From Star Trek and Quantum Leap to Buffy and Supernatural, Jayne Nelson looks back at the best Tellybox Terrors
Jayne Nelson takes a look at ten programmes that have presented us with some memorable paranormal activities. Happy Halloween!
(Note: We’re leaving out The Simpsons ’ many “Treehouses Of Horror” episodes because there have been a whopping 22 of them. And you all know they’re brilliant, anyway.)
Chuck: “Chuck Vs The Sandworm”
It’s the best Halloween costume in the history of television, hands-down. No, we don’t mean Sarah wearing her now infamous Princess Leia outfit...(opens in new tab)
Nor do we mean the brilliant take on Adam and Eve, as modelled by Ellie and Awesome...(opens in new tab)
No, what we’re talking about is the episode’s titular sandworm, of course, the costume created and worn by Chuck Bartowski himself in a feat of daring fancy dress bravado most of us could only dream of.(opens in new tab)
Because come on – who would ever have thought of going to a Halloween party dressed as a worm from Dune ? Nobody in their right mind, that’s who! But Chuck not only thinks of it, he makes it, and the result is so wonderfully outrageous he wins Best Halloween Costume Ever Until Infinity. FACT. If you can uncover anything better, although we doubt it, we’ll give you a prize.* But you won’t be able to...
*NB Prize may be a dead worm because (a) it’s apt and (b) it’s all we’ve got lying around the office right now.
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The Vampire Diaries: “Haunted” & “Masquerade”
As regular viewers of The Vampire Diaries already know, Mystic Falls is a town which can find an excuse to throw a party over the slightest thing – Founders’ Day, History Day, It’s A Bit Drizzly Today, etc. So it stands to reason that Halloween would provide our vampire-ridden little town with a perfect reason for a spooky shindig, and that’s exactly what we’ve had twice over since the show began (we can’t vouch for this year’s Halloween episode, alas, as we haven’t seen it yet).
Season one’s “Haunted” was notable for two things: the outing and subsequent offing of the vampire Vicki, and Elena slipping into a slutty nurse outfit for the evening. Please remember that this girl is supposedly still at school .
“Masquerade”, meanwhile, featured Elena’s ever-wonderful alter-ego Katherine up to no good (opens in new tab) during a far classier Halloween ball (skip to the end of the linked clip if you fancy watching her getting casually homicidal). We can’t help but puzzle over how all those high school kids have the money to dress so well, though; what if you were too skint to find a mask and had to make one out of an old Cheerios packet? Would you have been beaten up after Geography class the next day? School is hell, guys.
Medium: “Bite Me”
What can we say about this Halloween episode from 2009 except... LOOK AT IT! They remade Night Of The Living Dead ! And put Patricia Arquette smack-bang in the middle of the action, intercut with real footage! LOOK AT IT!
It’s a truly audacious idea that showed just how creative the writers of Medium could be when they put their minds to it, and also how much goddamn fun they were having in that writers’ room. Allison’s zombie dreams were, as usual, the catalyst for finding a murderer in real life – but who gave a damn about that? Look! ZOMBIES!
This one’s so new – it aired in the US just this week – that if you’re watching Castle at UK pace, be warned for spoilers. Of course, some of you may be wondering why Castle is on this list at all, seeing as it’s not a sci-fi show, but given Castle ’s SFX -friendly leanings (nods to Firefly , endless SF references and in-jokes, Nathan bloomin’ Fillion) we’re always happy to give it a plug.
And this is an episode well worth plugging, as writer Castle (Fillion) and Detective Beckett (Stana Katic) investigate the death of a “Ghost Wrangler” (read: Ghost Hunter (opens in new tab) ) in a notorious haunted house. Was he killed by a spook, as his camera footage and blood splatter appears to suggest? Or was it a demon, as the house’s long and deadly history would imply?
Essentially this is just an excuse for every silly Halloween cliché under the sun, from the, “A-woooo!” of a creepy wolf over the opening scene to a skeleton falling out of a closet and landing on Castle (who, hilariously, screams like a girl). There are also a ton of Ghostbusters references – see the trailer, above – and, best of all, ex- Supernatural guest star Frederic Lehne as the “demonic” bad guy... fitting, as he played a demon on that show, too. Spooky!
Buffy The Vampire Slayer:
“Halloween”, “Fear, Itself”, “All The Way”(opens in new tab)
The in-joke on Buffy , as you no doubt all know, is that the world is filled with supernatural beasties, spirits and creatures 364 days of the year because that’s just the way it is – normality – but on Halloween they all take the night off. It’s an amusingly clever idea that gave Buffy ’s Halloween episodes a neat little twist, particularly the way Spike always grumbles about the night being a “cliché”.
Season one’s “Halloween” is a comedy episode which features the Scooby Gang each taking on the persona of their costume – Buffy becomes an 18 th century damsel in distress, Xander is a soldier, Willow is a ghost, etc. Like many first season episodes it’s crammed with hilarious one-liners but oddly, for a Halloween episode, it isn’t actually scary.
Season four’s “Fear, Itself” isn’t scary either, although it tries to be; it features our heroes facing their biggest fears in a frat house that’s been enchanted. It’s most notable for Anya wearing a bunny outfit because rabbits scare her (bless!), and the hilarious twist ending (never have the words “Actual size” said so much). Oh, and there’s also Giles breaking down a door with a chainsaw – we would say it’s his finest moment on the show, except we’re kind of fond of the way he turned into a demon that one time...
And finally, “All The Way” is some gubbins about Dawn wanting to grow up and accidentally getting off with a vampire in the process, but it does feature Anya as one of Charlie’s Angels and Xander as a pirate (spookily foreshadowing his future eye-gouging experience), so who could ever complain about that?(opens in new tab)
Angel: “Life Of The Party”(opens in new tab)
You’re an evil, multi-dimensional law firm with monsters for clients and a new boss sitting in the big office: a vampire with a soul who may be plotting to kill everybody in sight because he’s allegedly a good guy. It stands to reason, therefore, that you’ll throw a Halloween party to end all Halloween parties just to prove that everything’s hunky dory, and that’s exactly what Wolfram & Hart does in this chucklesome fifth season episode.
The spanner in the works, unfortunately, is Lorne, who’s so exhausted from planning everything that his usual empathic abilities go haywire. Thus, when he tells Wesley and Fred to relax and get drunk, they do. He tells Gunn to mark his territory and Gunn does... literally, with pee. And Angel somehow finds himself boffing sneaky old Eve in his office, despite the fact he can’t stand her and she can’t stand him.
Hilarity! It does that ensuing thing!
“Life Of The Party” isn’t merely funny, it’s also a brilliant showcase of creature and monster makeup and FX from the ever-reliable Angel crew: we can only imagine how much work went into getting so many monsters into the same room at the same time. Kudos to them.(opens in new tab)
Quantum Leap: “The Boogieman”(opens in new tab)
This tongue-in-cheek Halloween special had Sam Beckett leaping into the body of horror writer Joshua Ray on Halloween, 1964, just as a whole bunch of seriously spooky things start happening to him and those around him, including murder. Sam’s baffled; Joshua’s friends and family have no idea what’s going on; and to make things worse, Al is acting weird. Well, weirder than he usually is, anyway.
It’s not the greatest story, we have to admit, dragging a thin plot out for far too long, but there are two nice little twists to the tale: one is that the reason Al’s acting peculiarly is that he’s not really Al but something else – something supernatural and possibly evil. The real Al turns up at the end and is bewildered to hear that Sam’s been talking to another version of him (insert Twilight Zone music here).
And Joshua Ray’s friend, a little guy named Stevie, is heavily hinted to be Stephen King at episode’s end – which is fitting, seeing as the story’s set in Maine and there are nods to Christine , Cujo and Carrie along the way. As Sam would say: “Oh boy.” Or as Stephen King would say: “Oh boy.” And then he’d write another 200,000 words after that.
Star Trek: “Catspaw”(opens in new tab)
Due to the fact it was (a) set in the future and (b) in space, it seems weird for Star Trek to have had a Halloween episode: particularly as old-fashioned superstitions such as All Hallow’s Eve would no doubt have been long-dead by the time Captain Kirk sailed into the stars. Er, except not really...
During this episode Kirk tells Spock that he’d “be a natural” at trick-or-treating (yeah, yeah, pick on the guy with the pointy ears, tsk) and there’s certainly enough theatrical, OTT scare-mongering that all that’s missing is a carved pumpkin, a kid wearing a sheet with eyeholes cut in it and a bloke in a Michael Myers mask. Which, seeing as William Shatner was the basis for that mask anyway, it sort of has regardless.
As far as the story goes: there’s a curse placed on the Enterprise, three cackling witches, a ton of spooky fog (which, according to Spock, would be impossible on this planet, so clearly something’s up) and a creepy black cat. Oh, and there’s also the universe’s cleanest skeleton, no doubt hanging in the dungeon to show off how good Kirk & Co’s magical captors are at keeping a bleached white sheen in their plastic bones. All good fun, as long as you really don’t take it seriously.
Charmed: “All Halliwell’s Eve”(opens in new tab)
However it’s the bit before that which gets into the spirit of Halloween, as a party in the present day brings us Piper dressed as Glinda the good witch from the Wizard Of Oz , Prue as an Earth Mother and Phoebe as Elvira. (She dresses as the famed movie vixen to offset the image of witches as cackling crones: we can understand how you’d get annoyed by all that “old hag” imagery when you’re a witch yourself.)
Best of all – if you like that sort of thing – there’s one wonderfully bats-arse shot of Phoebe flying on a broomstick. Well, you would, wouldn’t you, if you had the chance, be honest?
“It’s The Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester”(opens in new tab)
As Dean himself says in this episode, every day is Halloween for the Winchesters. So you’d probably think a Halloween show might consist of them doing something normal – you know, cleaning the car, getting haircuts, maybe coming down with a cold and grumbling about snot. But HA! You’d be mistaken.
The fourth-season episode “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester” (named after the Charlie Brown story), which aired the night before Halloween, featured a couple of truly terrifying takes on traditional Halloween activities thanks to a couple of wicked witches. Apple bobbing , for example, may never be the same again after this poor girl drowns and boils while hunting some fruit (note how she’s also wearing Elena’s slutty nurse costume from The Vampire Diaries ).
Elsewhere in the same town, one poor guy eats a handful of Halloween candy and finds it’s filled with razorblades. One gleefully gruesome shot has him reaching inside his mouth to pull out an embedded razorblade and you get to see it in full Technicolor... excuse us while we barf.
So, in one delightful Halloween blow-out Supernatural manages to out-gross every other Halloween show in the world, simply by hitting us where it hurts: apples and candy. Hats off, guys. And if there are any kids reading this, please check your sweets if you go trick-or-treating this weekend. You never know what’s in them...