Not quite Halloween

Last night Paul and I went out with our recently-moved-to-San-Diego niece, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend's sister. The last Saturday before Halloween and we were in the Gaslamp District, which is the historical/party district of San Diego. Sort of like Pioneer Square used to be, but bigger. (Not like the French Quarter because nothing on earth is like the French Quarter.  But maybe a little like the French Quarter.)

We went to a haunted house attraction called the Haunted Hotel. Very well done, including things like a fake subway car that actually moves around when you step on it. It's been ages since I've been to a haunted house, but the last one I remember being really impressed by is one I went to when I was twelve, with my church youth group.

(While we were in line some of the kids were joking that we should go to The Rocky Horror Picture Show after this. At the time I didn't know what that was.)  

Anyway, that was in the LA area, so I had developed this theory that the proximity of Hollywood tends to increase production values on things like haunted house installations.

All of us agreed that the diesel reek in the final room, which was a byproduct of the chainsaw, was very effective. It made me think they could have done more with smell and temperature and such. At the end of it, my neck was feeling kind of sore from all the ducking and tensing up. It made me think that I've never really seen a horror/thriller type movie use that, the physical toll of running and ducking, especially if you're not used to it. Just like I've never seen anything, not even Buffy, really make use of the fact that people are going to be sweaty after fighting or running around. So if you're, say, dressed up for the prom, and then go out to kill a few vampires, you might come back with pit stains.

The entire Gaslamp area was completely stuffed with people roughly between the ages of 21 and 30, a large portion of them in costume. Halloween is one of very few occasions when I might find myself partying with a mainstream (that is, non-nerd) 20s hook-up crowd, and it always ends up feeling a little alienating.

It seems to involve 1. Dressing really provocatively (if female) 2. Listening to canned music 3. Getting sprayed with Jaegermeister 4. By bartenders who are dancing on the top of the bar. It always feels like people pretending they're having a good time in the hope that it becomes true. And maybe it does. Maybe if you punch your fist in the air and say "woooo!" often enough, you start to believe it.

The quality of the costumes was relatively disappointing, given how many people we saw in costume. Except for two people dressed as Harlequins, I didn't see a lot of craftsmanship. I didn't see a lot of good jokes. And I don't expect every single costume to be scary, but the scary costume percentage was ridiculously low, especially since the balance seemed to be made up by "sexy Alice in Wonderland" stuff.

All right, and can I complain about that for a minute? I HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE the "sexy [X]" costume style. It's all my least favorite things about Halloween costumes rolled into one. They are cheap pre-made costumes. They are not scary. They are not clever. They all look the same as each other. And they smack of an unbcoming desperation. Good lord, you're already 25 and perfect, you have to dress like a slut too? What exactly do you think that'll get you? The extra male attention will be mostly from guys you don't wanna talk to anyway. Sheesh.  

Anyway, by the end of the night I was mocking the distinctive shuffling, pigeon-toed zombie gait of women wearing those too-high platform shoes that are inexplicably popular right now.

(I say inexplicable, but you could turn it into an economic metaphor: as women continue to teeter on artificial towers of denial, lurching awkwardly into an uncertain future that is sure to end with a twisted ankle and a face plant into the squelchy mud of reality, but for now, they feel above it all…)

Anyway, my disdain for "sexy [X]" costumes does not mean that I object to sexy vampire girls or anything like that — it's specifically a disdain for the phenomenon of taking a completely different costume, like Dorothy or Snow White, and sexing it up by giving it a short foofy skirt and a low neckline.

I saw exactly one costume that was effectively creepy: a guy dressed as Michael Myers walking slowly and deliberately along a dark side street, alone, carrying a knife. It was all in the presentation.


  1. My wife and I dressed as sea captains last night and went to a play. I managed to finish my Captain Haddock costume from the Adventures of Tintin, and Julie threw together a pirate costume with a big plastic knife tucked into here belt. When we picked up our friend Tai, he wasn’t in costume. And when we got downtown he asked for something costumey that he could carry around to blend in, so Julie gave him her big plastic knife. Instant serial killer! It was awesome.

    Tai looks like your average 6’3″ orderly or gas station worker, with short thinning hair, grizzled three day beard and a friendly if a bit warn-out and testier than he’d like expression. Like you say, it’s all in the presentation.

    1. We went to the iDiom theater, so we saw some really good costumes, too. Mayhem from the insurance commercials, the Yip-yip aliens, a really authentic looking home made Indiana Jones, two crew members from Space Battleship Yamoto (also home made), and three couples dressed as dio de los muertos dolls.

      The Yip-yip aliens, of course, were the best!

      1. Author

        I’ve seen some good costumes in Bellingham.

  2. Well, if you’re tired of the 21-30 crowd, then perhaps it’s time to hit the goth scene once more and meet people you’ll have more in common with ;-)

    Yeah the “sexy” hallowe’en outfits are just tacky. Hallowe’en is usually used as an excuse to dress like a slut for girls with low self esteem. But this year I didn’t notice that many of them in slutwear, but then maybe I’ve been going to quality venues

    1. Author

      I’m sure some of it was being in San Diego — different culture, different weather.

      I didn’t actually see any goth clubs in the Gaslamp. There might have been one or two but I didn’t run into them at all. The goth scene definitely produces better and scarier costumes.

      1. Watch out for stuff on the net. That’s where a lot of promotion for goth nights takes place. And don’t forget, we can dress in our club gear and still have a “costume”!

  3. Got to agree with you on the stupid “sexy [x]” costumes. You can have a sexy costume without circumventing some existing costume. You made me recall a post on The Goth House that you wrote about Buffy – “That’s me as a vampire?”. Just by adding vampire teeth and a bit of leather, you get a sexy costume without making yourself up as a slutty disney princess.

    My favourite part of Halloween (apart from a lot of regular people suddenly dressing the way I do normally) is the slightly out of place moments, like Darth Vader standing at a urinal, or a zombie taking someone’s photo…

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