The spookiest time of the year is back for another night of tricks and treats, come read what movies, shows, and videos A&E thinks embody the season of ghouls!
Content Trigger Warning: There is gore towards the end.
There are always a few films I ensure I watch around Halloween: “The Shining,” “Psycho,” “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” and the newest addition, “Suspiria.” Here I am referring to the original, 1977 release of “Suspiria” directed by Dario Argento, rather than its 2018 remake.
“Suspiria” follows Suzy Bannion, a young American dancer, as she arrives in Germany to attend a prestigious dance academy. As she walks through the airport, the score suddenly begins blaring; it seems horrendously mismatched for a walk through an empty airport late at night. Immediately, you are put on edge. Suzy arrives at the Academy and witnesses another young woman run through the front door while yelling to someone who remains hidden inside. The idea that some horrible thing awaits her inside creeps into your mind and spends the rest of the film festering.
It is hard to describe the bizarre and unsettling feeling that “Suspiria” allows to seep into you. The film is Italian, yet the dialogue is in English and dubbed post-production. The set design is overwhelmingly stylized and vibrant, filled with beautiful designs and saturated colors. The score, done by the Italian band Goblin, is as striking as the sets. The incredible beauty of these aspects interacts strangely with the hokey dubbing and practical effects, furthering the bizarre and unsettling viewing experience. The bifurcation between the films most terrifying and corny is most apparent during its best scene. At one point, a blind man and his service dog become lost in the square of a city. The dog begins to bark incessantly, frightening his owner. The owner begins to turn back and forth, frantically asking who is there. Argento then pans out to an extreme wide shot, and we see an absence of anything. There is simply the square, the man, the dog, and darkness. This height of terror is quickly followed (without spoiling too much) by the worst-looking practical effects of the film, leaving you to question why you were just filled with such a deep dread.
Though the film would be worth watching for either the campy dialogue or its best horror-filled moments alone, the combination of the two make it a unique and wonderful Halloween experience.
– Matthew Risley, Staff Writer
“Good Will Haunting” – “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” (1998) [S3E6]
Two decades before Netflix gave us the “Riverdale” spin-off series “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” — a TV-14 take on Archie Comics character Sabrina Spellman’s supernatural coming-of-age story — ABC released the third season of “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.” Unlike its edgy modern counterpart, the wholesome hit sitcom’s goal is not to scare or thrill, but to entertain with predictable stories of corny magic gone wrong. “Sabrina” retains the lighthearted spirit of the original comics while adding a heaping serving of morals. The underlying theme of these morals is that Sabrina (Melissa Joan Hart) should listen to her wise, if zany, aunts, Hilda (Caroline Rhea) and Zelda (Beth Broderick), and practice magic responsibly. It’s a lesson she learns and re-learns throughout the series. She’s a teenage witch, after all, a demographic hardly known for their responsibility or respect for authority figures.
The Halloween episodes of “Sabrina” don’t go out of their way to break this mold, but they are decidedly spookier in tone than the usual episode. Some of these holiday specials see Sabrina trying to resist her magic family’s uncontrollable passion for Halloween, or getting in over her head while trying to throw a party that will rival a popular peer’s. “Good Will Haunting,” the Halloween episode from season three, is an exception. It doesn’t tackle any particularly dark themes or dip into R-rated horror. Yet, it has all the elements to be dubbed the scariest episode of “Sabrina,” in large part because of an evil doll named Molly Dolly (Tara Strong).
As we undergo a scary-doll renaissance (see: the 2019 remake of the ‘80s horror classic “Child’s Play,” the “Annabelle” franchise, and the upcoming evil-AI-doll flick “M3GAN”), it’s only fair to give Molly Dolly a nod. In “Good Will Haunting,” Sabrina is gifted the talking doll by her Great Aunt Beulah (Jo Anne Worley) after skipping Beulah’s notoriously unpleasant annual Halloween party to host a double date with a friend. While Sabrina’s aunts attend the party and find themselves fighting to escape from its insane asylum setting, Sabrina must endure the true horror of putting up with Molly Dolly. She struggles to keep her friends and date from being harmed by the malignant toy, which traps them by locking every door in the house, turning off the lights, and delivering taunts in a syrupy, high-pitched voice.
Sabrina attempts to get rid of the doll by tucking it in a laundry basket and, later, by hurling it up the staircase, but she’s no match for the treacherous toy. The demented doll slowly turns her head when she threatens them, blinking her hollow, empty plastic eyes in an uncanny fashion all the while. She might not have her predecessor Chucky’s enthusiasm for violence, but she makes up for it with a kind of psychological terrorism that escalates from nuisance to nightmare.
Molly Dolly’s reign of terror is halted by the end of the episode’s twenty minute runtime, but not before she’s put fear into the hearts of Sabrina’s friends — and the younger members of the viewing audience. The B-plot featuring Sabrina’s aunts and several actors from the ‘60s sketch comedy “Laugh-In” acts as a nice balance to the spooky-doll schtick (Gary Owens playing ‘Guy Who Thinks He’s Gary Owens’ is the peak of this storyline).
Does it have the gore of the “Saw” franchise or the general unease of Kubrick’s “The Shining”? Not quite. Unless you have a phobia of talking dolls, you probably won’t find yourself on the edge of your seat during “Good Will Haunting.” Still, if you’re looking for a sitcom episode that can give you a nostalgic, kid-friendly scare, this “Sabrina” special is the perfect treat.
– Bailey Bujnosek, Senior Staff Writer
“It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” (1966)
What’s better than a Halloween special? A Halloween special with Snoopy in it, of course. Originally aired in 1966, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” is a nostalgic Halloween classic. Following the characters from the “Peanuts” comic strips, the television special follows Charlie Brown and his friends as they celebrate Halloween. The plot mainly revolves around Charlie Brown’s friend, Linus, who believes in the Great Pumpkin. Like Santa Claus, the Great Pumpkin is a mythical creature who brings candy and toys to all the good children who believe in him. So, while Linus’ friends spend their Halloween trick-or-treating, Linus spends his Halloween in a pumpkin patch, determined to meet the Great Pumpkin. Plus, as a subplot, we get Snoopy dressed up as a World War I flying ace in the sky; what’s not to love?
Like the other “Peanuts” specials, the soundtrack is composed by Vince Guaraldi, who provides nothing less than a brilliant jazz soundtrack to accompany the adorable animation. And, of course, the humor in this is ageless. There’s the typical football gag, the famous “I got a rock” line, and jokes about getting sued. But my favorite quip would have to be Linus saying, “there are three things I’ve learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin” — same, Linus.
If you’re not into gore or anything too scary, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” is the perfect special to get you into the Halloween spirit. With a run time of 25 minutes, this short is a nostalgia-packed special with jokes that still make me laugh every year I watch it. You’ll feel like a kid again; I sure do.
– Lea Vazquez, Contributing Writer
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” Halloween Heist Episodes
Some of my favorite sitcom episodes are holiday specials, from “The Office” Christmas episodes to “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” St. Patrick’s Day episodes. However, in my opinion, nothing beats “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”’s annual Halloween heist episodes. The Halloween heist is an annual bet to see who can steal some object from the New York Police Department’s 99th precinct and win the title of “Amazing Detective slash Genius,” or some variation of that title.
This show’s tradition started in the Season 1 episode titled “Halloween,” when main character Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) bets he can steal Captain Holt’s (Andre Braugher) Medal of Valor from his office by midnight on Halloween night. This leads to a night filled with Jake Peralta-style shenanigans and a hilariously unrecognizable costume worn by Charles Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio), which ends with Jake winning the heist. The antics ramp up in the next Halloween episode in Season 2 titled “Halloween II,” when Jake bets against Captain Holt that he can steal his watch. This time he enlists the help of a pickpocketer who ends up stealing the watch, making this heist extra difficult. At the end it is revealed that Holt planned this all along and the watch never left his person, making him the winner of that year’s heist. That episode also followed a B-plot involving Gina Linetti’s (Chelsea Pretti) dance group kicking her out, resulting in the episode ending with a great dance number featuring Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews) and Gina. The next installment titled “Halloween, Part III,” in Season 3, sees Jake and Holt competing for the title of “Amazing Detective slash Genius” with a surprise turn of events where Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero) wins after being left out of the heist by both Holt and Jake. “Halloween IV,” which takes place in Season 4, has the entire B99 squad competing for the title of “the ultimate detective slash genius,” where Gina fools everyone and wins. My favorite heist, however, is the Season 5 episode “HalloVeen,” when the B99 squad embarks on their fifth annual Halloween heist where the prize is a championship belt. This year sees alliances forming, Holt enlisting the help of the fan favorite corgi Cheddar, and the surprise engagement that happens when Jake proposes to Amy at the end. Although there was no definite winner that year, it’s clear the real winners are the happy newly engaged couple.
These “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” episodes put a different spin on the classic sitcom Halloween special. Instead of centering it around Halloween, they make the main focus the heist and use the holiday as a framing device. Each installment has its own unique and fun twist and showcases not only each character’s skill set, but just how far they are willing to go to win a title with no merit. As a sitcom fan, these episodes are always my go-to every Halloween season, and it’s a great quick binge if you’re in the mood for a light Halloween marathon.
– Kamiah Johnson, Senior Staff Writer
IMAGE TRIGGER WARNING: GORE
“My house walk-through” (2016)
There is a distinct authenticity that can only really be achieved in the confines of YouTube horror: found footage hoaxes, handheld videos, simplistic editing, and first person commentary. There’s something so uniquely eerie about watching a normal person create or experience something unexplainable. There’s rarely a need to suspend one’s own disbelief because there’s no red tape. It’s the wild west of content creation — at least that’s what it felt like in 2016.
“My house walk-through” is a little piece of horror that takes full advantage of a lot of common YouTube horror tropes and expertly commands them to create one of the most unsettling videos on the platform. Evoking the likes of “The Blair Witch Project,” Hideo Kojima’s “P.T.,” and the surreal artwork of Junji Ito, each influence has been stitched together to create this ghastly frankenstein of a project.
“Today, I want to introduce my house,” the narrator says. As the title suggests, the video is a walkthrough of the narrator’s dwelling, a traditional Japanese-style home, complete with tatami mats and fusuma sliding doors. The person holding the camera never says a word during the video; however, captions describing the various house furnishings and family history are provided in both English and Japanese.
Unlike the aforementioned “P.T.,” you have no autonomy over the person navigating the home. For the 12-minute duration of the video, you are transported on a set path, with no option of pacing yourself. The narrator presses on reminiscing about their grandfather’s sutras, scattered photos, and all the various rooms. “This room has no taste,” the narrator says. While it all sounds perfectly tame on the surface, nothing could be farther from the truth.
It’s made evident, almost immediately, that the house is malignant and practically decomposing, as if it were a carcass left to the elements. A typhoon rages in the background, seeping rainfall into the ceilings and floors. Dust and dry rot cover the portraits and wood walls. Blood spatters the carpeted floors and the bathroom tile. The house appears as if it’s been abandoned for years, yet the narrator trudges onward as if they’ve been living there this whole time. As they pace through the seemingly endless maze of hallways and tight corridors, the house steadily continues to decay and crumble.
Horror is at its best when it’s subverting one’s own expectations; you believe you know what’s going to be thrown at you, then all of a sudden you have the rug pulled from under you. The use of YouTube as the medium makes the video appear unassuming and inoffensive at first glance. Any unsuspecting viewer would take it as any low-effort house tour video. However, underneath that modest title and saturated thumbnail is a gruesome experience lying in wait.
PiroPito, the video creator, writes in the description, “this is not horror video. This video was created simply by filming inside my house,” a revelation that seems to raise more fear than it extinguishes. It’s a grim reminder that reality is more horrific than any fantasy that could be conjured up by some artist.
– Fabian Garcia, Senior Staff Writer
“As Above, So Below” (2014)
Memes that make fun of the French are funny to me, and for no particular reason. The internet’s enjoyment of making fun of France is simply amusing to me. Despite my love for these memes, I must admit that I do quite like France, having been there myself. I really enjoy their “lore,” in particular, that of the catacombs, which seamlessly transitions me to the 2014 film “As Above, So Below,” or AASB as I will lovingly refer to it as for the remainder of this blurb. AASB is a film that combines several aspects, albeit some of them being typical horror movie tropes, that make for an enjoyable horror film.
First, being repentant of sin and suffering the consequences of sin. To me, a good horror film exploits the characters to show the viewer the damaging effects of sin. Think back to the teens in lake houses of classic slasher films, doing what teens left alone in lake houses do. Well, in AASB, the sin of the protagonists is using alchemy in an attempt to gain god-like powers, and they pay in the most brutal fashions, all suffering in ways unique to their past sins and traumas. This then leads to another point as to why this film is a good horror flick: the use of religious icons and themes.
The catacombs in France are a site with significant religious connotations, ranging from the multitude of crosses that can be found throughout the graves, to the fact that the graves were built under a city with a great history of Catholicism. While the horror genre has utilized religious themes and imagery to death for decades now, the fact that the catacombs are a real place gives this movie a very unsettling feeling, which leads to my third reason: the tone of the film.
The overall tone of the film is extremely unnerving. The documentary style of filmmaking makes the viewer feel like they’re there with the protagonists, which obviously has been done before, but the set designs of the catacombs are what seal the deal. Their design — short, narrow tunnels with only immediate surroundings lit by a headlamp — make the viewer feel claustrophobic. The documentary style also forces the viewer to often only focus on what’s placed in front of them, especially on a first viewing, which leads you to not notice several easter eggs throughout the film as you try to survive alongside the characters. Thus, leading me to my final point.
AASB is a rewatchable film. I believe that any good horror film needs to be rewatchable. Upon my second viewing of the film I noticed several of the easter eggs and foreshadowing elements that I simply didn’t notice in my first viewing, and it made it much more enjoyable and made me wonder what else I missed before.
Now, is it the best film ever, let alone the best horror film ever? No. But, it does make for a good Halloween viewing experience.
– Hector Arrieta, Arts & Entertainment Editor
Images courtesy of Vecteeezy, The Series Regulars, Amy McLean on YouTube, IMDb, Grimoire of Horror, and 3 Brothers Film