They just don’t make Halloween specials like they used to… And to honor the great tricks and spooks of the season, we’ve compiled our 10 favorite Halloween specials for your reading pleasure. Feel free to click on the links to watch an episode, and we hope you enjoy this eerie trip down memory lane. We sure did!
Disney’s Halloween Treat (1982) –This special was essentially an amalgamation of several Disney shorts. I distinctly remember the Night on Bald Mountain from Fantasia; the Skeleton Dance, which is STILL an incredible piece of music and animation; Donald Duck and the Gorilla, which has some incredible classic humor, gags, and fun cartoon scares; and my favorite, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Disney’s version remains the most impactful, potent, and well-choreographed version of this story I’ve ever seen. Disney may get some stick for being an oversized profit-factory now, but this special shows how effective and talented Disney Studio was, especially in the ’20s-’40s.
Garfield’s Halloween Adventure (1985) – This Halloween special was the special-to-end-all-specials for me as a kid. I still say “candy-candy-candy-candy-candy” whenever candy is present, and I still get a BIT creeped out by the old man telling the pirate story. This was the peak of Garfield’s might – I had the plushes, stickers, and books including the comic book version of this episode! I still love the lazy orange cat, and it’s one of the rare comic strips I’ll stop to read. This special was by far one of the best single-episode specials (it wasn’t an episode of Garfield and Friends, it aired in prime time every season) ever and remains an absolute favorite.
Roseanne “BOO!” (1989) – Roseanne had some of the best TV Halloween episodes, but this one is by far my favorite. When I looked it up to get the title, I had no idea it also had been nominated for awards and was the FIRST Halloween episode they ever did. I remember it as one of the most fun Halloween family environments I’d seen on TV. Dan and Roseanne have a “who’s scarier” competition that escalates throughout the episode (from fake injuries, to a roaring chainsaw, to a TRULY terrifying conclusion I won’t dare ruin!), and they happily play pranks on their kids and each other. It’s the TV-show budget version of the kinds of things my family did for Halloween. I still love it.
Simpsons – “Treehouse of Horror “ Episodes 1-8 (1990-2002) – It is IMPOSSIBLE to pick a favorite Simpsons Halloween special. From the first one that taught me Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven when I was 9, to The Shinning, to The Homega Man, these episodes were full of some of the funniest moments the show ever produced. They’re lack of continuity and fantasy-world nature meant they could get away with anything in them. Major characters died, fourth walls were broken, and horror conventions spoofed. Many cartoons since have tried to follow the format, and some have been good, but not as good. The Simpsons ran their course for me by Season 9, but the first eight episodes of “Treehouse of Horror” are still hilarious for any fan of the horror genre.
AVGN Halloween (2006-2013, so far!) – It’s hard to pick, but I may have to go with Friday 13th–Nightmare on Elm Street NES game reviews with a close second being the Dracula and Frankenstein reviews. I had that Nightmare on Elm Street game, and it was one of the first AVGN episodes I saw (after Ghostbusters and TMNT, games I had as well, though I had Ghostbusters on the Atari Computer). I had the exact same experience as James Rolfe while playing the Nightmare game, and he not only Captures the mood of the season but also the true strangeness and awfulness of the game. The Halloween-Texas Chainsaw Massacre Atari episodes, Ghostbusters run, the Castlevania-thon, and Ghost n Goblins are all also amazing Halloween/Video Game entertainment.
Home Improvement “The Haunting of Taylor House” (1992) – I never watched Home Improvement much, but I managed to catch their Halloween shows. This family was the tamer version of Roseanne’s but still fun. I always remember thinking how cool it would be to have a family Halloween, like the Connors and Taylors. It’s hard to beat the costumes, makeup, and insults that fly around in those houses. In this episode Tim builds a haunted house downstairs, and the costumes are hilarious. Poor Raggedy Andy. For a less kiddie episode, check out “Crazy for You” and watch Tim squirm as the secretive Rose sets out to win Tim’s heart. Bum, bump, bum, bump…
Dawson’s Creek “Four Scary Stories” and “Living Dead Girl” (2001-2002) – Thanks to my recent binge watching of the show, I came across these little teen-gems. The choice is tough because there were only two Halloween-type episodes, and both were done well. “Four Scary Stories” is exactly that, and a couple are pretty intense for a teen show as they deal with stalking and road rage. “Living Dead Girl” is more traditional by taking place at a costume party on a “haunted” movie set during a costume party. “Four Scary Stories” is creepier and mood-based, and the other is more action-packed. Both are super fun though, and you’ll see a very young Jensen Ackles from Supernatural!
Hey Dude “Ghost Stories” (1996) – Ok, you can tell I’m a sucker for ghost stories and teens. In this episode, the teens play tricks and tell stories to try to one-up each other, especially Brad and Ted. The kids work in several urban legends, and it’s harmless Nick teen fun. Any Hey Dude fan will love this episode. The acting isn’t great, and it’s silly, but it’s of fun with cheesy effects. Even severed hands…
Rugrats “Candy Bar Creep Show” (1992) – Remember Reptar Bars? The delicious chocolate bars filled with green sugary ooze. This is one of the first Rugrats and super cute. The babies learn all about Halloween and wander around trying to get a Reptar bar. They’re too small to go trick-or-treating, but it doesn’t stop them from getting candy!
Psych “Tuesday the 17th” (2009) – I’m kind of cheating with this one, but this episode had to be on my list for three reasons: 1) It’s an awesome tribute to Friday the 13th; 2) I have watched this episode 50 times, and I’m not exaggerating; 3) It’s one of the best Psychs ever. Tuesday the 17th mixes comedy, classic slasher horror, and Psych antics to create a show I must watch every year when I need a good laugh or a good scare. It’s not a traditional Halloween show, but you have to give it props of clean writing, suspense, and a twist. Because there’s always a twist. BWAHAHAHA….