Monday, October 7, 2013

Halloween Countdown Day 7: LoEG - Here Comes Halloween!

Okay kids! It's League of Extraordinary Bloggers time once again! What's the topic this week?

This week’s assignment from the League: Here comes Halloween!

I'm already gearing up to do a ton of Halloween posts this season, so I thought this one would be easy... but honestly, it feels like it should be my "Drum Roll Please... Heeeeeere's Halloween!!!" post. So I had to really think hard about it. And what did I come up with?

My Top Ten Halloween Icons

I'm going to talk about the top ten characters that really make me feel the Halloween spirit above all others. These are the ones that make me snuggle up in my blankets and turn on all the lights in the house because I know the chill October air may slink inside the house and carry these fellows with it. 

10. Michael Myers

I feel like it's impossible to do this kind of a list without including Michael Myers... and in a way that's just not fair. I love Mikey here, I love John Carpenter's Halloween. I actually love a lot of films in the franchise, like 4&5, and the Rob Zombie remake! But inherently, the movie Halloween isn't really ABOUT Halloween. It could have taken place on almost any other night of the year and played out almost the exact same way. There are Halloween elements in the film, sure, but they aren't intrinsic to the character of Michael Myers or the murders her commits. BUT because the movie is named "Halloween" and it is such an epic scare-fest, it is a Halloween staple. There are like, ALL DAY marathons of the entire franchise after all. And because of this, Halloween the film is now inseparable from the Holiday. And I'm okay with that. 

9. Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud

A lot of people reading this list are going to be like: WHO??? And I would simply point them to the Ray Bradbury classic novel "The Halloween Tree" where this character sweeps a group of 8 boys back in time to accomplish two things: save their mysteriously ailing friend, Pipkin from death itself, AND learn the roots of the Halloween holiday. The book is high on poetic descriptions and atmosphere and relatively light on the factual stuff, but the group explore ancient Egypt, the Inquisition, the building of Notre Dame, and finally the Mexican Day of the Dead. Each stop is filled with its own macabre brand of magic to illustrate the point, and various versions of Pipkin appear, in need of rescuing. It is a book that SCREAMS autumn, and the description of the Halloween Tree itself is one of the most Halloween-y things you can actually experience. Forget the cartoon. That looks terrible. The book is where it's at. And Mr. Moundshroud in his long, lean, black vestments and bony countenance looks like he's an obvious ancestor to the much more famous: 

8. Jack Skellington

Jack here isn't higher on the list for one major reason: His film isn't strictly about Halloween. The Nightmare Before Christmas is not a pure and unadulterated paean to Halloween. It pulls in elements of the Christmas season and its meaning as well. Even though Jack here is the Pumpkin King, he longs for more. He longs to take over other Holidays. BUT! When he's on top of his game, he is pure bottled Halloween and nothing more. His performance, and the performance of the rest of the Halloween-town denizens, at the beginning of the film literally gives me goosebumps EVERY time I hear or see it. It is a song and a scene that literally defines Halloween. I saw The Nightmare Before Christmas in the theater when it first came out. There were parts that spoke to me on such a beautiful, personal level that I will never forget the experience. The spirit of Halloween may be woven together with the spirit of Christmas... but it is by no means diluted by it. 

7. The Universal Monsters

This is kind of a cheat I guess... but let me explain. Almost all of these creepy creatures can completely stand on their own, and the quite capably do... absolutely any time of the year. None of them distinctively BY THEMSELVES defines the idea of Halloween. BUT! When you get them together, boy have you got a party! It can only be ONE kind of party. And that is a Halloween party. It's when we see these guys team up for outings like Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein, The Monster Squad, songs like the Monster Mash, or books like Adam Rex's Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich that we see the bright orange Halloween light start to shine through. Monster MAKE Halloween, and it's when you start to see them ganging up on humanity that you realize it must be October. I'm sure that this is one of the reasons why my next icons are so effective... especially this year!

6. The CEREAL Monsters!!!

General Mills sort of had a brilliant idea when they relegated their Monster cereals, including Count Chocula, Franken-Berry, and Boo-Berry to the Halloween season only. Nowadays, when you see the toothsome visage of Count Chocula grinning at you from his distinctive brown box, you KNOW Halloween is on its way. These are cereals that don't NEED to be out on the shelves all year long. And waiting for September to roll around so you can get your paws on them just makes you that much more HUNGRY for them. And this year? What a year to rejoice!!! The rebirth of not ONE but TWO long-lost Monster cereals!!! Fruity Yummy Mummy and Fruit Brute are back! The only thing that could possibly TOP this would be the introduction of some sort of NEW Monster cereal next year, possible involving the Creature from the Black Lagoon...? Either way, for this one reason alone, the 2013 Halloween will be a hard one to top. And Halloweens in the future with have FIVE cereal harbingers to lead the march!

5. Fred McFee

Eve Bunting's The Bones of Fred McFee is the one book I can't WAIT to pull down off the shelf every Halloween season and read over and over again. It is an almost perfect shivery Halloween tale. With pictures that range from a "little creepy" to "downright spooky" it never gets TOO heavy for my kids to handle, and tells a tale of a plastic Halloween decoration that seems to take on a not quite a life all his own... but lets say a presence all his own. This book dukes it out with several other spooky favorites when it comes to great children's books around Halloween time... but it always ends up on the top of the stack. 

4. The Devil

What other time of the year can you think of when the Devil is socially accepted as a decoration around the house or an outfit to go out dressed up in? Arbor day? Nah. HALLOWEEN all the way baby! Ol' Scratch here has been a Halloween must-have since the early days, as it is mostly the Devil and his unearthly legion of demonic servants that we started dressing up to protect ourselves from in the first place. Heck, one of our most basic symbols of Halloween, the Jack o' Lantern, comes from the tale of The Devil and Stingy Jack! Without Stingy Jack and his lantern (originally carved from a turnip) we wouldn't have Jack o' Lanterns at all! Without Jack o' Lanterns, pumpkins wouldn't be a symbol of Halloween, and therefore there would be no "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown!" to watch every season. So take a moment today to thank Satan for the popularity of Peanuts everyone. I know when I start seeing the decorative face of Lucifer up in a house's windows that Halloween is officially on it's way. Unless it's June. Then I cross over to the other side of the street. 

3. Garfield

No brainer here guys. Garfield's Halloween is my absolute #1 favorite Halloween special. No contest. I love it way more than The Great Pumpkin. No other Halloween special so perfectly encapsulates every cool thing about Halloween in roughly 22 minutes. From picking out a costume to getting candy-candy-candy, to the act of walking the sidewalks at night Trick-or-Treating, all the best stuff is featured. And the second half of the special features the spooky supernatural part that every good Halloween special NEEDS. No one just sits out in a pumpkin patch all night in a futile attempt to catch the magic of the season... the magic of the season pops its skeletal face through the door of a cabinet and snarls right in the characters faces! No one gets a rock in their treat bag, for if they had, the main character would have shredded the drapes of the homeowners who gave out such an insulting dud. No one goes out in a ghost costume with 20 eye-holes cut in it... but the idea of going as an Alien Creature Going Out on the Town was considered at one point. Classic. I pop in this DVD and it doesn't matter how early in the season it is... it suddenly BECOMES Halloween. 

2. The Headless Horseman

You CANNOT have Halloween without this guy. The story BLEEDS Halloween in all the adaptations it has been made into, but ESPECIALLY the Dinsey animated version of the tale, and (one of my personal favorites) the Tim Burton film Sleepy Hollow. From Snickers commercials (I am the Horseless Headsman!) to the new FOX Supernatural-esque show "Sleepy Hollow" Ol' Headless just lends an awesome feel of old-style FEAR to the coming season. The idea that there is a spirit out there that wants to decapitate you and take your head as its own is a powerful one. And tying his legend to pumpkin imagery and the Harvest season doesn't hurt either. To me, if there is a true spirit of Halloween, the Headless Horseman should through his hat in the ring (ha! see what I did there?) to compete. 

1. Sam from Trick R' Treat

I know. You're probably all rolling your eyes and sighing at this one. Some of you are probably cursing my name and shaking your fists at my blog right now, enraged that I would value Trick R' Treat over the seminal film Halloween. But... hey. This film IS Halloween. It never stops being Halloween from start to finish... and I have NEVER seen a movie creature like Sam who so perfectly embodies the spirit of Halloween the way he does, both passively and aggressively. He is a timeless, gleeful witness to the horrific events that unfold on Halloween simply sitting and soaking in the scenes of murder and mayhem. But he gets his hands dirty as well. As a sort of timeless, vengeful trick-or-treater Sam is an enforcer of Halloween's rules and is ruthless in his punishments of those who blow out Jack-O-Lanterns or refuse to give out treats. He is the dark side of costumes and candy and the orange and black magic that is Halloween. AND I LOVE THAT. Can something be considered sadistic when it isn't human, and the concepts of love and forgiveness are alien to them? Can pure mischief and mayhem be stuffed squealing and squirming into a set of footy pajamas and a burlap hood and be given life one dark day a year? I think so. And so this movie has become a yearly tradition for me. My 13 year old daughter is not ready to watch this one. But when she is, so help me I will pop that DVD into the player so fast her head will spin. 

So that's it! Thats my big "Drum Roll Please... Heeeeeere's Halloween!!!" post. I hope you agree with at least SOME of it. My Halloween is a fun Halloween. It has a little bit of a mean-streak, sure, but ultimately it's magical, and breath-taking, and hair-raising, and rabble-rousing, and memory-making, and goose-bumping, and supernatural, and JUST FUN!!!

Let's see what the rest of the League has to welcome in the day of masks: 

- I genuinely love Hob-Gob's picks for the things that make him think "Halloween" over at the Monster Cafe Saltillo

- Nerd Out With Me posts a list of truly TERRIFYING favorite Halloween movies... but I think they forgot Trick R' Treat. Must just be a typo. I'll send Sam right over to straighten them out. 

That's it for me Kiddos! I'll be back soon enough to show off some more Grisly Goodwill Goodies! Until then, Happy Haunting!

Be sure to check out all of the great blogs participating in this year's Halloween Countdown! You can do so by clicking this link, or clicking on the Cryptkeeper 2013 banner on the sidebar to the right! Also, check out the "Blog-O-Ween" Halloween Blog collective, again by following this link, or through the badge on the sidebar! Thanks!


  1. * The book cover for "The Halloween Tree" done by Leo and Diane Dillon is actually a favorite illustration of mine.

    I remember the cartoon was one of the last VHS tapes I ever rented. I was a freshman in college and I saw a tape that bore the magic words "Ray Bradbury", "Leonard Nimoy" (who did Moundshroud's voice) and "Cartoon Network". That was all I needed to be hooked.

    Sadly I don't remember much of the cartoon other than that Moundshroud looked a lot like Mr. Burns, especially with the yellow skin. I probably would have liked it better if I had seen it when I was younger, which is something I seem to be saying that a lot in regards to scary movies lately.

    * I lived and breathed the Universal monsters when I was a little kid. They were just so much fun. I even tracked down all the sequels in the "Creature" series I was so engaged by it. I loved the packaging on the VHS tapes, so artistic and uniform in their design. I've been looking for a website that collects the original paintings for the covers, but haven't found one yet. The other day I actually tweeted the ad they played at the start of the tape that just set the mood perfectly:

    * My favorite monster cereal is actually Post Mortems:

    Its cool they resurrected some classic cereals, though I'm not sure why Fruit Brute looks like a Rockabilly biker now.

    * Never heard of Fred McPhee but I want to read it now. I've never been too keen on illustrating kid's books because so many people have tried to swindle me into painting their pet projects for free, but a Halloween themed children's book would be a dream project for me.

    1. I'd LOVE to swindle you into illustrating my pet projects... but alas most publishers don't want pre-illustrated stuff unless the illustrator ALSO wrote it in my experience. I have a collection of Halloween-themed poems that no one wants to publish and I'll probably just end up sharing here on my blog.

      Eve Bunting has a handful of excellent Halloween children's books that really seem to bring out the best in the illustrators working with her. Her language is so evocative on its own, and just full of Halloween imagery. If you search her name on this blog you'll find a couple of her books featured in last year's countdown posts.

      Have you ever read the Halloween Tree? If not I URGE you to do so! If you can find a copy of The October Country I highly recommend that as well. And while I'm on the subject, I'm currently finishing up a thrid re-read od Joseph Payne Brennan's "Shapes of Midnight" which is just a spectacular anthology of horror stories from the 50's and 60's that sets the mood for this season amazingly well.

      Thank you for taking the time to write such a great and well-thought-out comment!

    2. Yeah, I keep having to give these novice authors the speel about how publishers are going to want an idea to stand on its own that they can make and mold.

      Maybe I don't need a book, but I'd settle for a Halloween project in general right about now. Perhaps some of your seasonal poetry could provide some inspiration.

      Glad you enjoyed such a long post, it was nothing at all really. I'm just living vicariously through your celebrations as I don't seem to have much time for holiday rituals and traditions these days.

  2. I'm interested in reading 'The Bones of Fred Mcfee' now. Sounds interesting. And, sad as it may sound, I never seen or even heard of Trick 'R treat. though I just found out it's streaming on Netflix. guess I know what I'm watching this weekend!

    1. Never... heard-- I... I just... That is just shocking. Go watch it right now. I'll wait here. Go.

      And order Fred McFee on Amazon immediately. (No idea why I spelled it with a 'ph' when I posted this.

    2. "Trick R Treat" was actually the very first thing I watched on Netflix streaming, I suspect it'll be in that format forever.

    3. Awesome. I'm going to watch it on Sat night. Let you know how it goes. Just ordered Fred McFee on Amazon for under 6 bucks. :)

  3. I bought Trick or Treat not knowing what to expect. I thought it was going to be a nostalgic look at Halloween. It was so disturbing. I am afraid to show it to wifey.

    1. Well, it is a horror movie... I don't find it any more disturbing than a Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street film, and this one is so drenched in Halloween color and spirit that it just amps it all up to 11!

  4. Great list! I love that you included Moundshroud and Sam! I love Sam! But, I have to disagree with your thought that the Halloween film is only barely about Halloween. The whole thing hinges on the fact that we are more unsettled on this one night. Normal, non-horror movie people even get pulled into the spooky, eerie feel of the night. Playing the movie on this night heightens all the scares and makes all the noises in the night that much scarier. Now, going to go look up that Fred McFee book! :)

    1. While I agree that the Holiday adds somewhat to the atmosphere of the film, I've just never really felt like you couldn't have this movie happen in the middle of a Summer evening and still accomplish most of the plot without much trouble. You'd have to alter some of the story to remove mentions of Halloween and trick or treating... but those aren't really vital elements otherwise. It could have been Valentine's Day, or Arbor day, and Michael would still have been just as terrifying and menacing... and deadly. I suppose that Michael wearing a Halloween mask might have been directly inspired by it being Halloween... but that's about all I'll concede. I still equate the film with the Holiday, and there's no denying that... but I feel like that's the cart leading the horse and not the other way around.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...