Tag Archives: Halloween

Live Long and Prosper: My Ben Cooper Spock Halloween Costume

8 Sep


It seems like only yesterday that my older brother Tom and I watched Star Trek on the family’s old Sony 15-inch color television set. I wasn’t sure whether the technicolor of the original show was reduced even more by our tiny set (our oldest brother watched the first moon-landing on it – that’s how old this TV was) but every show came across as if drenched in vibrant, primary colors. So, it wasn’t much of a stretch when September came around and we made our traditional pilgrimage to the Bantam or Woolworth Five N’ Dime to make the most important decision a kid had to make: What Ben Cooper Halloween costume, with their larger than life masks and uber-bright costume fronts displaying your favorite character – would you get?

Like everything else in life (I would learn this the hard way later on) what I ended up being for Halloween came down to timing. Specifically, how long it took to convince Mom that you had to get your Halloween costume NOW because if you waited too long, you’d end up as something stupid (i.e. all that was left on the shelf). The high-ticket items like Spider-Man, Superman, Batman or Spock would be long gone if you procrastinated about such an important decision. It happened every year. We’d wait too long to go to Woolworth’s, I’d have to “settle” for some inferior pop-culture iconic costume character meant for a little kid like “tweety-bird”, then suffer the indignity of seeing some wretched neighbor’s kid on my street wearing the exact costume I should be wearing on Halloween night. Such was the case with Spock from Star Trek.

Spock was the best character on the original show, hands down. He was smart, strong, logical in an illogical universe, and had those awesome ears. He had the added benefit of being tall and skinny, which I was for my age, too. He projected such a commanding presence, in fact, that I felt I would be “in charge” on Halloween night if I went out as him. No Captain Kirk for me. Spock was the real brains behind the operation, and with my other props – a tricorder, communicator, and phaser set on stun – I could explore my neighborhood as if an alien world full of exotic and dangerous creatures; all dressed up in Halloween costumes so you couldn’t easily identify what they were behind those brightly-colored, deceptive masks.

Alas, we never made it to the five-n-dime on time to get Spock. It might have been that our local Woolworth’s didn’t rate more than one or two of him, or, more likely that Spock wasn’t as popular in other households as he was in ours and they may never have ordered a Ben Cooper Spock costume in the first place. So, I would have to go out as Spider-Man again, or, god forbid wear the same Batman costume I’d worn the previous year. That’s why I always kept my mouth shut and never complained to my Mom. Because in a kid’s world back then, going out in the same costume on two consecutive Halloweens was a fate almost as bad a the kid whose Mom kept him home that night because he had something stupid like walking pneumonia. After all, Halloween was all about the action. And the action was walking around in your neighborhood in the pitch black behind a Ben Cooper mask – a new one that smelled like vinyl and made you sweat no matter how cold it was outside. And in that dark abyss of the imagination, whoever said I couldn’t “act” like I was Spock, even if I wasn’t wearing the costume?

But then a wonderful thing happened. Thirty years after the fact, I was finally able to purchase my Ben Cooper Spock costume on ebay. I’m a little embarrassed to say how excited I was when I opened the brown box that it came in the mail and from the first second I laid eyes on Spock’s mask staring up at me (from within the famous cellophane window all Ben Cooper costumes came in) I was beamed back in time. Spock brought me right back to those days I spent watching the original show with my brother Tom. He brought me back to those chilly Halloween nights I’d wished I’d been dressed as TV’s favorite Vulcan. But most of all, that Spock costume with it’s bright mask and tableau on the front, transported me back to when our neighborhood transformed for a precious few hours into a dark and wondrous galaxy, populated by strange yet familiar colorful characters, all running around together under a blanket of stars.




Lina Leandersson: Let Her In

29 Oct

Lina Leandersson is an old soul walking around in a young body. She is the Swedish breakout star of 2008’s super-creepy LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. This vampire story is by far (and I mean, by far) the best vampire story of all of them. Twilight can’t hold a candle to LTROI. This is because the story is, in essence, a darkly-affecting romance in the order of cinematic magnitude of Casablanca – if Casablanca had vampires, of course. There is a love triangle: Two men love one very young/very old vampire. She appears helpless but isn’t. She is tortured. A sacrifice is made by her lover at the end. See the resemblance? The structure exists in both movies but the difference is that while Bogart and Bergman will always have Paris, Lina and her lover will always (and I mean always) have each other.

Of course, the romance is a tragedy. But aren’t all good love stories in their heart – ghost stories? Doesn’t love at first site require us to recognize in another what is missing in our deepest selves, and therefore so heartwrenching both when we possess it and lose it? This is what Let The Right One In is all about. We can’t control who we love and the act of letting them in can often destroy us, but we do it anyway. Confused? Well, watch this movie and you’ll either agree with me or think I’m insane. But people who do get it (especially the ending) REALLY get it and love this movie like one of their own children. And the biggest reason people who GET IT love this movie is Lina Leandersson. Simply because her performance is transformative.

This is Lina’s first film. She was hand-picked by the director and producer from over 8,000 auditions. What’s even more amazing is the on-screen chemistry that she creates within everyone she comes in contact with. It’s even more amazing when you consider that she was 12 years old when they shot the movie playing a 400-year old vampire and she pulls it off handily. So well in fact, that the American remake LET ME IN with Chloe Mertz comes off as a cheap remake of a classic and will be forgotten immediately. I was so inspired by the Swedish import (dubbed in english) that I went out and bought the translated book. Mind you, the book has moments of brilliance and the movie could not have been made without it – but the adaptation to the screen (the screenplay was by the same author) is a textbook case in how to adapt a classic story from book to screen and in the process make it better. Only THE SHINING comes close to the same successfully-adapted story.

Still not convinced? Here’s two examples of this movie’s brilliance: 1) You’ll notice in the movie that adults (except with one very big exception) are not paying any attention to the children in this movie. Adults are oblivious to what is going on right in front of their eyes and therefore, by definition, missing out on what is important in life. 2) The movie expresses the love theme on the basis that you fall in love with people who possess the ability to communicate that love – or mirror if you will – how you yourself wish to be loved. At least in the beginning. This is seduction. This is what a vampire does to prey on its victims. But when the vampire in question is in fact your true love – then boy are you one lucky/unlucky guy. And that gets to the heart of the ending of this transformative movie. We are all alone. We all need to be loved. The sacrifice we make to open ourselves up to that love risk letting the wrong one in. All love therefore is a risk. The risk of love and loss. And that’s why I LOVE the ending of this movie. Let me know if you agree with me.

Oh, and Let the Right One In is also a kick-ass scary movie. Happy Halloween!