Sold exclusively by Michael's crafts, the Spooky Town miniature Halloween village has been expanding for at least fifteen years now, yet it's not a product line I've really given a spotlight before. Its focus is usually on fairly standard Halloween imagery; pumpkins, skeletons and trick-or-treaters, designed to look tasteful enough for a generally older crowd of hobbyists. For what it is, though, a fair bit of imagination goes into the series, and over the years, it's steadily built up a decent selection of things I can offer substantial opinions on, so considering this is their fifteenth anniversary, we may as well discuss some of its more interesting and unusual additions.
This was one of the first Spookytown buildings to ever really catch my eye, though at fifty bucks and up, none of the line's larger additions ever felt like they were really within my budget for what they were. Still, this Little Shop of Horrors homage was one of those rare pieces to deviate from the core Halloween monsters with the addition of your classic pod-faced carnivorous plants. The vegetation sprouting from human skulls is also interesting, because it doesn't look just like the skulls are being used as flowerpots. I can't help getting more of an impression that the killer plants germinate in skulls as part of their natural life cycle.
A really cute concept with even cuter execution, Bloody Acres is like a gated community for vampires, so the "units" are just glorified coffins stylized like tiny houses. I think having windows is a bit of a code violation for something a vampire is supposed to be sleeping in, but where else are they going to keep their little window boxes full of dead, rotten flowers? Also delightful are the bottles of fresh blood apparently just delivered by the local bloodman, and the "bird bath" filled with blood for vampire bats to wallow in. I also have to appreciate how it covers the major bases of vampire archetypes; you've got a Bela Lugosi vampire, a black-gowned vampiress, and a monstrous, corpsen ghoul mid-way between humanoid and bat, its tattered brown "robes" actually fleshy wings!
Mt. Gloom Observatory
I might have mentioned this in last year's review of Michael's products; it's a fairly new one, and it's prominently featured in the video I linked above. The gigantic skull with an eyeball telescope is such a great looking image, exactly what any self-respecting supervillain, evil scientist, or skeleton astronomer should want for a lair, though apparently it's inhabited by a grim reaper, perhaps even the grim reaper, unless that's just how a skeleton astronomer likes to dress.
The smaller figurines and accessories are often the best part of Spooky Town, not the least because they're more affordable. This is one of those items that also feels like a slightly different artistic style from the rest; the neon, menacing pumpkin and reaper have a more modern Halloween touch, and probably look awesome lit up on display.
Horror Hill Vampire Bat Aviary
Are these "vampire bats" as in animals, or "vampire bats" as in transformed vampires? It seems a little cruel for vampires to be keeping their own kind locked up like an attraction at the zoo, but maybe it's just advertised that way so tasty humans will be gullible enough to waltz right in. All those bottles of blood have to come from somewhere.
This is another one with a less human-like vampire on display; the bald, red-eyed guy with wing membranes is quite cool. One point of contention, though: this would technically be a chiroptiary, not an aviary.
Lil' Witches and Warlocks Nightcare
It's nice how many different running themes this line has at once. You could build a whole wild village of witches, vampires, skeletons and mummies, sure, but there are also more than enough items to specialize on a single subject. You can do a town of just vampires, or just skeletons, or just witches fairly easily and still have an impressive display, maybe even one that tells its own unique story. Here, we have the equivalent of a daycare exclusively for dark magic-users, with an assortment of little blasphemers playing on what are ostensibly rides in the shape of giant toads and snails, but I think we can all agree they're better interpreted as totally real and alive.
Killer Clown Trailer
I actually did review this once before. I made some sort of cheap joke about Insane Clown Posse, but years later, that still feels sadly relevant. The "evil clown" side of Spooky Town is by far its sketchiest; just look at the boarded-up windows on this rusty heap, the broken-down clown car, the barbed wire, the freshly dug grave in the back...and then there's that clown hand beckoning us inside, with promises of "KANDY." Yeah, they totally don't have a refrigerator full of dead babies. No way.
Spooky Town even has a fair share of nautical items, including ghostly pirate ships, haunted islands and decrepit house boats, but I'm more drawn to this absurd buoy prison, and the fact that there appear to be skull barnacles growing on it. One of them is even larger than an actual human head. Damn those are cool.
Gurgle's Roach Coach
Great, more murder clowns. Or at least very unsanitary food service clowns. "Gurgle" appears to be serving up an actual, literal roach, as well as offering "grub(s)" and "meat shakes," which is hilarious. The "I BRAKE FOR CLOWNS" sign is particularly funny, since it implies either that it's normal for people to just run clowns over in the middle of the road, or that Gurgle does not brake for non-clown pedestrians.
Probably the single most interesting thing here, though, is the truck itself, since that appears to be a fairly real tongue it's licking its chops with.
Terror on the Nile
There aren't a great deal of Lemax items with non-humanoid monsters, so even something as simple as a giant snake feels pretty special, and it's a giant snake engaged in thrilling combat with a bunch of mummies! The only item really matching this one is a haunted pyramid, which is cool, though together, they feel kind of separate to the rest of Spooky Town, unless Dracula used his vampire magic to transport a chunk of ancient Egypt halfway across the world like he seems to have done in all the Castlevania games.
Chainsaw's Lumber Yard
The joke here is of course that this "lumber yard" is more of a front for a bunch of hillbillies to butcher people alive, which is a bit more gruesome than Spooky Town normally gets, with so many bloodied tools on display and even leatherface proxies with masks of stolen human skin. Which one of them is "Chainsaw" himself? It's obviously the owner's name.
A haunted birdhouse is a really cute little concept I'm surprised I haven't seen for real. Making birdhouses its a classic craft project, right? Why don't more people Halloweenify them? Of course there's also such a thing as a bat house, so why bother spooking out something some pudgy sparrow will live in when you could make a bat house with skulls and spiders all over it instead? This is at least occupied by a skeleton bird, indicating that this really is a haunting. There's even blood pouring out of the windows. Is the house itself bleeding, as haunted houses have been known to do, or do birds move in unaware that it's inhabited by the vengeful spirit of a dead cardinal and all murder one another in a possession-induced rage?
I really like this one. It's one of the smaller, simpler displays, nothing but a single whispy phantasm hovering in an ominous forest, but it's the execution here is just killer. The way the light-up background evokes a deeper, fog-enshrouded, moonlit glen is really attractive, and the ghost itself has such a nicely wobbly, rippling design to it. It's actually attached by a spring, and it shakes and jitters when you turn it on!
Rave at Grave's
I like how this one tells kind of a story. That witch clearly isn't dead, and maybe not even a real witch at all. A lot of Spookytown items feature trick-or-treaters, partiers and other costumed humans, sometimes with no apparent "real" monsters present at all, but you can't always draw the line so easily, and sometimes the two categories cross over in ways clearly bound for disaster. This poor young woman has possibly mistaken this for a normal, mortal shindig, despite the fact that the partygoers are all green and translucent. They also appear to be vampires and other monsters in addition to being ghosts, or perhaps they're just the ghosts of other would-be Halloween partiers, still raving in their spectral costumes, after they were ground up and eaten by wolfman and his mummy friend out there.
This is one I actually have to critique a wee bit; it's cool looking, and I'm glad it includes a gill man, possibly the only one in the whole Spooky Town line, but a monster zoo could have been so much more, so easily. I know Spooky Town isn't meant to get outrageously bizarre or anything, but even within the realm of fairly traditionalist Halloween imagery, a zoo for monsters could have included things like giant spiders, scary reptiles, green tentacles or skeleton animals. Instead, they apparently keep humanoid monsters on display. I guess that's amusing in its own right, but it still feels like a lot of missed opportunities.
Thankfully, the flower shop wasn't the last time Spooky Town visited the carnivorous plant theme, and the nursery where they're really grown is quite a bit more impressive, with a hauntingly colorful greenhouse nearly bursting with the hungry, writhing Audreys. The only thing I'd change would be the diversity of the plants; a couple of pitcher traps or sundews would have been a great addition.
Free Candy Clown
As terrifying as the other clown items are, I don't think they're quite as scary as this clown standing all alone with its "free candy" sign, surrounded by implements of hilarious murder...and a human skull for good measure, probably the last person who took a look at this scene and only thought "wow, free candy!"
They kind of got what they deserved.
This is a retired item, which is a shame, because it's not just a haunted tree monster, but a haunted tree monster with big, bloodshot eyeballs, which isn't something I see all too often. I also really like its pale green interior...this is just a very nice looking figurine all around, and another "real" monster for your Spooky Town setup that isn't just another Frankenstoid or warlock.
One of the line's most unusual and stylish buildings, this is literally a jail for ghosts inspired by the Ghostbuster's containment unit, its design style almost jarringly different from the rest of Spooky Town. Plugged in to the power supplies (sold separately), this thing displays a flickering, imprisoned ghost on its porthole and projects flying phantoms whirling around its containment dome. Awesome. I'd set this up all by itself just for mood lighting.
I especially like how this giant containment unit apparently produces excessive amounts of toxic waste. You might think it's just green ectoplasm bleeding out of its every nook and cranny, but some of it is haphazardously gathered up in toxic waste barrels and everything, kind of tying in with the tacked-on EPA subplot to Ghostbusters.
Another sadly retired item, and even cooler than the haunted tree, since this is a haunted tree with a treehouse for a head, and specifically a "hungry" treehouse, implying it eats people. This is also another one with a "free candy" sign, and even a noose trap around a pile of treats! There's only a narrow range of people who would be reeled in by promises of free candy in a tiny treehouse: adults as shameless as I am, and most kids. This is a Spooky Town decoration that inarguably feeds primarily on human children.
Night Shade Gardens
If you can't afford either the flower shop or nursery, there's one smaller, static item featuring the faux-Audrey-II, a little different in design from the yellow pods we've seen before - I guess it's not quite ripe yet. What's more, you get an unsettling green-skinned gardener, no doubt a little more botanical himself than the average human, and he's apparently killed a whole lot of people just to sell their severed hands.
This is a brand new 2015 figurine set, and it might be one of the coolest and most inventive in the whole line. They seem to be demon-possessed fire hydrants, which is a strange and unique concept in itself, and the different ways they've been warped and twisted are quite a bit more monstrous and imaginative than Spooky Town's usual standards. The one with the devil skull on top is a little conventional, but then we've got a skull-faced one that spews snakes instead of water, while another flame-spouting specimen has become a howling, bug-eyed monster that would look right at home in an episode of The Real Ghostbusters. Is this a sign of Spooky Town's imagination expanding, or just a one-off surprise? There oddly isn't a hellfire truck or firehouse to go with them, but maybe they're planning that next year. For now, we've just got one more item, and you can make of it what you will...
Spooky Town Brothel Women
These are not only retired, but no longer displayed anywhere in the official Spooky Town website, perhaps because a bunch of rotting, bloodied prostitute corpses, supernaturally animated or otherwise, are quite a bit less wholesome than the rest of Spooky Town's more or less soft-PG-rated image. Of course, that's exactly what makes them so hilarious and cool, from their gory wounds to their leering expressions. It's hard to pick a favorite; I want to say the skeletal one, but all three have so much personality of their own. It's too bad there's no Spooky Town Brothel for them to actually hang out around, and there probably never will be, since just producing these Ladies of the Night of the Living Dead at all was probably pushing the boundaries of Holiday Village Figurines further than they'd ever been pushed.
I'm just glad Lemax ever even considered getting this horrifying, and who knows, maybe they will again, in some new and unpredictable way. The child-eating treehouse and skeevy clowns are already pretty close.