Halloween Meltdown ’13: ’80s/’90s Halloween Specials Review

Hello party people.  I will not implore you to wave your hands in the air, because you are all adults, and should be capable of making your own decisions, as evidenced by your decision to tune into this blog.  We’ve met here before, with my guest review of Dog Soldiers, and you can check out my blog over here at Open Letters to My Enemies.

I talked with The Perturbed Academic, and told him that if he would allow it, I would like to write about another subject near and dear to my heart: the Halloween specials of my youth.  Since I turned thirty, I’ve been getting worse and worse about mooning over the cool things from when I was little.  My boss and I have been reminiscing about the old McBoo pails and Halloween McNugget toys they had from McDonalds (I still have two pumpkin pails and one ghost), and reviewing these videos should at least make the shakes go away for another day.  So, I knuckled up and picked a small handful of my favorites, leaving out some of the more obvious choices like It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and Disney’s version of Sleepy Hollow, because everyone knows those well enough already.  So, bear with me, and let’s take a rocket-ride down Memory Lane.

Mr. Boogedy (1986)

This was a movie my sister and I watched incessantly on the Disney Channel growing up.  One thing I clearly remember is that we were apparently the only ones.  When I tried to talk about it at school, no one had seen it.  I couldn’t understand how I was so lucky to have seen it, when so many unfortunate people missed out.

It took me over two weeks to get the courage up to try to watch this again to review it, and in the end, I couldn’t make it past five minutes in.  I went ahead and watched this review of it by BurstRondo on Youtube:

If you must watch something Mr. Boogedy related, watch this.  The guy is fairly entertaining, and he uses “Grim Grinning Ghosts” from Disney’s The Haunted Mansion ride as his background song, so he gets points from me there.

The bare bones of this crapfest is that the uncle from My Girl owns a joke shop and moves his family into a rundown house in a town called Lucifer Falls.  This house is haunted by the ghost of a pilgrim called Mr. Boogedy.  That’s about all you need to, or want to know.  This thing is about as subtle and nuanced as a Larry the Cable Guy special, and has about as many mustaches as well.  The sets were awful, the acting just as bad, and the story just stupid.  Even the venerable John Astin couldn’t save this.  The only plus is that Mr. Boogedy himself is fairly creepy as evidenced by this picture.

It gets 1 out of 5 ice cream scoops, and shall forevermore lose my fond remembrances.


The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t (1979)

Alternately known as The Night that Dracula Saved The World, and not to be confused with Christmas Dracula, or Christmas Dracula 2: Christmas Dracula in Space, which were two movies I was in (see YouTube for the trailers).

This was a veritable who’s who of 1970’s and 1980’s sitcom character actors.  Judd Hirsch, Mariette Hartley, Henry Gibson, and Jack Riley among others star in this TV short.  The conceit here is that people have given up on Halloween because we are all cynical jerkwads.  We learn this all from the TV broadcast in a typical Transylvania home where the Transylvanians are suspiciously very American.  The stock family then gives a nice synopsis of the roots of Halloween practices, perhaps even some FOLKLORE about it.  You are welcome Jeff.

We then go to Dracula’s castle, where Judd Hirsch’s Dracula and Henry Gibson’s Igor have a family meeting with the other monsters of Halloween (Wolfman, Frankenstein’s monster, The King of the Zombies, a Mummy, and a Witch).  They’ve stopped being scary to folks, and that’s why Halloween is dying.  Dracula berates the monsters for selling out.  Werewolf shaves for a commercial, and the Frankenstein monster tap dances thanks to the movie Young Frankenstein.  Literally, they reference the Mel Brooks movie.  Genius.

The witch refuses to ride her broom over the moon at midnight on Halloween, which, in this world, officially starts Halloween.  If she doesn’t Halloween will truly die, so the other monsters storm the witch’s castle to try to talk some sense into her, and hijinks ensue.

My two favorite things from this are that Dracula surmises, thanks to Igor, that if he usually turns into a large bat and flies around, then maybe he can turn into a little bat and sneak under the witch’s locked door.  He accomplishes this by repeating the phrase “Teeny tiny bat” very fast, in a high pitched voice.  The other thing is a throw away gag, but it kills me.  When the monsters storm the castle, they all charge in valiantly, except for the mummy, who trips over the doorstep and flails like Ralphie from A Christmas Story on the ground, unable to get up.  This is in the background, with little attention called to it, which makes me love it even more.

Obviously, everything ends well.  Somehow, the kids from the family in the opening end up at the witch’s castle, and they sweet-talk her into flying across the moon. It would be all gooey and blech for an ending, but then all of the monsters celebrate by having a disco party.  Again, I did not make this up, they did this, and it was glorious.

This movie gets 5 out of 5 scoops, and it is just as good as I remembered it.

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Garfield’s Halloween Adventure (1985)

With all due disrespect to the Charlie Brown special, this is the Cadillac of Halloween specials.  It has more quotable moments (candycandycandycandycandy!), and better songs.  I mean, Lou Rawls sang this one.  Game over, man.  Game over.

The beautiful thing about this special is that it conveys the excitement we all felt about going out trick or treating, whether for capitalist candy gain, or the sheer thrill.  Also, this thing was terrifying, with this old guy:

and the ghost pirates:

I won’t even sum this up.  If you haven’t seen it, I pity you.  I got drunk and got stuck in an enclosed slide on a playground when I was 21, and I am saying that I pity you.  How does that feel?

This gets six out of five ice creams, because I make up the rules from my golden Halloween throne.

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The Adventures of Pete and Pete,Halloweenie(1994)

Technically, this was not a Halloween special.  It was one of the many (but not enough) fantastic episodes of The Adventures of Pete and Pete.  I include this for two reasons: it is one of the best episodes of one of my all time favorite shows, and it captures a time in everyone’s lives almost perfectly.

The setup for the episode is a good A and B scenario that come together in the end.  The A plot is that Little Pete plans to break the record for most houses hit in one evening for trick or treat.  With that record will come the glory and adoration of all the other kids.  The B plot sees Big Pete backing out of the wingman position for Little Pete, because he feels he’s finally hit the age where he is just too old to Trick or Treat.  Throw in a gang of hooligans called the Pumpkin Eaters that wear pumpkins on their heads and terrorize trick-or-treaters, and you’ve got 22 minutes of legend.

The writers did such a fantastic job with this one.  Looking at Little Pete’s enthusiasm to get out there and get all of the candy he possibly can, you can’t help but remember how exciting Halloween was when you were ten.  On the flip side, I think everyone remembers that year where they decided to dress up, and somewhere, the odd looks from homeowners, or their refusal to give you candy make you realize you might just be too old to be dressed as Zorro and demanding treats from people.

Definitely worth a watch if you can find it, and it gets five out of five scoops.

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Honorable Mention

Two shows took great lengths to make quality Halloween episodes every year.  Whether you liked the series or not, Roseanne and Home Improvement put out some great shows every October.  Roseanne started the trend, airing their first one in the second season, in 1989.  Home Improvement followed suit, airing their first one in the second season as well, in 1992.  Both took similar routes and either based the episode off of a haunted house the sitcom families made for that year, or a party they were throwing.  Almost always, someone would be convinced that something truly supernatural was going on, and laughs would be had.

So, what is the point of all of these reviews?  Things from when I was little were way better than things that are happening now.  Sure, Community has done a valiant job of keeping the Halloween episode alive, but it has barely kept itself alive in the process.  We got a Shrek Halloween special a few years ago, but that seems like a money grab.  There are whispers on the wind of a Toy Story special this year, but I will believe it when it airs, I see it, and I am sobbing like a Dutch school child.  The TV execs refuse to exploit the magic that is Halloween, and it makes me sad, but at least I can watch all of these old ones and reminisce.  Reminisce, and sit on my porch and shake my fist at kids as they pass by my house.

One thought on “Halloween Meltdown ’13: ’80s/’90s Halloween Specials Review

  1. Great stuff Greg, I fondly remember the Home Improvement and Rosanne Halloween specials too! And thanks for the Christmas Dracula props!

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