Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Highlights

Even though I’m too old to Trick or Treat and don’t have any kids to do it for me, I’ve stayed plenty busy this Halloween season. Here are a few of the highlights:

The Costume:

Saturday night after the adult session of Stake Conference, I pulled out the old fringe jacket and put together the 2007 Edition of the Funk Daddy costume. Two years ago I managed to borrow a furry white coat and leather pants to create probably the most unique version of this outfit, but this year I augmented my jacket, afro and boots with a generous assortment of bling and attitude, resulting in a warm welcome at Jared Bryson’s party Saturday night.

The Corn Maze:

Hard to say how long the Corn Maze trend will last, given the hyperactive building craze in Davis County. Last year Farmington’s most prominent maze had been turned into yet another subdivision, and the maze down the road “catered to more of a family crowd”, meaning it closed at 7pm. This year some friends and I made the trek out to a maze in Syracuse, which is a Native American term for “not quite in the Great Salt Lake, but we’ve still got tons of mosquitoes”. Thanks to a hefty Ward FHE budget enhanced discount, I got to spend an hour wandering around some dude’s field for the bargain-basement price of $2.

The Party Circuit

It's getting to the point where Halloween parties are like mid-summer fireworks displays. There's not just one big display that everyone goes to; there's more of a circuit that you have to rotate through. Such was the case this year, starting last Saturday night in Farmington, continuing Monday night at a quad-ward FHE, forging on through tonight's family gathering, and finally to the Avenues District, where a shoulder-to-shoulder party landed a visit from the cops around 11pm. Those are just the ones I went to. I can think of at least four more I turned down invites for. All of the parties I attended were fun, though none life-changing, but it's always nice to have another venue to pull out the fringe jacket.

And to see friends wearing blue tights in public.

Pumpkin Carving:

A couple of years back I saw several photos of some pumpkins that had been whittled more than carved. Rather than cut straight through with sharp block shapes, they peeled away layers at varied depths, creating cool three-dimensional images. Since then I’ve been toying with the same idea, and this year I decided to carve a 360 degree pumpkin. After all, why only carve one side when you have all that great space to work with?

Here are the results:

The Chili Cook-Off:

On Monday night four local singles wards got together for a big Halloween bash, featuring music, costumes, and a chili cook-off. Predictably, most people stood around the whole time talking to their friends in their own wards. But yours truly made the most of the evening, by making off with the chili cook-off title, in spite of the fact that I made my chili extra-spicy (jalapenos, but no habaneros, unfortunately). Bad news for anyone who was sick of my constant references to my 2006 salsa title. One more highlight for the resume, baby…

The Movies:

I’ve already reported on this year’s Zombie Fest, but it bears repeating. You’ve gotta love Zombie movies. Aside from “Shaun of the Dead” and “Night of the Living Dead”, this year I’ve been able to catch a number of Halloween season gems, as well as a dud or two:

The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

The newest version of this movie, with Nicole Kidman and the new James Bond dude, was pretty weak. The 1978 version was pretty dumb, too, in spite of having Donald Sutherland and Leonard Nimoy in the cast. But the original, with Kevin McCarthy, is primo 1950’s schlock horror gold.

Watch for: the moment when McCarthy’s hair suddenly switches from Cary Grant slick coif to disheveled frantic crazy-man mess.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Some feel that “Farenheit 451” was the best film adaptation of a Ray Bradbury novel, but my vote falls with “Something Wicked This Way Comes” for the same reason I try to persuade my friends to read something OTHER than “Farenheit”: While “Farenheit 451” may be a great book, it is not classic Bradbury. Classic Bradbury is nostalgic, scary, poetic, and usually based around themes of youth, Halloween, Illinois, and science fiction. “Something Wicked This Way Comes” is all of that. “Farenheit 451” is Bradbury’s “1984”. After meeting him this summer, I'm sure Ray would agree.

Watch for: 1970’s Blaxploitation veteran Pam Grier as the bride in the ice block.

The Legend of Hell House

Totally lame. This is the movie that was remade into “The Haunting” about eight years ago, and that one was totally lame, too. All I remember about “The Haunting” was Owen Wilson getting decapitated in a fireplace while Catherine Zeta-Jones and the girl who wrote all the songs about her ex-boyfriend in “Say Anything” watched. I don’t know what I’ll remember about “Hell House”. Oh yeah…I’ll remember that it was laaaaaaaaame.

Watch for: The opening credits…this is the signal to hit “stop”.

Nosferatu (1922)

I only caught the last few minutes of this one the other night, but it’s well worth including on the list. “Nosferatu” pre-dates all other vampire movies, Bela Lugosi’s “Dracula” included. Unlike most of those movies, the vampire is hardly a tall, dark and handsome devil. He looks more like a cross between Gollum and one of the Lord of the Rings Orcs. Legend has it Max Schreck was cast in the lead role because he really was a vampire, and proceeded to wreak havoc on the set throughout the shoot. Who knows if it’s true, but it’s a cool story regardless.

Watch for: Nosferatu inexplicably walking by an open window with the morning sun pouring through, begging the viewer to ask why after hundreds of years as one of the undead, he never figured out how to do his biting at 1am.

Edward Scissorhands

Like “The Nightmare Before Christmas”, this one’s half Halloween, half Christmas, but it’s all Tim Burton. His story about a robot-android boy with scissors for hands is a powerful metaphor for alienation that works a lot more than you’d think it would. Everything about this movie is perfect, from Johnny Depp’s wide-eyed solemnity as Edward, to Alan Arkin’s detached obliviousness, to Danny Elfman’s haunting soundtrack, to the monotone suburbia that doesn’t quite know what to make of it’s newest resident.

Watch for: Edward’s reaction when Winona Ryder tells him she loves him.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

I watched this one with my roommate Erik last year at 1am, and even edited for TV, it packs a serious punch. This year I just had it playing in the next room while I was working on the 360-degree pumpkin. From time to time I’d pop in to catch the best bits.

Watch for: The early morning climax when Leatherface chases the lone survivor out onto the highway, gets hit with a rock and falls, nearly cuts his leg off with his own chainsaw, then rises to his feet and starts swinging said chainsaw around in some kind of weird inbred ballet dance as the credits roll.

My Birthday

Everybody returned LDS missionary says they were called to serve in the perfect mission, but there was something even more appropriate about me getting sent to Chicago after growing up watching a movie about two guys in black suits driving around The Windy City telling everyone they were on a "Mission from God".

Everybody also grows to love the season around their birthday, but I absolutely love having been born a week before Halloween. From Ray Bradbury to Tim Burton to fall leaves to cool weather for a guy that can't tan, it's totally perfect.

Happy Halloween, people.