Dressing up in silly costumes and letting your hair down or indeed teasing your wig up are alright by me. Even so, I find the frenzied commercial bloodfest that descends on the USA in the run up to Halloween unsavoury.
As a child in England in the 70’s, I remember Halloween as the very poor cousin to Bonfire Night. We might mark it by apple bobbing or trying to extract a 5p coin from a mound of flour with no hands i.e. mouth only.
It was not a commercial affair; shops on Bexleyheath High Street didn’t fill their windows with tack related to body parts, vampires and hauntings.
21st Century horror
Scroll forward to 2017 and Halloween has become big business in the UK. It’s still got nothing on what goes down in the States. By nothing, I mean several million dollars, spooky decorations and a lot of candy.
Since my arrival at the start of October shops have slowly begun embracing the occult, giving haven to covens of witches, or benches to the undead.
There’s one week to go and the spiders’ webs and crime scene tapes on ordinary porches have spread like a virus.
Now, as I said, dressing up in itself is fun. What unsettles me with all this Halloween stuff is the undercurrent of gore, violence and downright horror.
Tricked into treating
For kids, Halloween is about dressing up and knocking on strangers doors basically begging for sweets (candy in the local lingo).
For adults, it’s about a fancy dress and partying. I caught an episode of the Simpsons yesterday which parodied this with a song about adult Halloween. It basically laid bare how raucous and sexual the behaviour of those disguised party ghouls can be.
For one day of the year you can behave badly, wickedly even, after all it’s Halloween.
On my last trip to NYC I went to watch the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade. It was quite an experience seeing the streets full of people dressed as superheroes, ghouls and zombies, bloodied nurses and stumbling mummies.
My mood turned when a man walking behind me waving a (fake) bloodied knife swung towards me heavy breathing. He rasped menacingly in my ear.
His costume was dark, his face made up to ensure he looked suitably grim. Basically he was bloody scary and I really did not want him rasping in my face with a realistic looking knife inches from me.
It suddenly struck me that not only is Halloween a celebration of commercialism but it’s quite unpleasant at times.
I vote for fairies
This past week, whilst TV channel hopping I’ve stumbled on an advert for the film, “Happy Death Day”. Released to coincide with the Halloween season, its delightful storyline can be summarised as, ‘A college student must relive the day of her murder over and over again’.
The trailer makes clear that this is not a pleasant experience. Why people find this sort of film, centred on violence and the murder of a young woman entertaining I know not.
I know I’m in a minority here, but instead of marking death and horror, wouldn’t it be lovely to have a day marking happiness, fairies, unicorns, angels, puppies and rainbows?
If we’re going to continue to make such a thing of Halloween, wouldn’t it be great to get traditional and switch the focus back to warding off ghosts rather than a celebration of horror and candy excesses?
Put bluntly, it’s my opinion that Halloween parties should not be an excuse for people to dress up as serial killers and scare strangers by leering at them. That is horrid, ET in a sheet was not. Somewhere along the way Halloween has crossed the line between fun and horror.