issue 037 • 2020-10-19
The Halloween That Won’t
Hello and Happy Monday, dear readers!
I hope your weekend was good and your week has started on the right foot.
My weekend was fine — relaxed, as active as it should be (which means “not very” in this the COVID-affected year of 2020) — but all and all OK.
I did have a question come to mind for you all over the weekend, however: How are you celebrating Halloween?
Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, between dressing up, the copious amounts of candy, and watching spooky movies, but it’s feeling like the only one which will happen this year is the latter.
The lack of candy is actually a piece of sadness for me, as becoming a homeowner just over 3 years ago allowed me to finally enact something I’ve wanted to do for years, which is: Be The House With The Full Sized Candy Bars.™
It always brought me joy to dress up (usually in some sort of character onesie, like Spider-Man or C-3PO…was probably going to do Chewbacca this year?) and see kids heads explode (even the jaded, older kids) as they realized that This House had the goods.
But this year? It just feels negligent to even consider doing anything like that.
In turn, I ask you, dear readers: what are you doing to celebrate the spooky season? And what’s your neighborhood doing re: the whole candy situation?
Hit reply, let me know. I look forward to finding out.
Now, onto the things…
Thing #1: The Rise and Rise of Spirit Halloween
Speaking of Halloween!
I’ve always been fascinated by the cicada like lifespan of popular spooky season retailer Spirit Halloween. A business goes away and dies, suddenly, between August and October, they’re overtaken, and suddenly, as quickly as it came, the Spirit Halloween fades away.
In turn, Ezra Marcus at The New York Times decided to take a look and see how the Halloween retailer is doing in a time where, well, they could be more places than ever.
The reason for Spirit Halloween’s durability is closely linked with its business strategy of taking over temporary leases. The store “is out of step with most normal retail concepts,” Andy Mantis, a retail analyst for the firm 1010Data, wrote in an email. “In 2019, typical party stores generated 29 percent of their annual sales from Labor Day through Halloween.”
Spirit, however, “generated 90 percent over that window,” he wrote, noting that in 2020, “Covid-19 driven temporary retail closures earlier in the year did nothing to hurt their sales outlook.”
And this year, the temporary lease approach may be an even bigger advantage, Mr. Mantis wrote, citing lower real estate costs as a result of “the tidal wave of 2020 retail bankruptcies and store consolidations.” In other words, Spirit is merrily feasting on the corpses of its fallen foes.
Check it out here.
Thing 2: The Tale of the Worst Video Game of All Time
If you’re an avid video gamer, you undoubtedly have your favorites. Your Metal Gears, your Street Fighters, your Calls of Duty, your Fantasys, Final.
But few games can truly be called the worst video game ever.
Unless you’re E.T. for the Atari 2600. A game so bad that it tanked the entire industry in the 1980s.
But how did it get so bad? Desi Jedeikin writes for MEL Magazine:
That Christmas morning, her family beamed as Shannon opened the gift. “I’ll never forget how excited they were to see me open the game and watch me play it,” she tells me. Her excitement, however, quickly turned into teary-eyed disappointment: “I played for about a half hour before I finally gave up. I even had the adults in my family try.” Her mom agreed that it was just too complicated. “I remember her saying, ‘This doesn’t make any sense. What is the plot? What are you supposed to do?’” Shannon says. “In those days, there weren’t many detailed directions, and you were pretty much on your own. There was certainly no internet or YouTube to get tips.”
Her Christmas was ruined by what is now commonly thought of as the worst video game ever made. “It is the worst Atari game ever made and that platform had a LOT of schlock,” says Jake, who got an Atari 2600 along with a bundle of games that included E.T. around the same time Shannon did. “The only positive I can give the game is that you learned that movie tie-in games were never good.”
He has numerous complaints about the game, but he was primarily baffled by the play style. “An 8-year-old just wants to shoot things, and when you were playing E.T., you were running from the scientist instead of shooting. Why do I have to extend E.T.’s neck? Why do I ‘float’ out of a huge hole? I don’t remember any of this being in the movie. You could have had a game where you just flew in a bike with Elliott and shot at government agents with your glowing finger dick. That’s all the game had to be. Fuck everyone involved, they got what they deserved.”
Check it out here.
Thing #3: Mallrats at 25
You knew I was going to sneak an oral history in here, right?
Well, here it is, as one of the keystone comedies of my youth turns 25 years old (just after I turn — oh god — 36), writer/director Kevin Smith sits down with Clark Collis for Entertainment Weekly to look back at the wacky commerce-based comedy, Mallrats.
Smith’s second movie hit many of the same beats and pop-culture-obsessed comedic tones as its predecessor. This time around, however, the film boasted a cast of “proper” actors including Jason London, Jason Lee, Shannen Doherty, Ben Affleck, Claire Forlani, and Michael Rooker as well as Jason Mewes and Smith, reprising their Clerks roles of Jay and Silent Bob. Released in October 1995, Mallrats was savaged by critics — Roger Ebert declared it “sad” — and barely made $2 million, less than the far cheaper Clerks.
Smith would go on to make many more movies, from 1997’s Chasing Amy to last year’s Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, but he still recalls the film’s reception with a shudder. “Movie comes out in ’95,” he says. “Critics s— on it. It died at the box office and it’s gone within a week. I was the whipping boy, the sophomore slump of the year. All of that stuff. So, for years, I referred to Mallrats jokingly and jokingly apologized for it.”
Smith doesn’t apologize for it anymore. Among fans of the director, the film has become as beloved as any other while the movie’s obsession with comic book culture seems downright prescient in an age when the box office is dominated by superhero movies.
Check it out here.
Until next time…
Hey! I’ve got a show for you to watch this weekend. That’s right, me and my friends at Super Art Fight are kicking off our next season of online shows, and you can join us for the premiere, Saturday, October 24th at 8pm Eastern. Just follow us on Twitch and check out the fun!
Don’t be a jerk. Wear a mask. Vote. See you next week.