How Halloweeny Is *Too* Halloweeny?
Aaaaaah. Halloween in the ‘burbs. The finest way to really get to know the neighbors whom you consciously avoid for the other 364 days of the calendar year. Actually, ‘avoid’ isn’t really the right word.
Ignore mostly. That’s pretty much it.
On certain unintentional occasions where you’re caught getting the mail at the same time or some other nightmarish scenario of forced human interaction, you’ll both offer a meaningful head nod or a casual wave. Or perhaps stretch to a distressing ‘hello’, even if it makes you feel a bit dirty and overly connected.
You do just enough, I’m saying, to get the candy.
But it’s the days leading up to Halloween where people show their true colors. I’m decidedly not a horror person, and not much of a Halloween person. I tend to lean toward the preference of ‘spooky’ decorations over grotesque ones. But this year I’ve felt like I’m seeing the results of a society that has spent the last half century or so in love with the horror genre. A society where films like ‘Saw’ or the omnipresence of vampires and zombies in pop culture have possibly now nudged the spooky needle to a darker place.
So, baseline. A house with a couple of smiling ghosts in the front yard, maybe some decorative spiderwebs in the bushes? That’s kind of my definition of Halloween spooky.
This is the ghost that flies outside our house, for example.
I have little ones, so we don’t want them to get freaked out. We had a decoration, for example, of a voodoo skeleton in a cape-cum-top-hat ensemble that we chose not to hang up this year because it felt a little sinister.
So that’s us. Super non-scary.
But people have varying tastes about what’s scary or spooky or Halloween-appropriate and I enjoy seeing what others come up with.
I drove by this, for example, which caught my eye.
Not scary, not jarring, but a good Halloween sight gag for cars bombing past. It was life-size, so it made me do a double-take. Solid.
Driving around, you see people who really looooooooove Halloween and really get into it. Take this house for example. I snapped this photo on my way past, so it’s not great, but there’s an inflatable cat that is as tall as the front porch there.
Now, is this really scary? I’d say no. I’d say this is the house of someone who really digs Halloween. The skeleton pirate might give my four year old the willies, or maybe the lady with the black eyes there, but there’s nothing too scary about it.
Driving onward, I came across this one:
This one I really liked. (Originally the fallen mannequin in the background was pushing the lawnmower but the wind knocked it over before I could get a picture.)
What I enjoy about this is it’s both whimsical and super creative and the ‘victim’ of the lawnmower attack is clearly not human. He has a green face and white hair so he looks like a ghoul or monster of some kind. Is the severed, bloody leg too scary for kids? Probably not. I think what you have here is someone with a fun imagination taking the time to really get into it. I can get behind that.
I get into this one a bit less.
Here we have a corpse with a werewolf howling over it. Cool. There’s a butcher’s knife jammed into the chest, ostensibly from the werewolf or an unseen werewolven accomplice, and we see that the victim’s head, hand and foot have been gnawed off.
Nothing makes kids want to knock back some treats more than gore and the dried remnants of blunt force trauma to the head. Oh, and look! There’s an opportunistic rat nibbling on a human elbow. Ah! The circle of life.
You have to admire the design and effort put into the display, but to me, this one is a bit grim. Especially for the young’uns.
But, this season, anyway, this is the one that tops the list for grisly. I’m driving down the road and a smiling jack o’lantern catches my eye…
Wait, was that…
Holy moly! That I did NOT expect. So I back up and get out of my car. I want to see this one up close. That’s when it gets super disturbing because the mannequin is motorized in some way, and every few seconds, the legs start twitching.
That’s messed up. I mean, kind of impressive from a design standpoint, but super messed up.
Now I’m not going to chase anyone off my lawn about this, but it’s interesting how this type of imagery has permeated the mainstream. I live in a very blue collar town, but all of the more graphic ones came from decidedly more affluent suburbs. What does it mean? I’m actually not sure. I just thought it was interesting.
There’s a pretty good chance that I’m a real prude when it comes to graphic imagery of the Halloween nature. I’ll own that. It’s a form of self-preservation. I just don’t like shit like that in my kitchen because once I see it I can never shake it out of my mind. I’m still freaked out by horror movies I saw as a kid. But I wonder if it’s just my neck of the woods where the demarcation line of holiday-acceptable decor seems to have been hatcheted to death, making way for more visually jarring displays, or is it a more universal thing?
Either way, it’s truly fascinating to see what sort of macabre imagery people choose to gussy up their homestead with.
I leave you with that final, confusing image from the header, from a house in my neighborhood. On the same road as my house, but twenty-six houses away and over the border into the neighboring town. The home of yet another ‘neighbor’ that I’ve never met, but someone who seems to have a truly scintillating grasp of social issues.
Right there on the street where I live.
I wonder if they’ll invite me in for a hearty discussion and some tea and crumpets the next time I ring their doorbell with a Lizzy Warren pamphlet under my arm.
Happy Halloween, friends. May your sacks runneth over with chocolate.
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