We are well past the halfway point in this year’s Halloween Horrors series, October 31st rapidly approaching. By now, most of us are in full Halloween “mode”, having already planned out costumes and activities, plowed through a large chunk of your Halloween watchlist, and have set out our Halloween decorations. We’re undeniably in full Halloween-mode, kinda like today’s Halloween Horrors topic. I mean, it’s even called “Halloween“!
Friend and fellow reviewer Vermillion Phoenix rejoins our series this year, adding one more recommendation to this year’s list. Vermillion last joined us for 2018’s series with a look at The Nightmare Before Christmas. Known for her music reviews, she is a fellow horror fan and Halloween lover, which she demonstrates by sinking her fangs into an early Halloween episode from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
“Halloween” – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
ORIGINAL AIRDATE: October 27th, 1997
If any of you faithful horror fans grew up in the Nineties, odds are you were familiar with the classic TV series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Created by Joss Whedon, it was a series filled with humour, demons, and Nineties fashion about a teenage vampire slayer growing up in a vacuous L.A. The show might have even whet your future appetite for monsters, ghoulies, and gore.
Growing up, I loved Buffy – still do, especially the earlier seasons, which I consider superior to the later seasons – and “Halloween” is the sixth episode of season two. This is also one of my favourite episodes alongside such classics as “Lie to Me“, “Becoming“, and “The Gentlemen“.
The episode is set in our beloved holiday of Halloween (as per the title), and opens to our petite blonde heroine, Buffy, fighting a vampire in a pumpkin patch, as another vampire watches on in the shadows with a video camera, going unnoticed. As Buffy creatively dispatches the sucker with the wooden pumpkin patch sign, the other vampire disappears into the darkness and the legendary title sequence rolls.
The main crux of this episode is simple, the wily villain featured is the nefarious Ethan Raine, who makes his series debut in “Halloween” (and subsequently appears later in the season on episode 8, “The Dark Age“). He has plotted an abominable scheme to render the Slayer helpless by turning her and her friends into the characters that their costumes are portraying – Buffy, an 18th Century noblewoman, Xander as a soldier, and Willow becomes the ghost of a rock chick – all by undertaking a ritual to worship the God, Janus.
“Halloween” continues after the titles by focusing on the friends’ lives at Sunnydale High School as they’re “volunteered” heavy-handedly by Principal Snyder (played by Armin Shimmerman of Star Trek: DS9) to take neighborhood kids trick or treating for community spirit, and thus they have to choose their costumes for the night, as “they’re mandatory”, according to Snyder. Buffy wants to impress her elusive and mysterious vampire love interest, Angel, who is 200 and some odd years old and might be impressed by dressing as someone from his time. Together, she and Willow steal the secretive Watcher’s Diaries from librarian Giles through an adorable, yet somewhat awkward interaction between Slayer and Watcher to get an idea of Angel’s past love interests; before settling on an 18th Century noblewoman.
With costumes in mind, they head to a new store in town called ‘Ethan’s’ – you can see where this might be going – and then from there the mania begins to unfold. The episode is simply a riot from start to finish, featuring Nineties pop culture references; toxic masculinity; the fragility of the friendship code and cutting sarcastic humour in the not-so-average lives of these teens, with tensions often running high on the Hellmouth, especially for Halloween. There are many witty one-liners, like Buffy: “Wait until you get a load… Casper.“, with Xander’s deadpan delivery on fire with, “That’s a nice… Boo you got there, Will.”, in reference to Willow’s last-minute costume change from “rock goddess” to a shapeless figure in a ghost costume with “Boo” across the chest. Another is when the hopeless, simpering Buffy is clinging onto Cordelia for the nth time, and Willow quips, “She couldn’t have dressed up like Xena?” with a roll of her eyes.
The action is non-stop for the most part once the evening begins to unfold, with the scripted scenes full of wit and panache – there is even an amusing jump scare between Willow and Giles as they team up to figure out the answer to the costume conundrum, and the devious duo of Spike and his most wonderful, insane, and beautiful female counterpart, Drusilla, also put in an appearance as extra antagonists of the episode. It is chocka block with fun and thrills, and is one of the best episodes of Season 2 with a winning combination of humour, action, insults, and camaraderie between all the characters; and although it is one of the lesser known episodes with dated humor and fashion (like most of the earlier seasons), it still stands the test of time to this day – much like popular sitcom “Friends“, which was of a similar era.
I highly doubt that you lovely readers of Horror And Sons have never heard of or checked out Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but if by some remote chance you haven’t – then start from the beginning of Season 1. You won’t have to wait long until “Halloween“, as it is only 18 episodes to watch. I am certain you can manage that by October 31st!
Buffy the Vampire Slayer can be found on DVD, and on Amazon Prime in the UK.
Halloween is definitely a great candy episode, with character insight and growth as an added bonus. Plus Oz notices rock star Willow from afar.