What are the greatest Halloween-themed episodes of television?
Halloween is a great time to embrace the darkness, revel in the madness and have a whole lot fun. TV shows have Christmas-themed episodes all the time, but Halloween themed episodes are sometimes just as special.
Here at The Digital Fix we've been thinking a lot about what makes a great Halloween episode of television. And we've picked three of our absolute favourites...
The Simpson: Treehouse of Horror VI (Steven Slatter)
Since its second season, The Simpsons has annually released a Treehouse of Horror episode, dedicated to telling three scary stories with a comedic twist. There’s so many to choose from, it’s hard to pinpoint specifics, but mine would be Treehouse of Horror VI from its seventh season. It starts of decently with a story about homer stealing the Lard Lad doughnut during a storm the statues and billboards come to life to terrorize Springfield. Being British and having little knowledge of the many brands, the humour was lost on me. However it still keeps my attention whenever shown.
The second and my personal favourite is the A Nightmare on Elm Street parody, where Groundskeeper Willy plays the part of Freddy Kruger. If you’ve seen the movie you can guess how the short plays out; the comedy and tone are matched perfectly to the childish animation and the imagination is top class. The final story named Homer³ takes place in the Simpson household. Marge’s sisters come to visit and per the show their company is not welcome so the family attempts to hide. Homer hides behind a shelving unit, only to be transported to a three dimensional world.
In terms of story, humour and general creepiness this is certainly the weakest of perhaps the entire treehouse series. However for the time the climax was incredibly impressive, the use of 3D animation was top notch, still to this day I wonder what would have happened if this technology was explored further. This is such an iconic sub series that’s anticipated yearly by the fans; no matter which one you favour, it can be agreed they all have a flare most TV shows would kill for.
How I Met Your Mother: Slutty Pumpkin (Craig Huntley)
When you get asked which of the countless Halloween episodes is your favourite, your mind immediately goes to the countless Treehouse of Horror episodes from The Simpsons. Not to denigrate the fantastic handful of episodes produced under this banner, my favourite is from How I Met Your Mother. Slutty Pumpkin is the sixth episode of the very first season and is the first of many great episodes across the series.
There is nothing scary about this episode, except perhaps Ted's creepy need to find a former woman he briefly met at the same party back in 2001; there are no murders, no blood, no gore, it's simply a great episode set around a party and the banality of trying to out do each other with your costumes and finding lost loves. It's a tradition that plays out throughout the rest of the series and we get a lot of firsts here; the first Halloween episode, first nickname calling of Lilly and Marshall and Barney with his magic and multiply costume changes. Simply perfect.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Halloween (Baz Greenland)
Like The Simpsons, Buffy The Vampire does great Halloween-themed episodes. And like Steven's dilemma, there are multiple choices to consider. Do I go with Dawn tries to date a vampire in season six's All The Way? No, not really. Or the brilliance of season four's Fear Itself, with Anya in a bunny costume, Oz and Willow as God and Joan of Arc and the tiny Gachnar, the Fear Demon (Giles' "Don't taunt the fear demon... It's just tacky." is priceless). But neither beat the brilliance of the show's first Halloween entry in season two's Halloween.
There's so much to love, from the idea that vampires are quiet on Halloween because it's all so crass, to the debut of Robin Sachs' Ethan Rayne, a warlock that sets up Giles' darker past as Ripper. But most of all, it has a lot of fun as the actors get to play different versions of their characters thanks to Ethan's spell that transforms everyone into the roles of the costumes they are wearing. Buffy becomes a helpless 18th Century noblewoman just to impress Angel and nearly falls foul of Spike (who is at his most villainous at this point in the show). Xander meanwhile is transformed into a military officer, something that is put to great use when he retains his memories in future episodes (rocket launcher versus The Judge anyone?).
After Spike's introduction in School Hard, Halloween is Buffy The Vampire Slayer's next genuine classic, playing on the conventions of Halloween in a horror-themed show. It's easy to see why the show revisited this night two more times during its run.
What are your favourite Halloween episodes of television? Please let us know in the comments below...