Standing in line this week for my annual peppermint mocha latte at Starbucks, I realized that peppermint, unlike pumpkin spice, has its limitations as a holiday flavor. Peppermint beer, mashed peppermint potatoes, pretty much anything in the savory category seems less than immediately appealing (though I’m sure it’s been done, and done well). So Halloween and the fall season really chose a winner with pumpkin spice (its taste and smell are extremely effective triggers for nostalgic, overwhelming emotional memories). Peppermint is not bad, not by a long shot, but some things are just more easily adaptable to holiday theming. Which made me think about, you guessed it, holiday horror, Saint Patrick’s Day edition.
February 14th, a day to celebrate love and togetherness, a day to remember the beheaded Saint Vincent, who defied the orders of Emperor Claudius II in the third century and married young lovers in secret. Or, a day to dip the strips of sacrificed goat skin in blood and bless the town’s women with fertility with a “gentle” lashing. Red hearts, thorny roses, proclamations of undying love and sacrifice—indeed, it seems Valentine's Day is full of subtle (and not so subtle) cues leading us to horror, one drop of blood at a time. These cues are likely just one reason why people always ask me, “Is it really a good idea to bring a date to a scary movie?” And the answer, much to their frustration, is “it depends.”
I am a diehard horror fan, but every once in a while I have to scrub the carnage from my eyes with something that is over-the-top cute. For me, this is usually after watching anything involving cannibalism, most recently Jim Mickle's We Are What We Are. My favorite remedy is this bunny eating berries.
At first, I thought my impulse to squeeze the heck out of these cute puff balls was due to the residual aggression induced from watching a horror movie, but then I realized, as I’m sure many of you have, that the impulse to essentially destroy these visages of adorableness happens regardless of watching something scary.
“To commemorate a past event, you kill and eat an animal. It’s a ritual sacrifice. With pie.” ~ Anya, “Pangs” Season 4, Episode 8 of Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Halloween is my favorite holiday, but really, Thanksgiving is the most terrifying of traditional American celebrations.
Halloween is now the second-biggest consumer-spending holiday in the US (after Christmas), which makes you wonder—how did a holiday based on dressing up and being scary achieve not only massive national appeal, but now international demand (yep, the Americanized version of Halloween has been successfully exported to countries around the globe)?
While watching the trailers before The Purge: Election Year, I noticed a powerful similarity among them: darkness.
Next month, Rob Zombie’s crowdfunded horror film 31 will be released, featuring kidnapped carnival workers under attack by a troupe donning clown masks. Next year in IT, we’ll see Stephen King’s Pennywise come to life once again, this time by Bill Skarsgård. One of the most frequent questions I am asked as someone who studies fear is: why? Why do we continue to make the clown the ultimate American monster?
I’m not a typical film critic; in fact, I’m not a film critic at all. I’m a sociologist that studies fear with a fondness for horror films. What I love to talk about is the ways in which horror movies, in this case The Purge: Election Year, hold a mirror up to society, reflecting both our fears and our secret (or not so secret) desires.