Halloween in a Box (2019)

In 1988 my kindergarten class was having a Halloween party with just the class immediately after lunch. It was a very exciting experience for me considering I’d never done anything like that before. At the time we couldn’t really afford elaborate or huge costumes, so my dad bought me a generic mask in a box with the classic plastic smock. I was a mutant. So for a few Halloweens we opted for the sweaty plastic mask with no peripheral vision, and odd smock. That is until they were phased out. For years one of the highlights of Halloween was seeing the rows of boxes of plastics masks and smocks for various characters from Superman to Popeye. “Halloween In a Box” explores the surge and popularity of the iconic mask and smock costumes that were so prevalent for decades. Companies like Ben Cooper Inc, Halco, and Collegeville participated in the holiday and competed for costumers, all while scooping up various intellectual popular properties that could attract consumers. Director Rob Caprilozzi explores how the companies tapped in to a market that allowed them to thrive for decades. Unlike a lot of other companies, these corporations made it a lot easier to become your favorite characters, all while allowing customers to save money for the holiday.

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“Halloween In a Box” thankfully doesn’t completely rely on the nostalgia of these boxed masks and smocks, also chronicling their rise to popularity, the battle to obtain the rights to popular characters, and how they attempted to eventually tap in to markets that were not associated with Halloween. Like most documentaries of this ilk, “Halloween in a Box” is something of a requiem for simpler days of Halloween before it became a more adult niche occasion. Director Caprilozzi digs deep in to the business aspect of these companies which allows for some shockingly entertaining material.

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There are peeks at costumes that never made the shelves, rare concept sketches, and the feelings of most of the founders of these companies on how their products became much less in demand over time. There’s not a real solid reason for why the Halloween masks and smock in a box, with some explanations including lack of safety for kids, expensive licensing, and or saturation of the market. “Halloween in a Box” adds a great deal of back story and history to what’s become a niche market for modern collectors, and it’s an all around entertaining and informative history of one of Halloween’s most entertaining traditions.

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