As an English guy living in the States, the enthusiasm and effort that Americans put into Halloween has been a little jarring. I’m embracing it, don’t get me wrong, but it’s taken awhile to get used to.
It’s not that Halloween doesn’t exist in England—it does. But it’s sort of a c-league holiday. There’s no preparation and if there are decorations, they aren’t erected until the week of or maybe even the day of.
Trick or Treating is certainly frowned upon (although my parents tell me that it’s growing in popularity of late). At best, it’s been viewed as an American conceit. At worst, as begging. When I was young I would try to sneak away with a friend, and maybe (and only maybe) a store-bought plastic mask of some sort, and Trick or Treat the unsuspecting neighbors, who might throw a few coins our way (the resentment etched on their faces) just to remove us from their doorstep. Giving out candy, at least back then in the 1980s, was unheard of.
To me Halloween meant watching spooky stuff on TV. Again that meant sneaking (I was a sneaky kid, apparently) to watch films like An American Werewolf in London and various Hammer House of Horror flicks on my TV after lights-out. Maybe we’d make paper ghosts at school—I don’t remember. But the fuss was truly minimal.
Yer in ‘Merica now, son…
But now I live in the USA, and I have a son about to turn six. Halloween in this country is fantastic. I know people who genuinely like it better than Christmas, and I almost get it. If I had been brought up in this country, who knows, I might too. It’s worth noting that Christmas in the UK is bigger, in the sense that it’s pretty-much a ten-day thing. Christmas starts a couple of days before Christmas Day and ends maybe a day after New Year’s Day. That whole period is “Christmas,” and involves lots of time off work (in many cases), eating and drinking, seeing family, and watching holiday TV.
As long as the build-up to Christmas is over here, the actual celebration seems to be reserved for Christmas Day only. Then everything goes back to normal until New Years. Then back to normal again. Two distinct holidays separated by a week of nothing.
So yeah, I get why many people might prefer the mood and aesthetic of Halloween, based on how they’re generally celebrated in the States. I’m still a Christmas freak but then old habits die hard. I’m also a sucker for any holiday and have embraced Thanksgiving. I’ve thrown myself into American Halloween, while trying to retain the Brit enthusiasm for prolonging Christmas. That way, my son gets to experience this whole mega-blast of holiday awesomeness.
Back to Halloween…
My boy loves dressing up to Trick or Treat. As soon as Halloween is over this year he’ll be thinking about next year’s costume. I love watching him love it, and I adore walking him around to collect candy. Similarly, I love eyeballing the neighbors’ fabulous decorations, and I enjoy sitting in and waiting for kids to come to us. You guys do this thing right.
And when it’s all over—when the last of the slightly older kids has stopped by and we switch off the lights and creepy music and head to bed—it’s time for the grown-up movie fun. That’s when I put on something Halloweeny that we don’t necessarily want the son to watch. My wife doesn’t like overly violent movies, so often we’ll watch a vintage horror classic. Last year, we watched the original version of The Fly.
Here are a few horror classics I suggest, if you’re considering a moody black & white film:
Village of the Damned (1960)
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
If you’re like me, and you like your horror a little harder-hitting, then you might enjoy some of the following more extreme examples. I have to watch these in the living room when everyone else is asleep. Watch with caution:
Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
I Spit on Your Grave (1978)
Happy Halloween. Sweet dreams.
“Callwood at the Cooler” is a bi-weekly column which will see me waxing lyrical about events in the news, pop culture and the etc. Sometimes it’ll be light, other times not-so when the rant/monolog demands. The subject matter will vary dramatically so expect anything and keep coming back.