Free the Children!
A good Halloween post (which you'd expect from someone with their Moon in Scorpio). Read to the end for my list of the 13 best horror films.
I WAS FORTUNATE to come of age before those MISSING CHILD alerts started appearing on milk cartons.
This was also a time before the Satanic panic swept across the US in the 1980s, where kids were allegedly being tortured by devil worshipers (who usually operated preschools).
In the mid-to-late 60s, kids ran wild in the streets of our neighborhood at all hours of the day and night. And if being in school throughout the week wasn’t enough, it was our parent’s prerogative to get us out of the house as early as possible on the weekends.
My Sagittarius mom’s response to my whining (“I’m bored…) and skulking around the house on a Saturday afternoon would be one of her catchphrases: “Why don’t you go outside and play on the freeway?”
I’d laugh and leave the house to find my friends—gone until dinner. And then, often, would be back outside after doing my homework—exploring the streets again until late into the evening.
There was an exhilarating gap between parents and kids back then, a private space that maintained the sovereignty of both groups—something I no longer witness with my friends who have kids now.
Nowadays, children and parents are joined at the hip, where the parents tote an endless supply of bagged snacks for their kids to nosh while everyone stares into their phones.
How do kids extricate themselves successfully from the hovering presence of adults today? I mean, it makes sense that people in their 20s and early 30s are still living in their childhood homes. It’s never occurred to them to vacate.
Halloween was a form of divine madness back then, too. It meant not only rambling through the neighborhood until midnight but also being able to peer past people’s foyers to see the inside of their homes after they answered their front doors. For a Cancer kid, this stealth view into how people decorated their living rooms was thrilling.
The camaraderie kids experienced by roaming around in packs (and adult-free) no longer exists on Halloween. Today, kids are herded through towns, large and small (or worse, through shopping malls), to allow businesses to give out candy (and coupons) to promote their stores.
Apparently, Halloween is now a multi-billion-dollar-a-year bonanza for candy factories and costume shops, where, again, the line demarcating kids from adults no longer exists. That’s a drag.
Kids should be left to their own devices (and imagination) on Halloween; the holiday is crucial for kids to begin to familiarize themselves with life’s horrors and the frightening modes life might assume to show itself as something unpredictable and feral.
When your parents are trick-or-treating alongside you, dressed as Bonnie and Clyde, it’s just not the same experience. We need to launch a campaign that returns Halloween’s initiatory potency to wandering, untethered kids, allowing the subversive images that Halloween conjures to seep deep into their child-bones.
Some Halloween discoveries for you:
• Author Dennis Cooper’s list of the most terrifying (and gore-filled) haunted attractions across the globe.
• Astrologer Jessica Murray’s wonderful close read on the holiday.
• My astrological take-apart of Hitchcock’s Psycho.
My list of the 13 best horror films:
Hereditary (2018, Ari Aster)
Night of the Living Dead (1968, George A. Romero)
The Exorcist (1973, William Friedkin)
Halloween (1978, John Carpenter)
Psycho (1961, Alfred Hitchcock)
Rosemary’s Baby (1968, Roman Polanski)
Silence of the Lambs (1991, Jonathan Demme)
The Innocents (1961, Jack Clayton)
Midsommar (2019, Ari Aster)
Alien (1979, Ridley Scott)
Vampyr* (1932, Carl Theodor Dreyer)
Carnival of Souls (1962, Herk Harvey)
The Sixth Sense (1991, M. Night Shyamalan)
(*) Make the effort to find this plucked-from-a-slow-burn-nightmare. The Criterion Collection has recently restored it. And you’ll never forget it.