It might not be fair, but every Halloween season is judged by its junk food. I gotta wonder how things will play out this year, when the world is upside-down. Like, does Burger King just say “fuck it,” or should I be waiting for them to announce a Burger from the Black Lagoon?
Quantity matters, but quality does, too. I’m happy to report that even if this year’s crop ends up being smaller, it certainly isn’t lesser. The new snacks and candies have been tremendous, and more than enough to carry a season.
With that, here’s the first edition of 2020’s Best Halloween Junk Food — the continuation of an annual tradition that’s as old as Dino Drac. I will make you hungry, this I promise.
(Found at: Stop & Shop)
While I wouldn’t necessarily call Reese’s Franken-Cups the “best” of 2020’s Halloween candies, it’s certainly the leader, and the candy we’ll associate most with this season after it’s over.
The two-tone peanut butter cups either taste exactly like the regular ones or just slightly different, depending on who you talk to. I’m of the mind that they are different, but that the silkier green creme is almost totally buried under the chocolate and peanut butter. Well, that’s fine. Regular Reese’s Cups rock.
My one criticism is that if there was ever a time to ignore the style guide and go wild with the packaging, this was it. That wrapper needed a little more oomph — like maybe a wave of green on the left, or some sweet Frankenstein bolts flanking the logo.
GRADE: A-. They are Frankenstein-themed Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, so “A-” is literally the lowest I could go.
Hocus Pocus Cookies!
(Found at ShopRite)
I feel like Hocus Pocus is Halloween’s answer to National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, in that both films weren’t “born” seasonal classics, but became them through relentless televising.
Hocus Pocus is one of those movies you should watch 9 or 10 times, anyway. Stuff that doesn’t seem funny the first time is straight-up hilarious the tenth. I could barely form an opinion of the film after my first watch, but by the fifth or sixth, I found myself writing theses — yes, plural — about why Thackery should’ve stayed a cat and had a happy ending as a cat. Hocus Pocus is a slow-acting poison.
Given the film’s new notoriety, it’s weirdly unsurprising to see the 1993 film get 2020 cookies. They’re covered in candy “gems,” which are just witchy enough to sell the concept.
GRADE: B+. They’re too heavy on the oatmeal and too light on the peanut butter, but that’s a minor gripe for a package of cookies that reimagines Mary Sanderson’s hair as an amaranthine cornucopia.
Hershey’s VAMPIRE Kisses!
(Found at Stop & Shop)
These are the best! The presentation is divine in so many ways. Major candy companies seem hesitant to embrace the “darker side” of Halloween nowadays, so I never would’ve expected a classic like Hershey’s Kisses to get stuffed with gooey red blood.
(And it’s not bullshit blood, either — we’re talking big globs of Argento-red sticky stuff that bleeds out of the Kisses like pancake syrup. It’s vicious and delicious.)
You’ll notice that the candies drop the usual “Kisses” flags for ones that simply say “Vampire,” which is a great touch. Then there are the wrappers, which look like carpets from Transylvanian bowling alleys. I’ve rarely seen candy speak my language so fluently.
The red goo is said to be strawberry-flavored, but it’s more of a generalized “candy” flavor. Like something out of a heart-shaped box of chocolates. That sort of candy isn’t really my jam, but sometimes the sizzle is worth more than the steak.
GRADE, AND PROBABLY TYPE: A. This, my friends, is a Hershey’s Kiss formally branded as a vampire, filled with enough blood to recreate key scenes from Hack-O-Lantern. Learn to love it.
Utz’s Cheese Pub Mix!
(Found at Target)
Props to Humanstein for tipping me off about this one, which is DANGEROUSLY up my alley… as was proven mere minutes ago, when I drank the last third of that tube like it was straight-up fucking water.
I don’t know if “pub mix” has any official definition, but I think we can agree that a “pub mix” needs to be several steps up from a “party mix.” And this stuff TOTALLY IS. There are regular pretzels, sourdough pretzels, tortilla chips, twisted breadsticks, fake Cheetos, and those awesome little toast rounds that are, at bare minimum, the deuteragonists of any snack mix.
Utz’s Cheese Pub Mix isn’t just casually Halloweeny, either. You’ll note that it includes pretzels in the shapes of pumpkins and bats. My only complaint is that such a diverse assortment of snacks really called for more sophisticated spices. You want those hits of garlic powder and Worcestershire sauce, but it’s mostly just the usual Utz-version of Doritos dust.
GRADE: A. Halloween is sugar’s season, not salt’s, so it’s nice to get something that’ll satisfy cravings for sodium chloride. Picture a cartoon snake reading this paragraph.
Witch’s Brew Kit Kat!
(Found at Walgreens)
Everyone’s raving about that vintage-style witch packaging, but I think the candy itself is the real draw, here. It’s hard to capture in photos, but the color of the bars is — very specifically — glow-in-the-dark green. I’m halfway convinced that they were meant to be a Ghostbusters: Afterlife promotion, and that the movie’s postponement led Hershey’s to make a last-second witch switch.
I’ve seen people compare the flavor to Rice Krispies Treats, and that’s accurate, especially when taking the overall Kit Kat texture into consideration. If I was in a contrarian mood, I might say that the flavor more closely resembles Marshmallow Fluff. Because it does.
GRADE: A. I like the taste of “normal” Kit Kats more, but “normal” Kit Kats don’t look like haunted matcha, and they aren’t fronted by toothy termagants. So there.
Thanks for reading. I’ll whip up another edition of 2020’s Best Halloween Junk Food soon enough. In the meantime, why not look back at what was hot last year?