Phew, that was touch and go. Is there a national pumpkin shortage? I usually see them in supermarkets a few weeks before Halloween, but this year they seem to have been scarce. I searched high and low yesterday afternoon for a medium-sized one. I ended up rummaging through a grotty-looking display in Sainsbury’s and buying a much larger model than I normally do (I had to give the cashier a hand to lift it). That baby’s gonna take some serious scooping out.
I like Halloween. I have good memories from childhood. I’d dress up as a demon and go trick-or-treating with the other kids from my street, in the days when no one thought it a dangerous thing to do. When I think back, I can still smell sweat on the back of a plastic mask, and taste the burnt marshmallows we’d toast over candles when we got home.
These days, I begin Halloween celebrations by carving and lighting a jack o’lantern (this year’s effort is pictured), turning the lights off and playing the soundtrack to John Carpenter’s Halloween. This sets the mood nicely. I follow up with a carefully chosen horror movie – and its theme must be supernatural. Films about torture or serial killers are a no-no – though, naturally, the aforementioned John Carpenter movie is allowed, given its creepy mood and Halloween setting (and I’d argue that the ending gives it a supernatural twist). I do think that the spirit of the night is lost if you dress up as Spider-Man and watch Hostel (good though it is).
In recent years, my Halloween viewing has included Suspiria (very effective – I only have to start humming the music to have Tara covering her ears and pleading ‘no, no, no’), Ghostwatch (the scares are great, but some of the acting, especially from the woman playing the mother, disappoints) and Halloween III: Season Of The Witch (more of a sci-fi yarn than I remember from my first viewing in the ’80s).
This year I chose The Changeling, a 1980 movie starring George C Scott that I can recall scaring me witless as a kid, and Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. The former was enjoyable for the most part but dipped towards the end, while the latter didn’t do much for me. At 11pm, I turned on a programme on Five called Ghosts On The Underground – a documentary narrated by Paul McGann about strange sightings on the Tube network.
I was expecting a cheap ‘boo!’ fest with a cackling soundtrack and tacky reconstructions. Instead, it was low-key and eerie. Tube workers sat in various Underground locations telling their stories, some of which dated back to the early ’70s, while a camera prowled around empty tunnels and booking halls.
A scientist took some recording equipment out to some of the sites and recorded levels of infra-sound – sound that we can’t hear but which can make us feel a little odd, and which can even cause visual disturbances. This was fascinating in itself. The programme had a nicely unsettling tone and was a splendid way to round off Halloween. I was suitably creeped out as I went to bed. I can ask for no more.