“The Year of Dumb Shit”

Well, 2021 sure was a year, huh? I guess it was better than 2020, all things considered, but I think we all also hoped to be someplace better than this by the time we bid 2021 adieu, yet here we are. I have a lot to be thankful for from the year gone by, and a lot to look forward to in the one to come, but that doesn’t mean that getting here was exactly a cake walk.

I’m not really here to rehash everything that happened in 2021. It was a lot. I stayed pretty into tabletop gaming, in spite of mostly not being able to actually play. I wrote a bunch more stuff for Privateer Press, including the contents of a couple of very successful Kickstarters, with another on the way. I didn’t publish a ton of stories, but I had a few come out, and I’m proud of them all.

I kept a daily aesthetic thread on Twitter every single day for the whole year. For the entire month of June, I wrote a tweet-length “story” about a giant monster every day. I got lampooned by the Midnight Society. I largely quit using Goodreads. I read a lot of old comic books and watched a lot of movies, and occasionally wrote about both. I read fewer books than either of those other things, but not none. I did a presentation for the Johnson County Library and peer-reviewed a book for a major university press. I wrote regular columns for Signal Horizon, Unwinnable, and Weird Horror.

It’s been a lot, is what I’m saying.

But a lot of it has been good. My freelance work has kept my nose to the grindstone for much of the year, but I can’t really complain. In all, things in my life have been pretty great, even as the world around me doesn’t always come out looking so rosy.

I said I wasn’t here to rehash the year, though, and I’m not. I’m here to do my usual roundup of things that I watched and read. If you want something more like a proper end-of-the-year list, you can find me writing up a few of these items in various places online, or listen to me chatting with Tyler Unsell about them at the Horror Pod Class.

Now, let’s do the numbers. In the course of 2021, I watched some 270 movies. Of those, 173 were ones that I watched for the first time. Of those, roughly 19 were actually released in 2021. My busiest month was October, at 40 movies. My least was May, with only 13. The first movie I watched in 2021 was Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020), the last was Zeiram (1991).

As I’ve done for a couple of years now, I kept an ongoing Twitter thread of my favorite new-to-me movies of the year, as I watched them. Of those, the highlights not released in 2021 included (in the order that I saw them) Nightmare in Wax (1969), Night of the Devils (1972), Anguish (1987), Opera (1987), Death Ship (1980), City of the Living Dead (1980), Shadow of the Cat (1961), The Spider Labyrinth (1988), The Boneyard (1991), Possession (1981), Frankenstein 1970 (1958), The Snake Girl and the Silver-haired Witch (1968), and Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1972).

My favorite books that I read in 2021 include Jonathan Raab’s The Secret Goatman Spookshow, Stephen Graham Jones’ My Heart is a Chainsaw, and Richard Sala’s (sadly posthumous) Poison Flowers & Pandemonium.

My favorite movie released in 2021 (of the 19, remember, that I saw) was Malignant, which also gave us our Monster of the Year, that thing I do frankly sporadically because I don’t always remember to, what?

Gabriel is one of the best parts of a bonkers movie that I absolutely loved and that was definitely the best time I had in a theater all year – and I’m so glad I managed to see it in a theater, because damn.

There were a few other good monsters this year, to boot, many of them in horror movies. I also dug Antlers more than most people seem to have, and it had a great monster designed (at least partly) by Guy Davis. There are several other movies with promising monsters that I haven’t yet seen, including The Night House and The Green Knight. (Everyone else absolutely loved Raatma in V/H/S ’94, but it didn’t do that much for me, even though it looks a lot like a Trevor Henderson creep.)

Monsters also showed up in a lot of the big-budget movies of the year, too, with Starro from Suicide Squad deserving of a special mention, even though I haven’t actually seen Suicide Squad just yet. There’s stuff I’m looking forward to in 2022, but a lot of it isn’t necessarily new releases. Toward the end of the year, I got Severin’s All the Haunts Be Ours boxed set of folk horror movies, so I can’t wait to check those out, along with Arrow’s massive Shawscope boxed set. Plus, October of 2022 should see the release of my next collection from Word Horde, not to mention some other stuff that I can’t talk about just yet.

And that’s basically it for closing out what I inadvertently dubbed “the Year of Dumb Shit” over at Unwinnable. Here’s to hoping that shit in 2022 is maybe a little less dumb, even if the movies can stand to stay this dumb, that’s totally fine.

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