Remember the good ol' days, when Halloween candy consisted entirely of safely neutral geometric shapes, like circular lollipops and rectangular candy bars? Those days are gone. Gradually over time, a sick humor has taken over our candy stores, and an eerie candy-based level of reality has set in. Nigh-shapeless, cute little gummi bears have given way to fake-blood-filled gummi eyeballs. Last year's feature look at cheap Halloween candy turned up such gruesome "delights" as a life-size gummi rat and a line of surprisingly detailed plastic insects filled with sugar-slime guts. This year, we shopped around (largely at offbeattreats.com) and found even more gross-out goodies, leaning heavily toward bloody severed body parts, body fluids, and unpleasant medical conditions. Naturally, we rushed to buy and try them so you don't have to and so we can gauge whether any of them are tasty enough to justify the unsettling Jeffrey Dahmer vibe of chowing down on the ugliest pieces of people.
Bag O' Blood
This tiny little plastic packet is made to resemble an IV bag, and it's filled with gelatinous red goop that doesn't seem to share any physical properties with blood. The gore is dialed back by what the bag actually says: "Volunteer donor: Mr. Sugar Tooth" and "Expires: When eaten."
Tastes like: Blood apparently has the flavor of Watermelon Jolly Ranchers, and is incredibly difficult to actually consume.
Worth the gross-out factor? Maybe. It takes some squeezing to get the "blood" out of the bag, and then it's so sweet as to be almost sickening. The flavor and implied evilness should definitely appeal to twisted little boys, though.
Candy Hose Nose
This bumpy plastic nose is engineered to fit atop the wearer's real nose (affixed with a couple of do-nothing, non-adjustable ribbons). From that ideal location, it's supposed to drip its "candy slime" filling onto a waiting tongue.
Tastes like: Ambiguously sweet—sour apple, maybe? (It's green, which in candy parlance these days usually means sour apple.) It's tough to get past the slimy texture, which is rendered even more disconcerting by the fact that if you're wearing this thing, you can't see the spigot, and you can't be entirely sure when a blob of candy snot is going to hit your tongue.
Worth the gross-out factor? The packaging proclaims it to be the "Funniest Ever," and while it's probably amusing for onlookers to watch you struggling to squeeze goo out of a contraption tenuously clinging to your own face, it requires a certain amount of coordination to not end up with sticky sugar-snot down the front of your shirt. Perhaps best suited for young children, who tend to have a high tolerance for generic sweetness, and are usually pretty sticky to begin with.
The box promises "oozy, sticky, goo filled zit gummies" that are "plump & ripe!" The flavor is described as "AWFULeeeee Zitlicious!" This may be every pre-teen boy's fantasy. The plastic bag inside looks like soaking-wet gummi candy, but not much like zits.
Tastes like: Just your basic gummi candy, but with a squishy liquid filling. That's supposed to be the pus!
Worth the gross-out factor? Well, the zits are frustratingly difficult to actually pop. One finger on each side, pressing toward the middle doesn't work, unlike with real zits! On top of that, you can't touch one of these without coating your fingers in slime. Of course, that's a problem with teenage boys, when you think about it.
Box Of Boogers
From the same company (and featuring the same ghoul) as the Zit Poppers, the Box Of Boogers prompts slightly lower expectations: It's easier to recreate a booger (in theory, anyway) than the less-nebulous zit. Boogers can take all kinds of shapes and consistencies. That said, it promises "gummy boogies that look & feel real!"
Tastes like: Real boogers probably don't taste any worse than these sickly lumps. The candy boogers almost taste like unflavored gummi candy, but they're extra-tough and tart—not sour, exactly, but definitely not good.
Worth the gross-out factor? Kids can relate to boogers more than zits, and younger kids are likely to think boogers are fucking hilarious. That said, the taste is lousy. Then again, most kids would willingly eat boxed mac-and-cheese for dinner every night, so what do those little brats know?
Boo-Boo Licks Edible Candy Bandages
Gumi-Aid Fruit Flavored Gummies
These two different gummi representations of Band-Aids go at the idea from very different angles. The Gumi-Aid snacks are just regular-colored gummi candies that are sort of shaped like Band-Aids. The Boo-Boo Licks are some next-level shit: They're the sickly tan color of real Band-Aids, and the little blood-catching pad in the middle is red. And they're individually wrapped!
Tastes like: The Gumi-Aid tastes like regular gummi, but extraordinarily tough to chew—maybe because they're so thick. The Boo-Boo Licks have a vaguely citrusy flavor that also comes across as slightly medicinal. If that was intentional, it's genius.
Worth the gross-out factor? Definitely not. The Boo-Boo Licks look too much like the real thing, and neither candy is particularly tasty. They'd make a fun party favor, though—a tray of them on an appetizer table would be nice.
These vague green bumps with a creamy white filling would never be mistaken for warts if not for the name and the crone on the packaging. Lack of realism probably isn't entirely bad in this case.
Tastes like: Surprisingly not bad, kind of like green-apple Junior Mints: They have that same creamy/waxy texture, and the apple flavoring is very mild. The ingredients list includes skim milk, too, so it's practically health food.
Worth the gross-out factor? They're really too innocuous to be legitimately gross, so if you're looking for an apple-flavored, off-brand Junior Mint, why not?[pagebreak]
So we've had candy that's supposed to be boogers, zits, Band-Aids, snot, and warts—why not just dive right into a pile of loose shit, delivered in a diaper? This isn't aimed at trick-or-treaters, but rather at new parents, who'd like nothing more than to think about baby shit!
Tastes like: The company behind this marketing home-run can't even make chocolate palatable. To say it tastes like shit is an insult to shit. The hard lump of candy was like flavorless Tootsie Rolls when cold, like a scalding pile of choco-lava with impenetrable skin when barely microwaved (as the directions suggest), and then like the dried, discarded, gluey skin off some cheap hot chocolate once it cooled. This wasn't meant to be eaten, but rather looked at, chuckled at, and thrown away.
Worth the gross-out factor? God no. Who wants to look at a brown-filled diaper, then not even get the reward of a decent-tasting chocolate? Here's the weird thing: It's made with corn syrup, sugar, chocolate liquor, vegetable shortening, and natural and artificial flavors. Maybe we just got an old one—the packaging does say "copyright 1993"—but yuuuuuck.
Sour Flush Candy Plunger
This is basically Fun Dip with better packaging: A plastic green toilet (with working lid!) filled with sour-apple powder dip and two candy "plungers" that conveniently clip onto the side of the contraption, so you can have your potty humor on the go.
Tastes like: A green-apple DumDum dipped in green-apple Pixie Stix powder. The powder is a little tart, but not nearly sour enough to induce the sort of wide-eyed, slobbering mania seen on the face of the creepy cartoon that graces the toilet lid.
Worth the gross-out factor? If you can willingly finish a package of Fun Dip, sure. It's basically sugar atop more sugar, but it tastes familiar, and the toilet packaging is more cute than disgusting.
This liquid candy is heralded as being extremely sour, and is about 98 percent corn syrup. It comes in a handy squeezable brain-shaped container with a cap so you can carry it around in your pocket and whip it out whenever you need to impress some 6-year-olds.
Tastes like: Sour, but not extremely so. Like every green-hued candy we tasted, it has that tangy-fruity flavor that translates to "green apple," even though no comparable flavor exists in nature. It's disgustingly slimy though, so even if it tasted like ambrosia, it would still be a little gag-inducing.
Worth the gross-out factor? Liquid candy is really all about the packaging, so the gross-out factor is the appeal here; if you didn't want to be grossed out, you could just grab a green-apple Jolly Rancher and get the same flavor. But only Brain Drain combines the hilarity of eating brains with the sensation of swallowing apple-flavored mucus.
Toe Jam Cotton Candy
Toe Jam comes in a little foil pouch emblazoned with a foot featuring ragged, greenish nails covered in goopy fungus, but the contents of the pouch resemble neither toe jam nor cotton candy. It's like venturing into a cheap carnival sideshow: Outside is a grotesque, lurid picture of what you're supposedly about to see, and inside is a disappointing failure. Or in this case, inside is a slightly fuzzy hunk of hardened sugar, in a vivid, preternatural green color rarely seen outside a Gatorade bottle. Maybe it was cotton candy before it was compressed into a pellet. It's remarkably fragile; attempts to break off a piece resulted in a shower of desk-covering fragments. Surely real toe jam isn't this splintery.
Tastes like: Sugar, vaguely. Maybe it's supposed to be a little sour? It's like eating crunchy nothing, with a side helping of dye.
Worth the gross-out factor? On the one hand, there isn't much gross-out factor involved, beyond the picture. On the other hand, there isn't anything about the candy that rewards eating it, so it's pretty much a wash.
Gummy Flesh Fries
Gummy Body Parts Finger
Three different candies all offer the same thing: a barely distinguished hunk of gummi that's supposed to look like a bloody severed finger. The Gummy Flesh Fries, which come in a little paper French-fry sleeve, are the worst: they're pallid and limp, the color and texture of microwaved orange crayons, and they're sweating corn oil, so they not only have a nasty greasy sheen, they tend to slide away from all but the most determined grips, then stain everything they touch. They're completely flat on one side, so apparently these are meant to be torture-victim fingers that have been heavily ironed. The Gummy Body Parts Finger is much smaller and paler, but also has been ironed on one side. For some reason, it has a "bloody" fingernail, but a pristine stump. Chili Fingers look exactly like downsized fingers, with admirable detail; they're meant to be dipped into the bloody fruit "chili" that comes with them, which looks and smells exactly like well-chewed Fruit Roll-Ups.
Tastes like: The Gummy Flesh Fries have the consistency of old rubber, and a very vague berry taste. Biting into them is hard; chewing them is harder. But at least then you aren't looking at them. The Gummy Body Parts Finger is a little chewier, and tastes strongly of artificial banana. Multiple people tried to bite off even a small chunk of one of the Chili Fingers, and were unable to; it's like eating plastic. Smokers who are trying to kick the habit and want something in their mouths at all times might get some use out of Chili Fingers; they're the gummi equivalent of an all-day sucker.
Worth the gross-out factor? It's all but impossible to actually eat these things, so no, not unless you like a tinge of fruit with your indigestible chemicals.
This looks more like Crunchy Tarantula That Someone Pulled All The Legs Off And Left To Die In A Heap Of Its Own Limb Fragments, but we understand why they didn't want to put all that on our shipping manifest. It appears to be a hard candy shell in the vague shape of a spider, painted onto a square bed of brownish gummi.
Tastes like: Spun sugar and artificial fruit flavoring, with a hint of flowery honey in the gummi segment.
Worth the gross-out factor? Yes, actually. The gummi could stand to be fresher—it's stiff and gluey rather than firm and chewy—but the two-stage texture experience is pleasant, and it's an interesting mix of sharply sweet and gently fruity. It isn't going to replace peanut-butter M&Ms; in our hearts anytime soon, but it's about as tasty as cheap candy is likely to get.
This detailed little plastic spider apparently isn't having all that much luck in the egg-laying department: Its egg-sac appears to be full of blood, with just a few forlorn, blobby white-chocolate eggs floating around inside. If spiders had abortions, this is the image that would be on the pro-life spiders' tiny little protest signs and posters.
Tastes like: The red goo is "sour strawberry flavor," and tastes a little tart and a whole lot sweet, like distilled essence du Starburst rouge. In the grand tradition of white chocolate down through the ages, the eggs taste like nothing whatsoever.
Worth the gross-out factor? The strawberry syrup is reasonably tasty, and the gross-out factor is only really an issue for arachnophobes. The real gross-out is in the question of exactly how to eat this stuff, since there's no convenient opening; no matter how you cut into the egg-sac, you're going to end up with sticky scissors or gooey fingers. Starbursts are less creepy and considerably more convenient. Which goes for most of the candies on this list, in fact—there are tastier and less-traumatizing versions of everything on this list. If The A.V. Club is going to barf at Halloween, we'd rather it be from eating too much good candy than from looking at this stuff.