Halloween shouldn’t be in living – or dead – color

Posted by GT on October 8th, 2008 — Posted in Newspaper columns, Personal favorites

Originally published in October 2005, The Daily Sentinel, Grand Junction, Colo.

Halloween is best in black and white.

On the screen, the Universal monster movies of the 1920s to 1940s are my favorites; classic creepiness with lots of cobwebs, skulls and shamelessly melodramatic overacting. PG-rated stuff that most kids can share.

The best of these movies include Lon Chaney in the silent “Phantom of the Opera”; Bela Lugosi in “Dracula”; Boris Karloff in “Bride of Frankenstein”; Lon Chaney Jr. in “The Wolf Man”; and Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.”

Yes, “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.” One of the most popular comedy duos of the era in a film built around the best-known beasties of the ’30s and ’40s. It’s more slapstick than the other Universal monster movies, but many of those films (particularly “Bride of Frankenstein”) have a healthy dose of comedy.

Want a really good movie scare? Ignore the jangling, stylishly stupid 1999 remake of “The Haunting” and check out the quieter, creepier 1963 original directed by Robert Wise, who died last month. If you have any imagination, the creak of a bulging door in that film – a door subjected to pressure from some stomping entity on the other side – will have your jaw trembling.

Both versions of “The Haunting” are based on the 1959 novel “The Haunting of Hill House,” which reminds me that the printed page is another great black-and-white way to enjoy Halloween. The book is spooky, populated by fascinating characters and elegantly written by Shirley Jackson. It inspired other authors to create terrific ghost stories, such as Richard Matheson’s “Hell House” and Stephen King’s “The Shining.”

It’s hard to make real life a black-and-white experience, but it happened for me way, way back in my days at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

That year, Halloween started out as a dud even though I lived in a fraternity house. I was too old to trick or treat, too broke to go out to one of the bars and no parties had materialized by midevening. In short, it was boring, and I blame that in part on the color movies some friends and I had chosen to watch on video: “Day of the Dead” and “Cat’s Eye.” Both are decent 1980s horror flicks, but not classic Halloween fare.

Disappointed, I headed off to my room fairly early, not at all tired. One of the Denver stations had programmed a night of classic Universal monster movies, and sure enough, the fun began while the black-and-white picture flickered on my secondhand TV’s screen.

Because that’s when the power went out and the picture blinked off.

For a couple of minutes, things were as quiet as they ever got in that house full of young people. Sitting in the darkness, I cursed my luck, wondering what to do next since I couldn’t even read. Then I heard the laughter of guys and screaming of girls that indicated the true Halloween celebration was on.

The power stayed off long enough to allow all kinds of stupid games involving males showing off and females allowing themselves to be impressed. It was easy to hide in the dark and shout “boo” at girls passing by, so we did. We went to particularly dark corners and begged for help we didn’t need. We pretended we were corpses in the kitchen.

At one point, I looked out a window at a field across the street from the house, and the pale white glow of the moon on that gray field revealed the black shape of one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen: Someone running with a cow toward the campus. I have no idea where that cow came from, nor where it was being taken.

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.