Everyone decorates differently for Halloween. Some don’t decorate at all, while some aim to create the scariest house on the block or apartment in the complex. Some want to shock people with technological extravagance, while others lean toward cute and child-friendly decorations. No matter which different decorating directions lean, there will always be clear choices for the best decor of the season. These, of course, are clear choices determined by me and me alone. Before we get into the “subgenres” of Halloween decorations, I want to make a disclaimer: I am severely arachnophobic. It is to an extreme degree. For that reason, any decorations that make use of spiders are automatically the worst. The fake webs on bushes and window sills are okay, but the actual creatures themselves? Absolutely not. I rank this a 0.
To start off easy, let’s start with people who live in areas with many small children or have small children. Most of these decorations involve cartoony elements that create a cheerful disposition to the house they adorn. Like all categories, child-friendly decorations still have their bests and worsts. To begin, the bottom tier is DIY decorations. While I understand that people are proud of what their kids make or want to try something they see online, the hit-or-miss nature of Pinterest-esque arts and crafts projects don’t look good as part of an outdoor Halloween display. If you were to ask me, the toilet paper roll mummies and empty milk jug ghosts should be reserved for indoors.
On the other hand, the prize for best decorations in the child-friendly category goes to smiling ghosts and jack-o-lanterns. Coming in the form of anything from string lights to inflatables, the images of happy ghosts and grinning pumpkins are the pinnacle of Halloween spirit, making them the best decorations for areas with children.
The next category is animatronics. People who go “all out” for Halloween often integrate animatronic figures into their displays. These animatronics range from simply talking on a loop to moving when some unsuspecting trick-or-treater trips a motion sensor. They can be the height of a toddler or a pro basketball player. Within this selection of potential decor, the worst ones are those where the audio is just plain annoying. One can find an example of such a thing in the form of Spirit Halloween’s Johnny Punk from 2020. He looks like a young child in a clown mask who sits on a swing and yells threatening taunts at passersby. However, his voice is recorded in a way that makes him sound like an irritating middle school bully, which is completely wrong for a Halloween lover’s yard.
Conversely, when it comes to Halloween animatronics, the ones with the smoothest motion will always come out on top. Nothing ruins the scare of a good animatron more than movement comparable to a 1986 claymation movie. While it might be slightly more expensive, if someone’s going to spend the money to buy an animatronic in the first place, they might as well get one of quality.
For our last category, we have the decorations meant to be scary. Every neighborhood has at least one house that essentially transforms into a haunted house when October rolls around, usually leaning into some kind of theme. The worst of these are definitely bloody handprints. These are overdone at this point and aren’t effective in being scary, given that most of the time, they don’t look anything like real blood. If your goal is to create some genuine scares, find a different route to take.
So what are the best haunted house-type decorations? I’d say anything that gives the house an “abandoned” look. Broken, disgraced objects, bloody smears along the walls (other than fully formed handprints) or maybe some graffiti warning people to “STAY AWAY” or wailing “HELP ME.” All of these touches seem relatively underwhelming in comparison to the extravagant decorations we’ve seen before, but for a truly creepy and paranoia-inducing haunted house feeling, the smaller details are going to evoke more than the clichés. While this doesn’t cover every category of Halloween decorations, it provides a place to start for anyone curious about some of the (subjective) do’s and don’ts of decorating for Halloween. The most important thing though, is to make the best of the spooky season and have fun putting your own individual touches on the holiday. Happy haunting!