Thursday, August 26, 2021

Paper Skeleton knows his role

By Gil Lawg

Staff Ghoul Log Writer

If you were to remove just one component of a machine, that machine would not work. Even a seemingly insignificant part has its functions. Like the paper skeleton hung in the background of the 2019 soon-to-be-classic “Return of the Ghoul Log,” a Halloween interpretation of those video yule logs (or virtual fireplaces) that those in the human world often pull up on their TV sets to create atmosphere at Christmas parties. 

“Return of the Ghoul Log” can be seen on the Shudder horror streaming service, and it features a flickering jack-o’-lantern in a little room or magical Halloween parlor full of spooky toys and weird objects. One of those objects is a full-size paper skeleton, in this case Peter Paper Skeleton, who is mere background in the hour-long video, but who plays a critical role in the atmosphere that folks can bring into their homes to help get them in the right mood for the Halloween season.

“I realize Jack O. Lantern the jack-o’-lantern is the star of this production,” Paper Skeleton said, “but it’s the accompanying skull and prop owl and creepy-ringing rotary telephone and animated toy trick-or-treaters and wood letters that form into the word ‘redrum’ that make the magic happen. It’s the spooky sounds you might hear on a Halloween sound effects album -- the wind, the rain, the thunder, the creepy stingers, the sound of a grandfather’s clock and the radio with no reception; it’s hearing glass break and blood drip or water drip from water torture; its the bangs, the laughs, the growl of powertools. You’ll see a snake, evil dolls, little ghosts, a toddler’s wooden block with the words from the nursery rhyme ‘Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater’ on it -- no relation. Just hordes and hordes of little creepies. And then there’s me!”

Paper Skeleton comes from a long line of Beistle die-cut hang-up skeletons. His kind has been dressing up the Halloween season, adorning hallways, windows, front doors and the walls of classrooms in the human world, and providing that “homey” feel so many monsters in the monster world desire in their castles, crypts and creepy dwellings on a nightly basis for decades. But Paper Skeleton knows he’s not the star of “Return of the Ghoul Log.”

“I might be in the ghoul log business, but I was totally starstruck when I got on set before the cameras rolled and saw Jack O. Lantern,” Paper Skeleton said. “I tried not to show it, even though I did ask for his autograph, which was stupid because he was without a body in this particular show, so he didn’t have any hands to sign anything. He was a total pro, though. After he told me to bugger off, I hung myself from a push-pin on the wall behind him, and I got to work.”

Paper Skeleton can be seen in the video hanging stiff as a fossil on the wall behind Jack O. Lantern. Every now and then the die-cut decoration gasps in response to the fun jump-scares in the video (acting is reacting), raising a bony hand to his mouth to exemplify his astonishment (what a performance!). The video ghoul log is mostly light-hearted, with a variety of tricks and treats to not only create atmosphere, but to entertain those at Halloween parties in between conversation.

“I’d say we’re all pretty great at actually breaking up the conversation,” Paper Skeleton said. “We’re deliberately trying to surprise those who think this is just another flickering jack-o’-lantern on a TV screen. We’ve transformed the genre. And I play a critical role in that update. I hang there to make the jack-o’-lantern more effective, I move to make the jack-o’-lantern more effective, I gasp to make the jack-o’-lantern more effective -- I’m really great at hanging there to make the jack-o’-lantern more effective. In fact, my role of the hanging skeleton decoration is critical to that stupid pumpkin’s success. You say that if you remove just one component in a machine, that machine doesn’t work? I’ll tell you what would work: Remove everything else but me from the video, give me my own video -- just me hanging there -- and that totally works like gangbusters. I’ll do the whole ghoul log myself. Forget that lazy, no-talent gourd. I’m the one everyone comes to see!”

And in the empty mind of a paper skeleton, a star is born.

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