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Halloween spooks borrow film theatrics

Sharon Cox, For The Sun

Hollywood movies have lent costumers images that bypass the Halloween’s original concept of imagery. What once was a skeleton carved out of wax, wood, bone or brilliantly painted on a sheet, has evolved into images that were imagined simply to frighten. The day after Halloween, Day of the Dead (Nov. 1), is celebrated in many countries and cultures as a memorial day for deceased relatives and loved ones.

Flowers, food, music, dance and family feasts make up the memorials at family and public shrines. Skeletons, skulls and bones in general, represent the connections and love family members display as they commemorate the life of that loved one. They are not meant to be frightening. Bright colors and joyful festivities help set the stage for celebration.

Popular culture has taken that holiday and attached the sheer pleasure of being frightened, along with Halloween in Hollywood: “Frankenstein,” “Carrie” and “The Blair Witch Project.” They contain spooky characters meant to frighten and sell images (products).

In Jamestown, 100 years ago, the worst thing a city dweller might expect tonight from a trick-or-treater might be an overturned trash can, a horse let loose to roam or a carriage pushed out of the barn. Perhaps an orange candle shaped like a jack-o-lantern might be placed in a window indicating available treats or a youngster wearing an old white sheet might be seen on the streets in town. But there would not be big rubber masks that look like movie characters. That phase of Halloween is fairly recent.

Along with spooky movies and the popularity of campy, cult films (with uglier than ugly creatures) come marketing sales and the advent of the synthetic mask (and cheap labor that made all those disposable costumes found at dollar stores).

Instead of a simple skeleton, there’s strange spirals of “Uzumaki,” a 2000 film about a town overrun with clock-like springs that “boing,” slither, and manage to disturb much the same way a ‘60s Op Art piece messes with the eyes and balance. I can just imagine a costume with flat springs gyrating down main street tonight. It would be funny, but not scary, unless you were a “springed” victim of the cult film.

The way marketable objects are inserted into today’s Halloween films is akin to pimping. It’s likely the film “ain’t so great,” but if you can take away something to brag about (like a bobble-head character, T-shirt or toy) the patron can then brag about what a cool dude he/she was to be able to sit through the whole thing. And more frequently than not, bragging rights beat having to actually experience the piece.

So the more absurd the character, the better. The “Halloween” series, “Sleepy Hollow,” “Lady in White” and a number of really creepy and scary movies are better to rent than try to portray as a character.

Zombies are especially popular right now, so expect some grown-up “children,” dressed as half-dead people, knocking at the door. It’s the evolution of horror, folks. Try not to laugh, act scared and hold the coal.

If anyone has an item for this column, please send to Sharon Cox, PO Box 1559, Jamestown, ND 58402-1559.