Halloween means different things to different people. First and foremost, it’s about dressing up in ways you’d never dress normally – in ways your imagination can barely grasp. It’s about trick-or-treating, Pagan-style. It’s about eating potentially poisonous candies that strangers just give to you for free. Or, if you’re too old for all that, it’s about buying whole bags at the grocery store and eating them under your bed where no one can see you.
Halloween is about the crispness of the moist, autumn air counter-balanced by the way-too-hot apple cider with just a hint of cinnamon. It’s about the smell of Fall, of late October – sort of like a cross between pumpkin bread and burning leaves. It’s about playing cruel tricks on timid little children, scaring the dickens out of them to the point that they never want to leave the house again. At least, not until next Halloween.
Last, but not least, Halloween is about the movies, the TV shows, and the videogames you experience in the weeks and days leading up to the big event. The ones that make you love Halloween all the more, if that’s even possible.
But all of this is just another way of saying: Halloween is about the atmosphere. Not literally, of course, although a thick, gray fog never hurt anybody – but in terms of the sounds, the smells, the colors, and the noises prior to, and on the day of – as well as how all of that combines to make you feel incredibly on edge.
As such, we’ve constructed the perfect combination of videogames, television episodes/specials, and movies to help make this Halloween the most atmospherically-charged of your life.
Costume Quest is the third videogame (after Psychonauts and Brutal Legend) to be produced by the great Tim Schafer’s award-winning Double Fine Productions, and it encapsulates every fantastic Halloween memory you’ve ever had inside of a single $15 download. Trick or treating! Hide and go seek! Bobbing for apples! Costume competitions! Fighting the bloodthirsty goblins and witches who kidnapped your sister! Wait – scratch that last part.
You play as a brother (Reynold) or sister (Wren) – depending on your choice of gender – on a particularly peculiar Halloween night. After your sibling gets kidnapped by candy-stealing Goblins from an alternate dimension, you and your neighborhood buddies chase them down across all manner of suburbia: from your neighborhood to the nearby mall to the countryside and beyond – and, thanks to the power of imagination, every costume you wear (ten in all) gives you special powers in battle.
For example, if you’re dressed as a cardboard robot, in battle, you’ll be an actual giant robot with missile launchers and rocket boots and the like. The same goes for the ninja costume, the Statue of Liberty costume (my favorite), the vampire costume, and so forth. Haven’t you always wanted to be a gigantic Statue of Liberty with healing powers? Haven’t we all?
Check out the trailer below:
Costume Quest combines grade-A hilarity (there’s even an Arrested Development joke in there), classic LucasArts adventure elements, and fun (albeit easy) RPG gameplay to become the epitome of Halloween-themed gaming. Admittedly, there aren’t a whole lot of contenders to challenge its supremacy in that regard, but even if there were, they’d have their work cut out for them.
Truly, if there’s one game in existence that will fill you to the brim with Halloween magic, this is it.
Silent Hill 2
Personally, Silent Hill 2 is not my favorite of the Silent Hills – that honor belongs now and forever to the original – but its intensely creepy atmosphere is practically unparalleled in the realm of survival horror. Which is why it’s perfectly suited for contributing to your general enjoyment of All Hallow’s Eve.
You’re James Sunderland, a widower who receives a letter from his dearly departed wife, Mary, to meet him at their “special place” in Silent Hill. How is a dead lady sending letters to her very much alive husband, you might ask? Well, that’s just one of the many fun-loving mysteries of the second Silent Hill! Also, because James is a glutton for punishment – and not in the eats-too-many-delicious-hamburgers sort of way – he travels to Silent Hill to find the answers.
Hands down one of the most dread-inducing scenes comes early on, when Pyramid Head, a rusted blade-wielding monster-man with a giant pyramid for a head (see, it’s not just a clever name!) chases you down a hallway and kills your companion, Maria, who just happens to look exactly like your dead wife.
Check it out:
Admittedly, it’s more dread-inducing when you’re actually playing it.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors
Like most great videogames of the early 1990s, Zombies Ate My Neighbors was produced by the version of LucasArts that dared to make more than just Star Wars videogames. Utilizing a Bart Simpson-esque brand of humor and the overhead run-and-gun gameplay of Metal Gear, Zombies is at best when you have a friend to join and play the two-player mode.
Together with your pal or loved one, you navigate stereotypically suburban neighborhoods (followed by slightly less suburban locales like castles and pyramids) as you destroy zombies, vampires, giant ants, giant worms, giant demon babies (pictured above), werewolves, aliens, and so on – with common everyday items for weapons like super-soakers, soda-can-grenades, weed-whackers, and silverware, all while attempting to save at least ONE innocent civilian per level. Pretty complex stuff, huh?
Check out the gameplay below:
While Zombies Ate Your Neighbors wasn’t exceptionally successful upon release, it developed a substantial cult following soon after and is revered to this day. In fact, it’s so well-remembered that it was released on the Wii Virtual Console just prior to Halloween 2009. So if you’ve never had the pleasure of playing this game – and if you have a Wii with a classic controller – get to downloading this thing A.S.A.P. There are only so many days left until October 31st, people.
- Alone in the Dark (1992)
- Silent Hill 1 and 3
- Luigi’s Mansion
- Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
- Resident Evil 4
- Gabriel Knight
The Simpsons, Episode #64: “Treehouse of Horror III”
Few things are more difficult than choosing your favorite episode of The Simpsons, at least in my opinion. Alas, one of those things is choosing your favorite Treehouse of Horror episode of The Simpsons. While I adore Treehouse of Horror II (“Lisa’s Nightmare,” “Bart’s Nightmare,” and “Homer’s Nightmare”), Treehouse of Horror IV (“The Devil and Homer Simpson,” “Terror at 5 1/2 Feet,” and “Bart Simpson’s Dracula”), as well as Treehouse of Horror V (“The Shinning,” “Time and Punishment,” and “Nightmare Cafeteria”), I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Treehouse of Horror III.
Each story in this anthology is told by one of the Simpsons at Bart and Lisa’s Halloween party. “Clown Without Pity,” as told by Grandpa Simpson, is about a Krusty the Klown doll that relentlessly tries to kill Homer, a la Chucky. “King Homer,” as told by Marge Simpson, is basically King Kong if all the characters were replaced by Simpsons characters (You can probably guess who Homer plays). Last, “Dial ‘Z’ for Zombies,” as told by Bart Simpson (in an Alex DeLarge from A Clockwork Orange costume), is about Bart and Lisa accidentally raising the dead and having to deal with the undead consequences.
Of those three, my favorite is “Zombies,” and here’s one of a million reasons why:
Frankly, if that clip doesn’t warm the cockles of your heart with all sorts of Halloween spirit, I don’t know what will.
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!
I’m pretty sure it’s illegal in 40 of the 48 Continental United States to leave It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! off of any “Best” list pertaining to Halloween episodes or specials – so here it is! Front and center!
Needless to say, The Great Pumpkin is a classic for a reason — one that has been beloved for decades and will likely go on being beloved for many to come. Like its Christmas counterpart, no Halloween is truly complete without at least a single viewing.
The bulk of the story sees the typically wise Linus van Pelt faithfully awaiting the arrival of the Great Pumpkin — basically the Halloween equivalent of Santa Claus — at the town pumpkin patch the night of Halloween. None of Linus’ friends believe him and they tend to mock his insistence that the Great Pumpkin exists. Hence Linus utters the famous line: “There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.”
I remember watching this as a kid and always wishing there were a Halloween equivalent of Santa. But maybe, instead of just bringing toys like Santa does, he’d scare the crap out of you in really strange and disturbing ways – like a sanctioned version of Jack Skellington from A Nightmare Before Christmas.
Check out a clip below of Charlie Brown getting nothing but rocks whilst trick-or-treating:
Apparently, seeing Charlie Brown receive rock after rock after rock instead of candy affected viewers so much that they actually sent bags and boxes of candy to Charles Schulz “just for Charlie Brown.” Which is kind of ironic, considering Charlie Brown, sort of like the Great Pumpkin, is a fictional being.
Boo to You, Too! Winnie the Pooh
I’m sure many of you are wondering why Boo to You, Too! Winnie the Pooh – the Pooh Halloween special that aired on CBS in 1996 - is on this list of TV episodes/specials to get you in the mood for Halloween. Well, if that is indeed the case, I submit that you, sir or madam, have never actually seen Boo to You, Too! Winnie the Pooh. Because if you had, you’d know that Boo to You is positively dripping with enjoyably spooky atmosphere, creativity, and a childlike whimsy found in few fictional tales involving October 31st. Isn’t that what Halloween is all about?
Here’s the opening voiceover, narrated by David Ogden Stiers, to give you an idea of the tone:
“Once each year, as October breezes bluster, there comes a most particular and most peculiar night. An anxious sort of night, when the dark grows a little more so. A jittery sort of night, where nothing is quite as it was. A night called — Halloween.”
Also, check out one of the musical clips below:
Briefly, the plot of Boo to You follows the various Pooh characters as they try to help Piglet overcome his overwhelming fear of Halloween. Boo to You, Too! Winnie the Pooh is to Halloween what Mickey’s Christmas Carol is to Christmas, in my opinion. Yeah, it’s that good.
- Garfield’s Halloween Adventure
- Supernatural: “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester”
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: “Halloween”
- The Cosby Show: “Halloween”
- Roseanne: “BOO!”
- The Adventures of Pete and Pete: “Halloweenie”
- My So-Called Life: “Halloween”
- South Park: “Pink-Eye”
- DuckTales: “Ducky Horror Picture Show”
- Community: “Introduction to Statistics,” “Epidemiology”
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
Like The Gold Rush, The Maltese Falcon, and Casablanca before it, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is a cinematic masterpiece that continues to stand the test of time. Which is why, in 2001, the U.S Library of Congress deemed it “culturally, historically, and/or aesthetically significant” (in my opinion, all of the above) before preserving it forever via the National Film Registry.
The film combines the amazing atmosphere and cinematography of Universal’s Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, and The Wolfman, as well as the titular characters from those films (or in the case of Frankenstein, the titular character’s monster), with the still hilarious antics of William “Bud” Abbott and Lou Costello. Every monster movie team-up since was probably inspired by this little ditty, up to and including Freddy VS. Jason.
Check out the trailer below:
Basically, the plot of the film is “One stupid guy and one really, really stupid guy almost get killed by all the Universal monsters over and over again – however, due to their hilarious naiveté, they manage to stave off execution.” Simple, yes, but endlessly hilarious and fun – and no Halloween is complete without it.
The Monster Squad
The Monster Squad is by no means a perfect film. But what it lacks in finesse, it more than makes up for with heart, awesome child actors, a dog that can high-five, Rick Baker special effects, and politically incorrect humor as provided by screenwriter Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3).
The plot of the film sees the infamous Universal Monsters – Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Mummy, the Wolfman, as well as the Creature from the Black Lagoon – attempt to take over the world, as per usual. But who’s there to stop them? The Monster Squad – a rag-tag band of pre-teens with a strange affinity for everything monster-related.
Check out the trailer below:
In many ways, The Monster Squad is the like a twelve-year-old’s version of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (only the protagonists are more competent), with young actor performances reminiscent of (but not as serious as) the ones from Stand by Me and E.T.
FYI: A remake of The Monster Squad is currently in the planning stages and is being produced by Rob Cohen, otherwise known as the director of the upcoming xXx: The Return of Xander Cage. So, uhm, keep your eye out for that one, I guess?
I would be remiss if I didn’t include John Carpenter’s Halloween on this list of films to get you in the mood for Halloween.
It probably goes without saying that this 1978 classic – more so than even Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, Bob Clark’s Black Christmas, or Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre – created the slasher genre as we know it today. There would be no Friday the 13th, Prom Night, My Bloody Valentine, or Scream films without the critically-acclaimed and commercially successful Michael Myers vehicle.
Check out the original trailer below:
Everybody knows the story: Wholesome Laurie Strode is innocently babysitting children and twiddling her thumbs while all her promiscuous neighborhood pals are being chopped up by a somewhat human version of the Boogeyman with William Shatner’s face for a mask. Sort of.
As far as horror movies go, this one is a freaking grand-slam. Forget the stupid, shock-laden torture-pornography that kids love today – Halloween was all about subtle and deliberate scares on top of an iconic excellent synthesized score by Mr. Carpenter himself. Do yourself a favor and watch Halloween on Halloween – or before.
- Nosferatu (1922)
- Trick ‘R Treat
- Scooby-Doo On Zombie Island
- Young Frankenstein
- The Lost Boys
- Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
- The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939, 1959)
So what do you think of our choices, Screen Ranters? More importantly, what movies, TV episodes, and videogames do you watch or play to get you in the mood for Halloween? Drop us a line in the comments.
Follow me on Twitter @benandrewmoore.
Halloween is Monday, October 31st this year. If you’re looking for a theatrical horror movie experience to get you in the Halloween spirit, The Thing is in theaters October 14th – followed by Paranormal Activity 3 on October 21st.