Naturally, I love a good scare at Halloween. It no longer feels like Halloween is really here for me until I've rewatched at least one Saw and heard The Walking Dead theme. Last year, I devoted October to a countdown of my favorite horror movies that deserve more respect.
But my love of Halloween predates my love of horror by a good seventeen years, so I know there's more to what makes the season special than screaming in terror.
Not that that's not enough.
So before we get this season of fright into full swing, I want to take a moment to recognize my favorite Halloween moodsetters that I can't put on any list with horror as its theme.
#5: It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
Okay, it's silly and dated, but after watching it religiously every Halloween as a kid growing up in a non-horror geek family, some sentiment is unavoidable. If you can be persuaded to watch it again as an adult, don't watch it for Charlie Brown's sad bag of rocks, watch it for Lucy.
This is my absolute favorite Peanuts story for her. All the way through the fun, she's played as the mean, bullying, nay-saying big sister as usual, with plenty of "witch" jokes at her expense. Then, when Halloween festivities are over, when Linus is passed out shivering in the pumpkin patch, waiting for The Great Pumpkin who never shows, we see her bringing him inside and putting him to bed, in a weary way that suggests it's not the first time.
That's when you realize, if you pay attention, that she's spent the whole holiday special trying, in her inept, pestering way, to give her brother a good Halloween, teaching him to carve a Jack-O’-Lantern, trying to persuade him to trick-or-treat and go to the party with the other kids. For a cartoon/comic strip usually heavy on cerebral humor and light on character drama, this moment of sympathy for the closest thing the cast has to a villain, who also happens to be one of only two big siblings in this strange universe where adults are non-entities, is beautifully weird and has stuck with me as long as I can remember.
#4: The Phantom of the Opera (2004)
#3: The Simpsons "The Raven"
In the first Treehouse of Horrors Halloween episode of The Simpsons, Lisa reads Edgar Allan Poe's “The Raven” to Bart, leading us into a reenactment of the poem with Homer as the main character. It's not particularly scary, as Bart loudly complains, but it is the original text of “The Raven,” lightly Simpsonized and read by James Earl Jones. If you already know of “The Raven,” The Simpsons, and James Earl Jones, you can imagine why this combination is magical. If not, you simply have to see it.
#2: The Nightmare Before Christmas
#1: Addams Family Values
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