I’m currently in the home stretch of this year’s “31 Horror Movies In 31 Days” Challenge. And folks did I ever get myself into a bit of a pickle (or should I say pumpkin) as a trip to Las Vegas and some housesitting put me far enough behind that as of last Monday, I still had 16 movies to cram down my face.
I decided to let an old newspaper dictate at least one of my remaining movie choices. Thankfully I found this Journal Gazette ad from May 20, 1982, for “Parasite”, billed as the first “futuristic monster movie.” Watching it with my tablet about six inches in front of my face (trying to recreate the 3-D experience) I realized it’s more like an overlong pilot for a bad '80s sci-fi show that’s a cross between "Alien" and "The Incredible Hulk" as a renegade scientist with an alien slug in his gut is on the run from a “merchant” (a hitman with laser hands and a Lamborghini that makes space sounds) in a “future” where the government has collapsed and a corporation has taken over. Oh, there’s Demi Moore, in her first role, as a lemon farmer. I can only imagine what Skyway Drive-In viewers possibly thought of this one; if any of you reading this were there that night, please advise.
Because there’s more to Halloween than just the horror movies, I wanted to say a few words about that ultimate nostalgic throwback, Trick or Treating. And because I wasn’t totally happy with my snap selection of a Nov. 3, 1981, photo of trick or treaters alarming the holy heck out of some poor resident at Odd Fellows, I also threw in an ad from the Oct. 3, 1986, screening of (natch) “Trick or Treat” at the Cinema 3. It’s a film I don’t remember much about except that it was part of a VHS triple bill I watched with some friends in a crappy apartment off Lake Land Blvd. around the early 2000s. According to my records written at the time, I gave it two stars said it was “fun for 30 minutes.”
As for trick or treating itself, you’d think that I, the man who’s written several thousand words on Hardees and Radio Shack already, could come up with a lot to look back on, but memories of such a thing are an odd blank spot in my memory. I grew up in Cooks Mills, and out there, trick or treating wasn’t a thing unless maybe you happened to be that cluster of homes near Adams Grocery and the water tower. Out where my family was, trick or treating was an invitation to get hit by a car whipping up that hilly county road. Just as the numerous cats I had who all got early tickets to Rainbow Bridge.
Those few times I did get to go trick or treating would usually involve my parents driving me into town and letting me hit a few houses around my grandparents’ neighborhood on Shelby Ave. I can’t recall one costume I wore except for the year I was Voltron, which if you don’t know was possibly the most against the grain and hipster costume a 6-year-old could have worn at the time. I also recall my mom’s friend Vicky just “knowing” it was me at her door because of my “chubby” hands when I held out my bucket. Allright, maybe she didn’t say “chubby” but I made a mental note at that very moment that that’s the only thing she could have meant by that.
A few Halloweens later my mother, perhaps realizing the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze in such a difficult process just to get a half-bucket of candy, asked if instead of trick or treating I’d rather settle for five dollars’ worth of tokens for the Aladdin’s Castle Arcade at the mall. Having an entire 25 token velvet bag of game tokens, to me, was a little like someone combining Christmas and my birthday into one glorious afternoon, so of course I said yes, and with that, trick or treating and I parted ways.
At least until last year when I tagged along with a group of friends and their kids on their trick or treating excursion in Mahomet, whereupon one resourceful young girl promptly turned a sheet of paper into a “control panel” for me to wear taped to my chest so I’d have a costume. So proud was I of this I kept it clipped to my fridge all year, and plan on wearing it again this Halloween.
I took a quick walk through the Cross County Mall a few days ago as tables were being prepped for the flea market this weekend and by the front doors I noticed a sign announcing there would be no trick or treat at the mall this year. It didn’t take long for me to imagine a parent not knowing this and ending up with a real disappointed kid, most likely with only a little time left to spare to get some candy. Even though trick or treating kind of kicks off the start of the joyful holiday season, there’s also a sadly nostalgic circus-leaving-town feeling around it as it wraps up each year.
Which is why this Halloween, when 8 p.m. rolls around, please do ol’ Mr. Clint a favor and leave your porch light on just a few minutes longer in case that lone trick or treating straggler with the parent who couldn’t get off work in time is still standing out there in the cold watching all the lights click off around them and their bucket still isn’t full.
Halloween, we all know, will rise from the grave again next year. And yeah maybe a month of me talking about it might seem a bit much. But keep this in mind: Enjoy the days of it you have left. As of Nov. 1 at midnight, there’s nothing left standing between all of us and the hectic rush of the Christmas holiday season anymore. Now that’s scary; after all, you haven’t bought a thing yet, have you?