I recently asked what movies, television shows, and other traditions you love to have as part of your Halloween preparations. Here, in turn, are a few films that I never seem to shake when October hits.
- “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”The Halloween classic of classics, Great Pumpkin is a superior effort from the producers of the Peanuts specials, with the atmospheric watercolor-style backgrounds. Greater is the tension of Linus’s waiting for the “Great Pumpkin” alone in a pumpkin patch and the several minute, completely speechless battle between Snoopy and the Red Baron.
- “Garfield’s Halloween Adventure” For years, this played as a companion piece to Great Pumpkin, but was replaced in the early 90s by other specials, none of which ever lived up. Perhaps the networks thought the portrayal of actual ghosts was too frightening. Special props for featuring Lou Rawles as a “singing voice” for Garfield on a couple of songs. Pure classic.
- The Nightmare Before Christmas This film ironically captures somewhat of the Halloween spirit more than any other film. From the unique design to the introductory song, the piece embodies much of the cultural Halloween holiday. The contrast between Halloween and the perception of Christmas emphasizes this more.
- Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein The greatest horror-comedy of all time. The triumvirate powerhouse of Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, Lon Chaney Jr.’s Wolf Man, and Glenn Strange’s Frankenstein Monster make their last appearance in style (with a brief cameo of Vincent Price’s Invisible Man), while being foiled by the comedy duo of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. A slick, stylish, atmospheric, yet hilarious romp, this is a great send-of of the classic monsters and a wonderful Halloween favorite for the whole family.
- Something Wicked This Way Comes A Disney-style horror film based on a novella by Ray Bradbury about a demonic autumn carnival that comes to a small rural town one October many decades ago, this film breathes the atmosphere of the Halloween season as well as exposing real spiritual struggle.
- Any classic Universal horror films from the 20s through 40s, particularly those in the Dracula, Frankenstein, and Wolf Man lines, but also including many great collaborations between the actors Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff such as The Black Cat and The Raven.
Thanks for sharing your reflections on Halloween with me. I have enjoyed sharing mine with you. As we approach Halloween in the next few days and then start looking toward the Advent season, let us continue on this journey together in a world still tinged with darkness and looking toward the promised coming light that will destroy the darkness once and for all.
(Illustration: A still from The Nightmare Before Christmas )