|THE CHAD’S TOP 15 FOR HALLOWEEN
||[Oct. 26th, 2010|02:33 pm]
Okay, here’s the deal. I love Halloween, but I hate to be scared and gore makes me queasy. So, horror movies are pretty much out. So instead here’s a list of 15 things I like to watch in this spooky season. Unfortunately, I some of these ran a little long and I ran out of time causing some of my reviews ended up a little short. Oh well, live and learn. On to the list! Ready? No? Too bad. Here we go!|
15) Monster High – Okay, this one is more about my petty pride than anything else. One day at work I was stopped and asked by two teenage girls if we carried any "Monster High" toys. We did not. In fact, I had never heard of such a thing. Now, I pride myself on knowing all of the new animated shows coming out and combined with a general love of mythology and monsters I thought I was missing something huge! My mind immediately went to the series Gravedale High Starring Rick Moranis. An animated series in 1990 which was simply a vehicle for comedic actor Rick Moranis after starring in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. The premise, of course, was a high school of teenage stereotype versions of classic movie monsters (a cool vampire, a nerdy werewolf, a mall rat medusa (gorgon, I know), etc.) with Rick Moranis as the normal human teacher. I really enjoyed that show. Even bought the whole series on DVD. This "Monster High" must be something just like it! Well, one quick Internet search later and I realized I was only partially right, but the fact that it was two teenage girls asking about it should have tipped me off. Turns out Monster High is the new Bratz, but with a twist; a series of fashion dolls based on the same idea of teenage monsters. Still, I was willing to at least see if there was an animated series to accompany the toy line and again, I was half right. The first thing I found a music video of the "Monster High Fright Song", obviously the theme for the series. It was a pseudo-spooky pop song that was obviously meant to be a springboard for whatever wannabe pop princess was singing it, but I liked it well enough. What really caught my eye was the animations of the characters dancing to the song. Drawn in traditional 2-D animation, the style of each character (Mostly girls, of course) looked good and unique, their movements were fluid and well-done, the shading and overall look was just amazing. I thought, even if it is for girls, this could be one well-done series. Boy was that a tease! Turns out the theme is actually for a series of flash animation shorts for the toy line's website. While the character designs are still pretty good and unique, the animation is stiff and crappy, the paper-thin plots are all about the same schlock as every other animated show about teen girls (Hair, boys, the test, etc.), and the dialogue is lousy with puns that would make the Cryptkeeper ashamed ("Fearleaing", "ghoulfrields", the "talon" show, Ugh!). Still the extremely amusing saving grace is the character of Ghoulia Yelps, a shambling zombie who is also the smartest girl in school (Ghoulia is also the only character not to be in the well-drawn music video, sadly). Despite the fact she shuffles slowly around the school, can only communicate through a series of pained moans, and rigor mortis has set in making it difficult for most facial expressions, she is the deus ex machina of most episodes, able to solve the problems quickly and easily. Apparently there's also a novel, but judging by the description it sound like the toy creators just gave the author some money and just told her, "Girl monsters in high school...go!" The two are seemingly nothing alike. Still, it's a based on girls fashion dolls so...yeah.
14) It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown – I have to admit, despite the fact this is considered a classic holiday special coupled with the cultural and literary standing of Peanuts as a whole, I actually find this one pretty dull and haven't watched it in a long time. I don't find Peanuts totally boring. In fact I really like the comic strips and several of the specials (Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don't Come Back) is one of the best animated specials of all time), but this one special just seems short and thrown together by comparison. Many of the jokes and scenes are just some of the common gags used in the strips and other specials (Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown, Snoopy is his “Halloween costume” flying his doghouse against the Red Baron, etc.) Sure, you can admire Linus' lonely vigil and stalwart belief that the Great Pumpkin will rise and reward his dedication (Religious allegory, much?) and you can feel sorry for Charlie Brown's "Too-many eyeholes" ghost costume and bad luck, but I don't see much else to the special. Still, it says something about the impact of it when after it first aired that thousands of people saw the pitiable protagonist confess, "I got a rock" from every single house he and his friends stopped at that Peanuts creator Charles M. Shultz received candy from all over the world "Just for Charlie Brown".
13) Garfield's Halloween Adventure – I love Garfield in all his comic and cartoon incarnations (Well, the new Garfield Show is only so-so). I find him very witty and funny, despite the limited premise of his character (A lazy cat who loves to eat) and his grand Halloween special is no exception. Garfield discovers (Via TV's annoyingly loud "Binky the Clown") that it's Halloween, a time to dress-up in costumes and get FREE CANDY! Upon hearing those magic words Garfield shows in uncharacteristic amount of enthusiasm as he prepares for a night of unrestrained candy gorging. The songs are some of my favorite parts. “What Should I Be” is by far my favorite and gets stuck in my head all year round. Sung by Garfield’s original voice actor, the late Lorenzo Music, it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like, Garfield digging through a costume chest in the attic and singing to Odie about what he should be for Halloween (o/` “An astronaut, a robot, a hobo, a clown; Or an alien creature going out on the town…” o/`). He settles on pirate costumes for him and Odie (An ill-fated choice) and sets out on his quest for candy promising Odie a single piece in exchange for him carrying an extra bag for Garfield. Even after a successful night of candy collecting and a few amusing gags Garfield is still not satisfied and convinces Odie to row across the river to an island with a single large house. This is where it actually gets creepy. Instead of the surplus candy they were expecting, Garfield and Odie find an old man sitting by the fire in the large home. The old man is drawn with such detail in contrast to the other characters that the effect was actually scary when I was a child and is still really creepy. And it only gets worse from there. The old man begins to tell the hapless pets a ghost story. A story about pirate treasure buried under the very house they are in. A cursed treasure that the pirates have vowed to return for at midnight one hundred years from the time it was buried. Tonight! As Garfield ponders the implications of their predicament, he and Odie discover that the old man has already fled stealing their boat (...and their candy!!!) and leaving them stranded on the cursed island...at midnight! In what is without a doubt the scariest moment in any Garfield media, the ghost pirates do indeed return for their treasure. Garfield and Odie barely escape, jumping into the river. Garfield is rescued by Odie and the two make it to the shore to find their abandoned boat...and candy and head for home. Garfield is grateful enough to Odie to actually give him his fair share of the candy. Of course, when you think about it, neither the cat or dog should be able to eat any of the candy they've collected...especially if there's chocolate in it, but hey, it's just a cartoon. This was actually one of the few legitimately scary animated Halloween specials on television when I was a kid. Combined with the fun normally associated with Garfield and it is the perfect blend of trick and treat (Yeah, I know it’s bad, but I had to do it sometime).
12) Mickey's House of Villains – I wrote a very detailed review of this strait to DVD Halloween special so I’m not going to spend too much time on it. House of Mouse was a short lived series featuring Mickey Mouse and friends as nightclub owners who cater to other Disney characters (Mostly from features) and showing new Mickey Mouse animated shorts during an overall story for the episode. The overall story for this special was that the Disney villains, lead by Jafar, take over the club on Halloween night. The odd thing is, instead of showing Disney villain highlights from their movies like other Disney Halloween specials, they just continue showing Halloween themed Mickey Mouse shorts. While the Song “It’s Our House Now” is a catchy tune as the villains take over, the real treat is the uncut classic Disney shorts, particularly the classics Lonesome Ghosts where Mickey, Donald, and Goofy duke it out with pesky poltergeists and Trick or Treat where Heuy, Dewey, and Louie meet a real witch who decides to teach their uncle not to be so stingy on Halloween.
11) Hocus Pocus – True, it stars Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker, but as three evil undead witches out to steal the souls of children they are really entertaining! This Walt Disney Pictures presentation about a teenage boy who accidentally raises the evil Sanderson Sisters from beyond the grave one Halloween night and must stop with dastardly plot before the sun rises is defiantly a Halloween classic and has been an annual tradition since I first saw it in the theaters over a decade ago.
10) Villain Dance Mix and Mingle – Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is Walt Disney World's answer to Universal Studios Orlando's truly terrifying Halloween Horror Nights event. While Halloween Horror Nights is a frightening event, filled with specialty characters, events, and shows, walkthrough haunted houses, and an overall horror movie storyline that takes over the whole of Universal Studios it is meant for mature adults the Disney alternative is clearly meant for children and families. The catch is that the Disney World one is a hard ticket event, meaning you have to buy and extra ticket then leave the park and come back in to attend. Although Halloween Horror Nights is clearly a better representation of the adult aspects of the holiday, Walt Disney World's version has something they don't: Disney Villains! Yes, those wacky evil-doers are out in force for this event. Some you can only see this one time of year, like the Sheriff of Nottingham from Robin Hood and Stromboli from Pinocchio. Now, I have never actually been to this event and considering it's meant for children and families, it's doubtful I ever will, but through the magic of the Internet I have been able to see videos of the unique entertainment events and shows via YouTube. The part I have become almost obsessed with is the Villain Dance Mix and Mingle stage show that takes place in front of Cinderella's Castle right in the middle of the park. The show starts with a oddly threatening message; “Not having fun, would be a grave error indeed…Hahahaha!!!!”, which I think is hilarious. They actually threaten your life if you don't enjoy the show. Yup, Villains. Maleficent then comes out to address the audience and cast a spell to start the music. The music itself is a pseudo-creepy pop/hip hop number that I find kinda catchy, but your mileage may vary. During this part the backup dancers appear, about three muscular men in mesh shirts and three women in sexy vampire outfits. I am not joking. It's like Britney Spear's rejected back up dancers. It's even more amusing that Maleficent seems to treat the males as if she was an S&M mistress. The music continues for a bit, including a very short interlude from the Haunted Mansion's "Grim, Grinning, Ghosts". The tone then becomes ominous and Maleficent summons forth other Disney villains to join in. Captain Hook, Jafar, the Evil Queen, Cruella DeVil, the Queen of Hearts, and Judge Claude Frollo appear from a backlit fog and, of course, dance along to the music. The real treasure if this show is actually how well the performers act as their unique characters. They treat it not as if they’re all in costume and doing the same dance, each character performs differently. The Evil Queen remains mostly stiff and regal, while Hook and Maleficent use more sweeping and dramatic movements. Cruella is just hilarious to watch as she slinks around the stage. The hardest, of course are the full body costumes like Frollo and Jafar. In fact, because you cannot see their faces and they wear almost the same style of costume, it’s almost like having the same character twice. Besides the fact that I just don’t think Frollo fits in the show. Don’t get me wrong, he was a fantastic character in the movie, but that’s just it, in a more light-hearted setting the character just seems woefully out of place. Which is why I was so excited when I discovered the change in this year’s performance; Frollo has been replaced by the newest Disney villain, Dr. Facilier from Princess and the Frog! Whoever they got to play the character fits him to a tee and is an amazing addition to the show. After the musical number the villains then exit the stage to “mix and mingle” with the audience for photos and autographs. It is kind of funny when Maleficent announces, “We’re coming…down there…with you…right now!” in a tone that sounds like she’s threatening the audience with their presence. She scared the crap outta me in Sleeping Beauty when I was little. Up on the stage is fine, but I can just imagine some kids might just wet themselves thinking she’s actually going to be within arm’s reach of them in a few short seconds.
9) The Brotherhood of the Wolf (Le Pacte des loups) – The story of a knight and royal taxidermist who is assigned to hunt down a monstrous beast that stalked the countryside of Pre-Revolutionary France. Based on the legend of the Beast of Gévaudan it is a very clever and exciting action/horror film with amazing fight scenes and truly frightening beast controlled by a dark conspiracy. I originally saw it subtitled when it in theaters and immediately bought the English dubbed DVD when it came out.
8) Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein – It has Count Dracula portrayed by Bela Lugosi, the Wolf Man played by Lon Chaney, Glen Strange as Frankenstein’s Monster, and even Vincent Price cameos as the Invisible Man. This is awesome! Made in 1947, it is the last of the classic Universal monster movies. The fact that it stars one of the most entertaining comedy duos of all time (“Who’s On First?”) at the top of their game is just the icing on the cake. Dracula has risen and is plotting with a femme fatale mad scientist to control Frankenstein’s Monster, but the only available brain simple enough to be controlled belongs to Wilbur the baggage handler (Lou Costello) whose skeptic partner Chick (Bud Abbott) doesn’t believe his friend is in terrible danger. Along comes Lawrence Talbot out to destroy Dracula and the Monster before he again transforms into a werewolf and wrecks havoc himself. As expected, a comedy of errors ensues as the classic monsters chase after the hapless duo. It is a perfect blend of comedy and old-school monster flick and I highly recommend it if you are a fan of either.
7) Scary Godmother – A computer animated Halloween special based off of the graphic novel series by Jill Thompson. The story of young Hannah who gets so frightened one Halloween night that it summons her Scary Godmother. Scary Godmother takes young Hannah to the Fright Side, where monsters live for her annual Halloween party. This colorful and entertaining special is full of unique characters and clever comedy and an overall lesson of facing your fears because some things are not as frightening as you think.
6) Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island – You all know the formula: Awesome + Zombies = EPIC WIN! I’ll say it right now, Scooby-Doo is my all-time favorite cartoon character and this is arguably his best movie. Although it went strait-to-video, it is the first feature length movie staring the Mystery Inc. gang and was set up as a revival for the character in the mid-90’s with the tagline, “This time the monsters are real” (Despite the fact that several incarnations of the gang already faced actual paranormal beings as oppose to crooks in a mask). The movie starts out with a case scene featuring the theme song to the original series “Scooby-Do, Where Are You?” performed by Third-Eye Blind. You can see the difference in quality right away as the Moat Monster chasing the gang is actually a pretty impressive beast, which of course turns out to be just a counterfeiter in a mask trying to scare people away from his operation. That was the last mystery solved by the gang before they ended up going their separate ways and finding new jobs. Scooby and Shaggy found gainful employment as airport security and proved very effecting in finding contraband food…that is until they ate it all. Velma now owns and operates a mystery bookstore something she is less passionate about than she originally thought. Daphne has become a successful television personality with her own show, Coast to Coast with Daphne Blake. Along with her producer and cameraman Fred Jones, Daphne tours the country looking for interesting locations and stories. This season’s theme: “Haunts of Louisiana”. Missing the old gang, Freddy invites them along for the trip. After adding a new paint job to their tour van, making it the new Mystery Machine, they head off to Louisiana in hopes of finding real ghost (Well, except for Shaggy and Scooby). Mystery Inc. is back in business! After an awesome montage of mysteries featuring more interesting monsters and the song "The Ghost is Here", the gang finally reach New Orleans (For once NOT during Mardi Gras) and are invited to a haunted pepper plantation on an island by the plantation's housekeeper, a lovely young woman named Lena Dupree. Once on the island the gang meets the beautiful, cat-loving owner Simone Lenoir, who takes an instant disliking to Scooby-Doo. They also meet the disgruntled gardener, Beau, the cheery ferryman, Jacques, and the angry fisherman Snakebite Scruggs and his pet boar, Mojo, who are after the elusive giant catfish, Big Mona. Once the gang begins to get settled in, strange things start to happen. A ghostly sword carves a warning into the wall and a Civil War Southern general appears in Shaggy’s mirror to do with the same message: “Get Out!” Of course, the gang believes it to be just another hoax (Except for Shaggy and Scooby who scream and hide). It isn't until the next day when they spit up to look for clues that Shaggy and Scooby literally stumble into a clue: A large rectangular hole about six-feet deep. While attempting to get out Scooby accidentally uncovers a skull. There may have been a human skull or two in past Scooby-Doo episodes, but it's what happens next that is really unique. Some mystic force comes out of the sky and raises the skull, collecting other bone from the ground to form a zombie pirate. Let's take a moment to think about that. An actual rotting human corpse has just risen from the ground, dressed as an authentic pirate captain, and has Scooby-Doo and Shaggy trapped in a grave. Can't say I ever remember that happening on Saturday morning. Later, after Shaggy and Scooby escape, more zombies start to rise and when one is caught by Fred, Velma, and Daphne they try to unmask the culprit. Having quite a hard time with the “mask” Fred actually ends up ripping the zombies head clean off! That’s just awesome! Now that they’ve clearly established that the zombies are indeed real it’s “Terror Time”! As the song of that title plays, the Mystery Inc. gang run from zombie Pirates, Civil War soldiers, mobsters and their molls, and even some hapless tourists, only confirming the plot that people have been disappearing on the island for hundreds of years (Unfortunately, they found them). What has been trapping these people on the island and killing them? How did it get there? Who is really responsible for all these deaths? The answer involves an unexpected conspiracy on the small island dating back hundreds of years. Let's just say, something is rotten in the state of Louisiana (And it's not just the reanimated corpses). If you like Scooby-Doo, you should definitely see this movie. Even if you don't, you should still give it a try. No Scooby-Doo property has been this dark before or since. As the first new Scooby-Doo property in years, after this movie’s release the popularity of the franchise skyrocketed into two live action theatrical releases, three new television series, two more live action made for TV films, countless amounts of merchandise, and dozens of more strait to DVD release movies.
5) The Legend of Sleepy Hollow – There are many versions of Washington Irving’s classic story of an unfortunate early American schoolteacher, but my favorite is still the Walt Disney version narrated by Bing Crosby. Like most people, it was the first version I had ever seen and it is a relatively accurate version of the story presented in a truly entertaining way that still manages to be scary at its climactic conclusion. While I first saw it as a single animated short, as part of a Halloween special, it was originally released as one half of a theatrical release with the Disney adaptation of The Wind in the Willows called The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. I would be remiss if I didn't mention Tim Burton's butchering of the story as well. Don't get me wrong, I actually liked Sleepy Hollow the first and only time I saw it. It is a decent action/horror flick, but nearly everything was changed from the original story (Oh yeah, everyone complains about Disney's version of The Little Mermaid, but raves about Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow. Think about it. Hypocrites). And when the Headless Horseman actually gets his head back...and it's crazy-hair Christopher Walken ("Raaahg!")! Seriously? (Again, I like Christopher Walken, but it just defeats the entire purpose of the Headless Horseman by giving him A HEAD). Anywho, Disney's version doesn't change much from the original story at all. In fact, one of my favorite things about it is how realistic and unflattering the characters are. Ichabod may be peculiar looking, but he is still talented and intelligent. However, he is also presented as a selfish and arrogant con-artist, out to use his skills not to teach his students, but to weasel his way into their mother's cooking or the Van Tassel fortune. His competition, Brom Bones, is the neighborhood hero. When he first appears he buys around for everyone and even gives beer to his horse and the neighborhood dogs (Okay, maybe not the best idea, but it's supposed to represent kindness to animals...just go with it). Brom is also an unrelenting bully, using his superior strength to frighten others into getting his way. When he comes across the unflappable Ichabod, someone he can't bully, he has to step up his game and get clever to get rid of the scheming teacher. The attention of both their affections, Katrina Van Tassel, is possibly worse than both of them. An unrelenting flirt and heartbreaker, she controls all the men in town with a flutter of her eyelashes, but gives the impression that she is aloof and uncaring when someone like Brom earnestly seeks to win her affections. Instead she decides to string Ichabod along just to make Brom jealous. Of course, Ichabod is only using her as a way to her father’s fortune. The fact that she’s the most beautiful woman in town is just a perk. None of these characters are extremely flattering personas, but each are still relatable and likeable in their own way. The narration, voices, and singing are almost entirely performed solely by Bing Crosby. At first glance you won't think one crooner, a single voice, could pull off this range of story. From funny, to romantic, to scary, but it works amazingly well. There isn't much actual dialogue so the entire story is relayed through the narration and character actions, which just speaks of the skill of the animators as well. Speaking of scary, the Headless Horseman himself is just pure terrifying in his own right. As soon as the catchy, but intimidating song about the legend of the Headless Horseman ends at the Van Tassle's Halloween party ends and we see Ichabod make his way home at night, the entire mood changes. The build up is just a masterful piece of pacing and animated storytelling and when the Horseman himself enters the picture, it's just one of those classic moments in animated cinema. True, the chase scene was actually directed by the person who usually directs Goofy cartoons, but that just made it all the better in my opinion. While it's true that the secret of the story is that Brom Bones is most likely just disguised as the Headless Horseman to finally scare Ichabod out of town, there's just too much legacy and impact to the Headless Horseman as a real ghost to just throw the idea away entirely. The ending is left purposefully open to interpretation for just that reason.
4) The Halloween Tree – A Halloween special written and narrated by Ray Bradbury. Do I need to say anything else? Okay, fine. It’s the tale of four children in a small town heading out to Trick-or-Treat only to find that their fifth friend, Pip, is being sent to the hospital. Fearing the worst, the children are crestfallen until they spot Pip running away from his house. Believing it to be just another one of his infamous pranks, they follow their friend to the rundown mansion of the mysterious Mr. Moundshroud (Voiced by Leonard Nimoy). That is where they find out they’ve been chasing Pip’s ghost and Mr. Moundshroud claims it is his property. Their friend escapes by stealing a jack-o’-lantern that looks like him off of Moundshroud’s Halloween Tree. They follow Pip and Moundshroud in a case through time learning the history of their Halloween costumes and the cultural impact of each one. The chase ends when Moundshroud captures Pip’s pumpkin, but the children each trade a year from the end of their lives for their friend. It is a deep and interesting look at how the cultural impact of death and superstition has shaped the holiday we all know and love.
3) Beetlejuice – Tim Burton’s epic comedy about life, death, and a perverted semi-phenomenal nearly cosmic powered Ghost with the Most. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you don’t know what you’re missing! It’s hilarious, it’s morbid, and it’s fun to get those calypso tunes stuck in your head! What more is there to say?
2) Mad Monster Party – It’s cheesy as hell, the animation is jerky stop-motion, and the plot is paper thin and full of holes, but God help me I love it! This Rankin-Bass cult classic (Yeah, the guys who made all those stop-motion Christmas specials) has a plethora of monsters gathering to celebrate Dr. Frankenstein’s latest announcement. Baron Boris Von Frankenstein (Voiced by monster movie legend Boris Karlof) has discovered the secret of destruction and now plans to retire on top and leave his entire evil empire to his awkward and accident-prone nephew, Felix Flankin. Now Felix has to survive attacks from Count Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster and his Mate (Voiced by Phylls Diller), his uncle’s beautiful, but jealous assistant Francesca, and a host of other classic monsters (The Creature, The Mummy, The Werewolf, Dr. Jeckel and Mr. Hyde, etc.). It all leads up to an explosive climactic battle against “It”.
1) Ghostbusters – Who ya gonna call? (All together now…) Ghostbusters! That’s right! Just the theme song gets me pumped up! I love everything Ghostbusters! From the movie to the follow up animated series. From the sequel to the 90’s Extreme revival. Even the original live-action series from Filmation and their animated spin-off that was made to bank off of the Hollywood blockbuster that stole their name. There’s so much here it’d take an entire review just to cover it all. In fact, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. In the near future I will write a review on all things Ghostbusters and hopefully it will make up for some of the shorter reviews on this list.
Well, that’s pretty much it. Sorry some of them ended up too short. Do you agree with my choices? Do you have a favorite thing to watch for Halloween? What else do you like to do to celebrate Halloween?
Until next time, don’t take life too seriously; you’ll never get out of it alive.
Steven King’s It
Michael Jackson’s Thriller
The Monster Mash
Flying Purple People Eater
Bill and Ted’s Halloween Spectacular