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  • Jacob Knight

An Invocation (Of Sorts)

"We should start a podcast."

That's what Marten said to me one chilly February night while we were, not coincidentally, having beers in the back bar area of Cody's house. The usual tomfoolery was going on in the living room - loud music, some Mario Kart, weed smoke, girls dancing. Our other pal, Mikey, wouldn't stop asking me for mushrooms. In other words: it was Saturday. Per usual, Marten and I had escaped the bombast to engage in some light cinephilia over Lone Stars. You know - what we'd watched recently, what we were looking forward to, who'd penned the most cringe-worthy assault on the term "film writing" this week, etc.

Admittedly, I wasn't too enthused by the pitch. As much as I frequently enjoy talking to Marten - who'd also spent some time in the film journalism trenches for a few publications - about the various (typically genre-centric) obscurities we shared an affinity for, I also didn't want to be just another white dude dork with a podcast. Those things are a dime-a-dozen these days, and not particularly interesting (at least in my personal estimation). We kicked around a couple ideas regarding what our podcast would be about, before again being interrupted by Mikey, who was now in such a state of inebriation that he was attempting to light the wrong end of his last cigarette. Sorry Bonzo, it's bedtime for this bad boy.

Writing this almost a full year later, that party seems like a foreign concept. Mere months after that brief bar chat, COVID struck, along with the death, economic destruction, and social distancing that came along with the novel virus. Following roughly thirty days of quarantine, it felt like I was never going to see my friends again, as time became a nigh immeasurable construct: hours becoming days that stretched on into weeks, leaving you to go to bed at 9 PM without dinner, often wondering if this is what it really felt like for Bill Murray to experience a time loop of banal Central Pennsylvania ephemera in Groundhog Day. Suddenly, the notion of being another goober, sitting in front of a mic with a few fellow goobers, didn't sound like such a bad time. Crazy how an international catastrophe can put everything you once took for granted into crystal clear perspective.

That's the short version regarding Secret Handshake's birth - formed by friends who, during one of the darker moments on the human timeline, decided to invent a way to hang out with each other more and talk movies. Naturally, Cody - a handyman by trade who loves watching everything from Bio-Dome to Battle Royale - had to come along for the ride. Hell, without him, Marten and I wouldn't even know one another, and his relentless enthusiasm is practically a natural bio-fuel unto itself. So, we all pitched in on some recording equipment, selected four favorites apiece, and plotted out a full podcast "season".

Somewhere along the line, Secret Handshake morphed into something else entirely, as we started asking questions as to what it could become. For instance: what if we recruited a killer set of writers to come in and contribute essays that would pair well with our selections? Either in-depth breakdowns of the titles themselves, or companion pieces that plunge the reader headfirst into filmically-adjacent rabbit holes? So, we pooled a little more money together - while Marten took up a side hustle servicing the desperate housewives of ATX - and, before we knew it, had a roster of folks who also dug the concept.

Then we thought of another layer to add (and, in all honesty, there may have been a little more of the aforementioned weed smoke involved when this component was conceived): what if we reached out to some of the artists involved in the movies we were choosing to see if we could get their perspective on pictures that, in some cases, are over three to four decades old and, frankly, weren't always warmly received, critically or financially speaking? Thinking we'd never hear so much as a peep back, emails were sent to agents, managers, and even the filmmakers themselves (you'd be shocked who you can find on LinkedIn these days) and, in rather quick succession, we were corresponding with folks who'd helped craft our all-time favorites (not to mention some modern facemelters).

Thus, you are now presented with the very first "season" of Secret Handshake. For the next, oh, three months or so, you'll be treated to (or tortured by, depending on your perspective) a new weekly episode that introduces one of our most cherished titles into an aggressively curated canon, plus two essays - one penned by either Marten or myself, and a lengthy guest contributor column. Every Friday? A "bonus feature" interview from a lineup that includes a living horror legend, several cult cinema icons, podcasters and academics from the world over. Plus, we might have a few other surprises in store (especially once we figure out how to live-stream some of these harder-to-see flicks).

Will there be a "Season Two" of Secret Handshake? Probably. Turns out hanging with your buds on a regular basis only brings you closer together, deadly virus be damned. But for right now, we invite you to become a part of this weird little community that formed out of the sheer need to stay connected to friends, creatives, and the art we adore. Not to end this invocation on a curiously corny note (but I will!): even if we have to stay six feet apart and wear masks that cover the majority of our faces, there are still ways to grow and strengthen the pop vernacular that's helped us identify and empathize with each other throughout the course of history. Because that's what Secret Handshake is all about: speaking a language that allows you and your friends to better identify with one another. Hopefully you find a new favorite among these unpolished gems. See y'all on the other side, and never stop watching the things you love.

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