Our plans for this evening are to do the usual handing out of candy while we watch some spooky movies. The movie plans are Young Frankenstein and The Three Stooges in Orbit. I usually pick out three movies, but Michael never stays awake for the third. And at midnight I’m supposed to start NaNoWriMo (even if I can’t stay up very far past midnight, since it is a work night), so we’ll probably stick with just the two. We’ll see. It’s not as if it’s very difficult to pick another movie out of the 970-or-so that my hubby has uploaded into our digital library from our vast disc collection…Because of the weirdness happening with our building being sold, we had been asked not to do some of the outdoor decorations that we usually do this time of year. This has had a dampening effect on my mood, so I haven’t even put the plastic light-up jack-o-lanterns in the windows, let alone any other decorations. I need to shake the funk soon–at least before Christmas decorating time!
I hope we get a few more trick-or-treaters than last year. I realize I’ll increase the odds if I manage to get at least some decorations up before sundown. I’m currently planning to slip out of the office early to make sure I’m home before then, so there is still hope. Some years we get a lot, but usually it’s a few handfuls. One of the problems is that a lot of other folks on our street don’t do the candy thing and/or their houses have no decorations so our whole block often looks gloomy and deserted.
Though truthfully, as long as we get more than we did the year a neighbor parked a huge U-Haul truck in front of our place and spent the evening trying to get moved out of their apartment (we got exactly one person – my godchild, who doesn’t live in the neighborhood, but would be brought to our place and to the homes of some relatives of their other godparent who lives nearby).
I love handing out the full size candy bars. And I love seeing kids in costumes. Especially the younger ones who get so, so excited when I kneel down and hold out the bowl packed with big candy bars! As my husband likes to say, “Fun size isn’t!”
Anyway, if you celebrate Halloween, All Hallow’s Eve, or the Day of the Dead, I hope that it is a great holiday for you. And if you’re feeling a little down, enjoy this clip from the Woodland Park Zoo of an otter and a jack-o-lantern:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
But I’m not good with scary movies. Now I should qualify that: I’m not good with a lot of horror films, particularly the gory and/or very intense ones. I wind up having nightmares. The kind of nightmares where I wake up other people in the house because I either wake up talking very loudly, or worse: I sleepwalk around the house, intentionally waking anyone I can find, and explaining very emphatically how we’re in danger and we have to do something to defend ourselves/thwart the monster, et cetera. The more intense the movie, the more likely I am to do this for several nights in a row.
There are exceptions. I do better when it’s a movie I’ve seen before. I also do better if I watch the movie on a TV or computer instead of going to see it in the theatre. Being able to look away at familiar surroundings whenever I want without the overwhelming presences of the enormous screen and THX sound seems to help a lot. Watching it with someone I know and trust helps. I have been known to physically cling to friends (not just people I am romantically involved with) at particularly scary parts of some films.
I own a lot of movies that I classify as Halloween/horror films. And every year, I select some to watch on Halloween (and sometimes nights leading up to it). But my collection isn’t full of things many people would think of as scary. Movies that appear in my Halloween fests a lot include:
- The Ghost and Mr Chicken
- Elvira, Mistress of the Dark
- The Addams Family
- Abbot and Costello Meet the Mummy
- Monster Squad
- Frankenstein (the 1931 version starring Boris Karloff)
- Bride of Frankenstein
- Dracula (the 1931 version starring Bela Lugosi)
- Young Frankenstein
- The Lost Boys
- Queen of the Damned
- Fright Night (the 1985 version with Roddy McDowell and Chris Sarandan)
- Haunted Honeymoon
- The Rocky Horror Picture Show
- Arsenic and Old Lace
- Teen Wolf (the original with Michael J. Fox)
- Hocus Pocus
- Edward Scissorshands
- Little Shop of Horrors
- The Man with Two Brains
- Forbidden Planet
I could go on. A friend posted a similar list on her blog yesterday. I’m glad to see I’m not the only person who likes this kind of less-than-nightmare-inducing spooky movie.
I have all of the “Abbot and Costello meet…” cross-overs with the Universal Monsters, as well as the Universal box sets of their classic horror franchises: Frankenstein, the Mummy, Dracula, the Wolf Man. And a bunch of the Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror” episodes on disc. I only recently acquired Munster, Go Home on disc, and it was a candidate for this year’s Halloween fest.
Since my husband has spent so much time converting the rest of our (nearly a thousand) DVDs and Blurays into the media computer and database, I spent a while scrolling through the list looking for films that maybe we haven’t watched in a while because they were on a different shelf than the other Halloween movies. I noticed, while scrolling through the sci fi section, The Black Hole (the 1979 version with Maximilian Schell), which I haven’t watched in many years. When I said that, Michael said that he’s never seen it.
My husband has never seen it!
So I said, “Well, that’s one of the Halloween movies this year, definitely!”
Then he asked me if I could remember when I last watched the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie (with Kristy Swanson, Luke Perry, and Donald Sutherland), and I couldn’t remember, so we both said, “Guess that one’s on this year’s list, too!”
And, of course, the premiere of the new series starring Bruce Campbell, Ashe vs the Evil Dead is happening on Starz on Halloween. And Starz is a channel I have in our line-up, so I’d been planning all along to watch it that night.
I should mention that the Evil Dead movies are one of those cases where the gore is enough that normally I wouldn’t watch them, but I love work that Bruce Campbell does elsewhere (and was so, so, so happy when he was cast in the major supporting role in Burn Notice which went on for several seasons without getting canceled or jumping the shark before they ended it in a really good way). Plus, after being enthused at about it many, many times by our friend, Sky (who is one of those people who I know really well), in some ways I felt as if I had already seen them. So I finally watched The Army of Darkness and one of the earlier ones.
Sky was sitting on one side of me and my husband on the other. (I spent most of bloody-cabin-in-the-woods movie with my eyes covered, even then!).
I… will not be surprised if Campbell’s new series gives me nightmares. But I’ll probably watch the whole thing, regardless.
Because I love the mix of comedy and horror tropes! And did I mention that I love Halloween?
The Nerds Ropes nearly ran out by the end of the night. The Kit Kats were popular early on, but we had fewer of them and ran out. Every teen-age kid that showed up and took candy had real costumes. The only teen-agers I saw without costumes were each carrying a much younger sibling.
My favorite of the night was the very small child in the most adorable dinosaur costume who could not decide between two candy bars (I think it was a Milky Way Caramel and a Hershey’s Chocolate). When his mom said, “You need to pick one, honey,” I stage-whispered, “Take both!” His grin was incredible. But he also looked up at his mom to make sure it was okay with her. She was, “Wow, that’s so generous!” While I was thinking that seeing a little kid that happy was worth a whole lot more than two candy bars.
There were several other fun ones. A group of four in leopard-print homemade-looking body suits and wearing store bought kitty ears. The teen-ager with a spot-on Shaun of the Dead costume. The rainbow colored fairy. The tiny astronaut with Mom wearing a NASA Ground Crew coveralls.
The only decorations I had put up in advance were two light-up pumpkins in the front window and the light up spider-web. When I got home from picking up Michael, I turned on the oven for the pizzas and started getting out the outdoor extension cords to put up the purple icicle lights around the porch and the pumpkin LED strings on the rails, when Michael announced he was going to the store for more decorations. “I want something pumpkin-y for the porch.”
Now, I’ve had these two ceramic jack o’lantern candle-lanterns for years that I always put on the porch steps. I’m still not sure if he forgot about them (I hadn’t pulled them out of the Halloween decorations bag yet) or if he wanted something bigger. Anyway, he came back with a hanging skeletal bride thing that didn’t light up, but he’d also bought will battery-operated LED “candles.” He also picked up a string of multi-colored strobing lights with bat-shaped reflectors. That were also battery powered.
We clearly had enough lights to attract trick-or-treaters, so that was good.
I need to find some more light-up things that we can put out near the curb, as most of ours older ones died last year. I forgot, actually, until I was unboxing yesterday, or I would have been out looking for stuff earlier in the month.
Still, we got 42 trick-or-treaters total. Which is up from last year. The last few years it’s been trending up again. I would love it if we started getting around a hundred as happened the first few years in Ballard. (If for no other reason that we wouldn’t have so many leftovers!)
It began way back when a sub-group of the Elfquest/sci fi fan groups we were associated with went to the Evergreen State College the weekend before Halloween to celebrate K’s birthday. Our friend, Mark, bought a piñata shaped like a Pokémon. I think more time was spent trying to figure out how to hang it from the window of the dorm/apartment and a nearby tree than anything else at the party. Though I also recall that the piñata was really difficult to break.
Anyway, K, D, and Auntie have been hosting Halloween parties ever since. The parties always have a theme, and one of the activities at the party is a piñata that matches the theme. There was a skull representing Horatio at the Shakespeare party, for instance, and a moon with little stars floating around it for one of the space themed parties.
There was never any requirement that one wear a costume that matched the theme of the party, but for those of us who are procrastinators and indecisive, having the theme could give you some ideas. The year the theme was “Antarctica” Michael and I showed up in shorts, Hawaiian shirts, leis, and sunglasses. We had a little act we did where we fumbled with a map of the Hawaiian islands. Our costume was “Lost Tourists.” I don’t remember what the theme was that had me dress as the Next Doctor and Michael dressed as his companion, a 1950s hard-boiled detective.
Anyway, having the deadline of our friends’ party pushed us to make a decision, and having the theme gave us something to either conform with, make a joke of, or just ignore.
Then, because of a series of events which culminated in a major appliance failure at their house and has kicked off a long-delayed kitchen remodel, they didn’t host a party this year. Which is understandable, but also a teensy bit of a downer.
So I thought I wasn’t going to be doing a costume this year.
Then one day at work I got an e-mail with the subject line “Top Secret!”
I don’t want to go into all the background, but during the last year among the changes and shakeups have been that the person who had been the VP of Sales for our group has been promoted to the head of our business unit. In some ways it was a very big change, as the guy who had been leading the unit had been in that position for well more than 10 years, and the company (like a lot of American corporations) didn’t have very many female executives. She’s not entirely conventional. She almost always wears black, for instance, and among her definitions of office attire (and not on casual days), is Levi jeans.
Anyway, it had occurred to someone that all of us could get long blonde wigs, and just show up wearing all black and with the wig. Then we could surprise her by coming into her office, all of us dressed as her. We even had “masks” that consisted of a printout of a photo of her that we could hold in front of our faces.
It wasn’t a very complicated costume, and it wasn’t something that anyone outside the company would recognize without an explanation, but it was fun, and silly, and what else is Halloween for?
In other news, my word count at the end of day two: 3928. Behind on the big goal, but ahead of my minimal goal! And, I may have talked my Mom into giving NaNo a try!
Sometimes I don’t know why I try.
So, I saw in iTunes radio a new station called Halloween Party, and I felt like listening to something different, so I clicked it. First song? Stevie Wonder singing “Superstition.” Nothing the slightest bit spooky or Halloween-like about the song. Oh, sure, the word “superstition” could be related to something Halloween-like, the actual lyrics? No.
Almost any time someone posts a so-called Halloween playlist, the songs are chosen because the titles of the song have some tenuous connection to sort of scary-ish concepts, regardless of the content of the song. If you’ve ever done such a thing, I have a news flash for you: the title of a song is not the song. There are some songs whose titles don’t even appear in the lyrics, so when I’m listening to the playlist, if I don’t happen to remember the title, the reason it has been included will be a complete mystery.
Now, you have the right to create a playlist anyway you want. If you want to collect songs together with altogether incorrect criteria and name said playlist a Halloween playlist, of course you can do that.
I happen to believe that a Halloween playlist should consist of tracks where the content of the track has some connection to ideas, moods, et cetera, that people associate with Halloween, trick or treating, monsters, and so forth. So, my 2013 Halloween playlist (yes, I make a new one each year) is:
1. “Theme from the Ghost and Mr. Chicken” – if you aren’t familiar with this comedy send up of various Hitchcock-esque movie tropes starring Don Knotts, you really need to Netflix it or something. And the organ music is suitably spooky and silly, at the same time.
2. “It’s alive!” From the Young Frankenstein soundtrack. This isn’t a song, it’s the dialog for one of the funniest scenes in the movie, when Dr Frahnk-in-steen finds out that he put an abnormal brain in the body of his creation.
3. “The Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun” by Julie Brown. “Everybody run! The Homecoming Queen’s got a gun!” and “…it’s like the whole school was totally coked or something!”
4. “Over at the Frankenstein Place” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
5. “”Scooby Doo, Where Are You?” Yes, the theme song from the original cartoon series.
6. “Body Snatcher” by Billy Idol. With lyrics about demons, creeping shadows, and so forth, this is where the list segues from the strictly comedic.
7. “Double Trouble” from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Spooky.
8. “I Can’t Decide (whether you should live or die)” by Scissor Sisters. Includes lyrics like, ” I could bury you alive but you might crawl back with a knife and kill me” which is definitely creepy!
9. “I Can Make You a Man” from the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
10. “Dark Shadows” the original eerie, spooky, haunting theme song from the ’60s gothic horror soap opera.
11. “Rest in Peace” from Once More, With Feeling, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode. “Whisper in a dead man’s ear doesn’t make it real.”
12. “Funeral March of a Marionette” an orchestral piece which was used as the theme for the old Alfred Hitchcock show.
This year’s is silly and harkens to horror movies and horror-related TV shows. Last years was a bit different, with songs like “Zombies Ate Her Brain” by The Creepshow and “Zombie Jamboree” by the Kingston trio.
Many years my list includes “Monster Mash” or “Thriller.” Which are obvious choices, but sometimes obvious is good.
I have trouble with scary movies. At least certain types of scary movies. They give me nightmares, and I’m the kind of person who, while having a nightmare, climbs out of bed, running around waking up everyone I can find, frantically trying to explain the horrific danger we’re facing and how we have to come up with a plan to deal with the threat now.
I love certain types of scary movie. I could watch the 1931 Dracula, or the ’31 Frankenstein or ’35 Bride of Frankenstein, or the ’32 Mummy over and over and over again. Give me a classic Godzilla any time!
Sometimes while explaining this, I’ve had friends ask how this can be true, when they know I have written some pretty creepy and horrific stuff. Or, as a friend very recently put it, “How can you love Fringe so much? It presents a lot of things far worse than many scary movies you’ve refused to watch!”
Part of the issue is control. If I’m writing the scary stuff, I’m in charge. I can save whoever I want. I can make the bad guy lose when I want and how I want.
To a lesser extent, watching a scary movie (or series) at home on TV or iPad is different in part because I have some control. I can pause or stop the movie when I want. More importantly, if I’m not immersed in the big screen setting without the theatrical sound system it’s easier for me to remember I have control. I’m not trapped in the center of a row of strangers in a dark room. And sometimes just looking away isn’t enough.
There’s also familiarity. Forbidden Planet was one of the first movies to trigger this reaction when I was about five or six years old (it’s the one my Mom still tells stories about), but now, it’s one of my favorite movies of all time. I know how it ends. I know what the monster is and what its limitations are. None of that was true the first time I saw it.
And in Fringe‘s case, there is an additional salvation: there have been very, very, very few scary movies ever made which any character who is even one-tenth as smart as Walter is on the good guys’ side.
Because what’s missing from most nightmares is a hero you’re confident will win the day.