There are plenty of films we associate with the spooky season, either because of their spine-tingling scares or classic depictions of Halloween nights gone by.
There are classic monster movies like Universal's Dracula that conjure up vivid imagery of gothic haunts, more contemporary slashers like Halloween with their judicious usage of fall foliage and jack -o’-lanterns (although the first film in the series was famously filmed during the summertime, making the production more challenging!), and fun-for-all-ages films like Hocus Pocus that encapsulate All Hallows' Eve like no other can.
Then there’s The Guest. In a lot of ways, it’s the most un-Halloween Halloween film out there. It’s not a horror film, but more of a psychological action thriller. That said, it is set during the Halloween season, and it's bursting at the seams with imagery associated with the spookiest of holidays.
This scene evokes some of the same feelings as the much-beloved opening credits from Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers.
Directed by Adam Wingard, the filmmaker behind A Horrible Way To Die, You’re Next, and Blair Witch, the film is, in its own way a low-key love letter to fans of the Halloween season - especially those of us who absolutely love vintage decorations.
With that in mind, we've taken a deep dive into the film to further explore some of the numerous classic Halloween decorations stuffed into this movie. This is by no means a complete list, mind you. If you've never seen The Guest, and you love the vintage Halloween aesthetic like we do, do yourself a favor and give it a watch. Heck, make a night of it with some friends and take a shot every time a vintage Beistle decoration flashes by the screen.
Hope you’re not a lightweight!
This entire film is like an Easter Egg hunt for retro Halloween decorations, and none is more head-spinning than the scene where characters Anna (Maika Monroe) and David (Dan Stevens) go to a local party…which may or may not actually be a Halloween party. I don’t think there’s anyone dressed in costume, but the decor tells a different story.
These sorts of decorations are sprinkled liberallyt throughout the entirescene, but this one is definitely a “blink and you’ll miss it” kind of thing.
This witch was - like many decorations in this article - produced and sold by Beistle over the last 50 years or so.
Witches on broomsticks flying through the night sky are an iconic image forever associated with Halloween, and this decoration is iconic itself. Although decidedly less creepy than some of the others on this list, this decoration has a charm all its own, and I'm sure most of us can recall something almost exactly like this from a childhood Halloween - if not this exact decoration.
Next up is a glorious “action dancer” tissue witch! Pictured here with her good friend the skeleton dancer (no easy feat being a dancer, considering he has no muscles), there were all sorts of different decorations of this variety. They're difficult to find in good condition these days, as the tissue paper almost always gets torn up over time, resulting in witches with no arms or legs. Regardless, this is a must-have decoration for the vintage Halloween lover.
Hey, here’s another!
This one was always a personal favourite of mine, not only because I’m a huge Frankenstein nut, but also because the creature looks like it’s dancing a jig. It’s like after all these years, ol’ Frankie found his true calling as an Irish dancer, and now knows what it is to be truly alive!
Classic Jack-o-Lantern Die-Cuts
These two die-cut decorations appear to be more vintage than most of the other decorations in the film. I couldn’t pin down an exact date - some sources refer to them as pre-1960s or pre-1950s - but I think they might even go back to the 1920s, based on their look. The way most artists illustrated jack-o-lanterns changed pretty significantly over the years. They were generally much creepier looking back then.
Dangling Cardboard Skeletons
I’m sure you noticed our friend Mr. Bones here in an earlier shot. I can say with a lot of certainty that this particular classic was produced around 1935. There have been a million of these types of skeleton decorations over the years, and this certainly isn’t the specific kind I remember seeing the most. However, this is the sort of super creepy, fun decoration you used to be able to find in any department store back in the day. Look at that face!
One nice touch in The Guest is that they took a step at modernizing the dangling skeleton by hooking him up with a drink in an orange Solo cup. Well done, set crew!
Now this is the old Beistle Skeleton I’m used to seeing! In fact, I have one of my very own in my office right now, albeit much smaller than the one seen in the film. I love that classic crack in the skull, so we’re all well aware of the method of this soul’s untimely demise!
Partially obscured by douchebags in this scene is another iconic die-cut decoration, the cat with the monocle. As you can see by this sample, there have been many slight variations on the theme over the years, but this stylish party cat in his top hat, signature eye piece, and polka-dot bow tie has been stunning the fashion world - and trick-or-treaters - for decades.
Another Classic Witch
This is another oldie-but-goodie. I’m not sure of the exact year on this one, but I think this witch goes back a long ways, probably to the 1920s or 1930s. It’s all there - the hat, the black cat, the striped stockings - but look at those colors! Neon green, orange, and black just scream Halloween.
Black Cats in the Pumpkin Patch
It was hard to catch a decent screen grab of this decoration, but it might be one of the most recognizable in the film, so we had to include it. You can see it pictured above with a set of other classic die-cut decorations. Just by the look of it, I'd say these are amongst the oldest in the film. Older Halloween decorations often have a weird unintentional creepiness to them. As creepy as the cats, moon and pumpkin are, just look at that horse-sized cat pulling a witch on a carriage. Sheesh!
He’s a little hard to see, but trust me: this is the scarecrow in the scene above! This is one of a few light-hearted decorations in the film, with absolutely no spook factor to speak of - just fun harvest decor. He looks like the lovable Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz, skipping his way down the Yellow Brick Road.
I actually wasn’t sure what these were when I first saw them in the film, so I ignored them at first. It wasn’t until later in the movie when they popped up again that I gave them a closer look. I’ve seen a lot of Halloween decorations in my day, and I don’t remember ever seeing any creepy faces exactly like these.
After some research, it turns out these are 1940s gangster Halloween masks! There’s nothing overly grotesque about them, but damn - I don’t know - there's something disturbing going on here. Maybe it's the crude art style, but they give me the creeps.
Jack-o-Lantern Blow Molds
Something that's not a die-cut decoration! We love Halloween blow molds and just had to single these out. It can be a little tricky finding these exact blow molds, because they’re usually all a little different, but if you're after blow molds in general, they can be found pretty easily both online and in brick-and-mortar stores. Now finding vintage blow molds in person (and for a reasonable price), that can be a little more of a challenge!
These days, many yards are covered with air-blown decorations and expensive, elaborate Halloween props, which are cool, too! But there’s something uniquely special about the simplicity of these old plastic decorations.
Halloween Hat Box
Not every decoration on this list is a die-cut, as we mentioned, and this piece here might be the oddest one yet. Finding any Halloween hat box - let alone this specific Halloween hat box - was no easy task, but here it is.
I suppose nested boxes were a not-so-uncommon Halloween decoration in the days of yore. I have to confess, I’ve never seen or heard of anything like this, and when I first spotted it in The Guest I assumed it was a cookie tin. However, after spending more time than I care to admit searching for this particular item, it is indeed a set of nested hat boxes. You know, to store your Halloween hats in.
Homeage to the Silver Shamrock Masks From Halloween III: Season of the Witch
In one of the final scenes of the film we are taken to a Halloween Dance. The school apparently had a pretty sizeable decorating budget for the dance, as it's full of extensive mazes, elaborate lighting setups, massive jack-o’-lantern doorways and these oversized, die-cut Halloween mask decorations.
For many horror fans, the decorations are instantly recognizable as an homage to the Silver Shamrock masks from the infamous Halloween sequel, Halloween III: Season of the Witch (we also covered these masks in an episode of our audio horror series Bite-Sized Frights, entitled Malevolent Masks, which you can listen to here).
While the movie was a commercial and critical flop upon its release in 1982, the film has gained a cult following over the years, as have the iconic masks featured in the film.
It’s moments like this one that make it difficult to pinpoint this film's exact identity. You'd probably expect a direct nod like this to be in a horror film of some sort. And there are times when you wonder if The Guest could suddenly throw you for a loop and stumble into that territory, but it sticks pretty firmly to the thriller genre despite being chock-full Halloween imagery. Maybe we can at least call The Guest "horror-adjacent".
As we mentioned, this is far from a comprehensive list - this movie throws more vintage Halloween scenery at you than any film in recent memory. If you've never seen it, give The Guest a spin this Halloween season. It's a solid movie and well worth a watch. Even if you mostly watch it just for the Halloween mood and all the vintage decorations, you most certainly will not be disappointed.
Ryan Hollohan is a husband and father of three based out of Nova Scotia, Canada. In his free time he is a freelance writer for Pixel Elixir and creator of the nostalgia site RetroDef.ca. You can find him on Twitter at @RyHoMagnifico.