the best of the week. This look by Divina is just so weird. This jockey outfit with the long (literal) ponytail, the amazing structured hoof-boots, the bit as a belt, the pastel My Little Pony colours… there are just so many things right with this look.

Week 6: Rainy Day Eleganza

Divina De Campo

In terms of the theme, again, nailing it. Divina also, again, nailing it. Coming out with the classic yellow rain hat and rain coat, then shedding them to reveal a dress made of the same material. I didn’t like many of this week’s looks (sorry!), and I might have chosen Cheryl Hole’s futuristic silver look if she’d come out with an umbrella. I just don’t think it hit the mark of “rainy day” without one!

Week 7: Drag Family Realness

Cheryl Hole (& Sissy Hole)

There is no justice in the world. Cheryl should not have been eliminated based on this challenge. I realize that Michelle doesn’t like a bodysuits, but come on. They looked incredible, had a strong family resemblance, and nailed their choreography. I do think that, with it coming so close to the wire, Cheryl wasn’t quite on the same level as the other queens. I understand why she was in the bottom and sent home but, if things were based entirely on the quality of this challenge, this would be a grave injustice. If you hadn’t noticed based on several of my favourite choices, Cheryl was one of my favourite queens this season.

Final Runway Look

Baga Chipz

All three of the final queens looked beautiful on the final runway. I think each of them represented a different element of drag. The Vivienne’s look was so polished, and reminded me of the American queens. Divina De Campo was like something from a pageant, and very classic drag. I liked Baga Chipz’s look the best because I think it married these two styles together: a beautiful, glamorous look that still plays into the comedy and camp that separates the British style of drag from its American counterpart. Baga Chipz played on this comedic styling throughout the season, so it was great to see her in by far her most elegant look!

I know a lot of my opinions on the show are really picky, but whatever. I think my perspective as a costumer who focuses on character design is what motivates my choices for best runway looks. Again, all these queens are ridiculously talented, and I loved watching the first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK. Though I think that Divina De Campo should have won in the end, I think that all the queens who competed brought something interesting and unique to the show. Casting for Series 2 is already over, and I can’t wait to tune in next year for more Drag Race UK!

How to Make a DIY Face Mask

We all know that Covid-19 isn’t going anywhere any time soon, and a lot of governments are recommending that people wear face masks when they go out. While non-medical grade face masks are not proven to offer protection from virus transmission, they do inhibit the spread of germs from the wearer, which still helps flatten the curve by preventing the spread of coronavirus by asymptomatic carriers. This means that you should be wearing a face mask when you go out, particularly if you will be around lots of other people (such as at the grocery store).

PPE needs to be prioritized for healthcare and other essential service workers, but it’s easy to DIY a face mask at home! I’m providing the steps that I followed to make my mask, which hopefully aren’t too confusing to follow. I know my way around sewing projects and patterns, but have never written one before. Fingers crossed that it’s easy enough to follow at home, and that my ridiculous diagrams make enough sense!

What You Will Need

-Tightly woven fabric, such as cotton (I used a cheap cotton t-shirt from ASDA)

-Needle + thread

-Scissors

-Coffee filter (optional)

Step 1.

Measure and cut the pieces you will need for your mask:
-A rectangle of fabric with a width that is [twice the distance from ear to ear allowing for facial contour + 2″] and a height that is [tall enough to easily cover from nose to chin allowing for facial contour]. This will be the facial covering.
-Two (2) 1/2″ wide strips equal in length to your fabric rectangle

Does it make more sense if I draw it out?

Step 2.

Fold the fabric rectangle in half to create two layers of facial coverage. Sew along the open edge to make a seam. Recommendations for home-made face masks emphasize two layers of fabric to cover the nose and mouth! Leave the top and bottom of the rectangle open, so you end up with a tube.

Step 3.

Measure 1″ in from each closed side of the tube, and sew from top to bottom to make narrow tubes on either side of the mask.

Step 4.

Take one of the narrow strips of fabric and feed it through the tube you’ve made on one side of the mask. Tie a knot at each end of the strip.

Repeat on the other side.

Step 5.

Tie the ends of the fabric strips together, top to top/bottom to bottom. These will fit around the back of your head (over your ears and around the nape of the neck) when you wear it. Tie the ends with bows so they are easy to readjust.

That’s it!

Adjust the tightness of the bands around your head so that the mask fits snuggly on your face. Make sure the mask covers from over your nose to under your chin. For increased air filtration, slide a coffee filter between the layers of your mask.

Stay safe everyone!

6 Ways to Maintain Long Distance Relationships

Thanks to Corona Virus, 2020 is the year of long distance relationships. Not necessarily just for lovers, but because of quarantine and self-isolation, we’re all expected to keep our distance from friends and family. Anyone who is not in a shared living space is on the “no visit” list for the time being. How much does this suck?

It’s making me think a lot about being so far away from my family and friends in Canada. Living overseas means that I don’t get to see them IRL for two years, pandemic or not. Really, it’s small consolation. It doesn’t make me feel better that other people can’t see the people they care about either, or that the people who were meant to come and visit me probaly won’t be able to. But it’s inspired me to provide people with some tips and tricks on how to maintain long-distance relationships, during quarantine or for those living far away from those they love in the long-term.

I’ve experienced many different relationships that were distance based, romantic and platonic. Regardless of who you are missing, there are way to maintain and build your relationships so that when you do see each other again, it feels like you pick up right where you left off.

Make dedicated time to talk

Talking on the phone or video chat will never be replaced by texting – it’s just not the same. While it’s great to text often, set aside some preplanned time to sit down and have a convo on the phone. Conversations flow in a much more organic way, and it can feel so special to hear the voice of the person you miss. If you plan ahead a time to call each other, treat it like you’ve made plans together to go get coffee and catch up – don’t push it off or bail last minute. It can be easy to do that, but it’s important to show the person you’ve made plans with that your time together matters, even if you’re not together.

Find things to do together

Thanks to the Internet, it’s not too hard to find ways to spend time doing things together. Video games are a perfect example of this, and allow you to play and chat together in real time. There are so many options for multi-player games that if classic shoot-em-up style games aren’t really your thing, it’s hard not to find something to play together: Portal 2 is good for puzzles and problem solving together, Stardew Valley for a mellow “something to do while we chat” kind of vibe, or Tabletop Simulator if you want to play boardgames together. I also really like watching movies with people, just by finding something on a streaming service, counting down “3-2-1-go” and chatting through the movie together. If you’re not a big movie-talker, this probably isn’t an ideal suggestion, but a chatty movie watch is one of my favourite things to do with my best friend! The important thing is to find things to do that are shared experiences, so you’re not only telling each other about what you’ve been up to; rather, you can be up to things together.

Send pictures

smartphone camera displaying plant

Because of how easy it is to take and send pictures (thanks again, Internet!), it’s super easy to share little bits about your day with people. I like Snapchat for quickly sharing small moments and short chats with my friends. Being able to visualize what the people you love are up to sounds like a small thing, but can make a big difference in feeling connected to them. Sending photos is one of my favourite things that I do to stay in touch with my mum, like pictures of flowers blooming this spring, since spring hits England earlier than Canada. It brightened her day to see flowers blooming while Ottawa was still under a layer of snow and slush. That’s what I mean about sharing small moments; it’s so easy now to share things in your day that can make someone else happy, and visualize how your day is going. Plus, selfies are always nice to see the face of someone you haven’t seen in weeks (or longer!).

Send them something

white paper and brown envelope

I’m a big fan of letter-writing. I think it makes you feel so special to get a letter in the mail that someone took the time to write. I also really like writing letters. I think it offers an opportunity for introspection and openness that I don’t always achieve in texts or phonecalls. I’ll always be an advocate for writing letters, but there are so many other things that you can do to send something special to someone special. You can mail a package (or drop one off at their door during quarantine) of something you know they’ll like, or something you’ve made for them. You could also order them food delivery, or something from their Amazon wishlist to be delivered to their house.

Give them (and yourself) some space

This is especially important for a romantically-based long-distance relationship. While it’s important to connect with the person you miss, it’s important that you don’t overwhelm each other with constant texting. It’s easy to fall into a sort of reliance on the other person, getting caught up in the “I miss you” feeling of it, and it’s not great for your mental health. Don’t confuse passively missing someone with actively doing it. What I mean by that is that while it’s okay to notice and lament someone’s absence, don’t let it consume your behaviour (constantly texting, sitting around waiting for them to get in touch, etc). If you feel like the other person is feeling that kind of way towards you, talk to them about it. It’s important to take care of your mental health.

Don’t be afraid to reach out

person holding black smartphone

If you miss someone, let them know! Until I moved, I’ve been afraid of reaching out to people, feeling like they won’t want to talk to me or get to know me better. But a lot of my friends are introverts, and they don’t always make the first step in getting in touch with me, and it’s always worth it when I make the effort to reach out. If you feel like you’re not connecting enough with the person you miss, let them know! It’s so important to openly communicate in general, but with the element of long-distance to navigate as well, it’s extra important. If you miss someone and feel like you aren’t connecting, let them know!

I think what puts a lot of long-distance relationships into context for me is my mum. She studied in New Zealand when the only way to stay in touch with her family and friends in Canada was a letter that had to travel 14,412 km to reach her hometown, or an expensive phone call. Before I left Canada, I showed my mum how to use WhatsApp. She is so excited by how easy it is to see my face, hear my voice, and stay in touch in real time with someone who lives an entire ocean away. And when you look at it with that perspective, it really is. It’s easier than ever to share your life with someone far away, and there are so many tools available thanks to the Internet that make it easy to stay in touch that maybe we take for granted.

I hope some of these tips will prove helpful for you. Did I miss anything? If you’ve been in an LDR, what are some more tips that you could offer? Let me know!

How I Use My Bullet Journal to Plan My Year

I’m a certifiable planner addict. I always get crazy excited every January, when a clean notebook reflects the fresh start that comes with a new year. I’ve spent the past few days setting up my planner for 2020, and wanted to share my bullet journal with you!

Why a Bullet Journal?

There are so many options for planners and notebooks. Some are made for convenience, with premade layouts and calendars. These are fine, but I prefer to have blank pages to make whatever pages I need. Being able to design individual page layouts allows me to plan a yearly calendar, individual months and weeks, goal setting, to-do lists, travel plans and more all in the same place. I also use it to document books I want to read, movies and TV shows I want to watch, places I want to go, things I want to learn more about… that’s the beauty of a bullet journal. You can truly make the space your own, for whatever purpose you need.

The ability to design your pages goes beyond functionality – each page is a canvas for creative design. Check out #bulletjournal on Instagram, or r/bulletjournal on Reddit to see the insane creativity of the bullet journal community!

Using a bullet journal is also a lovely way to document your year to look back on in the future. What you did, where you went, the media you consumed, the aesthetics you liked are all documented in paper and ink. In an era where what most of what we do is digitally documented, it’s interesting to have something tactile with which we can reflect on past years.

My Tools

This is nowhere near all of my planner tools… I’m like a dragon that hoards planner supplies
  • Leuchtturm1917 A5 Dotted Notebook – I always choose a dot-grid notebook for my bullet journal. It allows for the best custom layout designs, as you can work vertically and horizontally, and there is less visual obstruction than with graphing paper. Leuchtturm1917 notebooks have a beautiful texture to the paper and come in a variety of colours.
  • Micron Fineliner Pens, Black, 0.1/0.5mm – These are my absolute favourite when it comes to felt-tip pens. They have beautiful fluid ink that doesn’t bleed through pages.
  • Staedler Triplus Fineliners 10 Pack, 0.3mm – A collection of coloured felt-tip pens that don’t bleed through pages. Note: don’t lend these to people because they will press too hard and ruin the nibs of the pens.
  • Clear acrylic stamping block: Meant for use with ink-stamping, I use this instead of a ruler for most line-drawing and spacing. I prefer using this since it creates perfect right angles, and I can see through the piece onto the page below to ensure I’m marking where I mean to.
  • The Happy Planner stickers, multiple packs – A remnant of my time working at Michaels (a big box craft store), these sticker packs are gorgeous. Meant to be used in conjecture with the Happy Planner book, I use these to add colour and cuteness to my bullet journal. It’s a shame that I left two of my favourite sticker books behind in Canada! It’s a bigger shame that they don’t sell Happy Planner products in England! Ugh.
  • Washi Tape, various – This thin paper tape creates an easy and beautiful way to brighten up pages with borders, divisions, and a pop of colour.

Formatting My Bullet Journal

I divide my planner into two sections: the first is pages that will be used throughout the year (called “collections”), and the second is monthly sections and day-to-day planning.

Collections

  • A yearly cover page
  • Goals for the year
No, you don’t get aaaaaall my personal hopes and dreams!
  • Year in review / Annual calendar
Always try to leave room to add important dates as they come up!
  • Mood tracker
As someone living with a mood disorder, it’s a way to keep track of how I’m doing. I find it helpful to have a spread to make me actively reflect on how my days have been so I can take care of myself properly.
  • Social Media planner
    I don’t have a photo of this one yet because I’m still setting it up. I have a brief outline of what my “brand” is, an Instagram follower tracker, my daily and weekly check-in lists, and will have more added soon!
  • On my bookshelf / Books to read
Finishing the Outlander series (or as much of it as is currently published!) is my reading goal for 2020.
  • Movie tracker
This spread is one of my favourite collections this year. It took ages, but was so worth it!

Sub-Collections

These pages aren’t full layouts, but rather collections of lists and notes to help keep track of useful things. I don’t have too much on these pages yet, but I always try to leave a bit of extra room just in case I need to add more to this section!

  • Meal ideas
  • Budget
  • Monthly chores
  • Mailing addresses for people back home

I don’t have any photos of these pages because they are practical pages – a header and jotted notes.

Monthlies

After designing my collection pages, and leaving some extra pages clear for future additions, I’ve closed the first section of my planner. The rest of the book is subdivided by month, and each month has its own theme.

  • Cover page – acts as a division between sections, and sets up the theme for the month
  • Month in review – A calendar and list of important dates, my monthly focus and goals, and a space to document all the memorable things from the month.
  • Monthly focus and goal setting – Details and plans for achieving monthly goals, some inspiring quotes.
  • Weeklies – Each week gets its own spread (resulting in 4-5 weeklies/month), documenting each week in greater detail.
  • Miscellaneous – Along with weekly spreads, months can have special spreads related to what’s going on. For example, January will have a “London” spread to help plan my trip later this month!

Weeklies

Weekly spreads are probably my favourite, since they can change so much depending on what you want to do with them. I always have a list of what to put on a weekly spread, and then use the rest of the space for notes, quotes, washi tape, stickers, drawings, or anything else to make my pages beautiful!

The first week of January 2020

Each week I include:

  • Date range for the week (eg. 6-12 January)
  • Space for each day
  • Mini monthly calendar
  • Habit tracker
  • Weekly goals

Everything else on the page is up to what I want to include, what fits with the monthly aesthetic, what inspires me, and whatever I feel just looks good on that layout!

It’s a lot of experimentation, and I’m not always happy with how every page turns out. That’s part of the beauty of the bullet journal though, the opportunity to experiment with what works best for you, and to try creative new things. For example, many people prefer to use a more minimalist aesthetic because that’s what works best for them. The maximalist, design-heavy planner is what works best for me, because I enjoy it that way! There’s no right or wrong way to use a bullet journal, and there are so many creators out there who are sure to inspire you, no matter your aesthetic tastes!

How do you prepare for the new year? Do you use a bullet journal or planner?

My Top 8 Halloween Movies

I’m a self-described Halloween junky. The combination of autumn and all things spooky go together better than espresso and pumpkin spice (another fall staple that I’m currently drinking while writing this). I like watching movies, and I like reading movie lists, so I’m writing a list of my favourite movies to get into the Halloween spirit.

There’s definitely a distinction between Halloween movies and horror movies. I love horror, but not all horror movies are Halloween-y. And not all Halloween movies are horror. There will be overlap on this list. I’m also going to be writing up a list of my favourite horror movies for anyone who’s seeking out some straight-up scares for their movie marathons, Halloween or otherwise.

Trick ‘R’ Treat (2007)

My favourite Halloween horror movie, Trick ‘r’ Treat is everything that you could want in a scary Halloween flick. Originally conceptualized with a tie-in comic book, it’s an anthology film telling a handful of Halloween stories. I think that horror as a genre is incredibly suited to anthology storytelling, and Trick ‘r’ Treat ties these stories together into a great non-linear narrative celebrating . My favourite short is either the party girls or the tweens at the quarry, but honestly they’re all good.

As well as the Halloween storytelling, this movie just screams Spooktober vibes. The warm autumn tones and surplus of vintage Halloween imagery have a way of making this movie feel surprisingly cozy while we watch some seriously good scares. This love letter to Halloween is capped off with the film’s mascot Sam (pictured on the poster above), who represents the importance of respecting Halloween traditions… or else.

The Haunted Mansion (2003)

I will start by saying this movie is not good. It has DCOM energy on a box office budget. Based on the iconic Disney Parks ride, The Haunted Mansion is an extraordinarily campy movie starring Eddie Murphy as a real estate agent who learns the value of family after a series of ghostly hijinks ensue at the eponymous mansion. The writing falls pretty flat, and the acting is mixed. I don’t love early 2000s comedy Eddie Murphy (it kind of works in this movie), but Terence Stamp is decidedly creepy as a mysterious butler, and Jennifer Tilly as Madame Leota is a weird casting choice that I personally liked. The movie’s sets look like a Halloween haunted house attraction, which I think really works in this case, because it adds to the camp value of the film and ties it back to the Haunted Mansion as a ride.

This movie was played on CBC Movie Nights when I was a kid, so my appreciation of it as a Halloween movie is pretty steeped in nostalgia. The cultural collective seems to agree that Halloweentown is an iconic Halloween movie, and in my opinion The Haunted Mansion is waaay better than Halloweentown. Everyone is sleeping on this largely ignored movie as the perfect campy Halloween film.

ParaNorman (2012)

Ghosts, witches, and zombies populate Blithe Hollow, Massachusetts in this spooky stop motion flick. Surprisingly cute despite its creepy premise (a young boy who can speak to the dead, uncovering a curse in the process), this movie is well worth a watch if you’re looking for something on the creepier side. The characters are very likeable, and the animation style is quite unique. If you’re a fan of Coraline, a close contender for this list, you’ll probably like ParaNorman. I watched it on Halloween night a few years ago after my mum and I handed out candy to Trick or Treaters. It was surprisingly witty and even a bit scary at times! I find it a bit surprising that this movie had an August release, because it’s obviously made for a cozy October movie marathon.

The Conjuring (2013)

This movie is a juggernaught in contemporary horror cinema. It’s spawned two direct sequels, as well as the spinoff Annabelle franchise (three films), and two more spinoffs: The Nun and The Curse of La Llorna. While not all of the “Conjure-verse” films are masterpieces, the original is a contemporary horror classic that carries strong Halloween vibes. I think that haunting and demonic films feel a lot more seasonal than slasher films. The autumnal setting and bleak colour palette further contribute to this movie’s classification as solidly Halloween, and the retro setting (1971) contributes to the same nostalgia as Trick ‘r’ Treat, but in a more perverse way.

The film tells the story of a Rhode Island family whose new home is posessed by the spirit of a devil-worshiping witch. The Warrens, famous real life demonologists from the 1960s-80s, attempt to help the family. Yes, this movie is based on a true story! Even though film studios play fast and loose with “inspired by true events” (case point being that The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is decidedly not the true story of Ed Gein), and even though hauntings and possessions aren’t real, the fact that real people claim to have experienced these events is still a bit creepy. And if it doesn’t creep you out personally, it’s a good tidbit to whip out to those more faint of heart who you may be watching it with.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

The only true classic horror film on this list, as well as the only slasher. Like I said, slashers don’t really feel all that Halloween-y to me! Yes, that applies to John Carpenter’s Halloween as well – it’s a great movie, but it doesn’t have to be Halloween for the events to take place! Wes Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street‘s supernatural elements and weird surreal deam sequences feel more appropriate for Halloween. Freddy Krueger is also the OG slasher who brought comedy to the genre with his quips. Though he becomes a pastiche of himself in the later films (which is fun in its own way), he’s definitely played on the scarier side in the original film. This movie has great camp value on top of some genuine scares, and a sequence of subsequently sillier sequels make it a great series to marathon come October.

A Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Do I need to explain? I’m not the biggest fan of some of the iconic Halloween movies like Halloweentown or Hocus Pocus, but A Nightmare Before Christmas is an iconic Halloween classic that I can fully get behind. The stop motion masterpiece is a beautiful nod to the season, and its most famous song “This Is Halloween” absolutely slaps. Fun fact: though it’s marketed as “Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas“, it’s actually directed by Henry Selick. It’s based on a concept by Burton, who acted as a producer on the project. The film acts as a testament to all things weird and wonderful about the Halloween season, and to those who identify with the spooky and sinister. Anyway, this movie is a Halloween classic, and if it’s not on your October movie list, you’re wrong.

Sinister

Rounding off this list is one of my favourite horror movies of all time. This movie scared the shit out of me, and I think it’s one of the best horror movies from the past 10 years. The plot, acting, cinematography, lighting, sound mixing, pacing… everything comes together so perfectly in this movie. Though it is a bit heavy on the jumpscares, I think that Sinister is the type of film that demonstrates just how valuable this type of scare can be when it’s used appropriately. One of the biggest jumps I had watching this film was a scene transition from the anticipation of something lurking in the dark, to a scene transition in which a teaspoon is loudly dropped into a coffee cup.

Seriously, the atmosphere of this film is so well constructed. If you’re a horror fan, or just horror curious, this movie is always one of my top recommendations for just how good horror movies can be. Like The Conjuring, Sinister isn’t explicitly Halloween-y, but it does have a similar autumnal setting and colour palette. Aesthetically autumnal and absolutely terrifying, Sinister is my number one pick for spooky fall horror.

The Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror

Okay, so this isn’t a movie, but The Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween specials are such a nostalgic piece of media for me. CBC would play reruns leading up to Halloween, so a lot of the earlier episodes are firmly imprinted in my mind. If you are unfamiliar with “Treehouse of Horror” specials, they are Halloween episodes divided into three shorts, typically satirizing horror or science fiction classics. This is a pretty definitive list of iconic segments from Treehouse of Horror. Yes, they are still making new Treehouse of Horror episodes, and no, they are not good.