I know you’ve heard me sing this song before, but before now, I didn’t have the proper materials to hit the right notes. Indulge me, please. I need to talk about SHOCKTOBER.
SHOCKTOBER was an October-long stunt that WPIX ran in the early ‘90s. Every weeknight at 8PM sharp, WPIX broke from its normal menu of cartoons and sitcom reruns to air a horror movie. Put so simply, it hardly seems worth the fuss I’ve made over the years. Trust me, it was!
I went into greater detail about this several months ago, but to summarize, WPIX is a broadcast TV station (rooted in New York but with tentacles reaching into many other states) that back then was every kid’s “home base.”
You didn’t flip to WPIX for first-run sitcoms or any “big” television events, but it was the only non-cable channel that almost constantly aired things kids could be satisfied with, whether it was a Cheers repeat or an episode of Rescue Rangers.
Many kids had televisions in their bedrooms, but very few had cable access on those televisions. *I* didn’t, at least. WPIX became my “default” channel — the one I left on in relative perpetuity, only breaking for here-or-there hours on the bigger networks. In my bedroom, WPIX was the nightlight and the soundtrack.
SHOCKTOBER started in 1991, but I didn’t seriously latch on until ’92, which appears to have been the final year for the stunt. Though I wasn’t much of a horror fan in October of 1992, I was thirteen years old — the perfect age to start dipping my toes into the many pools that previously freaked me out. (Horror movies stuck, mayonnaise didn’t.)
Judging by my research, the 1992 version of SHOCKTOBER began on October 1st and ended on the 23rd. That left enough slots open for seventeen different movies, most of which aired on school nights. In many cases, I didn’t so much “watch them” as simply “leave them on.” I’d occasionally glance up from my homework (comic books) to marvel at the mayhem, but even that was enough to give the 1992 Halloween season a true “horror” vibe.
Other movies grabbed my attention outright. I first saw A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 as part of this marathon, and I completely fell in love with it. I can still remember laying sideways on my bed, and being super pissed that Taryn and Will — my two favorite characters — didn’t survive. I’ve seen the film a hundred times since that night, but I’ll always associate it with SHOCKTOBER.
Check out the 1992 lineup, which I’ve reconstructed from old TV listings:
Fuckin’ awesome. I’d still call that a perfect Halloween marathon. SHOCKTOBER mixed popular movies with titles many viewers had never heard of. Hell, they even ran two of the Amazing Stories “films,” which were just episodes collected from the old TV series. (I was SO THRILLED to see Headless Christopher Lloyd on broadcast television, one last time!)
Even viewers who never bothered with the movies still have mad nostalgia for SHOCKTOBER. The promos for the stunt aired constantly, and I do mean CONSTANTLY. It didn’t matter if you were watching an afternoon cartoon or a late night Honeymooners rerun — those SHOCKTOBER promos were coming to get you, Barbara.
Every movie in the marathon had its own thirty-second promo. Some were totally custom and others were just reworked trailers, but all of ‘em had the SHOCKTOBER branding. (…sold beautifully by Doug Paul, the late, great voice-over artist who was as synonymous with WPIX as ASPCA commercials and graphics featuring purply Twin Towers.)
Between the individual movie spots and the “main” promo embedded at the top of this article, SHOCKTOBER was all over that channel. You couldn’t escape it.
As mentioned, every SHOCKTOBER movie aired at 8PM, and almost all of them began with neat intros. The branding and packaging made you feel like you weren’t just “watching television,” but actively partaking in an event.
I wasn’t flush with friends in October of ‘92, so SHOCKTOBER became my way to “do something Halloweeny” without doing much at all. It felt communal, even if I could never actually see my community. It’s hard to articulate that “party of one, but not really” feeling, but God, as a lonely kid who was getting too old to trick-or-treat, it meant the world to me.
I didn’t truly understand the “peanut butter and chocolate” relationship shared between Halloween and horror movies until SHOCKTOBER. Thinking back, 1992 was probably the first year that I saw Halloween as something way beyond candy and carved pumpkins. Thank you, WPIX!