On October 18, 2023

The Movie Diary: A decorated affair

 

 

When I was a kid, my mother stored all our holiday decorations in an attic room just off her bedroom. It was a small, cramped spot that was difficult to move around in due to the slanted ceiling, but perfect for storing items that weren’t accessed regularly. 

I never liked this room. There was no light, it was dusty, and it had a particular smell. I suppose it qualified as “creepy” in the way that attic rooms sometimes do, so I never entered unless my mother was accompanying me. 

Besides holiday decorations, the room was also filled with a multitude of other items deemed worthy enough to keep or just not crappy enough to throw away—things like old lamps, bedding, and dishware. 

The holiday decorations (which consisted mostly of Christmas items along with a few Halloween and Valentine’s Day pieces) were stored in an old trunk and a few tattered cardboard boxes (remember, this was long before plastic Tupperware containers entered the scene). Dragging the trunk out was an event since it was overtly heavy on its own. Throw in a ton of decorations and it was nearly unmovable.

I used to get excited when it was time to decorate the house for a holiday. My mother was always good about setting the scene with appropriate colors and decorations. When she was finished, our house always felt different, which enhanced the seasonal feelings associated with whatever holiday was on the horizon. 

I especially loved how our house felt around the autumn/Halloween season. My mother had a couple of ceramic pumpkins that lit up, as well as several skeleton, witch, and black cat cutouts that adorned the doors and windows of our main floor. And while we rarely burned candles in our home, we always seemed to have a pumpkin candle ready to fire up in the living room. 

Interestingly, Halloween never used to have lights or outdoor decorations associated with it (other than the occasional jack-o’lantern). But over the last few decades, Halloween decorating has leaped forward and is now second only to Christmas as the most popular annual holiday. 

I jog a neighborhood loop and of all the houses I run past, I’d say 60% are decorated for Halloween this year. And while some may only have a pumpkin on the front stoop, others have full-scale scenes crowding their front yards. 

I love the creativity that some people exhibit when decorating for Halloween. There’s one family on my running route that purchased three life-sized skeletons and every day they set them up in a different situation. For instance, yesterday they were placed in beach chairs with an umbrella. The day before they were playing poker. And the day before that they were pretending to ski.

There’s another family that has created a comedic murder scene that features every character from horror movie history, including Freddy Krueger, Jason, and Michael Meyers, among others. It’s comedic in that the murder scene features pumpkin people instead of real humans (which makes it more palatable for a neighborhood setting). 

Of course, for every great decorating scenario, there are 10 that look like garbage. For instance, I’m not a fan of the inflatable decorations that have gained popularity over the last decade. I’ve seen rare instances where these coexist in a front yard without looking awkward and out of place. 

But the real winner over the last couple of years has been the gigantic 12-foot-tall skeletons that are popping up in yards across the country. Launched in 2020 by Home Depot, these gigantic $300 skellies have taken decorating to the next level. My neighbor has two of them on either side of his front door and, combined with some eerie cobwebbing and lighting, presents a ghastly entryway. 

In this week’s feature, “A Haunting in Venice,” we revisit Detective Hercule Poirot (“Murder on the Orient Express,” “Death on the Nile”) who, in this third installment, becomes intricately involved in his own ghastly affair. 

Starring actor/director Kenneth Branagh as Detective Poirot and Tina Fey as a sassy American mystery writer, “A Haunting in Venice” casts an interesting combination of mystery and horror. And while this film delves into some creepy and murderous affairs, it still maintains an uncanny sense of fun.

Check this one out if you’re looking for a smart and complex film that doesn’t rely on gore to satisfy your need for horror.

An ornamented “B” for “A Haunting in Venice,” now showing in theaters everywhere. 

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at moviediary@att.net.

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