Weird, Halloween, isn't it. When I was a kid I remember it sort of as a mass-organised party to irritate adults – "Just American shit," my dad would say, standing bolt upright in the front room, lights off, watching behind the curtains as boys in tracksuits with Scream masks knocked against the door, whittling a turnip. "Just American bloody shit and nonsense." I was allowed to trick-or-treat exactly once, dressed in a series of newspaper-stuffed tights sewn together in the shape of a spider, up the road at the one old lady's house my mum had phoned ahead and checked I could trick-or-treat at. She didn't have any sweets, though, so invited me in to sit perched on the edge of the easy chair in her front room while she made me lemon curd on toast. I sat and ate it like the silent little spider I was, then scuttled four doors back home.
Then something imperceptible changed in the air: maybe I got older, maybe our ingrained anti-American stances changed, maybe we all just realised Halloween was a good excuse to get drunk, but now it's here and there are a bunch of five-year-olds at the door of your flat, tenderly walked there by their kind-faced mum, and you're desperately looking in the fridge to give them anything other than a brown spring onion. Also, with the weekend comes like a thousand conflicting parties at once: house parties, pub parties, anti-Halloween parties, spooky get-togethers. You can resist it as much as you want, but at 4PM on Friday you're going to get a weird, haunting itch to get fully costumed up and drink some sort of plastic insect-studded punch. You cannot resist this. Embrace it instead.
Listen: you've RSVP'd "Going" to five different Facebook parties, so statistically you're going to end up at one of them. Here are all the people you're going to meet there, and what they'll be dressed as:
There's actually a plottable graph that charts "how much you have tried with your zombie costume" against "how much of a raging dickhead you are", which goes roughly thus:
So for example if you are wearing a torn T-shirt zigged with a little fake blood and maybe some green oil-based face paint that promised a lot more coverage than you actually got, so instead of looking livid and green you just look a bit like you're travel sick: you are not a dickhead at all.
And so also for example: if you are wearing some sort of specialist outfit or zombie mask, something you had to order online six weeks ago, you are a bit of a dickhead and I'm not sure I could tolerate drinking one entire pint with you.
And then so finally for example: if you are wearing layers upon layers of latex, and covered in graphic stage-quality sores, and you are affecting a limp, and you are wearing sub-clothes made up of hessian sacks and such, and you keep saying "The Walking Dead is actually a really good show" and "no, you have to watch past the bad series – which I don't really think is bad, actually, just misunderstood – to really get it, which you don't" and, like, "look at my The Walking Dead tattoo" and "here's a photo of me, dressed as a zombie at a comic convention, posing for a photo with a member of The Walking Dead cast" then you are a full dickhead, awful dickhead, the dickhead to end all dickheads, your existence as a fan makes the otherwise innocent concept of liking things actively bad.
Guess which one of the above three is going to show up to your 12-person '~*~ SPOOKY HALLOWEEN // JAMIE'S BIRTHDAY MEGAPARTY ~*~' in Clapham this Saturday.
MEXICAN SUGAR SKULL BRIDE
Up at 5AM, bath, eight-step skincare routine. "The skincare," she's saying, to the flatmates who work Saturday shifts and need the bathroom for urgent early morning showers, who sweat for 45 minutes on the sofa after their usual Saturday morning jog, red and waiting, "is key to the prestige of the Mexican sugar skull bridge." From 11 until 2 she drinks smoothies and says "DIA DE LOS MUERTOS" in an ever-spiralling accent. 2PM until 3PM is just spent wrapped in a towel and on Tinder. Cuffing season has failed her for the third year in a row. Google "will my landlord let me have a dog?" 4PM is the white base coat, applied with a sponge. 5 through 7 is spent on WikiHow with a load of YouTube tabs open, carefully painting lace curlicues around the eyes. The party started thirty minutes ago. 8PM and Uber is surging, so wait 20 minutes before trying again. Whole ten-minute delay trying to cram a full wedding dress into an apartment block elevator and, again, down into a Prius. "At least," she says to herself, 13 hours awake and nothing but Prosecco on an empty stomach, "At least everyone at the party will love and adore me."
9.30PM arrival. Knock on the door and ring. Everyone is having too much fun to let her in, so has to wait for someone in the flat next door to pop out for milk to get in the front door. 9.45PM and the grand entrance: float in like the bride of death. Everyone ignores her because there's a Drake song on. Drink neat vodka alone in the kitchen. "Yeah, it's an actual wedding dress," she tells a boy she thinks might be chirpsing her, until his girlfriend comes up beside him and sincerely compliments her make-up. "Wow," she says. "God, you're— you're so pretty." First of three bathroom cries, six Pringles, cheeky little vomit. Uber home a sliver before midnight. Lone yellow-lighted mirror selfie on Instagram the next day – bravely captioned "best halloween ever x #dayofthedead #diadelosmuertos #MUA #sugarskull #Mehico #bridal" – gets 12 likes.
Taking the make-up off takes the best part of an hour-and-a-half and the breakouts last for ten days after.
OH GOOD SOME GUY IS HERE AS RICK FROM 'RICK AND MORTY', GOOD
Ah, good, he's affecting some burping. Sprayed his hair white and everything. Big huge gel spikes. Doing a little stutter and that. Ah, no, this is good, isn't it. No it's good your brother has something to like now after Louise ditched him after university and the doctor said he wasn't psychically capable of smoking weed any more. It's better than his Breaking Bad phase, at least, when he tried to organise that themed pub quiz. At least he's not doing that any more.
ACTION HERO OR TARZAN OR ESSENTIALLY ANY OUTFIT THAT REQUIRES MALE TOPLESSNESS
There's always some lad who got into creatine 18 months ago and who doesn't read the news in any way at all who uses Halloween as an excuse to get his sculpted, muscular tits out, and I'm afraid he is going to pull at this party, and you are not, and for a while maybe you will think about it – perhaps, you think, maybe you could focus on your diet a bit, cut out some of the starch, eat a vegetable now and again; maybe, with a little work and dedication, you could get your abs in again too – but then one look at his Instagram the next morning, where he's already starting his Story of the day with a 6AM shake and a drive to the gym, and you are still awake because you took exactly one line of cocaine and thought more girls were going to stay but they all immediately left so you and a guy called Dominic stayed up for hours playing each other Thomas the Tank Engine remixes off YouTube, and you think: ah, actually, no. Maybe it is time to admit to yourself that you'd rather die anything up to two decades earlier than you're supposed to if it means you never have to learn what pea protein is.
GUY WHO IS DEAD, BUT ALSO WEARING A SUIT
A very "my parents bought me a suit for a job interview I failed eight months ago and now I'm trying to get one last wear out of it before my waist size goes up irreversibly" kind of costume, isn't it. Shoot for "Gomez Addams" but land in the swampy morass of "adult son is begrudging best man as his stepdad marries his mum". Leave suit-wearing to the big boys, mate.
SOME SORT OF DEAD LUMBERJACK
Every man, right now, is capable of dressing like a lumberjack. Every single man. If you go to a man's house and ask him to dress as a lumberjack for you, he won't even question the request: he can be dressed as a lumberjack within 15 seconds. Every man owns a plaid shirt, some ill-fitting jeans, winter boots and a knitted cap. Every single man sleeps in the same once-white now-grey undershirt. Every man has been looking for an excuse to grow more than six days' worth of stubble but not fully daring enough to have a beard. I know this because I went to Halloween as a lumberjack once. Dribble some fake blood down the side of the face and you don't even need a toy axe. "I'm a lumberjack!" says every man alive, as if dressing in their own clothes is some astonishing achievement. As if the scariest concept known to them is honest manual labour. "I did it! I dressed up!"
Nobody is afraid of clowns, fear of clowns is a fake idea, anyone who says they fear the jester is just saying that in lieu of actually being interesting. Don't talk to the lad in the corner who's come dressed as a sort of Tesco own-brand Pennywise, because he is only going to repeat one of these three turgid opinions, over and over again, before checking his phone and asking if all of his boring identical mates can come over, they haven't got costumes because they didn't think they'd come out tonight, is that alright though:
- "Have you played the new FIFA? I haven't. I prefer PES."
- "Favourite book? It just has to be Nineteen Eighty-Four."
- "Hurt by Johnny Cash is better than the original…. [ lowers sunglasses] … which is by Nine Inch Nails, by the way."
- "[long explanation about how he tried to learn Japanese so he could read manga right-to-left as Kami-sama intended, but he only learned 'hello', 'goodbye', 'wife' and 'the numbers one thru eight' and, long story short, it's the fault of the UK school system which should teach Japanese to school kids from the age of five, fuck Tony Blair for making me so baka]
LAST MINUTE HALF-ARSED SKELETON FACEPAINT
Honestly, I've got nothing but respect for the lad who only got invited here an hour-and-a-half before kick-off and decided to dress in black T-shirt, black jeans, obliterated Converse and some thickly-applied skeleton face paint, especially because the bollocking he's going to get when his girlfriend finds out he somehow used three of her eyeliner pencils and an entire tub of Fenty highlighter to make this happen is going to be frankly biblical in scale, the dude is going to get yelled at so hard his balls go in—
JIMMY SAVILE OR JUST SOMETHING VAGUELY CONTROVERSIAL
Anyone who dresses in a controversial Halloween outfit – ah, you're Fake Melania are you? Ah yes, mate, very droll – is almost pathologically committed to his WhatsApp group-chat; he lives for it and he would die for it; he reignites the banter when it falls dry and spends every evening pushing it along; he sits on the sofa and banters along to Bake Off – "what are these meringues all about, eh lads?" – while other people quietly go about living actual lives; he considers the 22 men who live in his phone and are all called Gareth his joint first-place best friends; he 1,000 percent shares nudes with the group-chat; he changes the chat name maybe once, twice an hour; this is all he has, please, he's on his knees now, down on the linoleum amongst the discarded spider web decorations and the popped bottle lids, please, he's begging, please god, do not take my banter away, it's all I have, it's – he's sobbing – it's— all— I— have—
I like the sheet ghost costume, because it's the absolute bare minimum, isn't it? £6 Primark sheet, two holes, make a woo noise when you arrive, lose the costume entirely about 20 minutes into the party. The sheet ghost costume says: hey, the absolute least is good enough. The sheet ghost costume says: heh, yeah, I sleep on a sofa instead of a bed. The sheet ghost says: I have never washed these trousers and I will never wash these trousers. The sheet ghost says: you don't have to pay your student loan back until you earn over £15,000, so actually it makes sense to just do shifts at the bar four years after I started there. Sheet ghost says: can I borrow a cigarette, mate? I'll get you back next time. Sheet ghost says: can anyone roll a doob? I've got roach and Rizlas, so if anyone has the rest... Sheet ghost says: I'm about five years away from going bald overnight and suddenly announcing plans to retrain at the Open University. Sheet ghost says: I still have a Scarface poster up in my bedroom, still, despite being 26.
Avoid the girl at a 2017 Halloween party dressed as Harley Quinn because there's a 90 percent chance a selfie of her is currently going viral on Reddit and a load of fedora boys are in her Instagram mentions going "YOU DOTH WIN ONE INTERNET, LADY-SIR", and if some topless lad turns up with green-sprayed hair and "damaged" written on his forehead in eyeliner and a load of kitchen foil pressed into his teeth then something's going on fire at the end of tonight, nailed on, and it's either going to be you or this kitchen bin full of aerosols, but either way get into an Uber and move, do not stick around to watch this chaos unfold, do not attempt to engage with the Harley Qui—
OVERLY COMPLEX AND/OR EXPENSIVE COSTUME SHOP COSTUME
My first realisation that I lived in a broken city was Halloween, daytime, 2009, when I caught a bus into town than ran through Camden, and I saw a spiralling, snaking, block-long, one-in-one-out queue to get into the district's costume shop, with hundreds of people waiting outside to get in. The next year: the costume shop down the road from where I worked employed actual security guards to keep everyone in check while they silently waited for hours to buy a £60 wolf mask. What I am saying is: anyone who isn't Heidi Klum and who buys and wears an actual, expensive, professional-grade Halloween costume is ruining this city, and that they are essentially gentrifying Halloween, and should be ejected from your party appropriately.
Hey, it's me, the sexy cat. This is the eighth consecutive year I have dressed as a sexy cat. All of my friends have also dressed up as a sexy cat. A little about me: I've got 4,000 Instagram followers, a sincere belief in horoscopes and an unimaginably fucked up iPhone screen. I [clap-hand emoji] didn't [clap-hand emoji] finish [clap-hand emoji] my [clap-hand emoji] communications [clap-hand emoji] degree [clap-hand emoji]
MASK FROM TESCO, CLOTHES FROM WHATEVER THE FUCK YOU WERE WEARING THAT DAY
Every single Halloween party is haunted by the same exact ghost: a 24-year-old boy called Tom who turned up in a £2.50 mask from Tesco (the labels of the mask are still attached to the back of the mask, is how recently he bought the mask) and nothing else, and he is drinking three cans of lager at the same time, and is a friend of a friend who was not actually invited, and you keep hearing him loudly say, "Yeah I wasn't gonna come because everyone was dressing up but—". The lager? Red Stripe. The cans? Bought individually from the off license down the road for £1.10 a go. Tom is not sharing his cans. Tom bought exactly enough cans for him and no one else. Tom has eaten most of – if not exactly all of – the communal crisps. This is the problem: his presence – his politics-free protest at the entire concept of Halloween, fun he objects to despite knowing nothing of it – sours and curdles the entire vibe of the party. Fatigue spreads through the party like a miasma. Everyone here is trying but him. "What have you come as?" you ask him, staring down at his tattered adidas, his boot cuts, the ill-fitting size L Peacocks T-shirt, the greasy-necked canvas jacket, the wallet chain, the nine-week-old haircut. "Dunno, mate," he says. He takes the mask off to check. "Some sort of… ghoul, I suppose." Yes, some sort of ghoul. But did you even need the mask.
Oh, fu— right, don't look behind you, but that girl you went to uni with and didn't really like when you were studying together there but she moved down to London at the same time as you and for 18 months the two of you ended up as 66 percent of a flat-share, the passive-aggressive notes escalating, slowly, rising in tone, like is it possible to clean a bathroom passive-aggressively, to tidy a kitchen to spite someone, because you're pretty sure if it's possible to do those things then she is the person who did them, and anyway the two of you moved out separately and she invites you to her birthday drinkies every year but it's south of the river and you hate her so you always make an excuse not to go: well anyway, her new boyfriend is here, just behind you, and he's come dressed as "a footballer".
This is awkward. As the old phrase goes: it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a full matching-socks, matching-shorts football kit must be in want of a fucking word with himself. We all have football shirts, mate. We all have some shorts. But not matching ones, with "RONALDO #7" across the back. Ah, he's— yeah, he's got a little "7" printed on his shorts. Is he— he is wearing a captain's armband, yeah. He's walking on the linoleum in studs. The most boring man on the planet is here, earnestly offering out handshakes, tipping through your conversation to really loudly put a load of beers in the fridge.
The real horror, I suppose, is that he's actually quite sound. You know this because he's had you cornered in the kitchen for 45 minutes now and you can't get past him without touching the nude, exposed skin of his leg, so you just inch your way back against the countertop, listening to him talk about tax. "Yeah, so me and Sarah are just saving up for a place at the moment," he says, and you can see the place already, grey-brown wood-effect floors and pure white walls, massive Sky TV set up in the front room, see-through plastic coffee table, white surfaced kitchen, snugly-fitted double-glazing, vanilla missionary intercourse on a perfectly made bed. "We're looking around [some fucking no man's land in Zone 6]." The real horror is he's thriving in everything you're failing at. The real horror is that, maybe, if you just got a £6-with-the-clippers haircut and started working in recruitment, maybe you could achieve even one modicum of the contentment he feels. The real horror is that, after this conversation, you are one of his three best friends now, and he's going to invite you on his stag-do. The real horror is you can't bring yourself to admit that he's living life right and you're the one fucking it up.
People who dress as witches are great because Halloween is this long barbaric dance with yourself about whether you are going to dress in an outfit that accentuates your physical strengths and in turn makes you look sexy and then in turn gets you spookily laid (see: Tarzan, see: "action movie character", see: sexy cat) or if you're just going to go full silly and have some fun with it and fuck it, it doesn't matter what you look like – you're here to have fun and not pull, god! – and therein that grey space lay the witches. Green skin, blunt black wig, spooky hate, flowing shapeless cape. The Witch Gang are here to have fun and eat all the Halloween-themed Jaffa Cakes. The Witches are here to cackle outside and smoke loads of fags. The Witches are the life and soul of this party, and— oh god, oh good god. One of them is giving a HJ on the sofa in the front room and her luminescent plastic fingers are pinging off everywhere. One got in the jelly. O–Oh god. Abort, abort, abort
THE PERSON WHO TRIED REALLY HARD TO PUT ON A NICE HALLOWEEN PARTY, ACTUALLY, GUYS, AND I REALLY THINK SOME OF YOU ARE RUINING IT
Two types of people open up their houses for a party: lads who do drugs a lot and always seem to have some sort of eye injury and sleep in the same Umbro jumper they wear three days a week to work, and people who really, really freak out when you break one of the glasses in their kitchen. For some reason there is no in between: parties are only held by the pathologically filthy, or the pathologically uptight. It is not a sane thing, to throw a party. Invite friends and strangers into your home to make the worst of it. This is why no party host gets out of it with their sanity intact.
You're a VICE reader, so likelihood errs on the side of you going to some horrible party, in a warehouse or something, where it doesn't really matter if you throw an entire can of beer down the stairs, because sometime around 1AM the host of the party left briefly – "Just going to pick up, lads, back in a sec!" – never to be seen again, and you won't hear from him again until he Facebook messages you at 6PM on Sunday saying, "Have you gone yet? I'm still awake!" and a really tall silent lad in the world's longest leather jacket will be DJing alone in an all-blue lit neon room and everything around 3AM will take on a genuinely sinister vibe and you'll start to prang out a bit and leave.
The alternative of course is you go to someone's house who has hoovered nicely and done some special spooky treats off "Tasty" and sprayed spider web netting above every door and hidden all the Cath Kidson and fragile glassware in a special locked cupboard, and the Facebook invite has already asked for volunteers to "help with the tidy up" and insists every time you put a bottle of Beck's down on an available surface that you use a coaster. Sometimes you end up at these parties, and it is fine. If you have not drunkenly chain-eaten an entire Count Colin caterpillar cake alone at a party then have you ever, truly, lived.
They are always the ones that descend into something most frightening and vile, though, because they start at a point of innocence and then get horrible, so you have footprints tramped through the hallway carpet, and someone keeps flicking the lights on and off, and the curated Spotify playlist has been hijacked for some dark pulsating dance tracks, and the host keeps crying, and three people in skeleton costumes all come out of what everyone thought was a locked bedroom with all the pelvis joints of their costumes lightly soiled, and someone with vampiric face paint and a cape keeps doing lines off the presentation case of someone's flatmate's BA, and it's getting horrible, now, vile – 2AM rolls around and there are like three separate drug dealers here, the floor is just mud and coats and beer bottle lids, someone has spilled a whole thing of wine, you've just been offered actual ketamine, and now it's all spiralling a bit out of control – you just wanted to dress up a bit, didn't you, have a little un-ironic dance to Thriller, enjoy some treats, kick over a few polystyrene decorative gravestones, and now it's all gone very drastically south, and you're locked in a complex apartment block 6.5 miles away from your house, and it keeps flashing dark and then brilliant white, and more than one person is crying, and: oh, god. You're surrounded by monsters and rapidly becoming one yourself.
Maybe that is the true meaning of Halloween. This is why your dad never let you trick-or-treat as a kid, and not because it's "like begging". Allow the darkness in even an inch and humans will fully embrace it. Look down at your hands. They are covered in dark, sticky blood. It's not yours and it's not anyone's here. He knew. He knew what you would become. Happy Halloween, you animal.