Al Talks Art: Our national Halloween fixation

Halloween is officially one week away, and people everywhere are gearing up for celebration. Ghosts are coming out, lights are being untangled, and pumpkins are being ceremoniously butchered. Pumpkins seem to be a state favorite, unless you live at BYU, in which case you don’t like to have fun anyway. We as a country are fascinated by our creepiest holiday. From an artistic context, this opens a door to the macabre to stroll through our mainstream entertainment.What we watch, listen to, wear and do with friends take a turn for the mystic, and we can’t get enough of it.

Most people have a signature Halloween movie that the season wouldn’t be complete without. Whether it’s “Hocus Pocus” or “The Shining,” ceremonial movie nights mark the official start of many families’ spooky season. Blood and gore punctuated with supernatural commas rifle through the television. Many would say this is cause for concern. I would tell them to look at “Hocus Pocus.” Three witches get kilned. That’s not exactly candy corn material. Whatever your tolerance level for guts, film and TV reflect our desire to get anxious for no good reason. Those of you who read my columns consistently (that might only be my wife — I love you, dear) know of my affinity for creepy movies. This holds a ceremonial place in my Halloween heart.

Music also takes a turn for the dissonant, marking the harmonic Halloween heyday of horrific headphone holocausts (I know, that was impressive). Movies rely heavily on their scores to force surprise enemas onto their audiences, and it’s no secret that music can be terrifying. If I were to talk about Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” you instantly can hear shrieking violins in the background. This effect takes root in our minds, and we turn to harder macabre rock, such as “The Bird and the Worm,” or creepily funny songs, such as “The Monster Mash,” to set the ghastly tone for our own holiday soundtracks.

Our fashions also turn to the dramatic, dawning tights, more makeup and more awkward stares from single men on campus. I have a friend, whose name will be conveniently not included in this story, who waits all year to see the risque parade of costumes around campus and parties. It’s his own figurative creepy harvest. Let that be a warning to all of you considering skanky costumes. Remember, I said warning, not encouragement.

Social outings center around the holiday as well. Corn mazes, haunted or benign, crop up all over the valley, turning a profit from some good-natured confusion. Haunted houses collect money hand-over-fist to quicken pulses and shorten sleep. While I enjoy being scared, I will not attend these liabilities. For me, they are just that: liabilities. We are blessed with the flight-or-fight reflex, and a man of my size doesn’t flight well, so I punch things in self-defense. Legally, it’s not a good idea for me to be there, but others should go, and stay away from punchers.

Halloween reflects our own desires, much like art. This season, surround yourself with the best of the fantastic, the most macabre of the mystic, and the holiday-ish of the horrifying. Art gives us an outlet to express ourselves, and our holiday traditions and celebration are no exemption from that celebration.