BSR’s Favorite Childhood Halloween Media
Written by BSR Web Staff on October 31, 2018
It’s Halloween, and Black Squirrel Radio invites you to look back on the movies, TV shows and music that haunt you from Octobers past.
Scary Godmother: Halloween Spooktacular
Scary Godmother: Halloween Spooktacular is a movie that so few people remember that sometimes I think it didn’t exist. Every Halloween, my brother and I would come home, park ourselves in front of the TV, and watch this movie on Cartoon Network. As we watched, we would sort our candy into piles and trade each other for our favorites. This fun, short movie follows a young girl, Hannah, being babysat by her terrible older cousin on Halloween. The Scary Godmother takes Hannah to her home on the “Fright Side” where she is introduced to lots of friendly monsters. A skeleton, a werewolf, and a family of vampires are some of the fun, spooky characters Hannah meets on the Fright Side. I haven’t seen Scary Godmother in many years as its spot on air has since been replaced by newer Halloween movies. However, whenever I think of it, it sparks fond memories of time spent with my brother on my favorite holiday.
When Good Ghouls Go Bad
Let’s be honest with each other, R.L. Stine is WEIRD, but a children’s horror genius if nothing else. This 2001 TV film full of spiky hair and baggy sweaters follows the story of a boy named Danny who moves to a new town. This small town is super odd in that they don’t celebrate Halloween. According to legend, the town is cursed by a boy who died on Halloween night and wants the town to permanently abstain from all celebration. With the help of his zombie uncle Fred, Danny saves Halloween and the town. It’s super strange, I know. However, this movie made up a lot of my childhood. The crazier thing is that famous actor Christopher Lloyd plays the zombie uncle!
I remember coming across R.L Stine’s books when I was a kid. My brother used to read some of his work, but as a young and far too hyperactive kid, I didn’t care about reading his books. Instead, I became accustomed to the visual representation of his horror stories through reruns of the television series. I always regretted sitting through an episode because it was so strange. The theme song was stange. The stories; strange. Whether it was “Night of the Living Dummy” or “Stay Out of the Basement”, I couldn’t help but turn my head to observe my surroundings, in fear that some goddamn vine might be seeping through the basement closet, ready to strangle me. After a night of trick-or-treating with a few friends, I turned on episodes that I recorded, and we watched attentively as we dug through our loot, ready to rate our success based on the candy. In due time, I would migrate to the Michael Myers and Jason Vorhees of the world, the kid-friendly stuff.
It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
With Peanuts, Charles Schulz was able to capture a past that was too perfect to exist. Charlie Brown and his friends portrat the joyful ennui of childhood in more exquisite detail than just about any other piece of art ever conceived. It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, along with the rest of the classic Charlie Brown holiday special canon, feels completely timeless and its innocent charm has not been dulled by the decades.
Everything about this special just works. The decision to use actual children to play the whole Peanuts gang is one of the boldest things ever done for a television special, and it pays off in spades as the witty dialogue is delivered somewhere between sincerity and monotony — a group of schoolchildren putting on a Halloween play for you while still reading off cue cards. Vince Guaraldi’s jazz score is triumphant, its loose nature mirroring the chaotic wonder of a night spent trick-or-treating up and down a dark, familiar neighborhood. Snoopy’s adventurous interludes as an ace World War I fighter pilot, trapped behind enemy lines as he hunts down his nemesis the Red Baron, are animated physical comedy at its best, and welcome interludes from Charlie and his friends’ night. And the Great Pumpkin itself, and Linus’ firm belief that spending his Halloween night standing in a pumpkin patch waiting to meet him would pay off, represent a simpler time in all our lives, when believing in something strongly enough made it so.
This spooky, suspenseful movie tells the story of a young kid, DJ who has an overactive imagination and believes the house across from him is haunted, or “alive”. All the toys on that property get swallowed up by the house and no one believes him, he tries showing his best friend who didn’t believe him until he had a personal encounter with the house. This fun, creative movie was the scariest thing I saw, the movie put me right into the Halloween spirit. I remember sitting in the back of my mom’s car watching this movie on repeat. I have not watched this fantastic movie since I was little, but I still have amazing memories when this movie is mentioned or I see the name Monster House. Whenever I watched Monster House, I felt so intrigued and was very invested because I was a kid with a large imagination. When October came around, this movie is what I looked forward to watching.
Scaredy Pants (Spongebob Squarepants Halloween episode)
I had a DVD with a couple episodes of Spongebob on it, with the last episode being the Halloween special, Scaredy Pants. I would try and watch it but would turn it off when Squidward says, “I’ve come for your pickle,” I have no idea why this scene frightened me so much but it did. The episode also started off with a Wilhelm-like stock scream that made me uneasy, so I would be on my toes during the rest of the episode; it set the standard that anything could happen at any moment. This episode wasn’t playing around.
Some standout moments include the clogs that Patrick made, Mr. Krabs choking on a bobbing-apple, and the brilliant twist ending, the thing that scarred me for a good while — Spongebob’s shaved head.
This movie isn’t a Halloween movie but there was one scene that really freaked me out. My mother and her friends were having a party to celebrate someone’s birthday and told all of us kids to pick a movie, and just keep watching movies so the “grown folks could talk.” One of m friends picked it form the shelf because we all thought it was the wizard Oz, which it is but just a different version then we were expecting. In the scene when Dorothy (Diana Ross) first lands in Oz and she observes her surroundings around her the drawings on the wall begin to move and come to life. The background is very dark, almost like a night time setting which already sets the tone that something weird is about to happen.
There also another scene when Dorothy, Scarecrow (Michael Jackson) , Lion and Tinman are in the subway. Throughout the movie there is this guy following Dorothy, from a distance, with a set of puppets and towards the end of their trip to meet the wizard, he reveals himself in the subway and unleashes the puppets. He comes down the stairs and there’s this eerie music playing in the background. Then the camera zooms to the puppets hanging from this tray this man is holding and at first you think the puppets are just bouncing but they grow from 2 feet to 4 feet to 6 feet to being as tall as the ceiling and they begin to move on their own, chasing the group through the subway. While they are being chased the columns that are supporting the subway come to life as well, along with electrical wires that fry Tinman, and trash can in a hot pursuit of Scarecrow (Michael Jackson). Watching this movie now I still love it but this scene still creeps me out.
Thriller (Michael Jackson music video)
Every single Halloween while I was growing up, my mother would turn on the Thriller music video for the entire family to watch. The music video is a short horror film that is full of zombies and other terrifying creatures. The video starts out with Michael Jackson playing a young man that is very sweet and innocent. He takes a young girl to the movies with him, and after the movie is over Michael’s character takes a turn for the worst.
Turning from this sweet innocent boy, Michael evolves into a zombie. All of a sudden the young girl is surrounded by zombies who at first aren’t so bad. They do this amazing and well choreographed dance together, and the dance is very well known by people all around the world. Afterwards, they all chase the young girl to an abandoned house and try to attack her. The video ends by Michael waking her up and it all was just a nightmare that she had. One thing that will always stand out to me is the creepy laugh at the end. I was always terrified of the ending and that laugh. Still to this day I anticipate the laugh, and I am still frightened when I hear it!
The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald (1998) – “Scared Silly’
In a weird era of commercializing all things related to kids, fast food giants McDonalds created and sold VHS tapes of cartoon adventures involving their mascot Ronald McDonald. Ronald was often joined by already existing fast food characters like the Hamburglar and Grimace, but was also joined by anthropomorphised McNuggets, ‘fry kids’ as well as several random children who were also apparently friends of Ronald and his generally food based pals. If that’s not scary enough the only one of these tapes I ever owned was the Halloween special “Scared Silly”. The general storyline starts off with a perfectly innocent camping trip that results in the gang finding a scary supposedly haunted house. Once they enter they are trapped unless they can figure out the various riddles, games, and obstacles the ‘ghost’ in the house forces them into. Oddly enough it feels like it could be a very early kids version of the Saw films involving a fast food clown. Despite the weird brand ties and storyline my brother and I were so into this movie. From the very cheesy humor, incredibly catchy songs, and pretty solid animation and voice work (thanks Nick production kings Klasky-Csupo) it is a pretty good time. We still reference it in my household today, including the trick you learn for how to outwit mazes, thanks cartoon tape my family bought at a restaurant.