Let’s step up our Hallowe’en game, and actually dress as something scary

You’re not really scared of Harley Quinn are you?

Amongst the Harley Quinns and Donald Trumps this Hallowe’en, you might feel inclined to branch out a little bit, costume-wise. However, to what extent is this possible until you actually reach into a dark and dank nook of your mind where real dread lurks? Doesn’t quite a large part of you want to find out?

Personally, I’m terrified of werewolves. I suspect this stems from the moment when, as a three year old girl, I was shown An American Werewolf In London by my father, a film which upon review as a twenty year old woman, is actually not particularly terrifying, but funny and at times lewd. However, I still want to shit myself when I hear a wolf’s howl, a noise which forces me to remember the transformation scene, the protagonist’s hands splitting to make way for claws, his spine cracking and clicking into extension and his face elongating to accommodate a horrendous and hairless snout. Great parenting, Pop.

It is for this reason that I simply cannot dress as a werewolf for Hallowe’en (despite a hirsuteness that might work in my favour): a quick glance in the mirror day to day is frightening in itself, but an ability to vaguely recognise oneself under the guise of something entirely alien is really what terrifies people.

That moment you realise you need a wax.

That moment you realise you need a wax.

But could dressing up as our worst fears be psychologically beneficial or therapeutic? Could it be a way of finding empowerment? Like a weird superhero subsuming the emblem of his phobia and making it his own: a bat, a spider… Why aren’t we dressing up as our supervisor? Our dissertation? Brexit, David Cameron, rising tuition fees and your boyfriend’s mum? If we’re going to be remotely interesting, we need to branch out and address our fears.

From extra terrestrials to zombies and lycanthropes, it is not the monster that people find so fascinating and gripping, but the humanoid. Maybe that’s why we have such a strange fascination with clowns – the familiar and harmless role of kind entertainer twisted to become something much more sinister: a taunting, child-devouring Pennywise.

It’s pretty core to the whole horror genre: you can read most horror-themed literary paraphernalia like Shelley’s Frankenstein or Bram Stoker’s Dracula and find myriad sexual undertones. This, of course, is echoed in our desire to get “slutty” at Hallowe’en. All the girls dressed as cats, Harley Quinns, fallen angels, the guys as dismembered half-naked shark-bitten lifeguards or sexy undead all work, in effect, to spook us out, to remind us of an archaic connection between the devilish and the arousing. Films exploit it, too, with the machete-wielding maniac heroically and responsibly saving the horny teenage couple from engaging in unsafe sex. I’m pretty sure “Wear a condom or die” was Freddy Krueger’s catchphrase.

Just a bloke jokin' around

Just a medic jokin’ around

But why do we like being scared? Why are haunted houses so popular? Horror films? Trump rallies? I think it’s a bit like going on a rollercoaster: your body tells you you’re going to die, adrenaline is being fired off through your whole system, your pupils expand, your brain hormonally poos its grey-matter trousers, but ultimately, you know you’re safe, that you’re going to get off the ride and go home and have a great night’s sleep because you’re exhausted. Horror and fear in films have the same effect – you can ride that demonic rollercoaster in your head any time once you’ve watched The Exorcist.

So, if you want to play it safe this Hallowe’en, dress up as that cat or an unconvincing Hollywood Frankenstein’s monster, complete with a  bolt through the head and a dead-eyed expression. But if you really want to fuck yourself over in the true twisted spirit of the witching hour, delve a little deeper, be that existential crisis, the essay deadline: embrace your darkest fears on the one day of the year that doesn’t ask you to repress them.