So, here’s something weird. I love Halloween 4 to death, yet the film doesn’t even crack my top 3 from that franchise. I’ve never considered myself nearly the Myers nut that so many of my friends are, but here I am, sweating over whether Halloween 4 beats Halloween H20 or not.
Halloween 4 premiered in 1988, when I was finally old enough to at least be aware of which horror movies were in theaters… even if I rarely had the nerve to actually see them. In a sense, Halloween 4 was “my” Halloween movie — the first one that was still-current when I started paying attention.
I saw it years later, when I was something approximating an adult. I loved the film for many reasons, but this was the biggest: Of all the movies in this franchise, Halloween 4 simply looks the most like the Octobers of my childhood.
This was best exemplified by the drug store sequence. It’s a pretty important scene, where Michael finds his mask and threatens poor little Jamie, all while seventeen subplots converge in the background. If you need a refresher, the whole scene is on YouTube.
“Vincent Drug” was the store, and the filmmakers did such a great job of capturing the spirit a mom-and-pop pharmacy during the Halloween season. Like holy shit, I feel like I’ve BEEN to Vincent Drug. Like I’ve MET Vincent Drug. Like Vincent Drug is a person and not a store, which works nicely considering the name.
Much like the mom-and-pop pharmacies that I grew up near, Vincent Drug spent October littered with Halloween costumes and decorations. Big chain pharmacies went all-in for Halloween too, of course, but they had nothing on the mom-and-pop versions, where the wares were more ragtag and very often fifteen years old.
The longer I studied Vincent Drug, the more I realized that my feelings of familiarity weren’t limited to mere themes. I literally OWNED many of the things in that store, or at least saw them in person.
Below are six real-world spooky treasures hiding inside Vincent Drug:
#1: Spooky Skull!
I’d originally pegged this as a Beistle decoration, but it looks like it was made by Cleo Incorporated. (Like you care.) This baby originally retailed for just 59 cents!
I was and remain a huge fan of die-cut Halloween decorations. In fact, I still hunt them down from random pharmacies every October. This ghoulish green skull has gotta be among the all-time best. It’s like Steve Austin mixed with Martians.
#2: Dangling Spider!
The Dangling Spider is as old as time itself. That Vincent Drug sold it out of the package was no gaffe. Most stores did, and I actually had no idea that there even were packaged versions until wasting six hours trying to match the rubber spider from Halloween 4 to one of the ten billion on eBay.
With yellow spots all over its black body, the Dangling Spider subtly evoked Dusty Rhodes. A stretchy string let you treat the spider like a mutant yo-yo, while the thin bristles lining each of its legs gave you something to mindlessly pick at.
#3: Living Nightmare Makeup Kit!
Fun World’s collection of Living Nightmare makeup kits was LEGENDARY, guys. I mean, I guess that could be overstating the case, but if you limited your costume accessory searches to places like toy stores and pharmacies, Living Nightmare was as high-end as it got.
There must’ve been dozens of different kits, arming us with everything from vampire fangs to zombie flesh. I never had a reason to buy those kits as a kid, but I appreciated their presence all the same. They “aged up” the costume aisle, and helped scaredy cats like me get used to horrible monster faces.
#4: Halloween Blow Mold!
Hey look, it’s that blow mold you or your next door neighbor or both of you definitely had. This “Trick or Treat” cat/pumpkin combo was beyond ubiquitous, to the point where it’s probably the cheapest vintage Halloween blow mold out there today.
I don’t know exactly when the blow mold debuted, but I bet it was before the ‘80s. I’d also bet that it lasted until long after the ‘80s. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if the six Kmarts left brought it out this year.
Whether you chase down a vintage blow mold or settle for a retro-style newbie, make sure you don’t suffer through the season without one. Their faint yet entirely distracting light acts as macabre mental fuel.
#5: Garbage Pail Kids Costume!
Yes, Garbage Pail Kids costumes were really a thing! Collegeville had a few characters available, but the one Jamie passed over was Itchy Richie — a name that hardly conveyed the absolute terror of a small child covered in 500 live spiders.
The costume consisted of a plastic mask and shirt. From He-Man to Darth Vader, countless other children’s costumes were identical in execution. Usually sold in cheap window boxes, they were great for kids who were only first discovering how awesome it was to spend a day mimicking their heroes’ mannerisms.
(In Itchy Richie’s case, I guess they just blew raspberries while scratching their shoulders?)
#6: Horrible Skull!
Since it appeared directly next to the Michael Myers mask, you might’ve overlooked this HORRIBLE SKULL, a spin on the classic “shrunken head” novelties that had already been around for decades. I’m a sucker for skulls with hair, even if this one’s package promised a robust ‘do that the actual skull did not deliver.
Speaking of the package, it looks like something was lost in translation. “Hang for freat?” Not sure if they were going for “fright” or “treat,” there. I dunno, maybe this was all completely intentional, and they were actually submitting “freat” as a new word to cover both of those things?
I could list even more real-world Halloween bric-a-brac, but we’re already 1000 words deep into this piece, and I’m selling it to an internet that cashes out after 20.
The next time you watch Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, pay special attention during the drug store scene. If you’re near my age, it’ll fill your head with visions of pumpkin-themed leaf bags and Garfield’s Halloween Adventure.