It's the Great Pumpkin, Billie Doux

I love Halloween, and not just for the candy. When I was little, I had an audio tape of Halloween songs that I played over and over again, because many of them were really rather wonderful. Every year I think of those songs, and how they connect me to this unfortunately increasingly commercial holiday. Still, it is a holiday rooted in childhood, horror, and things that scare the bejesus out of you. This year we've compiled the thoughts of some of our writers in order to celebrate this spooky time of year. So without further ado...


Ben P. Duck:

So Halloween is here and we are thinking about our influences, and I realized something. For me, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Night Stalker and slasher films and Anne Rice are all secondary to the true king of horror… (no, not that writer guy) … Scooby Doo.

"Ruh Ro, Shaggy", you may be saying to yourself, where's he going with this.

The way I see it is that virtually everything you need to face the horror-fantastic unknown, I learned from the Gang. The top ten things Scooby doo taught me:

1.If faced with a spooky mystery, you don't run away, you always run toward it (see also Sam and Dean in Supernatural).

2.Without you meddling kids, the bad guy would have gotten away with it (this always applies).

3. A good rubber mask really goes a long way to selling a costume.

4. Adding a kid sidekick like Scrappy NEVER makes a show better (sorry, Dawn).

5. Always bring Scooby snacks.

6. If you wear glasses, you will, at some point in the adventure, find yourself on your hands and knees looking for them.

7. You don't ever need to resolve the sexual tension between characters to make the show work (Daphne and Velma, Shaggy and Scooby, etc).

8. When confronted with certain death, running wildly in random directions works really, really well.

9. "Zoinks!" And "Jinkies!" are, and apparently will remain, grossly underutilized in everyday conversation.

10. Remember the acronym: WWSD (What Would Scooby Doo?). It will always serve you well.

Chris B:

I find life scary enough; I don’t need to watch it either on a movie or a television screen. In fact, I tend to avoid anything that even remotely suggests horror, blood and guts or things that go bump in the night. Having said that, there have been a few things in the past that have scared the bejesus out of me. Buffy’s The Gentlemen in “Hush” completely freaked me out and continue to do so no matter how many times I watch that show. The X-Files episode of “Home” is disturbing on so many levels; another one that makes me shiver every time I watch it. And, yes, it is a cliche, but the scariest movie I have ever seen is Psycho. The idea of such a monster being hidden by such a pleasant surface is terrifying.

Juliette:

I always tell people I'm not into horror, but 'horror' is a really broad category and when I think about it, I realize just how much 'horror' I've really enjoyed over the years. I tend to prefer the spooky over the jumpy or the gory, and one of my hobbies is ballet, so I love Black Swan. It has a couple of icky moments, but it's mostly an exercise in slow tension building with some really beautiful dancing and a satisfying finale (actually, Powell and Pressburger's classic The Red Shoes always scared me when I was little. Ballet is a creepy art form - human bodies were not meant to bend that way). This year, I'll also be watching the recent film adaptation of The Woman in Black, which I find oddly comforting as well as spooky. I guess I just enjoy watching Daniel Radcliffe in Victorian outfits for a couple of hours.

On TV, half of my favourite shows feature vampires, witches or the paranormal, so for Halloween I like to dig out specifically Halloween-based episodes. Sabrina the Teenage Witch had some classics and Buffy's 'Halloween' is great fun, but for me the best Halloween special ever made is Community's 'Epidemiology.' It's a full-on zombie movie in a supposedly realistic setting, based around the love of two nerds and including a crazy cat. And somehow they pulled it off and made it awesome. Only Community could get away with that.

In cinemas, Brother and I went to see Frankenweenie last week, which was fun, though I think I'll enjoy my annual viewing of The Nightmare Before Christmas even more (it's the perfect segue from Halloween into the period where you're legitimately allowed to get excited about Christmas). But let's face it, we're all going to see James Bond this week anyway, Halloween or not, aren't we? Thought so.

Sunbunny:

I may be in the minority, but I don't like being terrified, which is why my favorite Halloween movie is the classic slapstick comedy Arsenic and Old Lace. One All Hallow's Eve, Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant) pays his aunts a visit in Brooklyn and discovers that they have a very… unique hobby. It's a bit long and it does take a while to get going, but once it does, it's hilarious. Arsenic and Old Lace is the perfect Halloween movie for those who don't want to see half naked women get dismembered. The film also stars a bunch of people my father tells me are famous character actors, but who I haven't seen in anything else, and Peter Lorre.

Jess:

I don't usually go for horror, so I haven't watched many scary movies. That said, the scariest movie I've ever seen is Alien. That one absolutely does me in, and no matter how many times I see it, it still leaves me curled in a ball in the corner of my couch, pulse pounding, and flinching at every jump scare --- even though I know they are coming! Other creepy highlights: Frank the Bunny from Donnie Darko, and the Pale Man from Pan's Labyrinth. Absolutely unnerving! (Plus, both movies are incredibly unsettling overall.)

When I was a kid, the movie that scared me the most was E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial. Seriously. My aunt and uncle took me to see the film in the theater, and when that baseball rolled out of the shed, I buried my face in my uncle's chest and didn't look at the screen for the rest of the movie. I later watched the movie on video with my parents, and was henceforth unable to sleep in a room with an open closet door for fear that there might be an alien hiding amongst the stuffed animals. I've seen the movie many times since then (and bawled profusely, of course), but to this day, I can't sleep in a room with an open closet door. And the weird ceramic E.T. statue hiding in the perennials at my in-laws house gives me the heebies every time I walk by it. That thing is creepier than a garden gnome! (See why I don't go in for scary movies? I can't even handle the non-scary ones!)

Billie Doux:

I love Halloween, but I'm not much of a fan of the horror movie genre. (As in, I actively avoid nearly all horror movies, and when I have to watch the really good ones, I view them with a hand ready to clap over my eyes.) I do have a favorite scary movie, though, and that's Ridley Scott's Alien. Scott managed to give us just about every horror staple in the book but with an exceptionally effective science fiction twist. "In space, no one can hear you scream." I've seen Alien half a dozen times, and it still gets to me.

Halloween-centric episodes on television are a whole other thing. In my opinion, Buffy the Vampire Slayer did it best with the season four episode, "Fear, Itself". ("Who's a little fear demon?") That episode also features my favorite pair of Halloween costumes ever; I'm referring to Joan of Arc and her "close relationship with God". Buffy's second season "Halloween" episode is also good. And even though it's not as classic as their twisted Christmas episode, honorable mention goes to Supernatural's "It's the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester".

J.D. Balthazar:

I'm not sure exactly how to describe my fascination with horror, or where it initially began. Probably when I was little and I snuck into the room where they were watching An American Werewolf in London at my babysitter's house. For years afterwards I was obsessed with werewolves, and had nightmares of closed shower curtains. Then at some point I started to get into all types of horror, and I went on a two year horror movie binge.

I saw almost everything from great to bad. What I found was that horror movies can sometimes be a wonderful allegory for the human condition, and they can also be just absolutely pointless exploitation and gore. At Halloween, I tend to think of my favorite horror monsters, vampires. No, not the sparkly ones. With movies like Interview with the Vampire, John Carpenter's Vampire, Lost Boys, Fright Night, Forsaken, Dracula, Blade, Underworld, From Dusk til Dawn to name a few. There is just so much variety in the kind of vampire baddie you want to see. I think it's because vampires reach a strange part of our psyche that needs darkness, sex, and the hope of immortality. Maybe that's why I tend to root for them most of the time.

Which was why I am so thrilled that some of my favorite television shows feature vampires as thorough and three-dimensional characters. Characters like Spike, Drusilla, Darla, Angel, Jessica, Pam, Tara, Bill, Eric, Mick, Damon, Stefan, Caroline, Katherine, Elena and the list gets longer every year. This Halloween, my monsters of choice are all over the place. And I can't wait to see what this next year of horror has in store!

Until next year, we wish you all a Happy Halloween!

Postscript: Right after this article was posted, Jess Lynde added a post of her family's amazing pumpkin-carving efforts. Not to be missed!

14 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Thanks so much for putting this together, J.D. What a great read. Loved all of it.

Sunbunny, I also loved Arsenic and Old Lace when I was a teenager. I was into old movies, and it's really special.

sunbunny said...

I love how almost all of us hate horror movies.

Jess - I thought I was the only one terrified by E.T.! I'm not sure I've ever seen the whole movie (If I have, I've blocked it out), but that thing used to scare the crap out of me when I was little. It was actually on TV the other day and I had to fight the impulse to run screaming from the room. Also, Donnie Darko is completely creepy. My best friend tricked me into watching it because he said it was about a bunny. Still haven't forgiven him.

Billie - I know, isn't Arsenic and Old Lace hilarious? I have to watch it ever year. If I don't, it's not Halloween. And Billie, Don't taunt the fear demon. It's just tacky.

CrazyCris said...

Fabulous idea for a post, I love all you guys' input! :o)

Funny thing Jess, I can't sleep with an open closet door either! But it's not because of E.T., it's some other movie I can't remember. I have this vague image of something falling out of the closet and killing people. Late '80s. Anyone?

The movies that scared me most as a kid were two animate films I saw at an older friend's house when I was 7 or 8. First one was Watership Down. To this day I have yet to read the book (although I'm told it's wonderful) because those evil warrior hares scared me to death!
The fear I did get over was of an animated version of... I'm not sure!!! I would have sworn the Lord of the Rings because I have this distinct visual memory of Gollum biting off a finger to get the Ring, but the only animated version I've tracked down out there only covers the first novel. Is there an animated version of the Hobbit? Gollum could have freaked me out there... Anyhow, I always thought the Hobbit (and by association Lord of the Rings) was a HORROR novel, NEVER to be read by me. Until my grandmother gave it to me for my 16th birthday and I finally read it (if it's a gift from Grandma it can't be bad, right?)... and the rest -as they say- is history! ;o)

Jess Lynde said...

I, too, am amused to learn that most of us that contributed aren't horror fans. Too funny!

It also entertains me that four of my jack-o-lanterns this year cover shows mentioned in this post. Granted two of them are from my own contribution (Pale Man and Frank --- I'm trying to exorcise my demons!), but we've got Jack Skellington and Scooby Doo pumpkins, too. Cool.

So glad to know I'm not alone in my fear of E.T.! The Gentlemen from Buffy and Watership Down have also scared me in the past. (I'm now pondering a Gentleman jack-o-lantern for next year ...) That seemingly innocent bunny movie really freaked me out as a kid. Not so much that it led to fear in my every day life, but between the creepy animated opening, the deranged Colonel Kurtz hare, and the snare trap almost (?) killing one of the rabbits, I couldn't watch it without someone else in the room. Not one I plan to share with my own children! Maybe when they are teenagers. :)

Juliette said...

I caught Yellow Submarine on TV when I was a kid once and have never been so scared! I was terrified of Watership Down too.

sunbunny said...

Jess - I demand pictures of those pumpkins! I'm such a blowful jack-o-lantern carver, I didn't even bother.

celticmarc said...

Oh my.

E.T. didn't scare me. Loved the first 10-15 minutes when we didn't see him. The atmosphere was so eerie. Then the magic was (kinda) gone after that. Alien is a classic. Still fascinated today with, yes, the kitchen scene...

Things NOT to do to a kid, a personal anecdote. On my tenth birthday, I watched this with my siblings :

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0068074/

("the concrete captain")

THEN ! after the airing they told me to go to bed. Big mistake : from that night on, for a few years, lights on in the closet and a blanket over my head. Yup, it scarred the *bleep* out of me. NEVER do that to a kid PLEASE.

Last winter, I found the aforementioned episode on youtube. Not only has it had aged badly (hit the wife ??!! really ? you bastard), but it was so silly. NOT the same eyes when you're 10 or 48...

On a VERY positive side now, I have 2 pics at the office : a polar bear with a pumpkin and a tiger also with a pumpkin. Awwww, my heart is melting.

Billie, if you still like old movies, this one is not an horror story, but a beautiful story about Faust. It is French and it has excellent actors, one of my top 25 movies of all times :

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0042235/

Even France had her James Dean....

ChrisB said...

What a great post, J.D. Thanks for compiling it.

And, Jess, I agree with sunbunny. I want to see photos of those pumpkins! Mine were washed away this year...

drnanamom said...

I didn't send a post for this because first, I don't scare easily and second I don't like horror that much (says the woman who reviews Walking Dead). I did realize while reading this that I do remember being scared out of my seat by the final scene of the original Carrie which I went to see with, of all people, my grandmother. Great post and fun comments. Thanks as always!

Anonymous said...

CrazyCris - you are thinking of the Ralph Bakshi animated version of Lord of the Rings (1978). http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0077869/ - only covers the first 2 books (very VERY squashed together). The animation is rather crude by todays standards, but it's an interesting curio. The voice of Frodo is Ian Holm, who many years later played Bilbo in Peter Jackson's films!

I am no longer allowed to go and see scary or even "thrilling" films at the cinema, due to the bruises I inflict on the arms of my companions whenever there is an unexpected moment. So I watch on dvd at home and hope the neighbors can withstand the screaming.

PlatinumRosebud said...

Nice compilation, J.D.

Just to share...
Last night, Oct 31, my son participated in a fun run held at night called Outbreak Enchanted Kingdom.

It was held in an amusement park and thousands of people joined the run where "zombies" are scatterred in some areas of the race path who are aiming to get a "strip of your 3 lives". It was fun and a lot of the race participants are also in costume. If you cross the finish line with at least 1 life left, they give you a medal and declare you a Survivor. The people enjoyed themselves not so much as to win the race but to be a part of what they call Survivors' Run. Btw, my son got a medal for keeping all his 3 lives. :)

After the Halloween (Oct 31), the following day is spent visiting our departed loves in the cemetery or crypt offering candles, flowers and prayers; depending on the custom of the family. This is also the holiday when family reunions happen. (The live ones, that is. :) )

The "horror story sharings" are done during the reunions but at times the stories are more for fun than really for its macabre theme.

J.D. Balthazar said...

Wow, thank you all for the wonderful comments. Halloween means a lot to me, and it's great to hear what it means to others.

PlatinumRosebud said...

Sorry, forgot to mention.
For me, the scariest movie that may include screams is Phantasm.
The special effects used in this film were advanced for that time.
And you'll get a good laugh on how some of the stunts/effects were done when you watch the special features in DVD.
Another favorite is The Legacy.
For me, this film is superb.

celticmarc said...

drnanamom,

yes ! yes ! yes ! The hand !!! First time I saw this (on TV) I jumped !!