Written by Jonathan Wojcik
"Spirit" Halloween stores have always been the most widespread and accessible seasonal outlets in the country, but for most of my life, I've found them to be rather hit-or-miss. Sometimes, they hardly offer anything new that I have anything to write about, let alone very many items I'd like to drop cash for. All that has changed in 2013, with a slew of new products just interesting enough that a couple of them are going to warrant articles all their own. It's by far my best experience with Spirit to date, and to start with, we're going to go over a slew of delightful odds and ends, ending with the first thing I simply had to bring home with me, and could actually afford at the time!
Crazy Monster Clown
As you may have guessed from the giant cardboard archway, Spirit offered a lot of giant, creepy clown props for 2013, though the majority of them are on the rather "serious" side; knife-wielding, demon-fanged, blood-streaked goofballs who certainly have their place in the monster world, but just aren't quite my style. This guy was far more to my liking, with that cartoonishly grotesque anatomy that I've always associated more with Ghostbusters than virtually anything else, and the swirls in the eyes are especially nice, even if they look scribbled on at the last minute with magic marker. Who's to say a clown's eyes wouldn't have magic marker spirals instead of pupils and corneas? You know, if clowns were a thing that actually existed and not some weird monster invented in recent decades for Halloween and superhero comics.
This was one of two motion-activated "possessed children's toy" props, which moves around and sings when set off. I feel like huge button eyes would have been a 500% improvement, but it's neat to see one of these Halloween animatronics with a soft, plush exterior. They're usually latex or plastic even when they otherwise represents something that should logically be fabric.
The other "haunted toy" offering was a symbol monkey, which didn't seem that impressive at first, but the haphazard little way they knock the symbols together totally won me over. Maybe not in the way its designers intended, sure, but "hilariously pitiful" is just as entertaining to me as "hideously disturbing." It's like this poor little undead primate only barely remembers what he's supposed to do with the things in his hands, but he's much more concentrated on shrieking and snarling to put his whole putrescent heart into it.
Still, as anybody who's seen Toy Story 3 can tell you, an actual, vintage Cymbal Monkey toy is leaps and bounds more nightmarish than it ever needs to be. Swapping its classic face for a snarling, rotten hellbeast actually only neutralizes the terror of the real thing.
Animated Zombie Gnome
We sure have been seeing a lot of zombie gnomes this year. I wonder how long it will be before they star in a sci-fi channel original movie? This one is even ore pitiful and hilarious than the zombie cymbal monkey, as you can see from my video. Even on a flat surface, this one could not remain upright for more than a couple steps.
Spirit's monstrous, rubber baby product line has been going strong year after year with new additions, which is hardly surprising, since I can think of virtually nothing in the animal kingdom more unpleasant than these writhing, red-faced, parasitic snot-factories inexplicably carried around and adored by people likely deluded into believing these things are related to us in some sick, strange way.
The "spider" baby here is a really neat idea, and I feel like it's the one I should like the most, but it's kind of a case of too much baby, not enough spider. Maybe with huge, round jumping-spider eyes, I would have liked it enough to even consider buying.
Gargoyle-baby is the least menacing and least gruesome thing I've ever seen in this product line, but somehow, that kind of makes it one of the most unsettling. It didn't even need the pointy ears or the bat wings. If this was a perfectly normal, serenely sleeping naked baby, all you might need to do is mount it to a wall or ceiling and you've instantly got one of the most chilling baby-shaped Halloween props ever conceived.
The last neonate of note was this little scamp, who actually manages to be nothing but lovable and precious. The sight of a baby eating is actually one of the few things I cannot abide looking at and almost feel a little queasy just thinking about, but a baby eating itself? It's about damn time.
Hanging Goth Girls
One of the weirdest new additions to the classic "dangling ghostly monster" family, this is apparently supposed to be nothing but a "goth," which I guess is closer these days to a fantastical cartoon monster than any actual, real subculture anymore. On its own, this cutie's staring, bleeding eyes are a pretty cool and haunting image for a Halloween item, but what really makes it are the gnarled, pale blue man-hands. This isn't even perspective at play; those hands are bizarrely large compared to the head, and with its long, trailing body, the overall effect is like some surreal new species of monster all its own.
Gothy has a friend in white, whose face is moderately interesting in its own right, but with significantly less eye-shadow, less blood, and no hands at all, she's doomed to live forever in her counterpart's oddly-proportioned shadow.
Monster Lawn Stakes
How hilarious would these be on a windy day? They're trying their best to glare threateningly, but they're still only a couple feet tall, and their skinny little arms would be whirling frantically as they otherwise stood perfectly in place. Glaring.
Zombie Lawn Animals
One year ago, I shared Spirit's new undead garden gnomes and even cooler undead flamingos, wishing aloud that they would expand upon the theme in 2013, and did they ever. They didn't include any monstrous plants, fungi, snails or insects like I would have hoped, but if we all show our support for these beauties, maybe we'll luck out next year. The deer here is the largest and most expensive, though for their size, these items are quite affordable, crafted from the same hollow, soft plastic as many regular, year-round garden decorations.
The undead cat isn't really lawn-centric, but it's a gorgeous sculpt, especially where the rotten flesh is hanging off the spinal column. The eyes are the best part, nicely standing out from its nearly colorless body and skirting that perfect line between the creepy and cute. Some people may have preferred slitted pupils, but a kitty's eyes aren't always in viper-mode, and I think the wide, circular look is a lot more interest on this skeletal ghoul.
I was going to say the "lawn" theme was a little loose here, but I'm pretty sure I've seen fake plastic parrots on perches in legitimate lawn & garden aisles. This one is in the same exact style of the flamingos - which have, of course, returned in full force - with pinkish tissues filling in the gaps between its bones. The wings, as you can see, are actually jointed and can be posed!
Also in the same style are these zombie ducks, only slightly less menacing than an actual duck and obviously a whole lot less lethal. Also featured are lawn goblins, which is something that really should have existed for at least as long as garden gnomes have. There isn't even anything explicitly "Halloween" about the little guys. Just about every fantasy gamer out there should consider nabbing one while they can, since they have year-round relevance to damn near every fantasy gaming world on the market. What better to decorate your gaming environment, be it a hobby store, basement or even computer desk?
I think the ghost ducks are even more entertaining than the zombie ducks, due to their sheer simplicity. You could just as easily drape a real sheet over one of the zombie ducks, with an even cooler effect whenever the wind blows (maybe glue it down around the head, to be on the safe side) but I'm glad they just made a goofy, plain plastic sheet-ghost duck.
Finally, the very coolest addition to any zombie flower garden is by far the undead frog, a fairly large beast whose flesh is shrunken tight around a remarkably accurate Anuran skeletal structure!
I wouldn't like this nearly as much without the hideously absent right eyeball, but I'd probably still like it enough to buy, which I did, and $20 is reasonable as hell for something like this. A big, rotten plastic frog isn't something that comes around often. It's no snail, mantis or mutant zombie mushroom, but here's hoping Spirit never stops building upon this delightful new series! There's only one more thing to talk about for this particular review page, but it's one of the few things even better than a big, dead toad. Better, but also a little frustrating:
The Jumping Bug
Craaaaaap. This is exactly the sort of thing I hope to see each and every Halloween: new giant bug props. I'll even let the extra set of legs slide for how awesome the sculpted head and body look, a reasonably realistic mutant cockroach with pleasingly huge eyes, cute little head-hairs and a less-realistic but still quite gnarly mouth. Too bad it's a hundred goddamn dollars.
It's only so expensive because it's an elaborate, motion-sensing animatronic prop that "leaps out" on a robotic arm. They didn't have one on display at this Spirit, but here's someone else's video. Yes, the leaping effect, chittering sounds and light-up eyes are all pretty cool, but I really really just want a big bug. I don't care what it does. Being a big bug is all anything ever actually needs to do, isn't it? Unfortunately, a hundred dollars has always been my strict cut-off point for Halloween items. I've certainly spent a hell of a lot more than that on Halloween in only one shopping trip, but certainly not on one item.
Do I dare cross that line?