I’ve never been a tremendous fan of jack o’ lantern “kits,” whether they’re stencils, pop-on body parts or whatever else. They just feel too easy and “measured,” and they rob pumpkin carving of its rightful charms — the kind of charms that we can only experience by blindly cutting triangular eye shapes with a steak knife and hoping for the best.
Still, some of these kits seem inspired enough to be worth a whirl, and if there was ever one that proves it, it’s the “Fright Lights” set. I will always put my faith in a product that rhymes with itself.
Picture it: The thrill of messing around with giant orange fruit, mixed with the techy wizardry of a Lite Brite. Not to be missed, especially for four dollars.
Plus, Fright Lights are made by a company called Pumpkin Masters, and it’s hard to believe that a company called Pumpkin Masters wouldn’t know how to do cool stuff with pumpkins.
Course, whenever you buy a craft kit on the cheap, there’s usually some kind of caveat emptor thing lurking in the distance. “Fright Lights” boasts big, but delivers in a way that can drive an impatient and/or easily frustrated person out of their damned mind.
My first mistake was choosing an especially small pumpkin for this endeavor. I forgot that small pumpkins are much tougher than big pumpkins, and thus, they are extremely hard to cut. Small pumpkins are the totem fruit of Fort Knox, and it took me a solid fifteen minutes just to fashion this one a malformed lid.
On the bright side, I’m pleased to announce that my once legendary disgust with the stench of pumpkin guts seems to have waned over the years. As a kid, the stink of that stuff absolutely revolted me. There were times that I’d cut-and-scoop with one hand while holding a towel over my nose with the other. It wasn’t practical, and it made me look like a retarded Arabian princess. It’s nice to be finally be free of those chains.
The set comes with a couple of patterns, which can be taped over the pumpkin, because that always goes off without a hitch. I decided not to use them, possibly because they were all double the height of the pumpkin I’d just spent fifteen minutes cursing at. It’s not like I was dying for a “Glitter Kitty,” anyway.
Now, the fun part! You get all of these Lite Brite-esque pegs, which look like golf tees without points. The instructions make it sound like you can pop the bitches right in, but since they don’t have points, that is just not at all possible. Instead, I had to first poke holes into my stupid tiny pumpkin, in all of the spots where I ultimately wanted pegs to be. I hated doing that. It felt so rough draft-like.
The kit comes with a wooden mallet to drive in your pegs, and you’ll need it. Actually, you’d be better off with a real hammer, because the mallet weighs less than a tealight candle, and seems averse to driving anything into anything, let alone blunt pegs into a pumpkin with walls made of fucking steel.
It’s always so exciting when we’re directed to use a mallet, but the truth is, a mallet is much more fun to say than it is to work with. “Mallet mallet mallet mallet.” Every time I utter it, my serotonin spikes.
It took longer than it should’ve to spell “X-E” out in neon pegs, but finally, I was done. I kind of bullshitted my way through the “X,” but…I was done.
The set comes with a battery-operated light. When you place it in the pumpkin, the light beams good feelings to all of the pegs, creating the kind of wacky illumination usually reserved for holidays that are more joyous than Halloween.
Just one problem: It needs a 9-Volt battery. I probably should’ve taken note of that while I was still in Toys “R” Us, because nobody just “has” a 9-Volt battery sitting around, waiting for its chance at stardom.
Nah, that’s not entirely true. We all have 9-Volt batteries, it’s just that none of them ever work. I found at least five of them. Four were dead, and one worked for about 20 seconds before joining the rest. I hated that one the most. Nothing burns my bacon faster than doing my celebratory “I found a working battery” dance for no good reason.
Yeah, I could’ve just driven to the store for a new one, but I refused, mentally citing my longstanding tradition of spending five times as long to find an alternate solution to a problem that would’ve been easier to solve the right way. I’m not saying that I’ll never change, but I won’t do it for a $4 pumpkin kit.
My solution: A battery-operated strand of Christmas lights, which, despite its all-too-large battery compartment, miraculously fit inside my little pumpkin.
The light-up effect kind of blows, and don’t you dare blame the Christmas lights. I even tried shining a flashlight through the inside, and the results weren’t much better.
On the other hand, I can’t call “Fright Lights” a flop. I didn’t follow the directions. I used a tiny pumpkin, and Christmas lights, and I didn’t even wait for nightfall to see if the pegs would glow any better. So, I won’t call it a flop. But I’ll think it.
No regrets, though. Of October’s many glories, turning pumpkins into art is very high on the list. It’s right up there with free candy and phony spider egg sacks. Even in this obtuse, arthritis-delivering fashion, I’ll take it.