Halloween is right around the corner of your hallway. At this time of year, the TV networks show the All Hallow’s specials and video rental stores display more horror movies. So which ones do we watch with the kids? Here’s a list of some of my suggestions. Feel free to add your own!
Scary Godmother. Little Hannah is sometimes frightened by her tormenting older cousin, Jimmy. Along comes a snazzy dressed, eerily fun fairy godmother who lives with her pet ghost cat in Fright Side. The Scary Godmother helps Hannah find the self confidence and support to face her cousin. This popping computer animated tale has a couple of films that premiered on Cartoon Network. But before Scary Godmother fluttered onto the small screen, her creator Jill Thompson wonderfully drew her to life in a comic book series.
The Little Vampire. Before the Twilight saga ruined the vampire genre, the relationship between humans and vampires was explored when young Tony and his family moved from California toScotland. The lonely Tony (portrayed by Johnathan Lipnicki the cutest kid in Hollywood at that time) befriends Rudolph, a child vampire. Tony and his family help Rudolph’s undead family conquer evil and reach their dreams. I did not know this when the movie came out, but it’s also based on a book series.
Casper the Friendly Ghost. Casper films have joyfully haunted us since the 1940’s. He’s just a kid trying to break through the stereotypes of being a ghost; he does not mean to scare people. In the film, Casper A Spirited Beginning, he doesn’t realize he’s a ghost at first. Throughout the decades, he’s befriended many characters, including Wendy the Good Witch, humans, other ghosts, and more.
The Nightmare Before Christmas. This spectacular claymation/stop action film is Tim Burton’s best. Jack the Pumpkin King is unhappy inHalloweenTown. He stumbles acrossChristmasTown and decides he wants the joyous holiday for his own. He enlists the citizens ofHalloweenTown (a kaleidoscope of ghouls and lake monsters) to build maniacal toys and sends three hellion trick-or-treaters to kidnap Santa Claus. In the end, Jack realizes happiness was right in front of his skull the whole time. Wonderful music is arranged by the legendary Danny Elfman, who also voices Jack’s lamenting and haunting songs.
Addams Family. Creepy. Cooky. And all together, ooky. The 1960’s television show depicting the macabre family is available on DVD to rent, borrow from your local library, or maybe download from Netflix. This family truthfully has it all: a beautiful mother in a tight dress, a crazed grandmother who is a great cook, a sporty father, a fun uncle with quirky magic tricks, two polite children (who blew up garages and poisoned each other), and a tall, silent butler. And we haven’t even mentioned the pets! (octopus, vulture, lion, man-eating Venus fly trap). Wednesday and Pugsly romped in a back yard made of a cemetery and a swamp. In 1991, The Addams graced the silver screen in one of the best cast movies ever (Angelica Huston as Morticia, Raul Julia as Gomez, Christopher Lloyd as Uncle Fester and Christina Ricci as Wednesday). Weird is definitely relative in either the syndicated show or the smash hit movie.
The Munsters. Possibly exploring racial issues in the 1960’s, a voluptuous vampire marries Frankenstein’s monster of a re-animated corpse and somehow bares him a werewolf youngling. Enter Hermann and Lily Munster and their rocking son, Eddie. Lily’s snappy dressed vampire father and a human cousin, Marilyn, also reside with the family in their giant, spooky and fun house. Many adventures befall the family as they try to fit into the suburbs and Eddie goes to a regular school. Little Eddie may have been one of my first childhood crushes. And the show boasted the grooviest theme song ever (it was my ringtone last Halloween).
Amazing Stories. From 1985 to 1987, my family gathered around to watch this Steven Spielberg produced series, featuring many big name actors and actresses. Some of the Stories were truly inspiring, others funny, and many were odd. A leprechaun guided a man through his life to find riches. A ghost train plowed through a family’s home to pick up its last passenger. A voodoo spell went horribly wrong for two students plotting revenge on a strict teacher. An actor playing a mummy is mistaken for the real mummy who comes to life and roams a movie set. These spooky and fun tales unfurl along with my personal favorite episode, Emmy award winning Family Dog (though not spooky).
Invader Zim. Let’s not forget the aliens among us! You might be able to catch Nickelodeon’s Invader Zim on either Nick Toons or Nick Two channel, if you have one of those super-duper, no joke, cable packages. The rest of us will have to watch him on DVD. This wacky animated show is a favorite among some middle-school aged children now, although it premiered about ten years ago. Zim is the bumbling laughing stock of his alien race, sent to Earth on a mission just to get him out of their hair. Yet Zim takes his mission quite seriously and reports his adventures as a human school boy back to the mother ship. Accompanied by a malfunctioning, taquito-loving robot, Gir, Zim faces his arch nemesis, Dib, the only human who knows Zim’s true identity. Join the extra-terrestrial duo as they build robot parents, fight off yuppie mall zombies, and face piggies during their conquest of Earth.
Teen Wolf. Guys, you think your puberty experience was hard? How about sprouting fangs, tons of hair everywhere, and pointed ears? Or throwing bouts of uncontrollable rage? In 1985, teen-ager Scott Howard (Michael J. Fox) turned into a werewolf. First ashamed and frightened of the change, he then grows extremely popular amongst classmates when “wolfing out” during a basketball game and winning. Last season, MTV picked up the idea and ran a TV series with characters of the same names, Scott and his loyal friend Stiles. Yet this modern wolfman plays lacrosse and wins the heart of the pretty new girl in town. The MTV series is a bit predictable and definitely more gory than the 80’s film, but worth the watch for adolescents.
I Sell the Dead. Older children or families who like much quirkiness may enjoy this independent film. On the eve of his execution somewhere in the 1800’s, Arthur Blake (colorfully performed by Dominic Monaghan) tells of his life as a “body snatcher” to Father Duffer (Hellboy himself, Ron Perlman). His grave robbing misadventures include working for a sadistic doctor, falling in love, racing the rival body snatchers, and dealing with strange creatures that don’t stay dead. And ultimately facing the guillotine. A few giggles and chortles spice this movie about a young man just trying to make a living.
Scooby Doo. A spooktacular list would be incomplete without those “meddling kids” that have been icons for over forty years. So iconic are they, that Shaggy and Scooby have not changed, nor have they needed to. Like Casper, families and kiddies can choose which series to enjoy. I prefer the series that ran in the 1960’s, Scooby Doo, Where Are You?, which the gang usually solved a creepy mystery by pulling a mask off some robber or scoundrel. And the older movies where the Mystery Inc Gang met up with Batman and Robin or Sonny and Cher. In the 1980’s A Pup Named Scooby Doo greeted us on Saturday mornings. It was okay. In the 1990’s, new Scooby movies with supposedly real witches and zombies splashed across Cartoon Network and VHS. Now in the new millennium, the Mystery Machine and its riders hit the big screen in two full length live action movies. I prefer Monster Unleashed to the first film starring Freddie Prince Jr (as Fred) and Matthew Lillard (Shaggy). Cartoon Network recently premiered a couple of live action movies, with actors actually in their teens or early twenties. These TV films portrayed the beginning of the gang’s friendships. And after forty years, Shaggy finally professed his love for the one and only Velma.
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! I could not write a blog about Halloween specials and leave out the Mother of all Halloween specials. The Charlie Brown holiday shows are an American tradition. Decades later, we still applaud Linus’ undying faith that the Great Pumpkin will rise from the pumpkin patch and snicker when Charlie only gets rocks when he goes trick-or-treating.
Of course, this is just a short list, and you can definitely add any of your favorites. But I hope your little treaters and tricksters enjoy a few Halloween specials this season.