Although I absolutely love “Thriller,” I’ve never been one to associate Michael Jackson with Halloween, but apparently someone does. “Michael Jackson’s Halloween” isn’t just an animated special for the whole family, but it’s classic Michael Jackson. It has his music, it inspires individuality, and it further emphasizes Michael Jackson as something of a mythical figure that centered his life on defending children against sinister forces lurking in the shadows. Suffice to say “Michael Jackson’s Halloween” is a weird animated special, but it’s an oddly entertaining one that will work if you’re a Jackson buff.
Ray Bradbury’s “The Halloween Tree” is easily one of the greatest Halloween movies ever made. It’s not just a movie about the holiday, but it’s a celebration of what the holiday stands for. For years Halloween has been incorrectly identified as a holiday that celebrates Satanism and evil, when in reality, Halloween is about observing death and celebrating life. Even the famous colors black and orange represent the ideas of death and life. The fantastic adventure we witness in “The Halloween Tree” is absolutely compelling while also helping to destroy the stigmas that often come with the ancient holiday. Mostly though, Bradbury’s story is about how we should learn to accept that there is a certain beauty in the concept of death as well as the concept of life.
At best I’d say that “A Witches’ Ball” is a serviceable movie. It’s exactly the kind of movie you’d find at Walmart one day that you’d probably buy for your daughter in hopes of distracting her with a fantasy while you’re preparing for dinner or something. It’s mediocre and hits about all the right beats for a movie heavily aimed toward small girls. Director Justin G. Dyck is a man whose entire filmography revolves around filming cheaply made, holiday oriented, family films and “A Witches’ Ball” s right up his alley.
Fred Dekker’s “The Monster Squad” is the assembly of many eighties tropes, even conjuring up the aesthetic of a novel series one might have found tucked beside “The Hardy Boys,” and “Babysitters Club.” It’s Amblin, Spielberg, Universal and everything else we loved about the eighties, and while it can in many ways be considered a take off on “The Goonies,” it watches so much better over time. Even better is the script by Shane Black allows for interesting and complex preteen heroes, all of whom have their spotlight, as well as their own personal struggles. Like Spielberg, Black introduces a potentially broken home with main hero Sean, while this extraordinary situation allows his family to re-unite for the fate of him and his little sister.
This year, Nickelodeon decided to add some spice to their celebration of Halloween by providing a half hour stop motion special. The folks at Bikini Bottom are celebrating Halloween this time, and rather than the iconic wacky two dimensional style, we’re given a brand new spin, with some hilarious results. The stop motion by Screen Novelties is quite excellent, lending the series a sense of whimsy that you would find in something like “A Nightmare Before Christmas.” There is even a great homage to “The Haunted Mansion” Disney Ride, which is both dazzling and screams Halloween.
It’s tough to find someone like Elvira who can squeeze in so many double entendres in to only a half hour of comedy. “The Elvira Show” was essentially like the movie from the late eighties, but extended in to a sitcom setting. It was “Bewitched” meets “Sabrina” meets “Married with Children” with Elvira dominating the screen as always with her sexuality and sharp delivery of one liners. There are so many great sexual puns squeezed in to the opening scenes of the pilot from replying to hunky officer Chip “I bet you can’t eat just one,” to explaining that she and her family will be like the Cleavers, with she, of course, being “The Beaver.”
If you’re looking for some great Halloween oriented or scary animated shorts with a classic flair, the folks at MGM, Disney, Hanna Barbera and Warner Bros. have a humongous library of classic cartoons that will fit your Halloween theme. These are only five of my favorite horror themed animated shorts that will make you laugh and spook you out at the same time. These can be purchased online or viewed on almost any video streaming website! Trick or Treat!
It’s a shame that Disney treats “The Black Cauldron” kind of like the black sheep of the family they don’t mention at family reunions. It’s such a riveting and creepy film that evokes a lot of what makes the fantasy genre so appealing. There’s even the Horned King, one of Disney’s most frightening, if not their most frightening villain ever created, he’s a skull faced, horned monster with one goal to grab the magical black cauldron and use it to take over the world. In galleries and retrospectives, he’s almost never mentioned, which says a lot considering Disney is fond of including the Chernabog, who is only on screen for eleven minutes in “Fantasia.”