A Nightmare at Country Club Estates

Halloween has always been the best day of the year for me. I eat candy, watch horror movies, and as an 'adult,' eat burritos and drink sangria. Each and every Halloween of my life has been memorable, but one stands out for how truly terrifying it was - a real night of horror that has stayed with me for nearly 30 years.

In 1989, my mom and I lived in the shittiest apartment complex; you know, the kind that had mushrooms growing on the carpets and no screens on the windows so there were always big spiders and stray cats in our house. All of our neighbors were constantly getting broken into and the kids down the hall would literally shit in front of our living room windows for fun.

On Halloween of that first year it was cold and pouring buckets. My mom decided it was a great idea to drive me up to each building and send me in, alone, to get my candy. It was the end of the 80s and I don't think parents were scared to let their kids out of their sights yet. Plus, my mom was super shitty.

At the end of the night, when we reached the last building, I ran in to avoid getting wet. I was greeted inside the doorway by a young hispanic man who looked like Willie Lopez from Ghost.
He says to me, "Hi pretty girl - I love your costume! My friends and all of their little girls are at a party in my apartment the third floor. You can just come in."

I will forever thank the universe for two things: Chinese food and being precocious at a very young age. I went door to door collecting my candy and I quietly approached the man's apartment and listened at the door. It was silent.

I never knocked and I never went in. I will never know if this man was simply going to jump out and scare me or grab me, rape me, and kill me. It will forever remains a mystery. I've always said I have nine lives, and I definitely think that was one of them.

This very well could have destroyed my lifelong love affair with this holiday if not for the following Halloween. In 1990 I was going to be a Dalmatian. I have to admit I was a little nervous about the trick-or-treating experience for fear of being snatched off into oblivion. I didn't know if it was my apprehension or if I caught a belly bug, but I woke up on Halloween day with my head in the toilet. There would be no tricking or treating this year.

Even though I was scared about the experience, I was still very much bummed. We were supposed to go with a group of kids and their parents from our building. I heard my mom telling one of the other moms that we had to cancel and I buried my head in my pillow.

That evening I tried to make the best of the situation and fell asleep on the couch watching scary movies. I woke up early to knocking on my front door. To my surprise, there stood the little boy from the end of the hall with a pumpkin pail full of candy for me. He explained that they all felt so bad that I wasn't well that at each house they stopped at they took an extra piece for me.

This one simple act renewed my faith in humanity and restored my love of Halloween for life.

- Jess


A Halloween Invitation

Halloween has changed -- not just over the course of history (which is its own fun story). I mean it's changed in my lifetime -- and not just because of global warming, peanut allergies, designated 'trick-or-treat' locations, etc. (which is not a fun story). I'm talking about my own experience with the day itself and how activities and attitudes change at each stage of my (or anyone's) life. The other big holidays - Thanksgiving, Christmas, Independence Day - have maintained a pretty consistent framework for as long as I can remember (and leave very little room for deviation), but for Halloween, the rules change as time goes by, and what was once a structured event coordinated by people older than I, slowly begins to present new options - a freedom of choice begins to emerge.

I won't bore you with an arbitrary list of all my past costumes, but I will make the observation that the trick-or-treat years are the pertinent years, and whichever aspects of the holiday you embrace during that time will determine how you process Halloween once society deems you 'too old' to participate.

So, what's on my awesome mix tape...

  • The soft resistance of a pencil tip on the flesh of a fresh pumpkin.
  • Increasingly shorter says provide an appropriately atmospheric cold darkness.
  • Cardboard wall decorations that will haunt the daydreams of your adulthood without even trying.
  • Learning more about your peers than you'd ever known based on their choice of costume.
  • Trying to decide on your own costume, committing to it, and assembling it to perfection.
  • The smell of cream makeup paired with the sound and vision of edited-for-tv Exorcist and American Werewolf.
  • Marching through crispy dead leaves that stick to your cape, et al.

My last journey as a trick-or-treater was at age 13. I felt too old for this - its appeal had been waining for some time. Additionally, I was dressed as Alex from Clockwork Orange, and there wasn't one person who didn't mistake me for Charlie Chaplin.
"Where's your mustache?" they'd ask. That alone was symbolic of how this particular activity and my own interests were parting ways.

Throughout my teens I did little more than quietly embrace the changing of the season - that was to be my own private Halloween celebration. It was also during this time that cable channels began to reformat & it started to become harder and harder to find any horror cinema on as many channels. Coincidentally, home video was also reformatting - into the more-affordable DVD, which allowed me to start revisiting old favorites in a larger capacity, as well as discovering a buncha new stuff. It would be this outlet that would accompany my already-hectic existential schedule of merely 'feeling the day.'

In my pretentious 20s I'd spin Goblin's Suspiria soundtrack with a gallon of Carlo Rossi Sangria and stare into the abyss.

For the past five or six years, Jess and I consume decadently-sized burritos from a local sub shop and marathon (time-permitting) those "Halloween Day-Only" movies:
Halloween (1978)
The Fog (1980)
Halloween II (2009)
The Exorcist (1973)
The Lords of Salem (2012)

This sorta domestic bliss is about to lap itself as we enter a new, mutated version of what once was, and all that came before will be relived through the looking glass as our son starts the journey from the beginning. Once again, costumes will be coordinated, doorbells will be rung, candy will be obtained.
Or, will it be different? How will our boy absorb the festivities under the influence of two fanatics? At any rate, the routine is about to change yet again - and for a long time.

And so, to you, childless sinners and worshipers of the dark arts - how do you spend All Hallows' Eve? Is it as good as it used to be or do you struggle to care? Are you only in it for the pumpkin spice, or do you fill your McDonald's pumpkin pail with candy corn?
We wanna know what the season means to you: best memories, milestones, candy, decor, movies, music, makeup. Got pics, videos, links to your past? Talk about it here or on our fb page - and be graphic, cuz it's Halloween and you can be anything you want. And don't forget to wear your masks... It's almost time!

- Paul


Blood, Gore, and Glop: The Best of TREEHOUSE OF HORROR

A handful of shows have notable 'Halloween episodes,' but none are as consistent, scrutinized, praised, and argued over as The Simpsons' "Treehouse of Horror" subseries.
It's during these episodes when we become more acutely aware that the show is obviously crafted by folks with an encyclopedic knowledge of film, literature, television, folklore, urban legends, and anything and everything else horror- (and non-horror) related. But that's just the topping on this cursed frogurt, because while some other satirical animated shows rest their weight solely on their pop culture knowledge, the "Treehouse" eps utilize classic and contemporary stories in a way that makes them their own; no one would ever confuse The Shining with The Shinning (and not just for fear of legal repercussions).
"Treehouse of Horror" allows The Simpsons to fully embrace the sometimes-forgettable fact that it is a cartoon - if for no other reason than the entire cast is mangled, mutated, and killed in gruesome ways over and over again... but not for real.
Whatever your holiday movie-viewing agenda consists of, there's most likely a "Treehouse" counterpart to supplement it. Whenever or however we choose to watch them, they're usually designated by our favorite segments - as each special is an anthology of three stories. So, instead of doing a list of favorite episodes yet again, here, most specifically, are our respective favorite chapters from the "Treehouse of Horror" episodes - guaranteed by Paul Anka himself.

Paul's List
1. "Time and Punishment" - V
Best Moment: After many failed attempts to avoid disrupting the past, Homer ignites a rage-fueled 180 and purposefully destroys his prehistoric setting; clubbing and squishing flora and fauna, big and and small, resulting in increasingly absurd consequences.

2. "Homer3" - VI
Best Moment: A trying struggle in inter-dimensional limbo literally lands Homer in a dumpster in Southern California. Understandably disoriented and distraught, his tension is entirely thwarted by the prospect of pornographic pastries.

3. "Fly vs. Fly" - VIII
Best Moment: Shortly after Bart uses Homer's Matter Transporter in an attempt to crossbreed himself with a fly, Marge decides to investigate when she's confronted with an excessive amount of mist.

4. "Easy-Bake Coven" - VIII
Best Moment: The entire segment transcends the usual farce as it goes so far beyond satirizing 17th century witch hunts and brilliantly evolves into their own original allegory about the origins of Tick-or-Treating.

5. "Stop the World, I Want to Goof Off" - XIV
Best Moment: It's consistently one of my favorite storylines in all science fiction -- it was only fitting that it found its way to Bart and Milhouse (and that they would use the power of stopping time only for pranks and mischief). And even after fifteen years, the effects of their havoc are still being felt - especially by Homer, whose nasal cavities are filled with a seemingly endless supply of plastic green army men.

Jess's List
1. "Bart's Nightmare" - II
Best Moment: Homer and Marge's positive attitude towards the disfiguring of Snowball II and the ignition of the kitchen curtains.

2. "Clown Without Pity" - III
Best Moment: It has made me laugh for two decades that Homer is not just plagued by an evil Krusty doll, but has issues with the toaster as well.

3. "The Devil and Homer Simpson" - IV
Best Moment: More often than not I know where Homer is coming from, and most days I would sell my soul for a donut too.

4. "Attack of the 50 Foot Eyesores" - VI
Best Moment: Lard Lad wanting his giant donut back is just plain classic. Of course Homer would keep it and blame Flanders.

5. "Citizen Kang" - VII
Best Moment: In an otherwise goofy episode, it's hilarious when Bob Dole and former President Clinton are holding hands. That's truly horrific!


Look What Your God Has Done To Me :: Fan art, bladder control, and BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA

Like Dick Tracy before it, I was in love with 1992's Bram Stoker's Dracula months before the movie was released - thanks to its colorfully creepy ad campaign. Outside of the posters, there were trading cards, halloween masks, stickers, comic books, coffee table books, bookmarks, commemorative coins, models, and a video game. And because of their tireless on- and off-set coverage, it's what got me into Fangoria magazine.

Never mind that all this stuff was clearly aimed at kids, I was honestly just attracted to the film's imagery that was being utilized by this merchandise - that, coupled with my preexisting infatuation with old-fashioned monsters, was a potent prescription for a maniacal obsession. And I couldn't not be vocal about it - a large assortment of my extended family joined me at the first Saturday matinee showing, and the knee-trembling weight of that only added to this 9-year-old's excitement. It may've been that very adrenaline that caused me to suck down my whole gallon of movie theater soda before the previews even started - and there was no way I was doing a bathroom run during this movie. That mixed with the already prevalent mind-blowing anticipation I was experiencing, and it would suffice to say that I was in a great amount of physical distress from the moment the Columbia Pictures logo faded up. But I must say I didn't let the escalating severity of my pain distract me too much from this important event - though my family interpreted my obvious discomfort as a bad reaction to the "scariness" of the movie.

What I took from it (other than potential lifelong kidney damage) was never ever gonna live up to the level of hype I created in my own head - no movie could. One foolishly superficial reaction I had was that it wasn't particularly scary (something I would eventually accept as a characteristic of most horror cinema).
Still though, the movie is a lava lamp of gothic psychedelia and over-the-top performances that anyone of any age can feel the effects of.
Wojciech Kilar gave the Dark Prince some well-deserved (and legitimately creepy) theme music.
Also, one of my favorite Dracula traits had always been the ability to turn into a bat, and this version's depiction is startlingly original & can't be topped.
But what stayed with me the most was the eerily spiritual prologue (that I would come to find not in the book) that actually designated an emotional 'plot' to the story. Plus, I was always crazy about origins and backstory (before Star Wars and comic book movies ruined that romance).

But this isn't a movie review.

The best thing about those days when the most mainstream movies had so much merch to amass was that it was a way to take the movie home with you while it was still in theaters. Books and soundtracks are fine, but I - especially a much younger "I" - needed more; something active, something to do. I found the best way to connect with the imagery on all this stuff was to draw it: not to nurture any particular skill (though I mastered freehanding the dripping logo) but to engage my mind with the whole vibe.
Including some generous contributions from my father and my brother-in-law, here's a chunk of what I hung onto.

- Paul

Related Posts with Thumbnails