Top 11 Halloween Guilty Pleasures
October 27, 2015
Nostalgiaween intro plays
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic, I remember it so you don't have to. We all have those holiday specials we love...even if they're not really the best.
(Clips of Halloween specials are shown)
NC (vo): Whether it be nostalgia, creativity or some sort of surreal intrigue, we all have those specials we know aren't fantastic, but something nonetheless draws us to them. They're not classics, but they're not bad enough to go unappreciated either. There's a certain magic to these shows that keep us coming back and this Halloween, we're gonna look at what it is today.
NC: So get ready to cheer with...adequacy, we're looking at the top 11 best ones. Why Top 11? Because I like to go one step beyond. So sit back and enjoy the Top 11 Halloween Guilty Pleasures.
(We come to a laughing jack-o-lantern which serves as our transition)
NC (vo): Number 11: Tiny Toons: Night Ghoulery. The reason I put this one so low on the list is because, well, it's mostly pretty good. Released shortly after Tiny Toons went off the air and Animaniacs was catching on...in fact, there's even a few cameos from them.
Elmyra: Give me the brain!
(Dizzy opens a jar and deposits Brain from Pinky and the Brain in Elmyra's hand)
Brain: The obvious nature of this pun belittles us all.
NC (vo): This satirizes every ghouly thing you can think of: Night Gallery, Twilight Zone, Casper, Edgar Allen Poe, Nightmare Before Christmas, anything and everything Halloween. And the writing is some of the show's best. These satires are right up there with Mel Brooks and the Zucker Brothers. For example, they do a parody of the [Steven] Spielberg film, Duel, about a trucker who randomly tries to kill a guy. When the driver looks at a bar to see if he can spot the trucker, he actually spots the truck itself having a drink. That is incredibly clever. There's also introductions to classic literature with some of the best visuals the show ever pulled out. The attention to detail in what they're satirizing is beyond obsessive, it's amazing how similar they are to the original source material.
NC: So you might be wondering, "Why is it on this list at all?"
NC (vo): Well, a few sketches may be are a little too smart for their own good, like the Terror at 20,000 Feet parody is literally nothing but Star Trek jokes. Get it? 'Cause it starred Shatner? Even some of the impressions are a little hard to get. I'm still not sure who this is supposed to be.
Babs Bunny: (dressed in a detective suit and imitating Rob Serling) Do you ever wonder what exactly they mean by more?
NC: (confused) Tim Conway? All three of my fans who remember him?
NC (vo): Nevertheless, it's not nearly enough to take away from appreciating this fun collection of beautifully animated zaniness. The misses are minor, but the hits are just too good to overlook. As of now, there's sadly no DVD release of this special, but if you can hunt it down on VHS, do it. It's definitely worth the search.
Tiny Toons characters: (singing) It's Tiny Toons Adventures, and that's all we've got!
Ghouls: Gee, those costumes sure were hot.
NC (vo): Number 10: The Halloween That Almost Wasn't. This is about as low budget as TV specials get, but they do still manage to make the most of it. Dracula summons all the famous movie monsters together for Halloween, but the witch is fed up with Dracula's treatment of them and goes on strike if he doesn't start playing nice. He refuses, leading to a wild goose chase of him and the other monsters trying to force her to change her mind. It's about as silly as it sounds,but what makes it enjoyable are the performances. This isn't any kind of great writing, but everyone's dedication to their character is really something to be admired. Judd Hirsch does a surprisingly hilarious Dracula voice.
Dracula: I will get even with you, Igor, if it takes me a thousand years, and I know how to make you live that long!
NC (vo): And Mariette Hartley is great as his cynical nemesis.
Igor: But, Witch–
Wicked Witch: Out of my way, shorty.
NC (vo): To say it's laughably cheesy would be an understatement – hell, it ends with a disco party – but it's surprisingly heavy on atmosphere and even manages to get in a few laughs here and there. For something obviously intended for little kids, there's just enough bizarreness, and, of course, love for Halloween that makes it a fun little goofy tale. It's like a G-rated Monster Squad...
NC: Which is strange. The adult film stars kids, (The poster for Monster Squad pops up) but the kid film stars adults. (The VHS cover for The Halloween That Almost Wasn't)
NC (vo): But you get the idea. If you're in the mood for something awkward, but enjoyably awkward, this is definitely worth a watch.
Dracula: It's one of those days I wish I was dead... and stay dead.
NC (vo): Number 9: The Pumpkin That Couldn't Smile*. Yeah, that's Raggedy Ann and Andy who star in it, but to its credit, it turns out a very laid-back and... kind of likable short with a lot of great fall visuals. An overbearing aunt keeps her nephew in for Halloween, ruining his fun, so our two rag dolls decide to bring Halloween to him, by finding a glum pumpkin who feels unwanted. I know, it sounds pretty lame on the surface, but throw in animation by the great Chuck Jones into the mix, as well as some legendary voice actors, (A shot of June Foray, who voices Raggedy Ann and the aforementioned aunt here, pops up) and it turns out an enjoyably cute product. There's lines that certainly aren't laugh-out-loud funny, but are still clever enough to know there was more effort put into this than there really needed to be.
(NOTE: It's actually "The Pumpkin Who Couldn't Smile", not "...That Couldn't...")
Aunt: And tomorrow, we'll go to the museum and look at the rocks.
Pumpkin: Why couldn't I have been an apple? People don't expect so much out of apples.
NC (vo): Little giggles like that and the pumpkin crying seeds are nice little touches that aren't needed for a story like this, but still add a little extra. The best way I can describe this special is mellow. It is just so mellow. Everything goes at a very relaxed speed. Even the chase scene in the middle is much, much slower than most cartoon chases go. But there's something kind of chill about it, and I mean that actually in the best way. It's not trying to punch you in the face like most Halloween specials; it's more enjoying a beautiful autumn dawn, just admiring the colors and the environment. I don't know, if you're in the right mood, it's actually pretty cool to check out. By no means a masterpiece of animation, but just comforting enough to warrant a quick watch if you get the time.
Pumpkin: I could've gotten in another line of work. Been a pie or somethin'. (sobs)
NC (vo): Number 8: Witch's Night Out. An... odd special, to say the least.
NC: But it's... '70s odd.
NC (vo): Which should practically be given its own category. To say its style is freakin' bizarre is beyond obvious, but the way it's bizarre makes it hard to turn away from. It centers around a witch, played by Gilda Radner, who feels her powers of scaring have dwindled down to nothing. But she hears a little boy and a little girl wishing they could be scary themselves, and so she transforms them and their babysitter into classic spooks. Of course, things get out of control and it's a crazy race to set things back right again. Everything that makes this special unique is the time period it was released in. I mean, look at it. How could this come from any other time period but the '70s, from the groovy music to the squiggly designs and even the voice acting being really fucking weird?
Malicious: I hate Halloween! Blecch!
Rotten: Yeah, Malicious.
NC (vo): It's in a world all its own. Something about these kind of specials have an almost hypnotic power to them. I remember watching it, not thinking it was really anything great, but at the same time, I didn't want to change the channel. I never felt like I was being manipulated or sold anything; I just felt like a crazy person who was telling a crazy story in a crazy way. And oddly enough, I was curious how crazy it could get. It's not too trippy that you can't follow it, but it's also not too bound to the world of the normal. It's just cosmically insane enough to hold one's interest after coming off a sugar high every Halloween.
Witch: (singing) That's Halloween! Witch, magic, Halloween!
NC (vo): Number 7: Corpse Bride. People are kind of split on whether or not this is a good movie, but no one can deny it's dripping with Gothic atmosphere that made Nightmare Before Christmas a classic. The story about a young man who accidentally proposes to a dead bride is refreshingly original, as well as refreshingly strange. It's nice to see a story like this that feels a little bit like a fairy tale but isn't a reboot or a remake, it's something completely out of the mind of someone else. The look also very cleverly satirizes the Victorian era as showing it being more dead and unlively than the world of the dead. An interesting idea that you don't really start living until you give up everything you thought mattered. With that said, it is flawed, with a boring villain, bland leads, and sometimes clumsy delivery. It's strange, too, that I find myself getting more expression out of Jack Skellington who has no eyes and yet so little expression out of Johnny Depp's character who has huge eyes. I think that's because even though they're big, they change very little, and while it's combined with a tiny mouth that also allows for very little expression, you don't get much variety out of their reactions, which makes them harder to relate to. But like I said, there's still a lot of great stuff that makes it worth a glance. It has new songs from Danny Elfman, a lot of great actors, and naturally, it looks amazing. This is one of Tim Burton's best-looking films, and that's saying a lot, given his lineup. Flowing animation and original subject matter makes it maybe not Coraline or ParaNorman, but still an interesting flick to check out.
NC (vo): Number 6: [Halloween is] Grinch Night. As much as I've praised Dr. Seuss, I'll be the first to say just like anyone, he didn't always turn in gold. Grinch Night was a follow-up to The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and tried to become a staple of Halloween the same way the other one became a staple of Christmas. It... didn't really work. The story made little sense, it was hard for younger kids to follow and it just didn't seem very focused. However, that doesn't mean a lot of really cool things didn't come from it. Seeing Dr. Seuss take on a dark fall night during Halloween is about as awesome as it sounds, and the whole last third is just an acid trip into the tricks and frights that the Grinch is going to unload on the town. It's about as trippy as it gets; it might even get a few scares out of little kids, which I think is the idea. The imagery is surreal and breathtaking, this is obviously an excuse just to get out some dark and twisted artwork, but it's so wonderfully creative that you're kind of okay with it. Look at this stuff, who else could come up with this but Dr. Seuss? The short's not terrible by any means, it just doesn't feel like it had a reason to exist, but for what it's worth, it's one of the most amazing-looking pointless outings ever, definitely feeding you some visual eye candy. Watch the opening for atmosphere, stay for the trip out near the end. It's a Grinch-y Grinch time to say the least.
Grandpa Josiah: (singing) I wouldn't go out on a night like this / For a dollar and fifty cents!
NC (vo): Number 5: Garfield's Halloween Adventure. What can you say? It's Garfield. How can you go wrong with it- (A poster of Garfield the Movie pops up) Shut up! It's our favorite fat cat roaming the town trying to get candy while coming across a band of ghost pirates searching for their lost stolen treasure. The pirates aren't even really that scary, but the time they take to build them up by having a creepy old man tell their story is just the right amount of corny and creepy for most kids. But that's not what makes it rewatchable. What brings us back is Lorenzo Music as Garfield. I swear that voice is so infectious at being both lazy and energized at the same time.
Garfield: Candy, candy, candy, candy-candy-candy-candy-candy! Steady yourself, Garfield.
NC (vo): He has the cranky cynicism of an adult, but the grainy hyperactiveness of a child.
Garfield: Dogs have to help cats go out and get candy. And if the dog does a good job, he gets a whole piece of candy of his very own.
NC (vo): The special also has a lot of little funny touches, too. Like, how many various ways they can show a monster in disguise is really a monster disguised?
(Clip of a ghoul inside of a ghoul costume is shown. Garfield and Odie run around it, screaming like little girls, and then run away as the song "Scaredy Cat" plays)
Chorus: The one thing he's not is a scaredy cat.
NC (vo): The animation is low-budget and sometimes the timing can be off, but there's just a passion and a love for Halloween that makes it hard not to put on again. Always good to celebrate this time of year with a little orange and black.
(Clip of Garfield gazing at the haunted house is shown. Lightning strikes)
Garfield: (aside) Nice touch.
NC (vo): Number 4: The Halloween Tree.
NC: How often do you come across a Halloween special that actually teaches you something?
NC (vo): Well, that's exactly what this one does, and surprisingly does it very well. Based on the story by Ray Bradbury, the soul of a friend is lost on Halloween night, and it's up to his friends to try and get him back, along with the help of a ghoulish creature, played by the late Leonard Nimoy. Though, by God, you would never recognize him!
Mr. Moundshroud: It's old time, children. Ancient times.
NC (vo): As they travel through time of Halloweens past, they come across the origins of the classic costumes and figure out how it got associated with the holiday. And, as you'd imagine, it's actually pretty interesting. On top of that, for a Hanna-Barbera production, it looks pretty damn good. We always associate Hanna-Barbera with The Flintstones and cheap animation, but here, the backgrounds and shadows are so crisp and so clear, allowing for a lot of great Halloween imagery. Does it have problems? Yeah, it can be really corny and a little too obvious, as well as kind of repetitive.
NC: (rolls his eyes, points to camera) Just count how many times (A shot of Wally from this special appears in the corner) this kid says, "Oh, my gosh!"
NC (vo): But the payoff is certainly enough to give it some attention. It's great to enjoy all the awesome things about the holiday, but it's also good to know sometimes where they came from, and the special shows that in a very inventive way. In a world where education can be scary, this is a special that tones down the frights and ups the learning, but amazingly, in a good way.
NC (vo): Number 3: Monster House. Another really original idea that's so simple and yet most people never forget it. It's about exactly what you think, a monster house, one that gobbles up anybody who walks by and pisses it off. While imaginative, you would think it would get old really quick, but there's actually a pretty clever story that has a few twists and turns in it. It's not overly complicated, but it's not insultingly simple either. It's just the right balance of a dark and twisted story with goofy and likeable characters. And, of course, visually, they up the darkness. Skinny trees, scary faces, people in peril, it has a lot of fun. At times, it can be a little slow and the character animation can be a little awkward, given the time period it came out, but the various ways they show off this house and change it around to make everyday objects suddenly look intimidating is really cool. It's a good combination of being both creepy and odd, but also sweet and innocent at the same time, with just the right amount of an edge for a kids' film.
(A scene is shown, showing Mr. Nebbercracker confronting a little girl)
Mr. Nebbercracker: Do you want to be eaten alive?!
Little girl: No.
Mr. Nebbercracker: THEN GET OUT OF HERE!
(The girl screams and runs)
NC (vo): It's another flick you have to praise for its originality and its dedication to an idea. It's not a laugh riot or anything, but there's enough in it to keep coming back for a few more house warnings.
NC (vo): Number 2: Trick 'r Treat.
NC: So, on the one hand... there really isn't a lot to this movie.
NC (vo): It always feels like there's better twists and executions that an anthology Halloween tale could deliver than this. They're kind of predictable and not always the most original.
NC: But with that said, Trick 'r Treat is just straight-up Halloween porn! (beat) I mean, before it was just straight-up Halloween porn.
(The picture of women in slutty Halloween costumes are shown)
NC (vo): When you really think about all the horror films that we watch on Halloween, there's surprisingly aren't that many that have much Halloween in it. (The poster of Halloween (1978) is shown) Even Halloween doesn't have a whole lot of Halloween. It's actually kind of odd. But with this movie, it's in every corner: foreground, background, werewolves, witches, trick-or-treaters, ghosts, this movie is just crawling with Halloween! And on top of that, they know how to shoot Halloween; everything looks warped and strange with a lot of great angles and dark shadows. But there's also a fair amount of color in it, too, the right colors, Halloween colors. If you were to ask me what this film was about, I probably couldn't remember very well, but if you were to ask me what it looked like, I can just tell you, it looks like Halloween. I guess it's kinda like the Halloween 3 of its day, not much on scares, but a shit-ton of sugar-coated visual madness. They even throw in some new monsters, like this killer trick-or-treating kid is actually kind of an original idea. Most movies, it's the trick-or-treater being chased, it's not usually the trick-or-treater doing the chasing. It's hard to know what else to say about it, it just obviously loves the holiday as much as the rest of us do, and it's hard to fault it for that. Hell, I appreciate it for it. It really is a fun flick to watch if only just to watch it. You could put it on mute and still get a satisfying surge of Halloween from beginning to end. It just fills you up with that awesome feeling while still having that intense edge. It's not a perfect film, but it's a perfect exploitation of everyone's favorite night.
NC: And the Number 1 Halloween Guilty Pleasure is... (reads a piece of paper, then suddenly frowns and becomes stunned) No. No, no, no, no, no. I'm not doing that one. I'm not doing that. Look... That's a dumb film! It's a stupid, fucking film! Okay, look, I don't care if most of you watch this piece of crap every Halloween and it's like a big tradition, okay? I'm not doing it. I'm just not talking about it! It's shit! It's a stupid piece of shit, and I'm not gonna bring it up here! Okay, well, if there is a Halloween guilty pleasure that you watch every year and I didn't bring it up, go ahead, leave it in the comments below. But there is no way I am talking about this piece of fuck! (leaves, then suddenly comes back) Especially in the next review!
(A thunderclap and the sound of witches cackling is heard, causing NC to frown as he knows what the #1 is and what he's reviewing next. The credits roll to an instrumental pop version of "I Put a Spell on You", giving us a major clue as to what is the #1 Halloween Guilty Pleasure)