I've never really liked slasher movies. To be honest, they scared the living hell out of me when I was a kid, and even though I've long since realized that, say, Chucky could be pretty easily punted into the next county, I never really got over that distaste. As a result, while other people load up on Fridays and Nightmares when the calendar flips over to October, I tend to go for a different route. Much like I do at Christmas, I spend halloween watching cartoons.
Whether they're actual Halloween specials or just extra-spooky episodes, I love these things, and that's why today, I'm handing out the treats of a spoooooky sextet of my favorite Halloween episodes!
The Super Hero Squad Show - "This Man-Thing, This Monster"
Written by John Rozum
"At night, he glides in like a shadow, takes villagers by their neck, and drains them of their..."
"Oh, we're not related."
The Suepr Hero Squad Show tends to skew more towards kid-friendly slapstick than sheer terror, but this episode is right up there with the one where the Punisher shows up voiced by Ray Stevenson to talk about how criminals are like broccoli for sheer awesomeness. It was done as part of a six-part arc where the Silver Surfer had been corrupted by the Infinity Gems and sent the "Squaddies" all across space and time -- there's even a 1602-inspired episode where the pilgrims try to burn the Scarlet Witch at the stake. Really.
This one, though, sends Iron Man into the Marvel Monsters universe, and it's pretty great, if only because of all the characters that get to make their super-deformed animated appearances. The core plot is a team-up where Iron Man, Werewolf By Night and Man-Thing battle against Dracula, but there are cameos from It the Living Colossus, the Zombie, Googam, Son of Goom, Monster of Frankenstein, Groot, and even N'Kantu the Living Mummy, who gets an open-hand slap right across the face:
Even though it's rooted in downright Airplane!-esque comedy, Rozum's script throws a lot of great stuff in there. The dialogue is snappy, the twist at the end is fun, and there are a few ideas -- like Iron Man using Frankenstein's apparatus to recharge his armor.
Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends - "The Bride of Dracula!"
Written by Jack Mendelsohn
"Welcome to Vampire City!"
Speaking of cartoons where Marvel Dracula shows up to smack the rest of the cast around, the Lord of the Vampires makes an appearance on Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, and it is absolutely insane. For starters, we have a being of nearly unlimited supernatural power hanging out at a college dance waiting to mack on a coed -- in this case, Firestar -- then taking his private jet back to Transylvania while Spider-Man and Iceman follow by climbing onto the outside of a cargo plane flying over the North Pole.
Then, once Dracula notices that his airplane is being followed -- by a plane that appears to be going perpendicular to his jet for several minutes -- he takes it down by shooting hypno-rays out of his eyes at the enemy pilot.
Also, his jet can turn into a gigantic robot bat. Because of course it can.
The whole thing is, of course, a plot for Dracula to hypnotize Firestar into being his latest wife. This is actually pretty in keeping with Dracula's established M.O., even if Bram Stoker never got around to mentioning that his chauffeur is the Wolfman and that he has a robot Frankenstein hanging around to do the housework.
TMNT - "All Hallow's Thieves"
Written by Gavin Hignight
"What happened to you?"
"Some kind of security guard or somethin' in a frog costume."
It's pretty difficult to figure out what constitutes "horror" for a bunch of characters who fight a talking brain in a robot body and a guy whose clothes are literally made of knives every day, but this one's actually set on Halloween night. And it's worth it, too, if only to see Michaelangelo, a six-foot talking turtle trained in the art of silent assassination, completely flip his shell when he runs into a burglar dressed as a werewolf.
True to the occasion, this particular adventure has a bit of the supernatural involved: In an effort to upgrade himself to the King of Thieves -- a title previously held by Bruce Campbell on the better episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess -- a guy with a truly awful Cockney accent steals a statue of the six-armed god of larceny, Kleptonus, and then lays a hoodoo on it that both brings Kleptonus to life and sets an army of winged gargoyle thieves on New York City to steal everything from jewelry to trick-or-treaters' candy.
One would think that the god of thieves would probably go more for stealth and cunning, but I guess a giant, rampaging six-armed monster makes for a better set piece. It all works out, though: In one of the best moments in TMNT history, the Turtles tear one of its arms off and use it as a club to smash its head, then kick it in front of a subway train.
Jem and the Holograms - "Trick or Techrat"
Written by Misty Stewart-Taggart
"I hate Halloween! I hate it!"
In typical fashion, the Halloween episode of Jem and the Holograms has about thirty-four different plots all going on at once. First up is the old Opera House, a historic building that's about to be torn down unless the Holograms can put on a benefit show to raise money to repair it, then there's Eric Raymond's sinister business dealings involving purchasing the lot after the opera house is razed, then there's the creepy old B-Movie actor Frederick Vincent who owns the opera house and has been living there destitute in a tuxedo with hobo patches, and then there are the Misfits, who are throwing a concert right across the street on Halloween night in an effort to spoil Jem's fundraising efforts. Then, on top of all that, is Terry, a member of Jem's ever-expanding collection of orphans, who needs to learn that ghosts and Draculas and black cats aren't actually that scary.
Heaping even more insanity onto all this is Techrat, the Misfits' resident technological genius who once built a time machine. Here, he's wearing a weird one-eyed ghost costume and setting up tricks to make everyone think the place is haunted from the Opera House basement, which features both an actual dungeon and a gigantic bottomless pit with a huge spiral staircase that looks like it might be in the Death Star:
There is also a dance number.
Batman: The Animated Series - "The Demon Within"
Written by Rusty Bjornhöel and Stan Berkowitz
Why in the name of all that is holy would a Gotham City auction house agree to even have an artifact rumored to possess the strange magical power of Morgan le Fay even brought to the premises, let alone actually sold? Seriously, why not just throw in some ancient Egyptian cat statues rumored to be the key to answering the ancient riddle of the twin stars while you're at it? Just make sure to get your affairs in order first.
That is, of course, exactly what happens in this episode of Batman, prompting a heated dispute / highly destructive wizard duel between Jack Kirby's two most horror-inspired creations, Etrigan the Demon and Klarion the Witch Boy, an immortal youngster so evil that his bowl-cut has devil horns.
He also has a cat that turns into a cat-lady, and I'm always surprised when I watch this episode that Bruce Wayne actually tries to fight her instead of casually leaning against a wall and offering up a "so, do you come here often?" Don't even pretend like that dude doesn't have a type.
G.I. Joe - "The Phantom Brigade"
Written by Sharman Divono
"Ghosts in the service of Cobra?!"
Between the episode where Shipwreck's wife and son melt into goo in his arms, the one where Dr. Mindbender attacks with weaponized nightmares, and the one about the Cthulhu monster that Destro keeps in his basement, there are no shortage of G.I. Joe episodes that draw on some pretty scary thoughts. This one, however, heads straight into horror movie territory and never looks back.
In order to counteract the problem of his soldiers not being all that eager to run facefirst into a wall of red lasers, Cobra Commander -- who has temporarily relocated to a spoooooky castle in Transylvania -- elects to recruit some soldiers who are already dead. To that end, he enlists the help of a local witch, who just so happens to have three baubles that bind the souls of the unquiet dead to Earth. Thus, Cobra gets its Phantom Brigade, made up of a barbarian warrior woman, a Roman Legionnaire, and an American pilot from World War I whose guns produce flames made up of hellish, demonic faces.
Or as close as you could get to hellish and demonic on a cartoon for eight year-olds in 1985. Things look pretty dire for the Joes and their surprisingly non-Soviet Transylvanian allies, but eventually the Baroness finally shows up to tell them what the deal is because Cobra Commander is threatening to replace his entire staff with vengeful spirits of the damned. Seriously. It's pretty great.