Today the Skeleton Key is VERY pleased to present an article written by guest blogger and fellow Halloween reveler Ruby, whom you may recall as my friend who is afraid of clowns. (Yes. That friend.) Enjoy!! -KO
From a young age, Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. I guess it’s easy to love Halloween as a kid since, you know: free candy. But for me, I liked Halloween because of the darkness and creepiness that went along with it (I was an odd kid). I loved reading, especially ghost stories. And when I read all the ghost stories that I could get my hands on, I moved on to the nonfiction section of my local library, straight to the 130s where all the “real” stories of ghosts, witches, and other spooky things waited for me.
I couldn’t wait for Halloween to come. Seeing the first Halloween commercial, or when Halloween shows started to show up, I became excited with anticipation. I knew Halloween was on its way.
The movies on this list are my all-time favorite Halloween movies growing up, which I still watch as an adult. When I was a kid and these movies came on the television, it signified that it was about to get cooler, the leaves were about to change colors, and Affy Tapple (a Chicago-based company) caramel apples were about to make their appearance at the grocery stores.
I now live in Texas, where it doesn’t get below 70 in October. Even more than ever, I miss the shift from hot and humid Summer to cool and crisp Fall. At least I’ll have these movies (and the ability to purchase Affy Tapples online) to get me into the Halloween mood.
The Halloween Tree (1993)
The Halloween Tree was first a book written by Ray Bradbury. I read it when I was younger and it’s still one of my favorite books (I have a copy of it in my bookcase). I call the Halloween Tree my Ray Bradbury starter book because, as I got older, I started to read more of Bradbury’s stories and became a big fan of the author.
I remember this movie being pretty dark for a kids’ cartoon, which is perfect for getting into the Halloween mood. In the Halloween Tree, four friends prepare for a night of trick or treating. As they meet up, they realize the fifth member of the group, Pipkin, is missing. Knowing something is wrong, they rush to his house, only to see him being wheeled away in an ambulance. Since they can’t have Halloween without their friend, they make their way to the hospital, taking a shortcut through some spooky forest landscape (of course). This is where they encounter a haunted house and the mysterious Mr. Moundshroud (voiced by Leonard Nimoy), who teaches them about the history and traditions of Halloween in order to save their dying friend Pipkin’s soul. Intense, right? Oh yeah, and this is the illustration from the book of what Moundshroud is supposed to look like:
Seriously intense. As a child I didn’t know that the children were trying to save their dying friend’s soul. I didn’t know that Mr. Moundshroud represents Death itself. It didn’t occur to me that at the end [SPOILER] each child gives one year from the end of his life to save their friend’s life. WTF?! I just found it really entertaining, and being the dork that I was/am, I really liked learning the history of Halloween.
Something I found out recently: Alex Greenwald (of the band Phantom Planet) and Andrew Keegan (of your bedroom wall) were the voices of two of the main characters, Wally and Ralph.
Hocus Pocus (1993)
I cannot explain how much I love this movie, much to the annoyance of my husband. I have my own 31 Days of Halloween, with Hocus Pocus playing every day until the 31st.
I mean, what’s not to love? Jay and
Ernie, I mean Ice, representing Salem’s thugs, Omri Katz awakening my young budding sexuality, realizing they’re saying “Thackery” (not Zachary), Queen Bette Midler’s rendition of “I Put a Spell on You,” and Sarah Jessica Parker running amuck.
Directed by Kenny Ortega (who also directed my other obsession, Newsies), Hocus Pocus was considered a bomb when it first came to theaters. It didn’t even come out anywhere near Halloween (it was a summer movie). But thanks to Millennials who love nostalgia (like myself) and the movie playing constantly on TV come October, it has gained popularity once again, with hip theaters playing Hocus Pocus close to Halloween in the form of quote-alongs, encouraging participants to dress like their favorite Sanderson sister.
BTW, Vinessa Shaw, who plays Allison, was also in Eyes Wide Shut, playing a prostitute…let that sink in a bit and feel your childhood die a little.
The Worst Witch (1986)
Before Harry Potter introduced us to the magical boarding schools of Britannia, there was the book-turned-television movie the Worst Witch. The most obscure movie on my list, I’m met with blank faces when I talk about this being one of my favorite Halloween movies. “What? I’ve never heard about this movie!” is what I usually hear. I know two people who remembered the Worst Witch from their childhood, and the fan base grows every time I describe the movie.
The Goddess herself, Fairuza Balk (yes, from the Craft), is Mildred Hubble, a well-meaning and a bit accident-prone young witch-in-training. Though she tries, she’s not really getting this whole “being a witch” thing right, and even though she’s a first-year student and is still learning, she is deemed the school’s worst witch. It also doesn’t help that there’s a teacher, Miss Hardbroom (Diana Rigg, a.k.a. FRICKING Lady Olenna Tyrell!), who hates her guts for no apparent reason, and the resident queen bee bitch, Ethel Hallow, making school life a bit difficult.
Probably the best part of the movie would be Tim Curry as the Grand Wizard. I know this video was posted here before, but it’s just so good that we have to post it again. Just watch this and bask in all of the green-screen special effects and swipe-transitions glory.
I’m looking for a bunch of friends who are willing to dress up on Halloween as the students from the movie. (Must be willing to travel to Texas, however.)
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
Of course. No conversation about Halloween and childhood would be complete without mentioning this Peanuts classic. I don’t need to explain why this movie is the best to get yourself pumped for the Halloween spirit.
Take the time you were going to use reading this part by dancing like your favorite Peanuts character. Go on. I’ll wait.
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
And finally, Disney’s animated short of the Washington Irving’s classic, the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Usually packaged with another short based on the Wind in the Willow, I remember watching this for the first time when it was included in a VHS tape of a compilation of Halloween-themed Disney cartoons (like that one cartoon where Donald was being a total dick to his trick-or-treating nephews by playing tricks on them instead of giving them candy).
Bing Crosby narrates the story and lends his singing voice to many of the songs that are laced throughout the movie and that I still find singing to myself when no one is around.
As an adult, I love watching the cartoon and pairing it with Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, which is fitting when you realize that Burton included scenes in Sleepy Hollow that pay homage to Disney’s animated version.
Fun fact about me: I learned about the superstition of throwing salt over your shoulder when you accidently spill some while watching this cartoon. There’s a scene in the movie where, when grabbing up some food during a party, Ichabod accidentally knocks over a salt shaker and spills a little salt. Genuinely freaked out, he then tosses some over his shoulder. I was pretty young at the time and had no clue what that was or why he was doing it. My mom ended up taking me to the library so I could find out myself. (Thanks, Mom!)
So does anyone else remember these movies from their childhood or have some favorites of their own that I didn’t mention? Did you notice that most of my favorite Halloween shows were first children’s books (which might explain why I grew up to be a librarian)? But the most important question to ponder: has anybody seen Tim Curry’s tambourine?!?