News, music, movies & restaurants from the editors of the Silicon Valley's #1 weekly newspaper.
Serving San Jose, Palo Alto, Los Gatos, Campbell, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Fremont & nearby cities.


home | metro santa cruz index | feature story

low fi photography
THE UNDEAD ZONE: First on the list of trends that have run their course and should be laid to rest: zombie attacks.

Night of the Living Cliches

Halloween fads we'd like to see buried alive

A collective rant By Caig Gawlick, Traci Hukill, Kate Jacobson and Tessa Stuart

ZOMBIES are getting dangerously close to market saturation. What started out as a cult genre, contributing classics like Night of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Shaun of the Dead to the horror canon, has spawned an alarmingly pervasive fad that, true to form, stubbornly refuses to die. An army of former Boy Scouts has reclaimed the slogan "Always Be Prepared" and created a cottage industry devoted to readying our society for a coordinated attack by armies of the undead. A search of the term "zombie defense" yields mindless hordes of sites filled with information to help a person prepare for the impending invasion, like the Zombie Preparedness Initiative (tagline: "Keep Your Head. Remove Theirs.") or (helpful rule of thumb: "Once she tries to claw the gray matter out of your head, she's not your mom anymore"). There are books, like the wildly popular Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From the Living Dead, and a number of conventions, like Seattle's ZomBCon 2010, slated for this Halloween weekend (featuring a "Zombie Combat Workshop"). At the beginning it may have been a tribute to imagination and creative spirit, but at this point the zombie fixation is verging on a collective delusion. It's time to break out the chain saw (or machete or fire-ax—your choice) and decapitate this trend for good.

BOOOOOTY CALL!: Looks like Halloween Costume Imagination Failure struck these ladies once again.

Slutty Costumes

Years ago, when Lindsay Lohan was an actress and not a collector of alcohol monitoring bracelets, she was in Mean Girls, which featured many astute observations about popular culture. Among them was this memorable gem: that Halloween night is "the one night a year when girls can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it." And the ladies have worked it. You can't swing a dead black cat on Halloween night without smacking a bustier, and chances are a set of thigh-highs and hot pants aren't far away, whether in black and blue (sexy cop), black and white (sexy French maid), blue and white (sexy Alice in Wonderland), all white (sexy nurse), all red (sexy devil)—you get the picture.

The very first pregnant nun was clever and cute, like the first dude who got a barbed wire tattoo on his bicep (not really). Inevitably we had men dressed as pregnant nuns, and eventually the deconstruction was complete with a yearly supply of scantily dressed pregnant nuns. We get it, move on. Slutty male costumes are even less inspired. All it takes is a normal costume, sans shirt.

The most disturbing trend of late is the slutty costume filtering down into younger and younger ranks. Ten-year-olds dressing as Pocahontas need not be in a tube top and body glitter. Not only is that wildly factually incorrect, it's pretty creepy. Perhaps Mom realizes she can't quite pull off the slutty nun costume anymore, so little Sally gets handed the sexy Halloween mantle. No, Sally, we'd much rather see you as an adorable witch than a backup dancer for Lady Gaga. (Speaking of witches, will Christine O'Donnell be the Sarah Palin of 2010? Here's hoping.)

In this post-Jersey Shore and pre-Palin-presidency world in which we live, let's give sluts a rest, shall we? For one night, Halloween should be about being as gross, scary and drippy as one can allow.

Saw Films

One day people will ask each other—not a lot of people, but some people—"Do you remember what happened the year Saw XV came out?'" If the past is any indication, that should be happening in October of 2018. Every single Halloween since 2004, we've been graced with another uninspired installment of Saw. The first one was somewhat original, if gruesome-bordering-on-snuff. It also unfortunately unleashed "torture porn," a subgenre of horror films. The most disturbing part of this trend is the classic horror films that have been remade in Saw's image, such as the new versions of Halloween and Friday the 13th. These new films have no context or metaphorical importance; they're pure gore for gore's sake. Saw started this entire trend, and it needs to die this Halloween, with the opening this weekend of Saw VII 3D. Producers have promised this will be the final installment. We'll be happy to throw the first shovelful of dirt on its casket.

Disneyfied Princesses

There are a few Halloween characters to whom the befuddled question "And what are you?" is never posed. The troops of Darth Vaders walk through crowds unremarked, and behind the perfectly obvious Jack Sparrows skip the unmistakable Disney princesses, their mass-produced, cut-and-paste templates the tired fallback for parents who are too weary or too lacking in imagination to resist their kids' addiction to the Walt Disney magic. And yet the costume manufacturers and perhaps the licensing lawyers seem to feel that the "Disney dozen" costumes need to be further Disneyfied, maybe by screenprinting castles on skirts or gluing a plaque with Snow White's smiling face front and center—just in case there is any doubt about the identity of that yellow skirt and ebony black wig. And yet there's never been any doubt. The blue flouncy dress will always be Cinderella, no need to include a portrait, and when I was a 6-year-old princess Jasmine, no one had to tack a picture of her to my back for my look to make sense. If a Belle costume is lame enough that it doesn't scream Belle, you should keep shopping, kid, but if it looks like Sleeping Beauty and a questioned child says it is Sleeping Beauty, respect the intelligence of the masses and bury the plaque in the back yard with the fake plastic skeletons.

Sanctimonious Treats

Halloween is the blackmail holiday. "Trick or treat" may sound cute sung out by a chorus of the aforementioned Disney princesses, but it's really a ransom demand and should be treated as such. Apples, mini-boxes of raisins, hand sanitizer, dental accoutrements (toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss) and pencils (even when Halloween-themed) do not constitute "treats," particularly when considered alongside the king-size Snickers from next door. Even a kid with diabetes would rather just stay home then be "rewarded" for the long hours he spent pouring into construction of his Iron Man costume with a treat that is really a lecture in disguise. Anyone who wants to get on their high horse and make Halloween a nutritional teaching moment deserves the toilet-paper treatment their house gets. We're all given fair warning, after all.

Bad Candy

And another thing: those weird peanut butter kisses wrapped in black or orange wax paper? Keep those, too. The youngsters won't stand for those, not when there are Reese's and Hersheys and Kit Kats to be had. Americans do cheap sugar and fat better than most countries. To patriotically support the troops and defeat terrorists this Halloween, we need candy dipped in peanut butter dipped in caramel dipped in chocolate dipped in America!

That means no Necco wafers, with their subdued, vaguely European flavor; no Mary Janes (molasses and peanut butter??); and no tasteless candy corn, especially if it's just thrown into the bag by the handful. This is not a U.N. refugee camp and those kids aren't waiting for a few grains of rice. They want empty calories, chocolate and a sugar rush, so no cheaping out.

Twilight Mania

Halloween really ought to be the only time it is appropriate to dress, act or obsess over vampires. And that's for kids, to say nothing of grown-ass men and women. To Twilight creator Stephanie Meyer's credit, the series made some important contributions to society, succeeding where so many well-meaning librarians have failed by getting young folks excited about reading and making luminescent pale skin, rather than a hide basted and browned in a tanning booth, cool. But these positive effects are greatly outweighed by the damage caused: the abstinence-only message promoted by the book (everyone saw how well that worked when instituted as a nationwide curriculum); the blown eardrums of bystanders, innocent except for the fact that they wandered within a 10-mile radius of Robert Pattinson; the potential biohazard of making blood a love memento. If someone really wanted to do Twi-hard kids (and, ahem, adults) a favor, they'd stop writing fan fiction and instead get to work composing a resolution restricting vampires exclusively to Allhallows Eve. Who seconds the motion for a new day to dawn, turning this fad to dust?

Inflatable Halloween Lawn Ornaments

This was going to be a rant against the relatively recent trend of stringing orange (and now purple) lights outside the house, Christmas-like, in honor of Halloween. Because really, it's just more stuff in a world that doesn't need any more small, cheap, breakable items. But the fact is, it looks kind of cute, and who doesn't like a little twinkly something-something in these dark days?

But the inflatable yard ornament, with its noisy, wasteful little generator running all night long and its nylon all weirdly collapsed on itself in the morning like the Wicked Witch of the West post-bucket-of-water? Ix-nay! Get those things out of here! The Santas and Frostys are bad enough at Christmas, but to have illuminated black cats and jack-o-lanterns and stupid chopper-riding skeletons on the lawn for a holiday that doesn't even have any redeeming social value is just going too far. And we're not gonna take it anymore.

Send letters to the editor here.