Written by Jonathan Wojcik
MICHAEL'S HALLOWEEN 2018Michael's has always been one of the first stores to put out their complete Halloween stock, usually fully loaded by July 31st. This year, however, it seems more chains than ever are rushing to spookify as earlier or even earlier, and some of you lucky jerks live near a chain called At Home, which began unleashing goblins from their cardboard boxes as far back as JUNE. Is this the start of a new trend?
Either way, Michael's still offers the fastest Halloween fix where we live, and it was worth the extra wait. Michael's 2018 offerings might be some of their gothest yet.
EYEBALL ROSE SKELETON HAND
Sometimes I start these lists with some of the lest interesting items and build my way up, but I probably should have started off with some good ones all along to really reel people in. I can't go claiming this is their gothest year ever and not immediately make good on that promise! Look at these! They're resin skeleton hands holding roses with eyeballs in them! AND they come on lacy-patterned black bases, just to ensure at least 15% more gothocity. Adding eyes to anything at all that does not normally have eyes is pretty much my entire aesthetic and I especially admire adding eyes to plant life.
Interestingly, I've seen various Halloween roses with eyeballs in them for years now, usually full-size fake roses for use in a vase, but this is the first time I've seen them portrayed in almost any other holiday format. Is it high time we declare them a "monster" in their own right, yet?
These hard vinyl beetles are painted to look like brass sculptures, and include a dingy brown rope to hang them on a wall, which looks quite cool. It's not an $8 each level of cool, but I appreciate the idea and I REALLY appreciate that this is both a male and female stag beetle on offer. In all my years of collecting rubber bugs I think I've seen maybe one or two female stag beetles ever portrayed at all, let alone as part of a set marketed to people who may not even recognize these as the same species.
I also appreciate that we wound up at a Michael's with this beautifully water damaged floor to photograph these on. You know that isn't snark. I went out of my way to position these exactly on the most decrepit spot that I could.
LABELED BODY PARTS
This "set" includes a human skull with its anatomy written out or a human hand with all its mystical fortune teller stuff written on it. Both are very cool looking, though it's a shame they don't match one another a little better. Either do both of them up as anatomy or both of them up as astrology! Stick with a theme!
"BRASS" INSECT RELIEFS
More "metal" arthropods! Now with a stag beetle, elephant beetle, and a HOUSEFLY that you know I snapped up. An unusual choice for a set, though; two Coleoptera and one Diptera? I might have expected at least a spider in place of one of the beetles, but it's kinda nice to see spiders given a break for at least a few Halloween sets.
I just knew this was going to happen soon. These are already cropping up in more places than just Michael's, and in multiple sizes to boot! It's just a standard skeleton mold with a new fishy tail in place of the legs, but that's a plenty cool enough look. I feel like this could use a little customization though, and most of all, I think it needs "hair." Maybe you hate skeletons with hair because it doesn't make any sense, but it always looks so stylish, and a skeletal mermaid is especially begging for some long, filthy-looking locks. You could at least get it a green wig and pretend it's algae, and then you could put some little plastic starfish and crabs and things in it. Maybe wrap a rubber eel in and out of the rib cage, while you're at it.
I didn't even check to see if these were functional as actual bottles, but who cares? They're gorgeous! I love the greys and purples contrasted by the dull gold of the spider and the skull. These skirt a perfect line between a delicate classiness and looking like they came out of a Disney cartoon.
Even some of the "kitschier" decor this year has a gloomier, more sophisticated feel to it. These vintage style pumpkin and cat characters are completely monochrome except for their dull, green eyes, which is a beautiful look, and for no particular reason their bodies are wrapped in actual old newspaper. That's a little out of left fielld, but it works.
More importantly, on close inspection, this cat's newspaper includes the phrase "sainstakingly trained and, above all, thunderingly stupid horses." I hadn't even read any of the text while we were there, and I really should have.
SPOOKY PSYCHIC EYES
They weren't called this, but I can tell by looking that these eyes have hypnotic powers. Obviously! Disembodied eyes like this, complete with eyelids, first cropped up a couple years ago in various stores, but I believe this is a brand new model, and easily the coolest looking with those perfectly sculpted, concentric rings around the pupil.
Not everything has been gothed out, of course; there's still room for some color at Michael's this year, and I love the outrageous proportions of these pumpkin figures but especially the absurd face of what is intended as the "female" pumpkin of the pair. You don't have to be a girl vegetable to wear a skirt or a boy vegetable to wear pants and suspenders, but I'm going to stick with their canon anyway because then that means the lady one has the more ridiculous monster face, and that's not terribly common. On the other hand, nothing's stopping us from assuming they're both weird-looking lady vegetables.
She actually reminds us just a tad of Ickis from Real Monsters. At least, she has the right mouth and overall head width. It's a hilarious contrast to her incredibly tiny, beady eyeballs, and I think the black lips surrounding it all are the perfect final touch.
EYEBALL SKELETON HAND GLOBES
More skeleton hand and eyeball combinations! This time it's a snowglobe, with a single eye inside and two bony hands propping it up. Very nice, although the white base attaching the eyeball to the inside of the globe is a little distracting and really could have used some black paint on it. Still, pretty cool! If you're new, we've got a rule of thumb around here that any Halloween object with body parts, especially eyes, can be assumed a sentient being or at least occupied by the soul of a sentient being, and I like the idea that these would "walk" not on their fingers, like so many other undead hands, but on their severed wrist stumps.
PUMPKIN CANDY BOWL
Here's another colorful one to break up all these greys and tans; a screaming pumpkin witch with human teeth! I admire the crookediness of those teeth, too, there's something really satisfying about their specific arrangement.
SKULL CANDY BOWL
A different sort of serving container, a goofy skull with a little black bow tie and a carved out scalp! Rev felt this looked like the skeleton of Pee Wee Herman and I have to agree. If he isn't Pee Wee's actual fleshless corpse, he at least ought to talk like he is.
RUBBER ZOMBIE SQUIRRELS
Michael's has stocked rubber animals every year of some kind or another, but this is the first time they've had a "zombie" version of something "cute," and it's not half bad. Cheesy, sure, but you don't see a lot of cheesy monster squirrels around. Why is it still eating acorns, though? That's not especially menacing.
GIANT CAT IN THE MOON
How many miles tall would this Caterwaul have to be? 500? 1,000? Pretty terrifying, especially with that look on its face. That is exactly the look of a cat that just saw something extremely enticing to play with or at least knock down off a dresser, and that cannot possibly be good news for the planet Earth.
BIG RUBBER SPIDER
Aw, nice! I actually had a latex spider of roughly these exact proportions, but the latex slowly dry rotted, as cheaply cut latex often does. Mine had much bigger eyes, however, and I wish this version still did, like a cute little jumper, but it's still a nice, hefty rubber spider for those tired of the much longer, spindlier giant spiders we usually have to choose from.
SPOOKY TOWN WASTELAND PUB
I've reviewed Spooky Town Miniatures on their own before, but new additions are rolled out every single year, and this is by far 2018's most delightful, even if there's a strange sense of the anachronistic about it. Spooky Town has been around for decades, appeals mostly to an older crowd and has stuck pretty close to iconography people would have already been familiar with as far back as the 1950's. This ramshackle post-apocalyptic bar for radioactive ghouls represents a jarringly modern set of tropes for the line, yet somehow maintains the same air of innocent, vintage kitsch that feels right at home among the town's other installations.
Plus, that pale green, giant head in the gas mask is just beautiful.
This is one of my absolute favorite things they're selling this year. Her body is completely covered in and quite possibly made out of tangled roots and vines, her face is like a porcelain mask, blooming roses are her only splashes of color and she holds a human skull in one hand to make sure you know she's a Halloween entity...but what kind of entity?! It's so rare to see something quite this original and uncategorizable as a seasonal figurine. It's like she's just some sort of dark nature goddess, or a spirit manifesting a body from her own flower garden. Who knows! She's just badass, that's what she is!
And speaking of gardening, Michaels began selling full sized Audrey II's sometime last year, but this year they're offering her in two different sizes. Both are a bit on the pricey side, I believe almost $40 at the cheapest, and it looks like they'd be pretty darn easy to recreate yourself with standard fake plant parts and some "pumpkin teeth," but it's the thought that counts. I'm really glad this is a "thing" at all now, another entry in the "why wasn't this ALWAYS available?" column.
METAL CARNIVOROUS PLANT
Smaller, but in my opinion much cooler looking. I just love the more flute-like shape of those mouths, the flaring pink lips and the hooked little fangs! Plus, it's made of metal and it's closer to $30, which feels more worth it. Especially because if you purchase absolutely anything at Michael's, you get a coupon on the back of your receipt good for 40% off any single item. We already bought that fly plaque. We're ready for the fly trap!
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