As the witching hour is upon us for one of the best nights of the year, I thought I'd take a moment to share with you some of my favorite Halloween viewing. Who knows, maybe some of them are yours too.
Garfield's Halloween Adventure (1985) - Three years before the classic animated series Garfield and Friends, there was this great 30-minute short. It's Halloween and Garfield has one mission: get free candy! Heading out with his trusty fall-guy, Odie, the two end up in a heap of trouble when confronted by ghost pirates! Watching this as a kid, I'm man enough to admit that the ghost scenes, starting with the old man who told the tale of the pirates, really freaked me out. This was scary stuff when you're a youngster! Even in that period when I was growing up and slowly began to forget the thrills of my childhood, the one thing that always stuck with me was the signature crackle of the fire in the fireplace. I never forgot it, or this. And, much like the show that followed, watching it is still a treat nearly 30 years later.
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! (1966) - The seminal Halloween classic based on Charles Schultz's Peanuts comic strip, we follow each of the Peanuts gang on their adventures one Halloween night. Linus and his quest to meet the Great Pumpkin. Charlie Brown getting nothing but rocks from houses. And, of course, Snoopy as the World War I flying ace fighting against the Red Baron. As one of only animated specials still played every year, this is a must-see. No matter how many times you may have already, it never gets old and never loses its magic. That's the power of the Peanuts, and why, years after the strip ended with Schultz's death, they still go as strong today.
Evil Dead (1981) - Tagged as "the ultimate in grueling terror," this film lives up to that distinction. Following five teens who head for a getaway in a mountain cabin, they end up finding an archaeologists things including the Necronomicon, aka the book of the dead. Playing a recording of the archaeologist translating text from the book, they awaken something evil in the woods that comes for them one by one. This is the film that launched the careers of Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, and with good reason. On a budget a FRACTION of that of any other horror film you may have seen, it managed to accomplish the same effects in both visuals and storytelling. Sure, some of the more gruesome things don't hold up to scrutiny in today's CGI world, but guess what? Very few movies from the 80s do, so it's all good. A must for any true horror fan, especially on Halloween.
The Monster Squad (1987) - Take The Goonies, add monsters, and you've got Monster Squad. Several members of a monster club end up smack dab in the plans of Dracula's attempt to take over the world with the other Universal Monsters. Although far from cinematic gold, this movie is a fun romp from start to finish, showing kids taking the initiative where adults' common sense fails. This is also the movie that established the answer to the age old question: does wolfman have nards? Yes. Yes he does.
Ghostbusters (1984) - No Halloween list is complete without this comedy classic. Three scientists believe in ghosts and discover a way to capture them. Forced to begin their own business, they end up in a fight for the world with a Sumerian demigod who takes the form of a giant marshmallow man! Unless you've been under a rock, you know what Ghostbusters is and what it's about. It's the movie that spawned two cartoons, hundreds of toys and a dozen different types of video games. Almost 30 years later, Ghost Fever is still in full-swing, and while they may not play the movie every year, you can still hear the classic Ray Parker, Jr. theme on the radio (at least here in New York, which is awesome).
Lonesome Ghosts (1937) - Disney's precursor to the Ghostbusters concept, Mickey, Donald and Goofy are ghost exterminators that are called to a haunted mansion by the bored ghosts looking for some victims to scare. This is the usual Disney short fare, full of slapstick and zany antics. Another one that creeped me out often as a kid, particularly because the older Disney cartoons had such moody background set pieces, and the hand-drawn animated had such an effect to it since it wasn't as smooth as today's computers. More personality.