Ten prominent rectangular windows, often coupled in twos or threes; a single, decorative glass eye in the center; two protruding columns announcing the porch; yes, yes indeed, this is, objectively speaking, relatively horrifying. I will give Wes Craven that. Choosing this house, as opposed to the swaths of other stately suburban homes all lined along Lincoln Avenue, was by and large the right choice. (Whether other such artistic choices in “Scream 4” were equally as potent is up for debate, and by debate I mean general critical consensus would have us to believe that the lion’s share of other choices he made were, on the whole, a failure).
Given the calendar date, the increasingly glum faces of people on the street, and the faint Wilhelm scream my bank account makes at the sight of Espresso Royale, it’s safe to assume that Fall is here, and so, therefore, is Halloween. A controversial holiday, perhaps — less so for the satanic undertones and more so for the inevitable rifts among parents and children which will arise when, you know what I heard, Tommy and Cathy next door are trick-or-treating for UNICEF, now isn’t that great? What wonderful children they are, truly. How giving, how selfless. Now kids, wouldn’t you want to be that selfless? No, mom, I don’t, I just want my damn Now-and-Laters.
The predictable destruction of the nuclear family aside, Halloween is a great holiday. It’s the only one which seems to recognize that even when we say we don’t, everyone loves to be afraid. It’s primal, and now that we’ve decided as a society that living fully clothed and having our food served to us on an Ikea plate is preferable to hunting down wildebeests, we need some of that primal feeling in our meek, weak lives.
So in celebration of the holiday, I decided that I needed to experience some of my own primal fear. Not just some contrived sound effects and fake screams — some real, instinctual, out-in-the-actual-world fear. For those who don’t know, or really even care, parts of “Scream 4” were filmed in our very own Ann Arbor. Figuring that a horror director would know where to find some fear, I paid a visit to that filming location along Lincoln Avenue (I won’t divulge the exact address out of concern that some creep would walk all the way out there for the sole purpose of staring at the setting of a fictional horror movie, which is just a house that real people live in, so stop staring at their home, creeps). But realizing that staring at an unknowing family’s home for an inordinate amount of time would probably lead to some uncomfortable interaction with the Ann Arbor Police Department, I quickly realized I needed a new plan.
How else could I experience that real, primal fear? According to World Star Hip Hop, my most trusted news source ever since the New York Times started to cause me visceral, physical reactions, Killer Clowns are having a bit of a field day. They’ve been sighted by schools, outside homes and in those creepy woods your mom told you not to go to, so I set out to see if I could coax one of these fiends to come give me a good old fight-or-flight response to really get the heart pumping.
Always concerned with aesthetics, I needed everything to be perfect for this hypothetical Killer Clown interaction. I imagine Elliot Smith is playing in the headphones of someone who gets jumped by a murderous, Halloween-inspired madman — he’s sparse enough so that the details of such an event can be heard as clearly as they need to be (not too clearly, but at least with some sense of clarity) and melancholy enough that the aesthetic of the event wouldn’t be too generally disturbed by the music playing in the victim’s headphones. Elliot Smith it was. Everything else seemed to check out: alone, occasionally sad-looking Jewish kid whose hair looked really good this evening just in case he was in for an attack.
I reach the nearest park — the first place where I assumed I could find some Killer Clowns. Looking around, I don’t, unfortunately, immediately see any, so I do some walking, hunting for a good killing. Alas, they don’t seem to be here on this particular Tuesday night, so I move on, though I did find a bunch of hooligan high schoolers all hanging around a playground, which was, obviously, just as horrifying.
I decide I need to put myself into the oversized red Converse shoes of a Killer Clown — really try understand their psyche. If I was a Killer Clown, what would I like? Homicide, clearly, but also, perhaps, a bit of fun. Where could I find such a thing in this godforsaken town? I’d once heard that Pinball Pete’s was a provider for the swaths of angsty high schoolers and the even larger swaths of angsty Metal Frat members, so I decided to change my course and give it a try.
“You’re a winner! You’re a winner! You’re a winner!” Jesus Christ, this is horrifying — perfect. I’m attacked by stimuli on every end, and in every sense. There’s a chorus of jingles, coins, and an awkward teen couple trying to figure out intimacy in a corner. But I hone in my focus: I must find a clown. No, not ill-prepared GSIs, or everyone who has ever lived in or interacted with East Quad — a Killer Clown. Focus, focus. Besides the increasingly uncomfortable teen couple, I don’t find anyone who fits the bill. I consider asking the bored looking, scraggly-bearded man behind the prize counter for some tips, but I haven’t interacted with another human in at least an hour, and I couldn’t ruin that now. I move on.
I become all too aware as I walk down the street that everyone seems to be staring at me. Or is it that I’m just staring at them, actually being aware of my surroundings? It’s hard to tell. Either way, people are looking at me, and it’s definitely fulfilling the goal of the escapade, which was to become so frightened that I’m rendered immobile. But that causes more staring, so I figure I ought to just keep going.
Completely consumed by this discovery — but it’s OK, because my hair looked good anyways — I realize that I somehow have ended up in the Diag. Who knew? I seem to be running into every kind of clown but the one I’m after (killer), but since I’m here, I figure I might as well give it the college try and do some perusing. Again, I don’t see a six-foot tall sharp-toothed knife-wielding clown like I was hoping. I begin to wonder whether this whole clown business isn’t going to materialize; if, just this once, the internet lied to me.
But all isn’t lost in the realm of crippling fear. I’m beginning to see the happenings around me with a newfound sheer terror. A girl walks by, turns angrily to her friend and complains, “literally his only hobby is smoking weed with his idiot friends.” Which is more terrifying: that this girl just doesn’t seem to understand the sacredness of male bonding, or that male bonding does seem to generally and innately have staunch undertones of laziness to it? Existentially, I’m in crisis mode. My hands are shaking. I can’t keep stopping in the middle of the street, dammit.
When I finally gather myself, I start to pass the all-female dormitories by the Union. What goes on in there I don’t know, but whatever it is I’m sure it would make me shudder. Group chants? The burning of phallic symbols? Satanic rituals? Hell, I’m already shuddering (and enjoying it of course). And there’s a couple holding hands — I’m not sure I’m going to keep it together. I’m wonderfully distraught, horrified. Don’t they know that love was invented by Hallmark? Why didn’t she have the sense to make him change out of that ill-fitting letter jacket? Doesn’t he understand that when they’re not together she sits around a table at Aventura while all her friends try to convince her that he’s no good? That literally his only hobby is smoking weed with his idiot friends? That she can’t keep pretending to be a Raiders fan just to make him happy? Don’t they get it?
I’ve practically completed my walk by this time. I almost get run over by a Jeep Grand Cherokee, which amounts to be the least interesting part of the evening. No Killer Clowns were found, but I did manage to scare the shit out of myself more than a few times, so I’d rank it to be one of my more successful Tuesday nights.
It turns out that you don’t need a contrived new click-bait phenomenon to celebrate Halloween the right way — just some time with your own thoughts.