Friday, October 30, 2009

Trick or Treat TV

As Halloween nears -- if you're anything like me -- you haul out your all-time favorite horror films on DVD, VHS or Blu-Ray and enjoy them all over again...for the umpteenth time. However, if you care to mix things up just a bit this year (and if you possess a vast video archive...) you may want to celebrate this All Hallow's Eve with the most memorable Halloween episodes of classic genre TV series instead.

Specifically, if you're looking for holiday-themed efforts from TV history, these are some of the notable titles to consider:

1.) "Halloween" from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997) In this second season episode of the beloved Joss Whedon vampire series, we learn that Halloween is the one night of the year in which Sunnydale's vampires stay in and watch television. Apparently they don't appreciate the crass consumerism of the Halloween holiday. But Buffy, Xander and Willow are vexed anyway when their Halloween costumes turn distressingly real (courtesy of an evil shop owner named Ethan...). Dressed as a soldier, Xander gains courage. Buffy -- as a 17th century damsel in distress -- loses hers. And Willow, garbed as a ghost, develops the powers (and physical limitations...) of an apparition.

If you want to make it a Buffy Halloween all-together, another Buffy the Vampire Slayer Halloween-themed entry is the sixth season's entry "All the Way," which involves Dawn dating a vampire on All Hallow's Eve.

2.) "The Curse of Frank Black" from Millennium (1997). This memorable episode of Chris Carter's cult classic provides a peek at what an average Halloween is like for everyone's favorite "dark" profiler, Frank Black (Lance Henriksen). The episode features a nod to both The Simpsons and Space: Above and Beyond (1995), but more meaningfully, it gazes at a specific Halloween from Frank's youth, and the way that it has continued to affect him throughout his life.

"The Curse of Frank Black" is part whimsy and part tragedy, and it goes a long way towards contextualizing the history (and unusual abilities and insights...) of Frank Black. "The Curse of Frank Black" occurs during a spell in which Frank is estranged from his wife and the Millennium Group, and banished from his paradise...his perfect yellow house. Frank visits that house in this episode, and -- among other things -- confronts some of the ghosts haunting him.

3.) "Freddy's Trick or Treats" from October 30, 1988 is an episode of the mostly-forgotten Freddy's Nightmares: A Nightmare on Elm Street the Series, the cheap jack syndicated anthology starring horror icon and Elm Street dream demon, Monsieur Krueger (Robert Englund). The series ran for forty-four episodes in the late 1980s and featured appearances by future stars such as Brad Pitt.

Here, Freddy Krueger terrorizes future Law & Order star Mariska Hargitay and her friends on a Springfield college campus. There are actually two stories featured here, but this Halloween entry wasn't exactly Freddy's finest hour...

4.) "Hellowe'en" from Friday the 13th: The Series aired on October 31, 1987. It was the fifth episode of the beloved syndicated series' first season, and the story involved a Halloween costume party held at the cursed antique store, Curious Goods. The party goes awry thanks to some unwanted guests, and soon the episode involves the dangerous conjuration of the series' recurring evil antagonist, Uncle Lewis Vendredi (R.G. Armstrong). Micki (Robey), Jack (Chris Wiggins) and Ryan (John D. Le May) have to save the (holi)day.

5.) "All Hallow's Eve" actually aired on the same Halloween as that memorable Friday the 13th episode, and it's a fun installment from Fox Network's Werewolf: The Series. The story involves series protagonist Eric Cord (John J. York) locking himself in a haunted house on Halloween, just as the irksome werewolf pentagram appears on his palm. Inside the house, he meets a strange, spooky denizen. Just think, we could be enjoying this episode on DVD right now if the series' DVD release hadn't been canceled just last month...

6.) "Halloween Candy" aired on October 31st, 1985, and was featured in the second season of the syndicated anthology from George Romero and Laurel, Entertainment called Tales from the Darkside (now available on DVD). Directed by the great Tom Savini, this creepy half-hour show involved a nasty old miser who stingily refuses to dole out candy on Halloween night. At least, that is, until a rea life goblin shows up on his doorstep for some authentic trick-or-treating...

And don't forget these Halloween-based episodes either, especially if you prefer romance and sci-fi to horror:

7.)"Masques" from CBS's cult series Beauty and the Beast aired on October 30, 1987 and while it isn't horror -based per se, it is set on Halloween and involves a monster of sorts. the regal-lion like Vincent. Here, Ron Perlman plays that Shakespeare quoting "Beast" and at a costume ball set on October 31st the lonesome Vincent is able -- for one night -- to mingle with the "normal" people of the Big Apple. The denizens of New York mistake his monstrous appearance for a (really scary...) costume and so the Beast's intense isolation is soothed. Linda Hamilton plays Vincent's love, Catherine.

8). "Catspaw" from Star Trek (1967) isn't exactly a horror show either, but in this story, the U.S.S. Enterprise encounters all kinds of Halloween "spooks" on an alien world, including a giant black cat, a sorcerer, and a malevolent witch. "Captain Kiiiiiiiiiiirk," the witch calls...


  1. Awesome list, there. It's always fun to see what others make a point of reading/viewing for Halloween. I've got a big soft spot for Darkside, and I can recall staying up late to watch the Freddy's Nightmares episodes.

    As for myself, time is usually very limited, but there are two things in particular that I make a point of going over again on or around the 31st :

    1.) I make a point to view "The Crow" one more time, given that its events are set around this time of year.

    2.) I'll read through a favorite short story entitled 'Morcara's Room' by Tanith Lee - a stylish take on the 'cursed room' story, which always seemed perfect for the audible read to a group in the dark, flashlight illumining the words, and all that.

  2. There's also a cute ep. of CHARMED "All Halliwell's Eve" I believe it's called where the sisters are transported back in time and are persecuted for being witches and end up inventing all of the customs that are associated with Halloween. It's actually quite clever and a lot of fun.

  3. I think I've seen most of these. I totally agree with you. Happy Halloween!

  4. How could you overlook 'The Troubled Spirit' from Space 1999? That episode is perfect for the season.

  5. Hey Cricket,

    I enjoy "The Troubled Spirit" very much, but it isn't set on Halloween, is it?

    All my selections above either aired on/around Halloween, or were explicitly about Halloween.

    No snub intended...

  6. Great list, JKM. The Milennium and the STAR TREK episodes are a couple of my favorites. Thanks for this, John.

  7. Great list! My favorite out of that bunch is "Hellowe'en" from Friday the 13th: The Series. Greta the midget demon is just freaky!

  8. Come to think of it, the classic Avengers episode "Never, Never Say Die"--starring Christopher "The Man" Lee--was intended to be a Halloween episode as well.

    Good article. I wish I had come across it sooner.