As long-time readers of this column are no doubt aware, Halloween is, and has always been, a special time of the year for the Unimonster. Most of my happiest childhood memories revolve around the month of October, and I’ve been pleased to share many of them with you. Whether it was the effort expended in trying to come up with the perfect homemade costume, or the pleasure of sitting on the living room floor after a successful Trick-or-Treating expedition, bag of candy in my lap, dog by my side, and Lon Chaney, Jr. on the TV screen, my Halloween memories represent some of the simplest, purest joys one can experience.
But some have asked me if Halloween still holds that same charm, that same appeal for the middle-aged Unimonster, and obviously the answer is no. I’m no longer that wide-eyed, (mostly) innocent MonsterKid, living in a much simpler time, and society does seem to frown on 45-year-old Trick-or-Treaters. That doesn’t mean I haven’t found new ways to celebrate my favorite holiday, or that I’ve outgrown all of my childhood traditions.
Though there’s something of a chicken-or-egg quality to it, there’s no denying that my love of Halloween and my love of Horror Films are directly related, and those beloved Horror Films have assumed top priority in my seasonal planning. Just as I used to plan my Trick-or-Treating well in advance, I now spend weeks scheduling my assault on the October Couch Potato Film Festival title [An October Tradition, October 24th, 2009]. I carefully choose the movies I’ll be viewing throughout the month, with more consideration given to quantity than quality, I will admit, but I never forget my favorites. There are some movies that just have to be viewed each October; without them, the month would seem incomplete. Some of these I discussed in a recent column [Halloween Movies to Watch, October 10th, 2009].
The first of these films is ARSENIC AND OLD LACE. This 1944 classic, starring Cary Grant and Raymond Massey, is pure comedic gold; a shining example of Hollywood in its heyday. I often devote an entire day during the month to Horror Comedies, and this one always makes that list, along with movies such as GALAXY QUEST, SCARY MOVIE, and of course the Abbott & Costello Monster pics.
Other days during the month are devoted to different themes… Alien Invasions, Slasher Films, Euro-Horrors, and Giant Bug movies are favorite themes during the days leading up to Halloween. Halloween night itself is devoted to the best of the genre, from DRACULA to the one movie that must be viewed to end the season—John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN.
But movies aren’t my only means of celebrating the holiday. While the Crypt always has a ‘Halloween’ feel to it, from the middle of September to early November it is decked out from top to bottom (or as much as the Unimonster’s budget will allow…) with Ghosts, Goblins, Witches, and that most necessary and iconic of Halloween symbols, the Jack O’Lantern. Real ones, plastic ones, foam ones, even glass ones… nothing screams “Halloween” at the Unimonster as loudly as Jack does. In fact there are always three on display in the living room—a foam one that stays lit 24/7; a vintage plastic blow-molded one that was a gift from a dear friend, and is exactly like one I had as a child; and a glass candy bowl, that I try to keep full. There are others that appear during the season, and of course, the highlight of the year is carving a real Jack for the front porch.
As I’ve mentioned before, my artistic talents, such as they are, start and end with the written word. Though I can visualize the fantastic Jack O’Lanterns I’d love to carve, when I sit down in front of blank pumpkin, the same Jack always emerges—two triangular eyes, a triangular nose, a lopsided grin, vaguely triangular, with three or four triangular teeth—let’s just say that I handle curves like an overloaded minivan. Not even those booklets of pre-printed stencils help… besides, that’s cheating.
Finally, everything comes together for the big night. The Crypt is decorated, the Jack is glowing on the front porch, and Bela is waxing poetic over the music of his night-children. And the large empty skull by the front door is filled with candy for the Trick-or-Treaters. Now I’ve mentioned before that my friends and I had considered ourselves ‘candy connoisseurs’ once upon a time, and I can still remember the disappointment I felt as someone would thoughtlessly drop a handful of crappy candy, or even worse, a box of raisins, into my bag. I resolved as a young Trick-or-Treater that I would always pass out the ‘good stuff’—M&M’s, Hershey’s Kisses, Tootsie Pops—when it came to be my turn at the door, and I still hold true to that resolution. So here I sit—lights low, the room lit by the yellow glow of electric Jacks and the silver gleam of Lugosi and Karloff, skull full of candy—waiting for that first knock on my door, remembering the thrill and joy of being the vampire, ghost, or ghoul on the other side.