Halloween parties are frightful fun

Simple, inexpensive steps are all that's needed for howling good time

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

Published:

 

Every holiday has its own fans, themes and underlying spirit — and keeping them in mind can be the critical ingredient to planning the best party.

Halloween aficionados tend to favor a sort of silly irreverence, and that's a spirit that's easy to enjoy, said Courtney Givens, owner of Simple Pleasures Events, a Vancouver event-planning business.

"Halloween is all about being playful," Givens said. "And you can get into that in all sorts of ways."

If you like to play with your food, Halloween is chock full of opportunity.

Givens said one of her favorite setups involves using guacamole as a prop.

"You get a small pumpkin and put guacamole coming out of its mouth like it's puking," she said. "Then you put chips in that or next to it."

Food coloring is a fun toy for Halloween parties, said Kristina Kuntz, owner of Niella's Special Events in Vancouver.

"You can dye drinks and make themed punch or custom cocktails," Kuntz said. "You can also buy fake eyeballs at the store and drop those into a punch or drink."

Snack trays of ghoulish-looking treats also do the trick. The Internet is bursting with suggestions and recipes.

You can slice hot dogs or carrots to look like dismembered fingers. A little blue or green dye added to your hard-boiled eggs can make them look rotten. Spaghetti squash and tomato sauce can be combined into a gruesome looking, and oddly healthy, appetizer.

Costumes can add fun to a party — and contrary to what some may think, they don't have to be a huge production.

"When people arrive you can have a little potpourri of things like moustaches on a stick, black masks, funny noses," Givens said. "You put them out and put a camera next to them and let people take pictures of each other."

You can lay out inexpensive Halloween makeup kits in the bathroom and let guests create their own look.

Keeping kids entertained can become fun for the adults.

"Activities for kids are great — you can put them into teams of three and have them come up with the best ghost story," Givens said. "Then give them an hour, and when they're ready, have the adults judge. I think kids really appreciate that interaction."

The television, with the sound turned off and music playing, can become a sort of horror film video fireplace. Streaming well-known films such as "Halloween" and "Aliens," or '50s classics such as "Godzilla" and "The Fly" can set the atmosphere — and be an ice breaker for more introverted guests.

If kids are at the party, stick to films made before the late '60s to keep it safe. If it's all adults, films like "Friday the 13th," "A Nightmare on Elm Street," "The Blair Witch Project" or "The Ring" may be more appropriate.

It's easy to run up a bill putting together decorations, but there are also many ways to create a cool look on the cheap, the two planners said.

"One thing you can do is switch all your light bulbs to black light bulbs," Kuntz said. "Places like Walmart have them for less than $1 each."

If you deck the place out in black light, you can fill bottles with water and use old highlight markers to make neon light beacons. All you do is pull out the center stick in the marker and either squeeze it out into the water or drop it in.

"You can buy glow in the dark dye, but it's usually around $19.99," Kuntz said. "But with highlighters, most people have a few old ones lying around anyway, and all you need is one per bottle."

Fake spiderwebs are also easy to toss together cheaply.

"You can actually just get a big bag of tubed cotton balls and pull those apart," Kuntz said. "It's essentially the same thing as the fake spider web stuff. Although the packs of fake web are sticky."

If you're a handy type, you can use technology to set up a few scares for your unsuspecting guests. Brian Mudgett, creator of the "Confront Your Fears" haunted houses in Vancouver, said he likes to use an air tank and some T fittings from the hardware store to make an air cannon.

"You use one part of the T and attach it to a sprinkler valve," Mudgett said, adding that the other half goes to a switch you control. "I used to hide the sprinkler in the bushes and when the kids came up I'd hit the button. I got a lot of shrieks."

Air tanks cost somewhere around $25 at various spots in Vancouver, he added.

Dry ice can be a fun toy to make your driveway, or your punch, look foggy and mysterious. "You can buy some vases at the dollar store, put them along your entryway and put dry ice in them," Kuntz said. "It makes it look like you're walking through fog without having to buy a fog machine."

Most grocery stores stock dry ice.

As a final piece of advice, Givens said remember to ask your guests to help you out. You're supposed to have fun, too, she said.

"Keep it simple and don't be afraid to ask your guests to help you decorate or bring things like appetizers," Givens said. "Remember, it's the people you have there that make your party memorable. If you're stressed or too busy to enjoy your own party, they'll know."

Sue Vorenberg: 360-735-4457; http://www.twitter.com/col_suevo;sue.vorenberg@columbian.com.

Halloween party films

Looking for some quality Halloween horror films? Try these, from most recent to most classic:

"Insidious" (2010)

"Zombieland" (2009)

"Drag Me to Hell" (2009)

"Let the Right One In" (2008)

"Paranormal Activity" (2007)

"Halloween" (2007)

"The Host" (2006)

"Dawn of the Dead" (2004)

"Shaun of the Dead" (2004)

"Saw" (2004)

"The Ring" (2002)

"28 Days Later" (2002)

"Session 9" (2001)

"The Others" (2001)

"Shadow of the Vampire" (2000)

"What Lies Beneath" (2000)

"Sleepy Hollow" (1999)

"The Blair Witch Project" (1999)

"The Sixth Sense" (1999)"The Ninth Gate" (1999)

"From Dusk Till Dawn" (1996)

"Scream" (1996)

"In the Mouth of Madness" (1994)

"Mute Witness" (1994)

"Candyman" (1992)

"Silence of the Lambs" (1991)

"Pet Semetary" (1989)

"Pumpkinhead" (1988)

"Evil Dead II" (1987)

"Hellraiser" (1987)

"Near Dark" (1987)

"The Lost Boys" (1987)

"Aliens" (1986)

"The Hitcher" (1986)

"The Fly" (1986)

"Fright Night" (1985)

"Re-Animator" (1985)

"Nightmare on Elm Street" (1984)

"Poltergeist" (1982)

"The Thing" (1982)

"The Howling" (1981)

"An American Werewolf in London" (1981)

"The Changeling" (1980)

"The Shining" (1980)

"Friday the 13th" (1980)

"The Fog" (1980)

"Alien" (1979)

"Salem's Lot" (1979)

"The Amityville Horror" (1979)"The Changeling" (1979)

"Halloween" (1978)

"Dawn of the Dead" (1978)

"Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1978)

"The Omen" (1976)

"Carrie" (1976)

"Jaws" (1975)

"The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" (1974)

"The Exorcist" (1973)

"Night of the Living Dead" (1968)

"The Birds" (1963)

"X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes" (1963)

"Pit and the Pendulum" (1961)

"Psycho" (1960)

"The Fly" (1958)

"Horror of Dracula" (1958)

"The Curse of Frankenstein" (1957)

"The Incredible Shrinking Man" (1957)

"Creature from the Black Lagoon" (1954)

"Godzilla" (1954)

"Them!" (1954)

"Dead of Night" (1945)

"Cat People" (1942)

"The Wolf Man" (1941)

"Bride of Frankenstein" (1935)

"Vampyr" (1932)

"The Mummy" (1932)

"Freaks" (1932)"Dracula" (1931)

"Frankenstein" (1931)

"Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (1931)

"Phantom Of The Opera" (1925)

"Nosferatu" (1922)

Film ideas for older kids and their families" align="left" >"The Nightmare Before Christmas" (1993)

"Tremors" (1990)

"Beetlejuice" (1988)

"They Live" (1988)

"Ghostbusters" (1986)

"The Stuff" (1985)

"Gremlins" (1984)

"Firestarter" (1984)

"Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein" (1948)