Ah, ‘tis the season for cardigans, crispy fall leaves, frosty windshields and pumpkin spice everything. Hello, October! I greet you with a cautious high five, because, you know, climate change. It’s still going to be in the 80s and 90s for a minute. But I won’t complain—in my home state of Alabama, those jokers are suffering almost 100-degree days with like 200 percent humidity. It’s really not fun. Sucks to be them. It sucks to be all of us, really. How much longer until we’re just sizzling in 100-degree heat year-round? I’m afraid to ask.
But it is almost Halloween. Since this column takeover has been my venting space and accidental “You Know What Grinds My Gears?” portion of Submerge, I’ll confess yet another thing to y’all. I’ve never been trick-or-treating. Ever. I grew up in a really, really religious household in small-town Alabama, y’all feel me?
According to my mom, Halloween was a pagan holiday for devil-worshippers and pedophiles who hid razor blades in candy. Real horror movies, like The Exorcist, opened a door to evil and most certainly meant spiritual doom. At least, that’s the story that was spun for me my entire childhood. Which is probably why The Shining is one of my all-time favorite books and films (though, don’t get me started on how much Mr. King hates Kubrick’s iteration, I get it), and also why I was convinced that I was going to be possessed by Satan at age 10, because I sneakily watched that Linda Blair/pea soup masterpiece on cable when my mom wasn’t paying attention. I didn’t sleep for like a year. I’m not even kidding. I confessed, because I was scared shitless about Satan and all that, and my mom didn’t do anything to calm my nerves. She told me a possession could happen. I had “opened the door,” as she said.
Religious moms are like 1,000 times scarier than Halloween.
One of the saving graces, however, as a child who didn’t celebrate Halloween, was the kid movies that were about Halloween. Somehow these were deemed “OK” on the short list of things my sister and I were allowed to watch. Some of them have stood the test of time, and others … not so much (Double Double, Toil and Trouble, starring the Olsen twins, anyone?). These movies have somehow become staples of my yearly fall viewing, invoking a nostalgia so delicious that it was almost as sweet as the candy I never collected from strangers.
Let’s talk about Hocus Pocus, in what I argue is Sarah Jessica Parker’s most beautiful role ever. It’s a classic for anyone who was alive and young in the ‘90s, and I will never tire of watching the Sanderson sisters try to suck the lives out of children. It’s hilarious. The older I get, the more I sympathize with their plight. Getting older sucks, and children are pretty annoying. Having a talking cat would be cool.
And what about 1995’s Casper? What’s not to love about a friendly ghost, a stubborn teenager with a hot dad and a spooky old house? This movie is like the training wheels for The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix, which I still haven’t managed to get through because it’s too scary (and I know the spoiler, but really, that shit is still scary).
Then there’s Beetlejuice, which I will watch any day of the year, but October is so much more festive. He lived through the Black Plague (had a pretty good time), has seen The Exorcist about 167 times (and it keeps getting funnier every time he sees it) and he’s the ghost with the most. This is one of the most quotable movies of my childhood. Also Alec Baldwin’s hottest role. Prove me wrong.
There’s a few that I return to every now and then (Witches, The Worst Witch—what was it with all the witch movies back then???), but those are my solid kid Halloween movies that I own on Blu-ray to this day, and watch like clockwork when the leaves finally fall off the trees and the Karens are sipping on their PSLs in Ugg boots. I’m nostalgic for these movies because they were my Halloween experience, and I’m sure every one of you has something like this that puts you in a good mood around this time of year. Maybe it’s taking your own kids trick-or-treating, or dressing like a slutty pumpkin and hitting the bars, or eating every single pumpkin-flavored thing that crosses your path at Trader Joe’s. I’ll be at home watching witches try to recapture their youth, while eating candy and making my dog wear a costume.
Ironic? Maybe. Happy Halloween.
**This write-up first appeared in print on page 7 of issue #302 (Oct. 9 – 23, 2019)**