Tuesday, September 27, 2016

 A debate as old as the holiday itself, it seems. From the beginning, since the first child dressed up in a costume intended to frighten, the first pumpkin broken into to carve out a face-- Halloween, and the closely associated entertainment genre of horror has, throughout history, been attached for being too scary. In the 1950s, horror comic books like "Tales from the Crypt" turned huge profits for their publishers, and movies like "The Thing," "House on Haunted Hill," and "Creature from the Black Lagoon" regined supreme. Much ink has been spilled and many keys tapped opining that horror gained such popularly at that mid-century time as a a reaction to the horrors of World War II. At so many continuing points throughout our history, with an increase in horror's popularity, there is a backlash. Efforts were undertaken to ban and declare horror comics indecent, and the outlandish tales of 1950s horror cinema imparted a stigma the genre faces until this day. More specifically, even today in more strictly religious circles, Halloween is looked at as evil, a holiday of deception, of evil.

 But we children of Halloween know that the meaning, and fun, of All Hallow's Eve is so much more than that. Halloween gives us all a chance to disappear from our lives. Whether that is from our every day work clothes and into the costume of a vampire, or to stop and revel in the fear of a zombie rising from his grave to devour you, instead of the all too real, daily fear of war, terrorism and human evil choosing your neighborhood to visit next. As we go through the cycles of public outcries around Halloween-- this costume isn't appropriate for a child, this movie ("Psycho," "Halloween," "The Blair Witch Project," "Saw") is too scary-- it seems to this Ghost that our trouble happens when the fear, the scare of Halloween comes too close to the real world.

 Meet "The Creeper." A Halloween decoration reportedly sold at Home Depot stores throughout Canada and the United States. The dictation is simple, plastic and works by suction-cupping a man's face, with big peering eyes, surrounded by his hands so he can get a better look. Yes, the face is unsettling-- but it accomplishes this without the help of the supernatural. This man is not a zombie, a vampire or any variety of undead concoction. He's just a man, who shouldn't be there, looking in your window. Intending to bulgarize your home, murder you, or worse. There's even a version with a finger tapping the window, which reacts to your own finger if you tap it against the window.

 The Ghost's reaction to this was complicated. At once, I felt fear and revulsion. This truly is that stuff that ran throw my childhood nightmares. While I loved to read tales of Frankenstein's monster made of dead body parts coming back to life before bed, I would lay in bed and think of how any person could climb up the side of my childhood house and into my bedroom. Nothing could be so perfectly picked out of the pumpkin patch of my most long-held terrors and thrown into Halloween in such a mass market way. While I agree this is scary, "The Peeper" certainty lends itself to the "is this too scary for Halloween?" debate. After complaints in Ontario, "The Peeper" has been pulled from Canadian shelves, and replaced with a supernatural version of the decoration, "The Reaper," which swap out the human peeper for the Grin Reaper. I actually love this version of the prop- looking out your window to see the Grim Reaper peering in, reminding you of the reason for the season. At the heart, Halloween, of course, reminds of us our mortality while allowing us to disappear into the costumed ether of fear.

 The question remains, however. Is "The Peeper" in its human forms too scary for Halloween? Or simply in too poor taste? What purpose does it serve to put in your window, unless you want a visitor to get the jump of her or his life when looking out your window to see a man looking in. While the Ghost is no prude when it comes to Halloween, I have seen displays-- realistic depictions of people hanging by a noose from a tree, or needlessly violent scenes filled with blood. For this ghost, whether something is in poor taste when it comes to Halloween is when a decoration or display or film has a sense of artlessness behind it. A Halloween display exploring a recent tragedy is just that, exploitive and bad art. Whether good art or bad art it is all Halloween art. And this ghost believes he comes down on the side that says "The Peeper" has the potential for being some very bad Halloween art. People are victimized every day by human terrors; let the jump scare your friend receives looking out your window be at the expense of the Grim Reaper startling you before you laugh, instead of a jolt of terror that a real person is looking in, ready to victimize you-- like too many have actually been.

 Buy he Grim "Reaper" instead?

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