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October 31, 2012 - 4:53pm

TV's best Halloween episodes

BY DAILY ARTS STAFF

CW

The Daily Arts TV/New Media staff presents their list of favorite Halloween-themed TV episodes. If you missed the Halloween movie guide, check it out here.

“The Vampire Diaries,” Episode 1.07: “Haunted”

Already regularly dealing with a scary-ass supernatural smorgasbord, “The Vampire Diaries” ’s first Halloween-themed episode wasn’t really concerned with the classic thrills and chills of the holiday. Instead, the episode marked the beginning of “TVD” ’s shift from “Twilight” afflicted adolescence to the edging, engrossing, smart-as-shit “Buffy” successor it’s managed to become.

“Haunted” is all about Vicki (Kayla Ewell) and her problematic transition from drug-addicted teen to hellish, blood-hungry demon. Stefan (Paul Wesley) attempts, in tedious good-guy Stefan fashion, to help Vicki control her natural urges, while Damon (Ian Somerhalder, or should we say Smolderhalder?) smirks in the background, looking pretty enough that we forgot he was the one who made sure Vicki died with vamp blood in her system in the first place.

The episode rises to exceptional status during the scene where Vicki corners a delightfully naïve and shaggy Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen) and accidentally goes from harmlessly making-out to nearly sucking all his blood out through his lower lip. A tussle ensues, ending with Stefan’s well-placed stake-to-the-heart, leaving a colorless Vicki prone on the pavement. With that blow, “TVD” proved it isn’t afraid to kill off main characters, and it isn’t going to be nice about it, either.

As seasons pass and favorite faces continue to fall, “TVD” refuses to shy away from the emotional stuff and doesn’t always play fair. The show just keeps getting better, and it all started with Vicki’s last stand in one of the best-placed Halloween episodes out there.

— KELLY ETZ

“The X-Files,” Episode 4.02: “Home”

Though not technically a Halloween episode, “The X-Files” ’s “Home” is one of the most disturbing hours of television you will ever watch. In fact, it’s so disturbing that FOX banned it from reruns.

The episode centers on the deformed Peacock brothers, who Mulder and Scully look into when the corpse of a deformed baby is found near their Civil War-era home.

“Home” takes twisted twists and pushes into truly macabre territory. It’s downright weird, unlike anything seen on television since, though “American Horror Story” has made some feeble attempts.

So if you want a truly terrifying spook, “Home” will do the trick. But remember: You were warned.

— KAYLA UPADHYAYA

“Boy Meets World,” Episode 5.17: “And Then There Was Shawn”

Whenever I tell people that “Boy Meets World” is my favorite TV show, a good ninety percent respond with “Ooh — what was that one episode? The Halloween one? I loved that one.”

In “And Then There Was Shawn,” the main characters are trapped at John Adams High School for detention while a killer runs rampant in the halls. It’s chock-full of pop culture references to “Scream” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” which released in the same year, and even “South Park” when the killer’s first victim is a boy named Kenny (who, as the main cast reminds him, is “lucky to even be here”).

“And Then There Was Shawn” subverts horror movie tropes like the hooded killer lurking behind his targets, ominous voices and obvious suspects. Shawn (Rider Strong) leads the group with his scary movie expertise, only to have it overturned at every moment. I love watching Angela (Trina McGee) as the token screamer when scary things happen, Cory freaking out over dirty retainers instead of the janitor’s dead body and Eric’s dramatic “dun dun dun”s as the gang tries to talk through these events.

The best part is that it’s not only a fantastic Halloween episode, but just a brilliant episode all around. It turns out that the whole ordeal is Shawn’s nightmare during detention; he acted out in class because Cory (Ben Savage) and Topanga’s (Danielle Fishel) breakup affected him more deeply than he could have imagined. Without the dependable presence of their relationship, his world feels as unpredictable and chaotic as having a psychopath running around the school stabbing people with scissors. All Shawn wants is for his friends to be happy — without having to kill anyone to clear the path.

— PROMA KHOSLA

“How I Met Your Mother,” Episode 1.06: “The Slutty Pumpkin”

A conversation about Halloween-themed episodes cannot be complete without the Slutty Pumpkin. One of my favorite episodes and the sixth episode of season one of “How I Met Your Mother” is chockfull of character development and fantastic costumes (Lily the Parrot and Marshall the Gay Pirate take the cake, both in the episode and in my heart). Future Ted Mosby recounts the Halloween of 2001 — the one where he met (and promptly fell for) the titular Slutty Pumpkin.

Dressed as a hanging chad — an ode to the 2000 Presidential Election — Ted meets the Slutty Pumpkin near the bar at the rooftop Halloween party, mixing her signature drink, “The Tootsie Roll”: a combination of Kahlúa and Root Beer. They bond over her love of penguins and she writes her number on a Kit Kat bar, which Lily accidentally hands out to trick-or-treaters, setting Ted’s 5-year quest to find the elusive woman in motion.

Fast-forward to the year 2006: Ted, still in his dated costume, searches for his Pumpkin at the same party he’s been attending since 2001. Barney (in typical Stinson fashion) wants to drag Ted to a Victoria’s Secret Party, but Ted isn’t having it. In one my favorite moments of the episode, Barney appears in a penguin costume, making the same concoction of the Slutty Pumpkin, fooling Ted long enough to prove his point: Ted is really, really lame.

The Slutty Pumpkin works because it fits a zany holiday like Halloween into the romantic mission of Ted Mosby. He’s really the only one who would think that he’d find his soulmate at a Halloween party, and the episode sells it. Plus, I like to think that even though Ted eventually reunites with the Slutty Pumpkin in season seven, he never retires that hanging chad costume.

— RADHIKA MENON

“Rugrats,” Episode 1.07: “Ghost Story”

Hold on to your dipeys, babies. Nickelodeon’s original diva, Angelica Pickles, tells a campfire
story that has even Reptar running for the hills. Told to a circle of five famous “Rugrats” over 10 years ago, the tale of a haunted house infested with monsters, and painted by the slimy trails of a giant worm, is a story that invites viewers out from under their blankets and to the television screen.

“Ghost Story” is the apple cider to zombie-fied, grown-up television’s jungle juice; all childhood nostalgia and warm-Chuckie Finster-fuzzies.

Not scary enough? Find thrills in the horror of the toddlers’ pre-grade school grammar and a cameo by the hungry trio of “Aaahh!!! Real Monsters.”

— BRIANNE JOHNSON

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Episode 2.06: “Halloween”

According to Watcher extraordinaire Rupert Giles, demons, vampires and all of the things that go bump in the night take a day off on Halloween. Good news for the Chosen One Buffy Summers and her pack of supernatural-fighting friends. What Giles didn’t account for is the return of his nemesis Ethan Rayne.

Ethan bewitches Halloween costumes so that they turn their wearer into the person or being they are dressed as. Xander becomes a soldier forced to take charge; Buffy becomes a helpless princess; Willow becomes an invisible ghost; Cordelia, who did not buy her costume from Ethan’s store, does not turn into a cat, and instead is her usual sassy self. Naturally, this all yields hilarious results, and the episode is exemplary of the campy charm of BTVS’s second season.

If you’re looking for a slightly spookier episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” however, you should watch the tenth episode of season four: “Hush.” In a mostly silent episode, four terrifying beings known as The Gentlemen drift through Sunnydale, smiling and carving the hearts out of victims whose screams go unheard. It’s still one of the scariest installments of television there has ever been.

— KAYLA UPADHYAYA

“Gossip Girl,” Episode 1.06: “The Handmaiden’s Tale”

The things that happened throughout the first season of “Gossip Girl” are so far removed from what is actually going on the show’s current, and final, sixth season that its Halloween episode has become even better than I remembered it being. The main event (as you know, every episode of GG has to revolve around some sort of party or event that brings all of the show’s posh characters together) was, go-figure, the first of approximately 400 masquerades that would later appear on the show.

Blair wants to lose her virginity to Nate, Dan wants to go with Serena, Chuck wants to take advantage of another unsuspecting freshman, and Jenny is annoying as ever while aspiring to be Blair. Oh, and Vanessa is there too. The masks that cover like an eighth of their faces apparently make them all unrecognizable and with the start of the party comes mass confusion.

Nate confuses Jenny for Serena and kisses her and Blair, who, by the way is on her A-game as Queen B, scolds him for obvious reasons. Even though they try to create some drama with Serena feeling threatened by Vanessa, her and Dan end up together at the end of the episode. After doing all of Blair’s bitch work and getting a diamond bracelet out of it, Jenny makes it to the party and causes unnecessary trouble. Sure, this was before her creepy goth phase that got her written out of the show, but Jenny was just a pestering presence.

The Halloween episode in the first season of “Gossip Girl” glamorized the holiday’s usual costumes and decorations to create the ideal backdrop for the perfect amount of drama. It’s no wonder why the writers seem to include a masquerade into every season — it simply works for a show like “Gossip Girl” where continuously ridiculous drama arises out of alluring parties we all wish we could be invited to.

— GIBSON JOHNS


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