God, I love this month. Playoffs for baseball (go Phillies!), Honeycrisp apples, tailgating, autumn leaves, the crispness in the air, and of course pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks (well, anything is improved with the addition of pumpkin). This entire month is a warmup. This month, I restrain myself from listening to Christmas music (although the Josh Groban CD is whispering to me from my iPod, I know it) and scare myself silly with the watching of numerous disturbing and freaky movies in the attempt to get pumped for my favorite holiday of the entire year.
I am a freak for Halloween. Now, I will never be that girl who insists in dressing like a prostitute. October 31st is like my high holy day, and the costume is my priestess robe. I have never shirked when it comes the greatest dress-up day on the calendar. My favorite Halloween costumes over the years are varied but they seem to centralize on a main theme: In my head, I am either a Disney princess, or the villain.
1991: I beg my mother to buy me Cinderella’s ballgown for three months. One morning I wake up and turn over in bed, and there it is, hanging in all of its beautiful, silvery-blue glory from the knob on my closet door. I don’t take it off for three years and I use it for my sixth birthday as an incentive to force all of the kids in the neighborhood to dress up. Years later I would discover my beloved ballgown in shreds at the bottom of my old dress up drawer. I attempt to put it on and I can’t get it past my thighs. The same year I got that dress was when my sister went as Captain Hook for Halloween and my brother went as Smee.
1993: My mom gives me a pink poufy ballerina costume for my birthday and I wear it for Halloween for two straight years. Unfortunately I couldn’t wear it by itself since it’s almost November after all, but I do have a killer photo of me standing on our staircase proudly displaying the dress. You can’t even notice the giant turtleneck shoved underneath the bodice.
1994: I’m so done with the whole “Disney Princess” thing. Fourth grade is all about the villains, baby. I score with the Evil Queen from Snow White. This costume is awesome. Long purple skirt, high neck, crazy cool medallion on the neckline, and a shroud! I was ready to rock Knollwood Road. And then I got sick and couldn’t go out on Halloween. My brother took up two pumpkin buckets and collected candy for me. This was a few years before I would graduate to a pillowcase.
1998: Thirteen is a good year to start showing some leg. My beloved group of friends from middle school (Silver Sistas, what up?!) decide we’ll all go as the Spice Girls for Halloween. Of course, I was Posh. I traipsed around my neighborhood (along with some other streets) dressed like a hooker in high heels, a tight black dress, and black hair (courtesy of a spray bottle).
1999: Continuing the hooker trend, I went as Felicity Shagwell from Austin Powers. Why I subjected my neighborhood to the sight of me in a velour minisuit with thighhigh boots is BEYOND MY COMPREHENSION. I eat so much candy I spend the next day home from school, violently ill.
2003: My Lord of the Rings obsession goes full tilt. I purchase a gorgeous medieval gown from Hot Topic (back when they were actually goth!punk, not Avril!punk) and black wig, and spend the entire night forcing my best friend to take pictures of me reclining on a chair, trying to recreate Arwen’s dying pose. That year, I also attempt to find someone on UCONN’s campus with half of Aragorn’s integrity and moral compass. I stay single for six years.
2005: Junior year of college. Now I gotta start being creative. I buck the “whore/madonna” thing I’ve had going for the past few years and appear at my school’s Halloween party as Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp’s incarnation because the movie had just come out). All I need is an Oompa Loompa and Christopher Lee yelling at me.
2006: Senior year, my first school year post-obesity. Everyone in the room knew that I was ready to party. My Bettie Page ensemble is a big hit, particularly among the boys in my class (I think it was the corset and fishnets).
The last two years I’ve gone the safer route. 2007 I did the flapper thing, and last year I couldn’t have a party because it was opening night of my show but I did show up at the opening night dinner dressed as Mary-Kate Olsen, Starbucks cup and all.
This year I’m going to a party and I’m throwing one, so I’ll be going as two different creations. The first is Zombie Lady GaGa…which I must admit isn’t so different from just regular Lady GaGa, but I’ll work on it. The second is Sarah Sanderson from my favorite Halloween movie of all time. But more on that below, where I’ve compiled a Greatest Hits of Halloween films. These are the movies that I must watch in October, or else it just isn’t Halloween. Of course there are Halloween TV specials that have a dear place in my heart (It’s The Great Pumpkin,br Charlie Brown being one of them), I’m reserving this list for only the films released to theaters.
1. Hocus Pocus. Starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy. This film is the one that I MUST watch every Halloween. The tale of the wicked Sanderson sisters and their rise from the dead in 1990s Massachusetts (thanks to an airhead virgin who lit the black flame candle) is nothing short of a classic. Despite being a bit goofy, the movie possesses some genuinely creepy and ethereal moments, such as Sarah’s song to lure the children to their deaths. An interesting sidenote: Kenny Ortega, the director of this film, went on to direct the High School Musical series as well as the greatest movie musical of all time, Newsies. CARRYING THE BANNER.
2. Dawn of the Dead (2004 remake). One of the best remakes of all time, Zack Snyder’s post-apocalyptic vision of a group of survivors in a mall trying to withstand a zombie takeover is alternately gross, freaky, heartbreaking, and pulsepounding. The best invention of Snyder is to make the zombies fast, so you can’t really outrun them. I admit, I originally saw this because Sarah Polley is in it and I was a huge fan of her in the Ramona Quimby TV show. But then I got into it because of how original it is (despite it being a remake) and the overwhelming feeling of “you cannot escape”. Futility is a great tool in horror.
3. The Descent. Neil Marshall’s opus, which freaked audiences in Britain right out of their chairs in 2004, sounds a bit thin at face value: A group of female thrill-seekers find a hidden cave in the Appalachians and attempt to spelunk through it. Sounds dumb and an excuse to show boob, right? YOU ARE SO WRONG, MY FRIEND. This movie is white knuckle at its very finest. You care about these women and where they’ve come from, and you see their foibles and feel their pain. These are real, painfully flawed women. When they get down into the caves, before anything supernatural started happening, the claustrophobia factor is so high that you feel yourself curling up into a little ball. And that’s even before strange creatures start to terrorize them…
4. The Blair Witch Project. Everybody knows the synopsis of this film: Three people go into the Maryland woods to shoot a documentary about a witch. They are never seen again, and a year later their footage is found by the police. We watch the found footage. Now, this movie gets a bad rap, and undeservedly so. This movie is terrifying to me. Then again, I’m the chicken who jumps when our ice machine turns on, so I’m not the best judge in what’s scary and what’s not. But this movie puts blatant emphasis on everything I’m terrified of, most of which is after dark. The scenes in the daytime aren’t too scary to me. It’s the scenes in the tent, with the clawing sounds, and the final denouement at the cabin. Freaky, freaky stuff. And I get grossed out by snot, so if I can handle a movie with five minutes of extreme closeup into Heather Donahue’s mucus membranes, it’s worth a look.
5. Shaun of the Dead. Shaun is not having a good week. First, he’s working in a dead end job at an electronics store. Second, his girlfriend has dumped him. Third, he has a nonexistent relationship with his stepfather. He finally wakes up after a night of drinking with his dead weight roommate, Ed, and decides he will change and get his life back together, on the same day as a full scale zombie invasion threatens to overtake London. Now, this isn’t technically a horror film. It’s more of a romantic comedy with a zombie attack foiling the plans of our heroes. But this film is must-see viewing for anyone who cares about horror movies. It’s got all of the great moments of any scary movie, and what’s great about this film is the zombie moments are played completely straight. The comedy comes out of the reactions of Shaun and Ed, as well as their friends. But don’t be fooled-there are some jump moments, and some of the things Shaun must do to save his friends are pretty devastating for a comedy. Another great move of the director (Ed Wright) was to shoot it in random, unseen parts of London, like Crouch End, to emphasize the Everyman aspect of the film. Plus, it’s hilarious.
This week I’m adding to my list of scary classics. A few days ago I watched The Ruins (not too bad, more gory than anything, but much better acting than I expected), and last night I watched the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Brutal, but not scary per se. I didn’t have any problems going to sleep that night. It was more funny to me than anything, and Marilyn Burns can scream and twitch in fear with the best of them. It’s interesting to see how low of a budget the film had…sometimes it looks as if it was shot through a lens smeared with Vaseline. The beginning is the freakiest bit, with the whining camera capturing the gore found in the basement.
Now, I go off to watch The Evil Dead and [REC], which according to my friend Lindsay will make me want to cry with fear. I can’t wait.
God, I love Halloween.