Yes, this is Halloween baring down on us like a pumpkin chunkin’ cannon filled with Jack-O-Lantern love for one and all. Thriller and Monster Mash are getting quite a work out in my tape deck (yeah, I said tape deck) and the horror movies on AMC are non-stop. Today I learned that the guy who played Freddy in Return of the Living Dead was also Tommy in Friday the 13th Part 6. Pretty much the same character, just different, undead murder machines chasing him but it was none the less an enjoyable outing. Whether you’re swept up in the religious and historic significance of the night, the cheap thrill of haunted houses and spooky movies, the commercial appeal of gaudy orange trinkets or just like causing mischief and getting candy, this is the time of year you look forward to. All that’s missing for me tonight is It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on CBS followed by an animated version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and I’d be 10 years old again sitting in our crappy 2 room apartment in Hermitage giddily marking the days until the 31st.
Something about this time of year just brings out the spirit in me. The world is on fire in shades of orange and red and gold and the air is turning cool to gently transition us from the harsh, oppressive summer into the cruel cold winter ahead and you just can’t help but smile. I was a weird kid. I loved looking at ancient ruins and graves in National Geographic growing up. Mummies and bog bodies and ancient lore always intrigued me and sparked my imagination. Ghostbusters was (and is) my favorite movie and I was always looking for haunts and spooks to try to capture with my home made proton pack, even if it were only my backpack and an empty paper towel tube.
So, as a Halloween treat let me recommend some great Halloween themed books, movies and songs to help you out:
The Nightmare Before Christmas (both as a Halloween and X-Mas film), Night of the Living Dead and Trick ‘r Treat are three excellent movies as well as The Shining and any of the first ten seasons’ worth of Simpson’s Tree House of Horror specials. In addition, the Odd Todd website, if it is still up and running, was always a bastion of excellent flash player driver Halloween episodes of Laid Off. As far as music goes, Thriller and Monster Mash are both staples of the Halloween season but there are lots of other creepy songs to think of. Aside from looking up the themes to several horror films such as Tubular Bells from The Exorcist or Funeral March of a Marionette from Alfred Hitchcock Presents you should take a look at a little sub-genre of hip hop known as Nerdcore. Zombie Killa’ by Zealous 1 and Bruce Campbell by YTCraker are both pretty awesome as well as some select works by MC Chris and MC Frontalot. Also, any number of songs by Voltaire would more than make the cut for spooky, funny Halloween themed tunes.
As for books, lets face it, sometimes the classics are the best. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irvin and W.W. Jacobs’ The Monkey’s Paw are fantastic reads that give you a bit of insight into the roots of modern ghost stories and horrors. We’ll skip over the works of Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft not for lack of merit but because so many people these days fall back on them for classic fright and go on to the British author Arthur Machen whose fictitious account of the Battle of Mons led to the myth of The Angels of Mons. So much of what we see regurgitated on screen today came from great authors, play writes, directors and story tellers of old. Ancient tales created to warn children away from danger became the stories of The Baba Yaga and Little Red Riding Hood.
Finally, if you’re a parent, you need to do things to keep kids interested in the holiday. Aside from telling the ancient accounts of the Jack-O-Lantern as you carve one with your special little guy or gal, make up some fun foods and crafts. Green food color and gummy worms in a glass of 7-Up go great with sugar cookies cut in shapes of ghosts, pumpkins and tombstones and colored in icing. Newspaper crumbled in a ball and shoved in a napkin with a twist tie at the base can make a ghostly shape that can then have a scary (or funny) face drawn on it to decorate the yard. A little sewing thread makes the ghosts float from trees or hooks in the ceiling.
So, find the right music, the right movies or the right stories to tell. Turn the lights down, have some ghoulish treats and enjoy the season. After all, only 14 more days until Halloween.