Jon Calleri and his wife are not your typical newly-weds. The couple got married last month, honeymooned in Aruba, but rather than coming home to hang pictures of their trip, they got right to hanging blood-stained skeletons, vines and eerie lighting around their unfinished basement.
Call it Extreme Makeover: Halloween Edition.
“It just became a big thing over the years and everyone’s very excited and looking forward to it,” says Calleri of his annual Halloween party, this year on Nov. 2.
“November Nightmare” is a 15-year-long Halloween tradition in which the graphic designer and artist transforms his residence into a frightening venue for friends and family using do-it-yourself techniques for decoration.
The Pickering home’s decor includes crumpled newspapers for cave-like textures, ghosts made of Scotch-tape and fake blood poured over plastic tarps, to name a few.
“I grew up watching a lot of sci-fi movies, thrillers, horror movies. My artwork has a lot of surrealism aspects to it so it’s something that I’m definitely inspired by in my decoration,” says Calleri.
The Ontario College of Art and Design (now OCAD University) graduate says his study in painting helps him make his annual Halloween display look authentic.
“When I was in university, they kind of pushed me to try different mediums and that kind of really gets your mind exploring and thinking about what else you can use to change texture or look,” says Calleri.
The artist puts his training to use three months before Halloween to ensure he produces something new and exciting for his guests.
“We try to create an experience for people where they can’t recognize [they’re in a basement]. And it’s like stepping into an alternate reality,” says Calleri.
‘It gets the family together’
Calleri says the annual party, which he began throwing in high school, used to get around 170 guests.
He expects about 70 attendees this year.
“You know, we’re adults now, we’re getting older. People get married and have kids, so there are less people,” says Calleri.
He says he’s continued this tradition not only to meet the expectations of friends and family, but to get to spend time with them, too.
“I’ve noticed as we get older, I see [them] a lot less,” says Calleri. “So having something that everyone gets excited for every year really brings a lot of happiness. We’re painting limbs, eyeballs and intestines … but it gets the family together.”
He also says public reaction is a good bonus.
“Even better than friends and family reaction is when we have like a maintenance guy come downstairs …Their reaction is absolutely the best. They kind of hesitate and walk slowly,” says the artist, chuckling.
Calleri says he loves both hosting and Halloween, and he hopes his decor inspires people.
“I want people to find something they like and I hope my decorations inspire them to kind of create their own thing and express themselves,” he says.