Celebrating Halloween? Count yourself lucky, things are a whole lot better than they use to be. When I was a young teen in the early nineties nothing happened on October 31st. There were no ghost tours or spook events to visit, no Halloween memorabilia in the shops, no fancy dress parties to attend. But businesses have finally realised there’s money to be made from Halloween and though I’m no fan of blatant commercialism at least efforts are at last being made. Hit any of the major supermarkets and you can nab some great costumes and decorations, and even some tacky treats (Pringles Sour Scream and Chive, Asda’s Monstrous Monkey Nuts – none of them taste any different, but still). So with more options available to Halloween aficionados, what’s the ideal All Hallows Eve for the film fan?
First off, you need to set the scene. If you’re doing things on the cheap Mother Nature can lend a hand in the decoration department. Dry leaves and twigs are a lazy way of capturing the Halloween vibe. Knock up some fake tomb stones with a bit of cardboard and some grey paint. Black and orange paper can create simple spooky shapes or paper-chains. A pumpkin is an absolute must and you can pick one up for less than £2 these days.
Once my guests have arrived we crack out the snacks and booze. You can buy lots of different Hallloween themed salty and sweet grub but its much more fun to fashion your own, severed cheese straw fingers, mummified cupcakes, ginger bread ghosts, the options are endless. Drinks are a little trickier but grenadine colours any combo of alcohol blood red so have plenty to hand. Make sure some bagged sweets are on hand for the trick or treaters. Once sustenance is set, the fun can begin.
Being fond gamers we kick start proceedings with some spooky gaming. Resident Evil is the king of creepy computer games but it’s too much of a solo affair for a gathering (unless you opt for the 3 minute rush of Mercenaries mode in Resident Evil 5). House of the Dead is excellent for a quick two player blast, but my personal choice is the fighting game pictured above. Those in the know will recognise it; Jason versus Freddy, Dracula versus Frankenstein, its terrific fun with a group of mates. Once joypads have clashed it’s on to pumpkin carving. Spurting wounds may be authentic but no one wants to spend Halloween up A&E so be careful with the carving knives. Pumpkins lit its on to the highlight of the evening, our trio of fright films.
Don’t rely on television to deliver the scary goods. Unlike Christmas BBC, ITV and the rest never bother to take advantage of Halloween, and the TV schedules are nearly always scare free. Dig into your own collection or pop down to Blockbusters instead. Three films is the perfect number, long enough to stuff yourself full of calories, not so long that your backside goes to sleep. My first choice is something new, either a recent release or something unknown that most if not all of us haven’t seen before. Second has to be a scary classic, something that genuinely terrifies like Alien (1979) or The Shining (1980). My personal favourite is Halloween (1978); not only is it traditional, its still makes me jump despite having seen it countless times before. The third and final film is a more fun offering, something light-hearted to end the evening on, Carry On Screaming (1966) or Shaun of the Dead (2004) never fail to raise a smile. Make sure any additional guests that pop in join in the movie fun, and if necessary make it a kiddie free zone. Growing up with horror films did me no harm at all, but not everyone shares that view, so play it safe and tell people to get the babysitter in; Laurie Strode is usually free this time of year.