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Halloween Postmortem

Candy wrappers plus bellyaches equal the day after Halloween. My kid stayed home from school. I ate no candy, got a bellyache anyway. But you’ve gotta do Halloween. For the children. ”Gimme my sweets or I‘ll kill your cat“: This is how they learn the American religion. Halloween also offers other lessons, lessons important enough to be taught all year long by the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show and the British black-metal band Cradle of Filth. And both franchises have branched out with seasonal product. Buffy goes musical. Filth goes filmic.

The Buffy series, with Sarah Michelle Gellar as a smart teenager who kicks demon tail, shows kids the power, confidence and challenge they haven’t got. Good enough, but there‘s a stroke of genius: Buffy’s boyfriend is a vampire -- a sensitive, evil-fighting vampire, but not exactly class valedictorian. That‘s the kind of self-destructive relationship a lot of young humans can relate to.

The me-vs.-me struggle and its resulting identity schisms crop up a lot in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Album’s 18 tracks of sparkling-white pop music, all featured on past or future shows and chosen with love by the series‘ creator, Joss Whedon. ”I’m somebody else“ is in fact the first declaration you hear, sung with melodic delirium by Guided by Voices; near the end, Four Star Mary despairs, ”There‘s another one inside me.“ In between, the lyrics deal a deck of ID misrepresentations -- ”I am a vampire“ (Garbage), ”I know you’re mad about me“ (Velvet Chain), ”We are the lucky ones“ (Bif Naked), ”Forever isn‘t something you want to be“ (Splendid) and more -- after all of which, context demands the listener supply not. The song selection is inspired by Buffy herself, who in one episode, when her incompatible vampstud wonders if she wouldn’t prefer a boyfriend who can do the wild thing, declares, ”I don‘t care about that.“

The conflicted sentiments ride assertive music; the crafty pop values and (often) female vocals sucked in both my daughter and my wife. Even after GBV’s hook-spangled ”Teenage FBI“ and Garbage‘s euphoric ”Temptation Waits“ launch the disc at max level, the rest graphs nearly as high. My daughter flipped for Hepburn’s perky ”I Quit“; my wife dug the despairing grunge of Superfine‘s ”Already Met You“; I appreciated a the Sabbathy cellos of Rasputina’s ”Transylvanian Concubine.“ Okay, gimme some candy, too.

That‘s the normal, well-adjusted, family-oriented side of schizophrenic self-destruction. Now consider the U.K.’s Cradle of Filth, for those who would rather embrace their inner vampire than slay it.

Formed in 1991 and subsequently composed of singer Dani Filth and whoever could stand him for a few months, the group claiming to be ”the biggest-selling black-metal band in the world“ has at last released its first videotape. PanDaemonAeon gives you everything you could want from a band that solicits your admiration for wearing an ”I [heart] Satan“ T-shirt in Vatican City and using the word cunt 13 times on a BBC program, especially if you want blood. Though there‘s some confusion over the exact amount (different sources in the tape describe it as ”almost 100 gallons,“ ”100 gallons“ and ”over 100 gallons“; the press release says ”over 120 gallons“), most viewers will agree that it’s enough. In the ”uncensored“ version of goreflick director Alex Chandon‘s ”From the Cradle to Enslave“ promo clip, musicians and actors bleed it, belch it, even bathe in it. Chewing razor blades, extracting teeth and eating their own eviscerated organs, they frolic with chubby demons and naked vampirettes to their hearts’ content and yours.

A four-song concert section showcases the band‘s spookish keyboard arpeggios, evile dual-guitar harmonizing and relentless kick-drum flurrying; Dani Filth’s shrieks, croaks and groans evade melody more creatively than those of any other modern metallurgist. A humoresque ”making of the video“ documentary chapter provides the opportunity to linger over nipples and pierced pudenda, but the interviews are hard to follow, since everybody speaks that ”English.“

So: How dark are we? When Dani Filth daydreams of assassinating the pope and wishes Mother Teresa were still alive so he could kill her too, he doesn‘t even bother to scowl. The band members all come off as troupers, patient if a bit bored. ”Roight,“ grunts one at the beginning. ”’Ave a go. Watch it. Now fuck off.“ On the Scale of Darkness, Cradle of Filth aren‘t as poetic as Danzig, as absurdly serious as Six Feet Under or as blockheaded as Slayer. The teen acolytes in skull makeup and black shrouds are a lot darker than their idols: They really want to be dead for a while. Being a teenager stinks.

Not that one necessarily ever stops needing to be dead. My wife, twirling her new Nosferatu cape on Halloween night: ”I always wanted one of these.“