Halloween 2014 Moratorium

As I close up the last orange and black crate and slide it into place in the attic, performing an increasingly more physics-defying feat of spatial organization, my eye catches the comparatively meager stack of Christmas decoration boxes. In my mind’s ear I can hear the jingle bells ring as I pick one up and bring it down the ladder. Halloween has left the building. The rest of the holidays are on their way.

In my last post I mentioned the time dilation effect of cramming so much activity into two months. I’m thankful it works out that way, because it makes the equation of time, effort, and money expended versus good times and memories created balance out. I can already sort of pick out the memories of this Halloween that I’ll cherish years hence. The Phase I kickoff party. Putting up the first decorations while Nightmare on Elm Street played. Finally going to Fear Farm. Bad Horror Movie night. GOOD horror movie night(s). Leatherface running through my house revving a real chainsaw. The huge line of trick or treaters waiting to go through my haunted house and subsequently scream their asses off. It just feels like so much more than two months.

A LINE for my own haunted house!

A LINE for my own haunted house!

Focusing on that is perspective I sorely needed. I won’t lie – there was a lot of stress in this Halloween. Despite my truly obsessive level of planning, preparation, and efficiency, technical issues abound. “Best laid plans of mice and men” seemed utterly appropriate. The hour leading up to the big party was among the top 3 most stressful experiences I can remember; I know that it will be the inspiration for many “people are showing up to the party and you haven’t even begun decorating” nightmares in the coming years. There were times – it pains me to admit this – that I considered selling all my Halloween decorations on Craigslist and completely redefining how I “do” Halloween in the future. I was confronted with real questions about a subject I write about on this site constantly – why do I do this?

But now that it’s over, I have taken a fundamental lesson to heart. The key to creating a great, satisfying Halloween for myself isn’t in the tangibles. It’s not about ensuring a flawless execution. It’s about attitude. It’s about getting lost in the pure, visceral joy of it all. I learned a long time ago that the beauty of celebrating Halloween as an adult is, as strange as this sounds, the purity of it all. It’s a holiday with a strong connection to youth but without any bullshit or grown-up obligations to spoil it. It’s only what you make of it.

However it plays out next year, my top priority will be not to lose sight of that fundamental truth. As crazy as it is to ponder, it’ll actually be here again before we know it.

Bonfires burning bright, pumpkin faces in the night
I remember Halloween

Ghosted by Jon on November 8th, 2014 | Filed Under Musings | No Comments -

Trick or Treat

Well friends, it’s been a journey. From preliminary haunted house construction in the blistering July heat, to the pre-season rumblings and first pumpkin beers in August, to the thrill and euphoria of Phase I, the mad dash and scramble of Phase II, the Big Party… it’s all led us here.

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And yet Halloween itself is such a small part of it for me. It’s like the coda. The resolution. It’s the post-credits teaser scene. I often think back on years past when things weren’t that way. When Halloween was October 31st, and that was the one night I looked forward to. I think about how nights of trick or treating evolved into nights of driving around aimlessly, observing the trick or treating. Then that gave way to Halloween house parties, then to bigger house parties. And eventually, well… here we are.

I keep wondering about the next form Halloween will take. The natural conclusion most people would come to is having children of our own and passing it all on to them, but I wonder if there will be a different phase between this one and that? Maybe the haunted house will become the centerpiece. Maybe we’ll finally get to spend a Halloween night out of the house. I’ve always wanted to visit a town that REALLY goes over the top with it. I don’t have any experience with Halloween celebrations bigger than the one I head up.

These past two months have been filled with so much fun, laughter, shrieks, anxiety, tears, anticipation, and euphoria, it almost has slowing effect on time itself. Memories have been made and lessons have been learned. Even friendships have been forged and deepened. I’ve started to both hear and recall little stories from the party, and it makes me realize the part I experienced personally was such a small slice. That’s a really good feeling.

Maybe things change between the months of November and August, but this is starting to feel like a true blue identity for me. The guy who creates a sphere of Halloween spirit that grows with each year and draws more people into it. That’s grandiose, but I hope it’s true to some degree. It connects to so many essential nodes of my personality – creativity, indulgence, hard work, nostalgia, personal relationships, memories. It’s supremely satisfying on many levels.

But out there, this day, this night, is all it is for most people. On this night my world and their world are finally one.

Happy Halloween, friends.

Ghosted by Jon on October 31st, 2014 | Filed Under Musings | No Comments -

Is Trick or Treating Endangered?

A couple months ago I stumbled upon this article on Facebook advocating the preservation of trick or treating as a community service of sorts. If you’re in a TL;DR sort of mood (the article is actually quite short and you should read it), the crux of the article is that trick or treating as we know it is in danger of dying off as parents get more protective, more paranoid, and more susceptible to the kind of mob mentality panic driven by internet-propagated myths. You know the one about Halloween candy being poisoned? Candy apples with razor blades hidden inside? Hell, my mom used to tell me those ones. But they’re old wive’s tales. The only confirmed instances of children being harmed by tainted Halloween candy, it was their parents who did it.

The slow death of trick or treating used to be something I was very concerned about. I grew up in a semi-older sort of neighborhood, kind of middle-lower-middle class, and when I was of trick or treating age it was exactly how I imagine Halloween should be for a kid. The streets and sidewalks were hopping. Adults were hanging out in front with their garages open, handing out candy. There were home-made haunted houses. Pumpkin carving contests. Those dastardly bag-snatchers. But as I grew into the awkward teenage, “too old to trick or treat, too young to party” years, I noticed that the Halloween scene seemed to be dying out around me. Trick or treaters were starting and ending earlier, the streets didn’t seem nearly as crowded, and the legendary pumpkin carving contest had whittled down to just a handful of jack ‘o lanterns. More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on October 30th, 2014 | Filed Under Musings | No Comments -

Top 5 Horror Games

Video games are scarier than movies. So many people scoff at that notion but it’s absolutely true, and the reason is quite simple: video games are an active storytelling medium while movies are a passive one. When things get tense in a movie, you can always close your eyes, and the movie will keep on playing. What happens to the characters in a horror movie is pre-destined, and there’s a certain comfort in that knowledge.

Video games force you to be the one walking down those steps into the darkness, turning that blind corner, or fighting that monster. You can’t look away. If you make a wrong move you could die. If you get too scared to continue or you lack the skill, you may never complete the story. Nothing illustrates this difference in perception better than watching somone play a horror game versus holding the controller yourself.

This list has been a long time coming. Here are my top 5 horror games. More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on October 28th, 2014 | Filed Under Lists | No Comments -

Review – Hangar 24 Gourdgeous Imperial Pumpkin Porter

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Another one! The Year of (Pumpkin) Beer has just been full of surprises. I stumbled upon this big bottle pumpkin porter while grabbing a few old standbys for the party.

Pumpkin porters have started to become almost as common as pumpkin ales, for good reason. Porter’s rich, smoky, chocolatey flavors blend well with pumpkin pie spice. This one’s an “imperial” porter as well, which puts the ABV up into beer snob territory at 8.5%. The initial sniff from the bottle revealed little pumpkin spice – not usually a good sign. But once poured into a goblet and sipped attentively, my opinion started to lean more positively. It’s definitely subtle, but some people are more into that when it comes to pumpkin beers. I myself kind of like it to be in your face, but my personal yardstick is, would I recognize this as a pumpkin beer in a blind taste test? With this one, the answer is ever so slightly, but definitively, yes.

It pours a rich dark brown like most porters, but isn’t terribly smoky. The chocolate flavors are more pronounced. You don’t really get pumpkin until the finish where it lingers. There’s some molasses notes to be found as well.

For folks who like their pumpkin beers to be more nuanced, I recommend Gourdgeous. I suspect general beer aficionados to approve.

Rating: 3halfjack

Ghosted by Jon on October 28th, 2014 | Filed Under Beer, Reviews | No Comments -

Rob Zombie’s Halloween – Another Take

There’s been a sense of cognitive dissonance for me ever since I saw Rob Zombie’s remake of Halloween, and liked it. Critics and fans alike seemed to despise this movie – it seemed there just couldn’t be enough bad things to be said about it. And in my original review, I defended the film while still admitting its (serious) flaws. Nevertheless, over the years I’ve found myself wondering more often “why do I like this movie?” Is it because my level of anticipation was so high I didn’t want to admit to disappointment? Is it because I’m incapable of disliking any movie named Halloween? Was I preemptively reacting to the negative feedback it got prior to release?

Halloween-rob-zombie

 

More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on October 27th, 2014 | Filed Under Musings | No Comments -

Halloween 2

I have a confession. Several of my updates this month were written weeks ago and held in storage until this month, when I knew I would be too busy to keep new content coming regularly. If you glance at my archives from years past it’s clear that September, not October is my most active writing month here on I Remember Halloween. It shouldn’t be that way, but there are only so many hours in a day. This entry however, is going up the moment I finish writing it.

Tonight’s a rare night of introspection. The Big Party is tomorrow, and at this very moment everything is prepared that can be prepared in advance. When I ran out of things to hang, staple, drape, and clean, I took a stroll around the neighborhood and observed how the outside world does Halloween. It got me thinking. What is this whole Halloween thing even about anymore? I know, I’ve written about this exact subject so many times before – at least once a year on this site.

Before I get into “what it’s all about”, I’d like to share a revelation. In a year, I have many Halloweens. Of course, I’ve already made that clear in my naming convention for the season – Halloween Phase I, II, and III, but that’s painting in broad strokes. In actuality, I’d say I have at least five Halloweens. There’s September 1st, AKA Phase I, AKA the day when I let myself celebrate Halloween publicly, by watching horror movies, drinking pumpkin beer, making unnecessary visits to Spirit stores, and so forth. Then there’s the day the decorations begin, and my home starts to feel like Halloween. There’s Bad Horror Movie Night, which in recent times has started to feel like a preview of the big Halloween party. The fourth Halloween, of course, is the Camp Awesome Halloween Hootenanny, arguably the main event of the whole season. And finally, there’s Halloween night itself, when an old childhood promise is fulfilled and I unleash the full might of Halloween spirit on the trick or treaters. Sometimes there are more than five, but that’s generalizing.

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Photo credit: Jaryd Neibauer

 

All this to say, Halloween is very important to me. Spreading Halloween spirit is very important to me. Making memories is important. Why? I have no idea. That’s an anticlimactic answer, but there it is. There’s just something about it that, no matter what, always makes my heart feel full. In the past I’ve made numerous attempts to rationalize that feeling – attributing it to the connection with youth, or its status as the entryway to the holiday season, or the sheer visceral fun of it – but none of those logical explanations are totally satisfying. There’s no logical reason why I’d step on a footpad, and an animatronic zombie child would spin its head around, emitting a cartoonish scream and revealing a mouthful of blood, and my response would be to smile widely. But that’s what happens every year. It just IS.

If I could be anything, I might choose to be Sam from the movie Trick R Treat. A being of mysterious origin who has a very specific and defined purpose – to be the arbiter of Halloween. In the movie, he shows up as a silent observer in all things Halloween. He hangs out in pumpkin patches. He goes trick or treating. He watches ghastly Halloween rituals play out. He exacts brutal justice on people who disrespect the rituals of the night.

Around this time, late October, I often start to feel overwhelmed, like I’m losing sight of what makes Halloween so enjoyable to me. But in spite of those feelings, it always pays off in the end. I suppose, without really knowing it, I’m carving out an identity for this time of year.

What I’ve learned tonight is, it’s vital to take a quiet night to reflect on it all, and simply let the tones of the season soak into you, rather than broadcasting them out. Halloween is for everyone, and it’s precisely what you make out of it.

Ghosted by Jon on October 24th, 2014 | Filed Under Musings | No Comments -

How to Save Found Footage

OK, so in the past few years, the subgenre of “found footage” movies has become a pretty easy target. Even though Hollywood loves it for the fabulous profit margins it can generate, and some truly classic horror films have been built around it, audiences generally find the whole found footage thing to be, at best, a device they tolerate. At worst people will refuse to see any found footage movie, probably while using terms like “shaky cam” and claiming that it makes them nauseous.

This has been the case pretty much since the first (famous) found footage movie, The Blair Witch Project, came out in ’99. Back then found footage was merely Blair Witch’s individual gimmick, not a subgenre. About a decade later it had a resurgence, with (to name just a few examples) Cloverfield, REC/Quarantine, and most notably Paranormal Activity. VHS and VHS 2 took it to another level by blending the concept with the anthology format.

But now, taking the temperature of the public’s reaction to new found footage horror movies, it looks like the backlash has begun in earnest. After enough copycats have been released, it becomes obvious that the genre of found footage has… let’s say a limited range. However, when I think back on my reactions to seeing The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity for the first time, I am reminded that the technique CAN be used to truly great effect by competent filmmakers. And further, I think there’s still some juice left in it.  More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on October 23rd, 2014 | Filed Under Musings | No Comments -

Sleepaway Camp Review

Sleepaway

I wouldn’t normally review a movie chosen for Bad Horror Movie Night, for hopefully obvious reasons. But this year’s winner, Sleepaway Camp…. is a horse of a different color. It’s such a bizarre piece of slasher movie history, I just have to put down a few words on the subject.

There are many different types of “bad” a movie can embody. There’s bad in the traditional sense – bad story, bad writing, bad acting, bad special effects, etc.. Battlefield Earth bad. There’s shlocky bad, like Basket Case, the bad that’s got a grimy, sloppy, extraordinarily weird tone that’s usually one of the “good” kinds of bad. And there are many, many other varieties.  More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on October 21st, 2014 | Filed Under Movie Reviews, Reviews | No Comments -

The Possession – Review

Possession

*Note: This review was originally written in July of this year, but not included in the Summer of Horror series. As a result, some references may be outdated.

I had to Google the definition of a word that kept appearing in review blurbs for The Possession – “hoary”. Meaning “old, well-tread, played out, unoriginal, etc.”. It’s not necessarily the word I would have used to describe the movie myself (given that I didn’t know the definition – only the context), but I did note early in the runtime that several of the modern haunting/demonic possession movie clichés were popping up. It actually inspired me to finally write an article compiling and defining them all.

It begins “at the end” for another character we don’t know and don’t care about, acting as a sneak peek to bring us up to speed on the power and malevolence of the film’s antagonist – a cliché used in such films as Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, the Evil Dead remake, and even Oculus. In this case, the MacGuffin is a wooden box, and the wooden box houses a demon. The demon has a familiar, demonic-sounding name (Abizu) and a familiar agenda (possess a young girl). Young girls, of course, being the most susceptible to possession in horror movie land. The parents are recently divorced, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick, and the divorce subplot itself provides a fairly interesting real-world explanation for certain plot logic concerns (demonic possession probably not particularly high on a list of explanations for sudden behavioral issues in a child when divorce is in the picture).  More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on October 19th, 2014 | Filed Under Movie Reviews, Reviews | No Comments -
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