Let’s go Shotgun style this time. Rather than focus on one Flashback item this week, I thought that I’d talk about the general concept of Halloween favorites. This includes the linking back to some of the favorite horror-themed pieces that I’ve done for Newsarama, as well as discussing some things like your fondly remembered Halloween costumes and other October merriment. Shall we?Favorite Halloween Costumes: Though I fondly remember some of the costumes I had as a youngster, my own kids have kind of co-opted this from me. My mother actually handmade several Star Wars costumes that held up rather well at the time; in various years in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s I was Chewbacca, Vader, and a Jawa (complete with Zany Zappers glasses for glowing eyes inside the hood).
These days, thanks to easily available costumes that have a good level of quality (as opposed to the plastic crap we had to put up with), my sons have had some awesome outfits. For Connor’s first Halloween (he was nine months old), he was a Dalmatian puppy; he wife was Cruella DeVil, and I was her henchman. The next year, Connor was The Flash (Wally), I was Jay Garrick, and my wife was pregnant with Kyle, but still supported the team in an oversized Flash T-shirt. The next year, we went non-genre; Connor was a monkey, Kyle was a turtle, Becky was a giraffe, and I was a zebra. Two years ago, the boys were Batman and Robin, with the role-reversal of my oldest, Connor, being Robin, and my then-toddler, Kyle, being Batman. Last year, the whole family dressed up as the Scooby gang (I was Fred, Becky was Daphne, Connor was Shaggy, and Kyle was Scooby; on one outing, we ran into a little girl dressed as Velma that looked at us like she’d seen a ghost. Or a roast, as the case may be).
This year, Connor gets to be Vader himself (tricked out with the rockin’ Vader gloves and his rather cool spring-loaded, light-and-sound red lightsaber) while Kyle, almost four, elected to be an Ewok. I made him a pretty cool spear that’s a) twice his height and b) extraordinarily dangerous. Becky and I debated about dressing up with them; my original concept of her as Leia-in-Boushh disguise with me as Chewbacca was quashed by a) a lack of easily available Boushh outfits and b) my refusal to pay what it would cost to have the non-crappy adult Chewbacca outfit. My sort-of-always-in-effect suggestion that Becky be Slave Leia was met with disdain from the wife, who said that it was a) too cold, and b) not happening even if we’d had a heat wave. We’re not sure if the kids will want to stick with shared theme going forward, and we’re not sure that we’ll dress up with them again. Connor kind of liked the idea of us all being the Incredibles, or us all being Green Arrow-related characters (with me being Ollie, Becky being Black Canary, him being Connor Hawke, and Kyle being a Titans-esque Speedy), but I really don’t see doing that to our cats.First question, then: what were some of your own favorite costumes of Halloweens past, and who has kids with great outfits?
Halloween Pieces: Easily one of my favorite series that I’ve done here at Newsarama has been the Blog@ween series. I recently did a blog post that contained links to the six original installments before kicking off the new run with a look at Iron Man. I also did a lengthy look at genre films from the ‘30s to the ‘70s that included more than a little horror. And, of course, there was “Great Moments in Zombie History”, which broke the site for a few minutes.
One of the through-lines to those pieces is the simple fact that I love horror movies. Granted, I’m far from alone in that, but the way that I personally got into horror has totally faded. As a kid in the late ’70s, I discovered horror films from two sources: local daytime syndication packages, and our local late-night horror host. A few years ago, I wrote the following as part of an article aboutFrankenstein for Fangoria.com: “I first discovered the film as a young boy when one of the local TV affiliates out of Indianapolis would show horror films in the afternoons. That’s right; in the ‘70s, in the days before pervasive cable, affiliates would often purchase film “packages” to show either during off daytime or late evening hours. One of the locals might show five days of Godzilla and related films, five days of Universal classics, and so on. This is where I recall seeing all of the key Frankenstein films for the first time in my youth.“
As for the concept of the late night horror host, I covered that in another Fango bit, saying, “I was born in 1973, and had the good fortune of watching Sammy Terry out of Indianapolis for many years. My experience echoes the experiences of many of my (and at least one previous) generation: their Elvira, their Svengoolie, their Dr. Creep, and so on, were key figures in introducing them to the horror genre. While a few still operate, like Dr. Gangrene, their influence has waned. In fact, several of my college students had no idea that such a phenomenon existed until I brought it up in film class one day. (For more on this, if you’re curious, consult the sublime The Monster Show by David J. Skal, among others).”
So, question number two: Did you have a local horror host? If so, whom? Any films you discovered that way?
Getting Literary: Of the literally hundreds of tomes compiling horror fiction and essays, one of my favorites deals almost exclusively with Halloween. If you’ve never read October Dreams: A Celebration of Halloween, I highly recommend it. It’s from 2002, and contains Halloween remembrances alongside stories from the likes of Peter Straub, Jack Ketchum, Poppy Z. Brite, F. Paul Wilson, Ramsey Campbell, and a legion of others. Give it a look, friends.SPOOKY!