Written by Jonathan Wojcik
$13 AT THE DOLLAR TREE
, Dollar Tree seemed to go completely all-out for the season, to the point that I attempted to spend a spooky thirteen dollars there and wound up going several dollars over. This year, I'm happy to say that the chain has kept up the same level of semi-quality, and
that I managed to practice some real restraint this time, so without further ado, these are - in my humble opinion - the thirteen finest items you can pick up at the old tree for exactly thirteen bucks in 2015..
For only one dollar, you can fool the whole neighborhood into believing your home has been invaded by at least two non-specific green monster people, which is pretty awesome. They're clearly not just "zombies," since their teeth are inhumanly massive, their noses are more pig-like and their skin doesn't show the slightest sign of decay, besides one missing eyeball. They're best described as simply "ghouls," though they could also pass for radioactive mutants or alien experiments if you've got a more scientific horror motif going on.
Stuck in an actual window, the atomic ghouls actually look pretty damn good,
printed at an attractively high resolution that'll look even cooler to trick-or-treaters walking up your driveway. You just might need some tape to really hold them in place; they're not quite as "clingy" as they're meant to be, but at fifty cents per ghast, there's really nothing to complain about. These are superb.
Weirdly skinny, jointed cardboard monsters have been a Dollar Tree mainstay, but this is a brand new one for 2015, and only their second explicitly female monster since the standard green witch. She has the same oddball proportions they always do, but pretty interesting fashion sense, with that big rope noose around her waist like a belt. I've never seen that before. That's pretty cool looking, I wonder if it'll catch on and next Halloween she'll come out of her crypt and see all these young monsters with waist nooses and be like "I vas the first! Now it's not even cool anymore! BLAH! BLAH!"
Mummy Coffin Box
Last year, Dollar Tree offered three styles of coffin box, each in the same three possible styles to stack as you pleased. This year, they've brought them back with three new designs, but once again the mummy takes the cake. Last year's mummy was just plain adorable, but this one is more of an adorable-grotesque balance, looking a bit more rotten and decrepit. It's even being gnawed on by rats! The coffin lids this year are also way more elaborately decorated, and look beautifully decorative all on their own.
LED Mini Monster Lanterns!
I'm cheating by showing you $2 worth of these. Whoops. I guess I went over my limit anyway. It was just really hard to choose between a classic grinning skull and this cute witch with sharp, black teeth. Switched on, they slowly change color, and look pretty nice in the dark! You can't beat just a buck for a light-up skull.
A dollar for a full-size "scene setter" is another great deal; these things often cost a heck of a lot more with no real difference in quality. That's still not saying much, honestly, for some reason Halloween "scene setters" are usually printed really
low-rez for how huge they are, but from a bit of a distance, this is a passable evil laboratory scene for the cost, with all the things you expect in an evil scientific research facility, like a scientific spike trap, scientific shackles, a spider web connected to nothing and a completely different, higher-resolution skull contained in a jar.
Giant Ghost Door Cover
This is the last decorative plastic film I picked up; between the laboratory and the window ghouls, I'd say it's the best haunted house setup you can get for exactly three bucks. I've always liked ghosts with huge, giant mouths, and the veiny purple background is especially pleasant.
Glow Skeleton Arm
Last year, Dollar Tree offered a big, plastic one-dollar skeleton hand with basically no purpose, and I really liked that.
I liked the simplicity of just an oversized bone hand with no additional context, demanding some level of creativity on your part. This year, the hands have been cycled out in favor of complete arms, which not only glow in the dark, but include an attachable stake allowing them to jut from the ground. They're quite nice, but the stake basically tells you exactly what you're meant to do with them, which just doesn't challenge the imagination like the hands did. Ah, well.
Stretchy Rubber Worms
In my review of this giant skelespider, I lamented that you couldn't put anything inside of its rib cage, but these worms can at least liven it up a little
. You get six of them for a dollar, and they're great just about anywhere, especially if you've got anything with eye sockets to dangle them from. As a child who loved playing with rubber bugs, though, I remember actively wishing
there were simple, realistic rubber earthworms you could buy like this, and instead had to rely on the kind sold as fishing lures. You are like 26 years late, rubber worms.
A three pack of inflatable vinyl eyeballs is another unbeatable bargain, and they come in three different colors! You get yellow, red and green, so you can mix and match or buy another pack for three matching pairs. There's no limit to the ways you can decorate with these. I've turned an old everyday skeleton into a bug-eyed rib cage monster, but just about anything can be spruced up with the addition of an inflatable eye or two; they can peek out of drawers, float in jars of colored liquid, stare through tears in creepy fabric, who knows! Why bother cleaning up before a Halloween party when strategically placed eyes can turn that overflowing kitchen trash or filthy laundry pile into deliberate-looking monsters?
Your Choice of Skeleton
Just a dollar for a miniature, hanging plastic skeleton in one of three possible flavors! You've got a regular skeleton, a ghostly glow-in-the-dark skeleton, and the regular skeleton with some gauze on it! That's almost what a mummy is! I like how the vanilla variety compensates for its lack of either glowiness or gauziness with a little extra paint application, though you may as well buy that
one and wrap it in gauze, then you've got a slightly painted
mummy skeleton! Heck, why not coat the gauze in glow in the dark paint, while you're at it? Take that, dollar skeletons! I've totally hacked your system!!!
Weird Bubblegum Ghosts
I'm not a gum fan, but these tiny, plastic boxes have such delightfully unusual looking phantasms on them. Grey, wrinkly and fleshy, almost more like ghost-mummy-potatoes. Now to just figure out what I can put
in tiny, cheap plastic ghost-mummy-potato boxes. Maybe I could use them as coffins for interesting dead insects I've come across. It's a dignified enough burial, isn't it? I certainly wouldn't mind being buried in one of these, if I were only small enough.
Maybe someone could just distribute tiny pieces of me in a few thousand of these, and bury them all around the world.
Cardboard Monster Jail
This is similar to cardboard containers offered last year, and they once again come in three different sizes and three different designs, though I only picked up one this year. As you can see, this piece of cardboard actually offers its own lore,
warning us that the "inmates" locked away in this old, stone prison will transform into monsters if they are given candy
. Good thing no-one could possibly be foolish enough to...
WHAT ARE YOU DOING,
MAN!? DID YOU NOT HEED THE WARNING?! Your misguided generosity has already transformed this individual into one of the living dead, and it looks like you've deliberately
left an entire supply of confections within reach of the beast! Know you no shame!? It looks as though you've gotten to another of the prisoners, as well, but we can only begin to guess what unholy abomination lies behind those glassy, emotionless eyeballs. Surely, you've learned your lesson, haven't you?
Good lord, what is WRONG with you!? Even that sentient pumpkin, who you probably also created in your sugar-fueled rampage, thinks this was a terrible idea, especially now that its face is being sensually caressed by the arm of some animate cadaver, which is probably also your fault. That was probably just another normal, living pervert until you gave him some laffy taffy or blow pops, apparently just for shits and giggles, and he tunneled his way right out of prison for more.
Please, please stop. Look at that ghost's face. He doesn't even enjoy
this anymore, but he can't stop himself. As long as you keep offering him candy, his tortured soul is bound to continue accepting it, even as it merely piles up and rots in his ectoplasmic membranes. His hands beg for more, but his eyes beg for less. You are a sick, sick person, at least according to this cardboard dollar store container's first-person storytelling experience...OR ARE YOU?
Perhaps you overlooked this earlier, but take a closer look at the lid
of the box. Is this bat taking
candy, or is it giving
candy? So much more candy is piled up on the roof. This could all be you, the viewer's doing, but it's just as possible that this was all a conspiracy by the bats. It's an open-ended story, up to us to interpret as we prefer. What a ride.
I can't say I ever thought of a box as a medium for a horror microstory, and I can't say I'd have expected to get such an innovative new experience for only a dollar. Kudos.
Mad Scientist Figurines!!!
As gripping as that cardboard box was, I think we know what the best thing at Dollar Tree is this year. Their miniatures line - a dollar tree alternative to Spookytown
- has come roaring back this year with a whole mess of additional tiny, resin buildings and monsters, including the return of the marvelous miniature bone gazebo,
but I don't think anything can beat this three pack of unorthodox academics.
You've got a lady scientist with sexy cat-eye glasses proudly showing off somebody's brain in her bare hands, a hot grinning bald dude scientist gleefully prepared to mix volatile chemicals, and most attractive of all, a hunch-backed assistant carrying a human skull and wearing some unknown metal contraption on his head. All three of these loons look so proud of whatever the hell they've been working on, don't they?
On a more personal note, these three match up remarkably well to the three scientists from that terrible flash cartoon series I used to do. What was that called again? The Scare Chute?
All said and done, this is a pretty decent haul for thirteen bucks. Spend it just a little differently than I did, and you could actually deck out your whole house for around the same low price, or at least your front porch and windows for that army of tiny, candy-hoarding Captain Americas headed your way.
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