A film nerd guide to ultra-cheap Halloween costumes

Need a good Halloween costume but aren’t looking to spend a lot of money? A few years ago, resident cheap-skate Liam Maguren gave out a handful of ideas to film nerds wanting to dress up on a budget.

I once attended a flat party with a dress theme: Dead and Famous. I didn’t want to spend much time, money or effort on a costume. So I found some pants suspenders, clipped on a torso-sized piece of cardboard, blu-tacked an A3 printout of posters (Home Alone, My Girl, The Pagemaster, etc.) and came as Macaulay Culkin’s career.

I discovered a hidden talent that day: the ability to make decent costumes with minimal skill, effort or funds. If you’re like me, you also don’t want to try too hard or spend too much. So, just for you, here are some extremely minimalistic costume ideas for the tight-assed and lethargic.

Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men

What you’ll need: A cheap, plastic shotgun, a tin can, a bowl, a 50c coin (optional)

There are three iconic things to Javier Bardem’s maniac, and since an air-pressured cattle-killer is most likely too expensive, you’ll have to settle for a bowl cut and a cheap $2 plastic shotgun with a tin can on the end of it. If you also want to go all Harvey Dent on people, invest in a 50-cent coin too.

Total estimated cost: Assuming you own an appropriately sized bowl, $4.50

The Obelisk from 2001: A Space Odyssey

What you’ll need: A long obelisk-shaped cardboard box, black rubbish bags, staples

The trickiest part is finding a box that can comfortably surround your entire torso (a quick trip to the cardboard storage behind an electronics store should do the trick). Cut holes on the side for your arms, legs and head.

Next, stretch black rubbish bags over every surface of the box and staple them into place. This’ll give your obelisk a creepy, otherworldly shine. Put your creation on and voila, you are now a walking Stanley Kubrick reference.

Total estimated cost: $5

Eli from Let the Right One In

What you’ll need: Fake blood, pale skin, long black hair, shortness

You’ll need the physical qualities listed above to pull this one off. Just make sure you’re also barefoot and wearing a white/beige shirt that you’re not particularly attached to.

When you arrive, try to enter the residence before the host can invite you in. Every now and then, excuse yourself to go to the bathroom, take out the fake blood and pour some across your eyes, mouth and forehead. People will be confused, but don’t let on. With each consecutive visit to the bathroom, pour on more and more blood.

If/when someone clicks and formally invites you in, the gig’s up. Wipe the blood off your face. Don’t wash the shirt.

Total estimated cost: $2

Scarecrow from Batman Begins

What you’ll need: A recyclable shopping bag, thread, a needle, bleach, dirt, a suit (optional)

If you have a grotty-looking potato sack lying around, you’re pretty much sorted. If you don’t, get a reuseable shopping bag and remove the colour with bleach. Rip the bag to shreds and sew it back together, forming a mask that will cover your entire head. You don’t need to be precise; the roughness will give it authenticity.  Cut some eyeholes and stitch in a scary sad mouth. Now kick it around in some dirt to give it that grungy brown colour.

There you have it. You are now one of Batman’s nemeses. However, people are probably going to avoid you because, well, you smell like dirt. If you’ve got a business suit in your wardrobe, put that on. It’ll look more like Dr. Jonathan Crane and might counteract the funkiness of your mask. Probably not though…

Total estimated cost: If you own bleach, or can borrow it from your mum, $7

The Man with No Name from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

What you’ll need: A name tag

Here’s the simplest, cheapest and obscurest movie-referencing costume on the list. Get a “Hi, my name is ______” tag and put it on your lapel. That’s it. That’s all you have to do. The only way you can mess this up is if you actually put your name on it. So don’t put your name on it. That would be stupid.

You can upsize the costume depending on what you’re got or capable of. Chuck on a cowboy hat if you’ve got one. Drape a brown towel over your shoulder if one’s accessible. Squint all night if you have to. Whatever you can add to your imitation Clint Eastwood costume, the more you’ll sell it.

Total estimated cost: $1

Maggie from Million Dollar Baby

What you’ll need: Black boxing gloves, white tank top, baggy shorts, a hair tie, a small wooden footstool, a mouth guard (optional), an intensive month of follow-along cross-fit exercises on YouTube (optional)

It’s not that big of a task imitating Hilary Swank’s look in Million Dollar Baby. If you don’t have your own pair, you should be able to find some cheap black boxing online. Put on a white tank top, wear some baggy sport shorts, tie your hair back and you’re pretty much ready to go.

But if you really want to sell the costume, carry around a small wooden footstool. Whenever you stop to chat to someone put the stool down on its side. Every now and then, glance at the stool as if you’re deeply disturbed by it, but don’t directly draw attention to it. If they still haven’t caught on, trip over and pretend to break your neck on it (just don’t actually break your neck on it).

Total estimated cost: $30

Leonard Shelby from Memento

What you’ll need: A sharpie, blonde hair dye (optional)

This is possibly the one that requires the most amount of effort, but the reward is stupendous. Study Christopher Nolan’s Memento, memorise all the tattoos on Leonard’s body and sharpie them into your body. You may need to get a pal to help you out and it’ll probably help if you walk around shirtless for the entire night, if you have no self-esteem issues and everyone else is cool with that.

That’s all you need to do, but if you want to go one further, re-introduce yourself to everyone you meet at least three times.

Total estimated cost: Whatever a sharpie costs

Ripley from Alien 3 / Evey from V for Vendetta

What you’ll need: A razor, no attachment to your hair

The iconic clothes Ripley and Evey wear are pretty easy to attain, but the greatest hurdle for those who want to take on this ‘costume’ is the the hair part. You need to love your long hair. And you need to shave it all off.

This is not going to work for those who have been rocking the bald look for a while. No, the big factor in this costume is the stark transition from hair to baldness that Sigourney Weaver and Natalie Portman went through. Dedicate yourself. Be a legend.

Total estimated cost: Three months of your hair pride

Pinhead from Hellraiser

What you’ll need: A pack of acupuncture needles

Shove as many acupuncture needles as you can directly into your head. You don’t have to be precise with your measurements, just as long as you evenly distribute them. Just don’t bump into any walls or you’ll either have a seizure or an increased fascination with colouring books.

Total estimated cost: $10 for the needles, $16,000 for the neurosurgery bill when you inevitably impale your frontal lobe

Originally published on Flicks on October 23, 2012