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Halloween – the funniest holiday of the year

November 5, 2010

Few things are more unintentionally-comedic than Halloween. Last Friday eve, a couple of my mates with Jack-Tripper era ambitions decided that bars needed to be visited, and did Jack’s best bud/nemesis Larry ever let life-as-a-sitcom-trope prevent him from that last poor decision before the commercial break? (Better to keep you glued to the Tele for ads pitching Ayds diet candies and Ginsu knives that “cut through shoes, it’ll cut through a tin can…It will even cut through huuuman bone!” – more on this later). Being that I’ve finally been deemed worthy of joining the productive ranks of society, I was unable to join their exploits at one of the growing clan of pubs employing a happy hour that begins before 3 pm. Best to get the high-school kids as 6th period ends, I guess.

So I arrive around 6, and we pound/crush/sip/spill a few glasses of water, some of which hop-infused, as Dwight Howard and Dwyane Wade look down from the precariously-positioned TV. “We need to get outta here”, belches Buddy #1. After realizing that none of our bourbons were on the tab (thanks, Amelia!), we cross the crowd of apathy to a bar called Cowboy Slim’s, which Enid from Ghost World would claim “Is so bad, it’s gone past good and back to bad again.” Since my friends are not ensconced in marital bliss, they will seek the favors/ire of similarly-situated women, and I get to portray the intentionally-flummoxing wingman, offering up a fount of attempted witticisms, seeking to replicate a Patton Oswalt screenplay punch-up. Needless to say, my expletive-laden references to Jacques Derrida, Family Ties, Helvetica, Hall & Oates, cheeseburgers loaded with fried eggs, or some State Senate race in northern California (will Richard Pan send Andy Pugno back to his hobbit hole of hate? Yeshewillgoddammnit!) is obnoxious, inappropriate, completely lost on the audience, and more fun than should ever be allowed. Unfortunately, Cowboy Slim’s cranks the type of music that can best be considered the equivalent of “cheese spelled with a Z”, making it nearly impossible to be heard above the pitch-corrected vocals of (insert latest attractive radio-friendly unit shifter here). Just as I was about to hit the dusty trail, I remembered that it was, indeed, the weekend of Halloween. For reasons that I can’t explain, it is awesome to see multitudes of revelers in costume. While I merely rotate the same characters with minimally-obstructive clothing requirements (Elvis, semi-retired bowler), I’ll often witness some legitimate creativity, like a former classmate dressed as “Weekly World News”, or my friends Ashley and Josh representing the brutalized businesses of a destroyed block of Lexington (I’m not sure how make-up can replicate the look of a wrecking ball but somehow, they made it happen). The haunted houses, horror films, overdoses on Skittles, and other accoutrement could not be better sources of comedy. At a haunted house a few years ago, one of the zombies followed my wife and I outside of the event, slowly creeping behind us as we opened the car doors. Now that’s entertainment. Good thing Christine wasn’t packing a Ginsu.

The aforementioned knife commercial still haunts, largely because every year of education adds another layer of creepiness to the ad. When I became aware of the institution of the focus group, and how it affects every element of a company’s marketing efforts, my first question was “What random assortment of weirdos saw a need to own a knife that could still chop their beef after slicing through a Converse All-Star, let alone another person’s skeleton (or maybe their own)?” Or when I learned about the market analysis that informs the selection of television programs to purchase commercial time, I eventually asked myself, “What does it say about the viewing choices of my youth that so many of my favorite shows were seen as an effective vehicle for this product?” But most importantly, “Does my past choice to watch hours of ‘Sale of the Century’ and ‘Press Your Luck’ mean that I’m susceptible to product pitches featuring cannibalistic impulses?” The idea that some marketing algorithm can decide my choices as a consumer is far more shiver-inducing than anything from the mind of Wes Craven or Sam Raimi. While I may obsessively listen to the recommendations of Mark Kermode, who possesses a doctorate of film, and lists The Exorcist as his all-time favorite, I just don’t get horror – while many of them are entertaining to me, they either make me laugh (American Psycho’s chainsaw scene, particularly) or put me to sleep. But numerous scenes from seemingly-harmless fare have frightened the crap out of me. So in tribute to the quasi-holiday, a recount of a few of my (least?) favorites:

Foxes (1980). Directed by Adrian Lyne. Around my sixth birthday, I had nightmare after nightmare about being trapped in various predicaments (the most vivid – and recurring – edition featured my falling down an endless hole inside of a dark spinning box). Around this time, one of the cable movie networks (either Star Channel or HBO) replayed this Cherie Currie fun-fest every other day. While I have not seen this film in 28 years, I still get a slight shiver when recalling a scene where three of the girls are locked in the basement of this creepy warehouse. According to IMDB.com, Foxes is notable for all of the drugs, sex, and defiance of authority that is thrown at us by these four innocent-looking girls. But for me, all I remember is the claustrophobia of a slamming door, and the resulting yelps of fear.

My Bodyguard (1980). Directed by Tony Bill (who gave us the underrated Crazy People). Films where the protagonist suffers constant physical abuse are rarely on my list of faves for anything. Mix in theft by violent threats, and you’ve lost me (I prefer my “theft” to be of a more clever sort, a la Kurt Russell in Used Cars, or the comedic
failures of a particular aficionado of CCR and white Russians). I hated Matt Dillon for years after this role, finally offering my appreciation of his talents when Sam… LOMBARDO!! appeared almost two decades later, as the victim of Neve Campbell and Denise Richards’ MTV Award-winning antics. Dillon is perfectly cast as a bully – which is one of the reasons why Entourage is so enjoyable, as his brother Kevin’s A Serious Man-level misfortunes allow a brief exorcism of the Dillon Demons.

Fargo (1996). Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. Speaking of the Coens, after my relocation to Minnesota, I primarily remain sequestered in the safety of the Twin Cities’ urban embrace. But about three times a year, the missus and I will head into the wilderness of northern Minnesota, near those lakes that are perfectly suited to aid in someone’s going, shall we say, crazy. Tire tracks that indicate a car sliding off the road in the falling snow? “Randomly”-placed plastic items possibly marking a buried bounty? Whatever is being ground to a pulp, it doesn’t sound like wood! Why are we in Brainerd?

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One Comment
  1. Musehobo permalink
    November 5, 2010 4:32 pm

    Just one note…American Psycho was supposed to be funny. My wife and I put it in for a laugh all the time. It’s a satirical, dark comedy.

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