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October 19, 2006:
Just when I thought I'd exhausted this year's supply of Halloween goodies, in swung my not-so-local Dollar Tree to save the day. If you're unfamiliar with Dollar Tree stores, the name should clue you in -- it's a chain of shops where nothing's price exceeds a buck, and where dreams come true in a sea of generic soda and cheap wrapping paper that disintegrates to the touch.
Like most other such stores, Dollar Tree really cranks up the crap during holiday seasons, and Halloween is no exception. I walked in and blocked the entrance as I stood, still and silently in awe, gazing upon one of the largest sections of shitty Halloween toys, costumes, candy and novelties ever. As Halloween-related items are rare beasts that actually gain more charm and desirability as their levels of junkiness and stupidity increase, I was in heaven. The booming industry of Halloween toys retailing for a dollar has led to everything from $1 nurse costumes to $1 paper-thin Dracula playing cards, and armed with twenty George Washingtons all showing wear and tear from being made to spell "TITS" out on the folded marquee, I entered empty-handed and left with a bag bursting with more fun and joy than Mrs. Poole on A-grade supermeth.
Part of me wanted to do a big review of all the stuff I bought, but the other part of me said, "You only want to write about Dollar Tree for an hour or so." Instead, we'll zero in one on particular collection of Dollar Tree (and, presumably, other dollar store chains) Halloween items that've become quite the little hits this year. I've gotten a lot of e-mail about this series, I guess because I'm sort of like a confessional for people who buy shit, are proud of buying shit, but have no one to brag about buying shit to. Most of the site-related e-mails I receive are either like that, or they're letters with kindest regards from the Prince of Persia naming me as both an heir and a fine looking gentleman.
The collection I speak of is known as "Creepy Classics," consisting of many action figures (and other items not featured below) that tip a few hats in our favorite monsters' direction, which is interesting since it implies that all of our favorite monsters stand in the same spot.
Word on the street is that the "Creepy Classics" line isn't new at all. The figures were out last year and maybe even the year before, but I guess in far more limited quantities. Every Halloween season ends up with several toys, candies and costumes that will forever be associated with it, and for the geek set, "Creepy Classics" is one of the 2006 season's icons. Clap for it you fools.
The 2-3" PVC-style figures -- the main meat of the collection -- are incredibly well-packaged. Only after opening these babies up does a person realize that they're barely worth a dollar and were better suited for a double-quarter vending machine. Frankly, the packages are just so cool that I'm going out on a limb and proclaiming everyone who opens them idiots. No, this isn't about some appreciating post-retail value or a mission to sell the toys on eBay later -- they just look cooler in the package.
The toys are, through some miracle, officially licensed. They aren't bootlegs, which is a sad commentary on just how far down the pole Frankenstein's Monster and The Mummy have slid. If they're whoring themselves around for this, I can only assume that we'll see Dracula's face on bottles of America's Choice Red Pop cola next Halloween.
Since they're officially licensed, the packages feature artsy montages of movie posters relating to the featured figure. I don't know for sure how many figures there are in the set, but most of horror's old mainstays are present. I picked Frankie and the Mummy because they needed more support than Dracula.
The figures look a bit nicer in person than the photographs suggest -- they're not as shiny, and feature a decent amount of detail with great paint jobs. None of the figures have points of articulation, which wouldn't have been as big of a letdown if they weren't universally posed as "monsters drowsily waiting on line at the post office." Look at Frankenstein! What are you supposed to do with that? Puppet him into Grayskull to calmly ask the transients if anyone found his wallet?
Up next are two examples from my favorite branch of the "Creepy Classics" collection. These are so, so cool, and I wish I had more time to research 'em, because they've obviously got a story to tell. Each absurd figure is a sort of hollowed out rubber bust of a various monster, with a hole on the bottom that kind of transforms it into a finger puppet, assuming you've got tiny fingers. All of the characters who were immortalized as the aforementioned full-body figures were given this treatment, but instead of looking all classy and picturesque, they've been blessed with goofy, puffy faces and clothes that make no sense.
Oh, and all of the figures carry baseball bats.
Half-bodied monster baseball players? Why? They're like something you dream about, wake up and spend the rest of the day wondering why the fuck you dreamt about that. My assumption is that if I looked hard enough, I'd find out that the company either partly repurposed existing molds from some long forgotten collection of shitty baseball toys, or that in the monster figures' home country of Japan, some explanation was issued as to why they were all carrying bats.
And it's not even like you could call the bats weapons, because look at the way the monsters hold them. They're obviously for playing baseball. These are monsters...who play baseball. We don't know why they play baseball. We don't know if they like playing baseball. We just know that, for whatever reason, these monsters do play baseball. I love it. Visions of the Wolfman stealing second base dancing in my head. Tonight is so much fun.
Most shocking of all is that both kinds of figures -- full-bodied normals and half-bodied baseball players -- come in King Kong and Godzilla varieties, too. This really threw me for a loop. I'm used to seeing vampires and mummies treated like whatever the fuck, but Godzilla and King Kong? I don't know -- I felt like their respective camps still had active branding departments. As much as I like the Universal Monsters, there's no denying that Godzilla and Kong are the snazziest entries in the series.
You're holding a bat.
I am holding a bat!
Then what am I doing?
You're asking me if I'd care to dance.
You're telling me that something is "just this way, madame."
Maybe you're doing Air Cello?
Wish I had a bat.
I know I said that the figures are cooler in-package and thus should stay that way, but there's a reward for those who pop 'em open. Each of the cardbacks features a cutout mini-poster reflecting the monster of your choice, and the photos are all perfect replicas of the original movie posters once found on theater walls behind concession stands. Considering the demure stature of the cutout posters, they're perfectly sized if you want to make any of your normal and/or baseball-playing monster figures a furbished bedroom diorama out of a shoebox. Now I have something to do this Saturday night. Envy me.
I love the "Creepy Classics" collection in a genuine sexual way, and I thank everyone who wrote in to complain that I was wasting time on pepperoni recipes when I should've been writing about these. Like I said, they've been out for a while, but never in such strong numbers, and never with my personal guarantee that you will enjoy them to the point where onlookers will consider you disturbed. Both under and over the "Creepy Classics" moniker, Dollar Tree has tons of other official-but-cheap monster stuff, ranging from slime tubs to posters...and beyond ooh ooh aaahahahsha.
I will sum up my feelings for these toys with a spirited round of Classic Concentration:
I'm so excited, I'll even give you a bonus feature with its own heralding graphic and everything.
I wrote about my best-ever Halloween costume earlier this week, but some of my favorite Halloween memories are of pillaging through pharmacies and card stores for really crappy rubber masks at the last second. You know what I'm talking about. You'd go into a pharmacy's Halloween section, and they'd have half an aisle devoted to a big messy pile of cheap, rubber Halloween masks based on nobody in particular. I loved that shit. The variety was enormous, and since the brunt of the collection didn't bear any resemblance to the particular year's hottest cartoon characters, the makers usually amped up the creepy-and-gruesome factor by folds. Generally, these weren't the kind of masks your parents wanted pictures of you wearing before you went out trick-or-treating. Nobody wants to remember a bleeding face with worms coming out of its eyes.
Dollar Tree had a couple of masks that reminded me of those old pharmacy/card store hunts. Though they're of even lesser quality and notoriety considering their price, I couldn't leave the store without them, because a villain is holding my family hostage and threatening to kill them if I don't do embarrassing things like stand in line at a dollar store with a too-small rubber witch mask in hand. When will I see them again?
This witch mask is pretty classic. It's got Slash hair, a big nose, and a color palette straight out of a storybook that only wants to pay off its promise of "color illustrations" in the tiniest, most literal way possible. There's no wart, and though there should be one, I'll gladly trade one wart for one V-shaped bloody gash near where the wart should've been. Somebody taught this witch how to not talk back.
The second mask is far more brutal and awesome, sharing the same mass of Slash hair, but little else. It's a Zombie Demon Vampire Guitarist mask, and it's incredible that a person can be all those things at once for just a buck. When I think of Halloween, I think of masks like this. Maybe not first, maybe not second...but eventually, I get around to masks like this and say, "Yeah, Halloweeeeeeeen."
Final word: Dollar Tree has done Halloween proud, and if you don't live within driving distance of one, or another dollar store with similar wares...ha ha you suck.
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