Difficult to know whether to file this under blogs, film reviews, travelogues or what, since it refers to the general concept of Halloween, the movie series and my trip from last year. What the hell – blogs will do fine for now!
For a feature on the calendar that originated as “All Hallow’s Day”, Halloween has followed Christmas and Easter into the American commercialisation model. As noted in Wikipedia:
“Development of artifacts and symbols associated with Halloween formed over time. For instance, the carving of jack-o’-lanterns springs from the souling custom of carving turnips into lanterns as a way of remembering thesouls held in purgatory. The turnip has traditionally been used in Ireland and Scotland at Halloween, but immigrants to North America used the native pumpkin, which are both readily available and much larger – making them easier to carve than turnips. The American tradition of carving pumpkins is recorded in 1837 and was originally associated with harvest time in general, not becoming specifically associated with Halloween until the mid-to-late 19th century.
“The imagery of Halloween is derived from many sources, including national customs, works of Gothic and horror literature (such as the novels Frankenstein and Dracula), and classic horror films (such as Frankenstein andThe Mummy). Among the earliest works on the subject of Halloween is from Scottish poet John Mayne in 1780, who made note of pranks at Halloween; “What fearfu’ pranks ensue!”, as well as the supernatural associated with the night, “Bogies” (ghosts), influencing Robert Burns‘ Halloween 1785. Elements of the autumn season, such as pumpkins, corn husks, and scarecrows, are also prevalent. Homes are often decorated with these types of symbols around Halloween.
So the horror elements have been there for Centuries, but only recently have the Americans dumbed it down to please small children and extract money from their parents in the form of costumes, masks and other paraphernalia. Trick or treating either charms or enrages householders here, though I for one won’t be investing in sweets to please the kiddies, should any dare to venture to my door.
Having said that, some of the more inventive costumes can be a joy to behold. I spent Halloween 2010 in Glasgow, during which I scoured the streets and stations to take photos of people in costume in the pouring rain. A remarkably successful trip too – obviously some young people spent many hours working on their outfits and doubtlessly had a great evening drinking and dancing in the clubs of Glasgie!!
For those, like me, who don’t get invited to fancy dress parties, there is always the horror movie to watch, none better than the original John Carpenter version of Halloween, which spawned a succession of inferior sequels, largely featuring the slashing serial killer Michael Myers, he of the boiler suit and ice hockey mask. I remember this movie vividly, firstly because I originally saw it in Nottingham when my very long term mate Nigel came to stay for a weekend during my first year at uni there. We went to the cinema in town and saw a horror double bill: The Living Dead From The Manchester Morgue (a Spanish-Italian co-production, mostly set in the Lake District, since you ask), followed by Carpenter’s Halloween. I recall feeling decidedly jumpy that night, but those were the days when horror movies were somehow original and not ever gorier remakes or quite so tired and formulaic and they now seem to this jaded viewer. Applying the stalk & slash principle to Halloween seemed so obvious it was just a surprise nobody had done it before, even if it was Springtime when it actually reached UK shores!
The pumpkin industry rubs its hands in glee every year at the prospect of a massive boost to its sales as parents shell out for large squashes, then carve them into decorative lanterns to sit outside the house, more these days to show off to the neighbours than to ward off demons, one suspects, but a pleasant tradition nonetheless were it not for the fact that many households choose to throw away the succulent flesh of the pumpkin rather than to make a range of tasty dishes with it. OK, it can get a bit like the Christmas turkey once you’ve done soup, risotto, pie and roast pumpkin, but a crying shame to waste such tasty (and freezable!) veg.
So tonight, Halloween 2011, I shall cook some squash with my dinner and settle down to watch the DVD of Carpenter’s movie. Beware….