Scott Neumyer is the author of Jimmy Stone's Ghost Town. He's a publicist for Click Communications as well as a writer and photographer. You can reach him on Twitter and at www.scottwrites.com. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and daughter. You can read his Raising a Cinephile column every other Thursday.
It should come as no surprise that Halloween is my favorite holiday. I mean, really my favorite holiday. As in I proposed to my wife on Halloween weekend and we got married on Halloween weekend (with a Corpse Bride cake-topper no less). I’m a horror junkie and I just love the spooky season. One of my favorite childhood memories is sitting on the couch with my parents and a nice mug of hot chocolate while we watch Halloween specials on TV. We watched them all, recorded them on VHS, and watched them over again. It was the highlight of my year. Every single year.
Everyone knows about It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and we certainly watched (and enjoyed) the perennial Halloween classic many times, but my favorite Halloween specials were some of the more offbeat and wacky ones. I couldn’t wait until late October to be scared out of my jammies by the pirate ghosts near the end of Garfield’s Halloween Adventures and hide under the covers during the yearly instalment of The Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror” episode. These became staples of my childhood Halloween experience and I want to do my very best pass on the traditional to my little one. So, with that in mind, let’s examine some of the more unsung (and, some, barely remembered) Halloween Specials that you can pass on to your kiddos.
If you thought It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown was the be-all and end-all of Halloween specials, you’re sadly mistaken. There are loads of other Halloween specials (there’s even a whole website dedicated to this very subject) and, while …Charlie Brown is one of the few that are still airing every year, it’s worth your while to track down some of the other lost gems of the Halloween season to enjoy with your family.
Most regular television series’ end up doing their own (sometimes yearly) Halloween specials, nearly all of my personal favorites are standalone specials. I already mentioned Garfield’s Halloween Adventures, but it’s worth mentioning again. It’s one of the other few specials that still airs on TV fairly regularly during the Halloween season and let me tell you right now that this show terrified me as a child. It was those pesky pirate ghosts and the creepy man in that lake house. I had nightmares for days on end about these ghouls, but I loved it. Keep a close eye on your kids the first time to make sure they can handle the scares, but I have a feeling they’ll be just fine and ask to watch it again. The Wiggle Bear does.
Next up is a personal favorite that’s been incredibly tough to find anywhere other than YouTube since it’s 1986 premiere on The Disney Channel. Mr. Boogedy is one of the most fun films to ever come out of the Mouse House and I’ve been hoping for years that they would release it on DVD. Starring John Astin (the original Gomez Addams), the film is about a spooky house in Lucifer Falls that’s haunted by The Boogedy Man. Sounds normal enough for a ghost tale, but this thing is just downright silly. It has a few quality scares, but I think it’s the perfect wacky Halloween tale for the whole family. It even spawned a sequel, Bride of Boogedy, which aired on The Disney Channel in 1987, but also remains in a home video wasteland without a DVD release. What a shame!
Also released in 1986, The Worst Witch is a made-for-HBO special starring Tim Curry and Fairuza Balk. One of my wife’s favorite Halloween films of all time, it revolves around a young girl attending a school for witches and is perfectly campy fun for kids. If you thought Balk was creepy in Return to Oz, she’s just as creepy here, but you can see the promise in her even a youngster. The Craft, in retrospect, seems like the perfect fit for an actress who was cutting her teeth on this kind of material. Tim Curry knows how to make the best of a cheese-fest like The Worst Witch and his performance alone is worth the time you’ll spend tracking down the DVD of this film.
There are so many great Halloween specials that aired during my childhood. I could probably write this column for the rest of year just to cover them all. That said, here are a few more favorites that my family likes to revisit every Halloween:
- Halloween is Grinch Night (the 1978 barely-known sequel to How the Grinch Stole Christmas which was later released as just It’s Grinch Night!)
- The Flintstones Meet Rockula and Frankenstone
- Frankenweenie (Tim Burton’s classic black-and-white half-hour special)
- Tiny Toons: Night Ghoulery
- Halloweentown and Return to Halloweentown (these still regularly play on ABC Family Channel during October)
- Alvin & The Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein and The Wolf Man
- Alvin & The Chipmunks: Trick or Treason
- Bugs Bunny’s Howl-oween Special
In a few years, I’ll be introducing The Wiggle Bear to the wonders of spooky TV series like Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Goosebumps, not to mention a ton of spooky Halloween movies that are just out of her age range. Now if I only had time to write about them all.
I hope you now have your Halloween weekend TV watching mapped out with some great specials. Most of the previously mentioned specials can be found online either in DVD format, VHS format (you still have one of those lying around in case of emergency, right?), or in pieces on YouTube. Some of them might be tough to find, but stretch your Google-Fu muscles and you can track them down. And be sure to let us know about your favorite Halloween special down there in the comments. Happy Halloween!