Wednesday, October 30, 2013

This is Halloween

Although it has never been my favorite holiday I do have some rather fond memories of Halloween growing up. We used to trick-or-treat in my grandparent's neighborhood. I was Cinderella once and my sister was once Princess Leia. Eventually we started going to the movies on Halloween. It's never been my favorite holiday but what little kid doesn't love getting all kinds of candy and then eating yourself sick? I'm a fan of the cute, cheery Halloween and not what's taken its place: the dark, gory, scary side. I don't like scary movies; nothing suspenseful, gory, or horror for me, thank you very much. Well, that's not quite true. I do love The Walking Dead. But when it comes to the movies generally associated with Halloween I tend to shy away. Which is why I've made an alternative list of movies and TV episodes that aren't scary, for the most part at least.


Although the new TV show has been promising so far that's not the Sleepy Hollow I'm referring to. I mean the 1994 Tim Burton movie, which already tells you everything you need to know. It is a live action film unlike the other Burton film on this list. He's actually made more live action movies than I'd thought; his animated movies are just so distinct. Back to the movie though. It's the normal tale of Sleepy Hollow, the town haunted by the Headless Horseman. Of course Burton puts his own twist on everything. It's a fun take on a "classic" American short story, as is the new TV show.


No, I'm not talking about the original. I've never seen it; I really only saw the 2011 remake because David Tennant and Anton Yelchin were in it. I'm not sure how the remake stands up to the original but I liked it. It surprises me that I like this movie as it's almost too much for me. That's how much of a wimp I am with scary movies. I enjoyed seeing David Tennant as a strange kind of vampire killer and I thought Anton Yelchin was as adorable as always. I was also very OK with Colin Farrell as the evil vampire because he's not exactly my favorite actor. It's not the best vampire movie around but it is a fun movie. And everyone lives happily ever after, which is definitely realistic when vampires are involved.


I really have no idea what compelled me to watch this. I was definitely shanghaied into finally seeing Poltergeist and it honestly wasn't as terrifying as I'd thought it would be, especially once you learned that the house was built over a cemetery. Although I still found the movie to be slightly scary, learning the reason why there was a poltergeist made everything a little easier for me. This is the scariest movie on my list and even then it's not that bad by today's standards. I won't say it's my favorite movie, or even that I'd watch it again without a very good reason, but it was worth it just to hear the iconic line "They're here."


Demon possession. It's such a fun topic. This episode of Psych is about a girl who apparently committed suicide but the question is why. A priest claims it was demon possession, which seems correct once a second girl begins acting possessed. And to make everything creepier the theme song from The Exorcist is part of this episode. Now obviously the girls weren't really possessed but it seems that way for a while. This is one of the creepier episodes of Psych but, as always, there is plenty of humor and everything has a reasonable explanation.


I barely remember hearing anything about this movie but it was surprisingly good. Dracula created a hotel for monsters that is supposed to be inaccessible to humans and yet a human finds his way in. Jonathon then has to pretend to be a monster and falls in love with Dracula's daughter but Dracula wants Jonathon gone. It's a really cute movie about being yourself and finding yourself. Plus, it's full of different monsters, both classic and new monsters. It's got an all-star cast and is really quite funny.


The other Tim Burton movie on my list. This one is animated and of course includes voices from frequent Burton actors (Burton, like Whedon, reuses actors). As long as kids don't try to take this movies seriously and actually think they can bring their dead pets back to life then we're good. Because what kids doesn't wish they could do that? And while Sparky may not look the same he's still the same dog he was before. One of my favorite parts of this movie is when the other kids try to resurrect animals and it goes badly. I like the monsters they create. And of course the movie has a burning windmill scene; it is a take on Frankenstein after all.


Please tell me you all know the theme song for the TV show. If not, you need to look it up now. I'm actually referring to the movie here and not the TV show but the theme song is such an important part of The Addams Family that I want to make sure we are all on the same page. Now, the movie. What can I even say? If you know anything about the Addams then you know they are a very strange family. Cousin Itt, Thing, Lurch. The family is just plain old weird. But they are so much fun. The movie is a great introduction to the family and all it's oddities. From the school play to the scene with the electrical chair to the encounter with the Girl Scout, the movie is hilarious.


As the title says, this episode is all about Halloween. Buffy, Willow and Xander have to take kids trick-or-treating but unfortunately the costumes from one shop are all cursed and everyone turns into their character. Buffy is an 18th century lady, Xander is a soldier, and Willow is a ghost. Willow is the only one of the three to retain her real memories and has to keep track of Buffy and Xander. It's highly amusing to see Buffy so defenseless and Xander as an experienced soldier. It's also fun because Willow is dressed in a miniskirt, something she finds uncomfortable but attracts a lot of attention. It's nice to see them out of their element for a little while.


This episode sort of takes place in a haunted house. In reality, a demon was unknowingly conjured and fears begin to materialize, causing all kinds of problems with the people stuck in the house. And really, the demon is actually very tiny and easily squashed. But it's a good look at people's fears, both the ones they acknowledge and the ones they try to hide. The fears brought up in this episode are ones that become important later in the season and throughout the rest of the series.


When I think about Scooby-Doo this is the series I picture. To me it's classic Scooby-Doo. Granted, it is the first version of the Saturday morning cartoon so my line of thought is appropriate. We have most of the first season and I've seen quite a bit of the second season. The episodes may be from 1969 and 1970 but they are still just a great today as they were back then. Scooby and the Gang fight ghosts, mummies, werewolves, witches and all kinds of monsters. And unlike Buffy, where monsters impersonate humans, Scooby-Doo is about humans impersonating monsters to pull off some sort of crime. Really any of the older Scooby-Doo stuff is good (The Scooby-Doo Show has some great episodes as well) but this series will always be my favorite.


You can't have Halloween without monster movies and Universal has the classic monsters. Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, the Wolf Man, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, the Creature from the Black Lagoon and a slew of other monsters all have their own movies. You also can't mention classic horror movies without mentioning Lon Chaney, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. They played many of the classic monsters we know and love today. These monsters are different from today's versions. They're slightly closer to the version found in the novels (for those based on books at least) and the movies were significantly less violent. But they are very amusing to watch. The Wolf Man in particular is my favorite to watch and impersonate as the Wolf Man is certainly different from today's werewolves. These are classic and timeless monsters in their "original" form.

There are many more Halloween movies. Obviously, if you like the gorier horror movies then there is Halloween or Friday the 13th. I prefer to stick with these movies and episodes. It's a perfect blend of light horror and scare with humor and fun added in. There are other TV shows that I could have added to this list. Any of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Angel is appropriate for Halloween as the shows deal with vampires and other supernatural beings. The same can be said for Sabrina, the Teenage Witch or Charmed as witchcraft is a big part of Halloween. There are several other episodes of Psych that could have been included, dealing with werewolves, vampires, ghosts and haunted houses. And if you'd like a darker TV show then American Horror Story would certainly fit. And it's only fair to mention "Days Gone Bye", the first episode of The Walking Dead, as it actually aired on Halloween. As for other movies, Hocus Pocus, Practical Magic or Nightmare Before Christmas are all good options. And no list would be complete without one last scene, one involving magic and a troll in the dungeon.
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