Buffy Episodes :: “Halloween” & “Fear Itself”


Located on a “Hellmouth,” everyday is like Halloween in Sunnydale, California. Creating a specific Halloween episode of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER is bordering on redundancy. Since the appearance of a monster or a demon is an everyday occurrence in this fictional California town, Buffy and pals utilize the holiday to explore their own psyches instead.

When you subtract the uncanny from All Hallows Eve, you have a date in which people “come as they aren’t.” BUFFY, throughout its seven seasons always rejoiced in its characters duel identities. In fact, individuals choose the paths of light and dark as if wearing reversible jackets. In Sunnydale, the only disguise that has any real power is to play against how others perceive you.

In many ways these character examinations are much more relevant to our modern experience of the holiday. Once a ritual to ward off the dead or provide bountiful harvests, most people experience Halloween today as a time for little more than costumed revelry. With ghosts and ghoulies out of the picture the lone threat that remains is that, under the guise of anonymity, one might be capable of fulfilling desires best kept in check. If nothing else, there is a collective agreement that November 1st comes with a universal “Get Out of Jail Free” card.

In the second season episode entitled HALLOWEEN, many of the show’s strongest characters inadvertently experience parts of themselves previously unexplored thanks to a bit of that old black magic and the appearance of a worshiper of chaos named Ethan Rayne (ROBIN SACHS). Tellingly, Rayne chants to a sculpture with two opposing faces to kick start the mayhem. He also provides our chums, and the better part of the town, with costumes that have the power to transform the wearer into what they have disguised themselves as. Like many premises on B.T.V.S. this seems like the stuff of high fantasy, until you realize that this exact phenomenon occurs to a degree in every town every year on Halloween. Let’s be honest, nobody dresses as a sexy French maid to scare off the dead or grow corn. (Well, except for maybe Aunt John, but that is another story).

Fighting machine Buffy’s (SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR) costume of choice is a powder-puff 18th century aristocrat (mostly in hopes to appear more feminine in the eyes of vampire love interest Angel (DAVID BOREANAZ)). Xander (NICHOLAS BRENDON) who has recently been protected by Buffy dons a military uniform as a way to appear more masculine and aggressive. Willow (ALYSON HANNIGAN) the groups’ thoughtful wallflower toys with the idea of masquerading as a vixen, but in the last minute reverts to her old standby costume, a personality (and sexuality) free ghost.

Unfortunately many of the town’s other inhabitants have chosen much more threatening guises. When Ethan’s spell takes effect, demonoids, werewolves and other assorted beasts begin to roam looking to cause harm. In order to survive the night our three heroes, with the help of unaffected friends Cordelia (CHARISMA CARPENTER) and Angel, must reverse the spell and return to their former selves. Xander and Willow’s new personas come to be quite useful. It’s only Buffy the slayer’s new identity that is a hindrance.

Although unaffected by the night’s magic, Giles (ANTHONY STEWART HEAD), Buffy’s bookish seemingly meek guardian or “watcher” reveals the most profound “other self”. We get glimpses of his previous darker existence through Rayne who turns out to be an old adversary and once friend. When push comes to shove the gloves are off and Giles, by his own free will, is able to transform into what we have perceived to believe thus far as his exact polar opposite. Ultimately the intellectual librarian alone saves the day with sheer force.

By night’s end, Xander has gained retribution for an earlier humiliation and Willow has learned to embrace parts of her persona usually avoided. Buffy who was beginning to think that her all-action, no glamour world of constant slay-age was a turn off to Angel finds that the very parts of herself she has been trying to shake off are the ones that he is most smitten with.

In a way this particular Halloween does turn out to be just like any other day in the Buffyverse. Monsters may roam, vampires may stalk, but the most fascinating thing is always taking place within the minds of its layered-like-gobstoppers primary characters. Characters that battle for self realization as much as saving the world.


FEAR ITSELF

Buffy, Xander and Willow now joined by Willow’s werewolf boyfriend OZ (SETH GREEN), experience yet another revelatory Halloween evening in the series’ fourth season. While attending a fraternity party all of the groups hidden fears come to startling life, thanks to the awakening of a demon. Trapped, separated and left to their own devices, the gang must confront that which has been gnawing on the back of their minds. Oz worries that his lycanthropic nature will be harmful to Willow; Willow worries that she’s dabbling in magic beyond her control; Xander battles his perceived irrelevance in the group; and Buffy comes face to face with her fear of abandonment. Primarily a traditional haunted house tale, scares are perfectly offset by comedic turns provided by Watcher Giles and Xander’s new love interest, the hilariously literal ex-vengeance demon Anya (EMMA CAULFIELD). By episode’s end we learn that all involved are the ones actually providing power to the demon who, when finally revealed, is not half as threatening as their minds would have them believe.

Together both FEAR ITSELF and HALLOWEEN provide a great night of entertainment for those looking to get into the spirit of Halloween. Even those less familiar with the show will find themselves quickly wrapped up in these spirited holiday romps. The combination of scares, laughs and character examination can be found throughout the series’ seven-year run but, with everybody’s favorite day as a backdrop, Buffy’s lantern shines all the brighter.

Traumafessions :: Reader Toni on ACRI Creature Feature

I suppose this was a good program, but I wasn’t old enough to watch it. But the ACRI CREATURE FEATURE commercials scared the living sh&t out of me! I was all of 8 or so, I think. When the commercial came on the screen would go black, and then a small dot in the middle would start to grow. This disembodied, creepy looking head would smile and laugh his evil cackle (HA HA HA). Watch the ACRI CREATURE FEATURE! Eventually when the commercial started I’d run to my mom, close my eyes, and cover my ears.

I have to admit that now this is a funny memory of growing up in the Mid-West. But I would like the shows creators, producers, and sponsor (who is still in business) to know that they certainly did their job well!

UNK SEZ: Toni, I wish I could have located the television spot you are speaking of, but no luck! Here’s a sample of the opening of the show though, which will hopefully bring back some memories for those who were old enough to check it out. Y’all can learn more about the ACRI CREATURE FREATURE HERE

The Hardy Boys And Nancy Drew Meet Dracula

AUNTIE SEZ: Kids, your Unkle Lancifer and I are off today (we’re still trying to track down discount Halloween candy), so please clang your juice boxes together and give a warm Kindertrauma welcome to frequent commenter Professor Von Whiskerson who is going to take us back to a gentler time when that plucky PAMELA SUE MARTIN solved mysteries and stubby singer-songwriters dominated popular culture!

This episode of HARDY BOYS/NANCY DREW MYSTERIES is a two-parter and despite the title, it is NOT a Halloween episode. It is perfect for Halloween, though, complete with a Count, creepy castles, dungeons, costume parties and musical little people.

In this episode, Frank (the good looking Hardy boy), Joe (the Hardy Boy everyone pretends is a good singer), and Nancy Drew (who is better looking than even Frank and non-singing) journey to Vlad Dracula’s castle in Transylvania to find the boy’s missing father. There is a convenient “rock festival” being held at the castle by PAUL WILLIAMS which gives both he and Joe and excuse to sing (separately and in a duet). Yes, THAT PAUL WILLIAMS. He was all over the place back in the ’70s, so I’m surprised it took him until the second season to show up. More on that later. Also guest starring in this episode are LORNE GREENE and BERNIE TAUPIN.

The story starts out with the boys dad, Fenton Hardy, arriving at Castle Dracula to investigate a string of art thefts occurring throughout Europe. Wait. Let’s rewind a second. The story ACTUALLY starts out with a long shot of the castle, silhouetted against the night sky and the howl of a distant wolf. Remember the sound of that wolf. You will hear it about 10 million times during the next 90 minutes. I expect you to down a shot of your favorite hard liquor every time you hear it.

Not long after Mr. Hardy starts creeping around the castle, you (the viewer, in case you forgot) see that he is not alone. There is also a pair of jackboots that follow and capture him. Remember these boots. If you are brave, or have an especially high tolerance to booze, you will want to incorporate them into the drinking game as well.

Frank and Joe arrive in Eastern Europe to search for their father, who they haven’t heard from in several weeks. The first person they meet is Inspector Hans Stavlin, of the Romanian police. Inspector Stavlin is played by none other than Canadian Battlestar Commander LORNE GREENE. Stavlin was working with Mr. Hardy on the art theft ring investigation. Since this is the boy’s show and they can’t be shown up by some commie thug, they discover evidence overlooked by Stavlin.

This evidence takes them first to Munich in a bus driven by Elton John’s songwriter, BERNIE TAUPIN. The cover of being a member of TAUPIN ‘s band is just what the Boys need to trace their father without raising any suspicions. Unfortunately this bus trip is complete with a sing-along of the BEATLE‘s “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” a song I truly despise. It’s not any better when sung by SHAUN CASSIDY and BERNIE TAUPIN. I really hate that song. I think it’s the “oh blah dees” and “oh blah dahs” that I really hate. That and the association with the eponymous T.V. series…but I digress…again…

In Munich there is some mistaken identity involving a hotel bellman, who is probably a Nazi wanted for war crimes, by the Boys and Nancy Drew. Upon their first meeting, Nancy puts some fancy judo on Frank and flips him flat on his butt. The fear on Joe’s face after seeing that is priceless, as is the fear on Nancy’s when she realizes Frank has had it. I expected him to raise a pimp hand to her, but this was a family T.V. show in the ’70s.

It turns out that Nancy had been working with Mr. Hardy on the investigation (No one ever said Fenton couldn’t pick ’em). Everyone compares notes then it’s off to Transylvania, and the “Dracula Festival” at the castle. The festival is being televised nightly to television audiences in the U.S. and is the brainchild of “rock star” Allison Troy. I put “rock star” in “quotes” because Troy is being “played” by singer, songwriter, and “actor” PAUL WILLIAMS.

Now a bit about PAUL WILLIAMS. I haven’t done the math, and CASEY KASEM is no longer on American Top 40 for me to write in and ask, but I think PAUL WILLIAMS may have written 40-60% of the songs that came out between 1974 and 1980. He is a very 70’s phenomenon, the likes of which we shall never witness again. He had a major role in DePALMA‘s PHANTOM OF PARADISE, and a song from that movie is featured in this episode. He also wrote “Rainbow Connection” from THE MUPPET MOVIE, one of my favorite songs of all time, and slightly kinder-traumatic with its melancholy undertones.

The rock festival itself is a pretty cool piece of T.V. production. The castle set is convincing, the bands are in continuous rotation, and all the guests wear the kind of really cool costumes that I dreamed I’d be able to wear at a Halloween party one day, but couldn’t because I wore glasses. Those masks at Spencer’s Gifts were almost worth being blind for, but alas, ’twas not to be. Oh yeah, Joe (CASSIDY) sings several songs like “That’s Rock n’ Roll” (no its not, SHAUN!). CASSIDY makes the strangest faces while singing and Frank is ALWAYS quick to come up with an excuse to leave the room before it gets this far.

There’s lots of other cool stuff that I won’t spoil, but some really great scenes are still in store, like:

  • The Burgermeister Meisterburger gets attacked in the catacombs!
  • Nancy’s battle with a vampire bat, while wearing a nightgown! (Nancy, not the bat)
  • Frankenstein’s slow dance with his girlfriend!
  • Opening Dracula’s coffin!
  • Angry villagers!
  • The final showdown with the vampire!

I was just a couple of years too young to get to enjoy this show when it first aired, but with the magic of DVDs and the prompting of Mickster, I’ve become hooked on it. There were several episodes that would be fitting during the Halloween season besides this one. I like the Hardy Boys episodes and the Nancy Drew ones equally, and I just wish that the split between them was equal. The show became more Hardy-centric during the second season and PAMELA SUE MARTIN left halfway through it. Even more changes were in store for Season 3 which is not yet released on DVD. Seasons 1 & 2 are available though. At the risk of sounding like a stereotypical old person, they don’t make shows like this or KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER anymore. Seeing them for the first time as a grown up just reinforces how great they were.

Kinder-News :: Don’t Miss the Parade!

kindertrauma halloween parade

Hey kids, in one week, that’s just seven days from now, Kindertrauma will be throwing  its first ever Halloween Parade. If you haven’t already, please stop whatever it is you are doing and send us a snapshot of you in your bestest Halloween duds when you were a kid.

And if you don’t have one handy, now is the perfect time to get your Mom or Pop or Nanna or applicable shutterbug relative on the horn and get him or her to send it to you. If they refuse to cooperate, your Aunt John strongly suggests blackmail, intimidation, threats of bodily harm, and all other forms of coercion.

Just do what you got to do, and please send your pictures to us at kindertrauma@gmail.com by Thursday, October 30th.

Traumafessions :: Reader Alicia on Giant Nose-Face Ad

I must admit, the thing that traumatized me most as a child was not in fact a scary movie at all, but a television commercial that would never be considered scary now. You must look at this from the eyes of a sensitive five-year-old child. The commercial was for a nasal-spray type of decongestant. I do not remember the brand, as I never watched the commercial for that long.

Anyway, the congested person featured on the commercial had a giant nose in place of a head. (I found out years later that once they used said decongestant, they had a regular head again.) I have no idea why this scarred my fragile psyche so much at the time, but every time the commercial came on, I ran from our family room screaming “IT’S THE BIG NOSE!”

I was frightened by this commercial for years. Even now, 14 years later, the thought of someone with an abnormally large nose in place of a head scares me. This is a humiliating traumafession, but I had to get it off of my chest somehow.

Traumafessions :: Kinderpal Amanda By Night on The Prisoner’s “Rover”


UNK SEZ: Halloween came early to Kindertrauma Castle when we recently opened our gates to the ultimate treat! The wisest of the wise, AMANDA BY NIGHT dropped by for some spiked cider and ginger snaps. Being the ultimate source for all things television related, we also got her to fix our reception by climbing up top the west tower and nudging our makeshift, clothes hanger bunny ears! Always the charmer, before she took off into the night she was kind enough to leave us with something we had been dreaming about all evening, an AMANDA traumafession! Aunt John whipped out a peacock quill and diligently took down her every word. Here is what she told us…

I have thought long and hard about my Kindertraumas after finding this great site. I have so many of them! And a lot are mentioned here already, so to be all unique and stuff, I really went into the recesses of those blocked traumas… you know the ones you purposely forget because they are so absolutely terrifying that you still get chills to this day? Well, I dug pretty deep and came up with a doozy.

I was under 7 years of age. I know this because I was still living in our house in Ventura, CA. But how much younger is in question. All I remember is going into my parents’ bedroom and they were watching television.

* A note about my parents who both passed away in 2005 – First of all, they were terrific and they also loved the creepy stuff, although they would never admit it. My dad read true crime and my mom secretly indulged in horror films every so often with me, and was a devout fan of all mysteries in all forms of media. They also worked at Camarillo State Hospital which was one of the largest mental hospitals in the ‘70s. I remember that for a time my dad worked on the violent ward (talk about traumas!). They were really involved with the darker aspects of life, so it’s kind of funny to think that they were so perplexed as to why I ended up loving horror movies so much. They pretty much gave me carte blanche on what I saw too, just as long as they had some idea of what I was putting into my head. However, they never warned me about what they might be watching!

So, back to my story… I came into their bedroom and they were watching their usual hoity toity PBS stuff – I had no idea what it was at the time – and this guy is somewhere… I dunno… maybe he’s running, I can’t remember. And this giant balloon comes down upon him… and I think he’s screaming! The guy, not the balloon… but that would have been even creepier!

Uh, aren’t balloons a childhood symbol of joy? This balloon was, like, killing this guy or something. It was absolutely horrifying. Still is when I think about it.

I’m not even sure when it was that I discovered it was a scene from the popular British series THE PRISONER, but I did and I have avoided that show ever since. I just looked it up to see if I could find any images or information about the balloon. The most shocking thing I read was a definition of Rover (i.e. the murderous balloon) on Wikipedia:

Rover was depicted as a large white inflatable balloon, not quite fully inflated, with a flexible skin. Rover would often produce a muffled roar sound when attacking. It would also sometimes emit a strange light display / luminescence from its interior. Once released, Rover could bounce and glide across the land and sea for a long range and at high speed, faster than say a vehicle or boat.

Rover is pure evil. Like, totally. But at the same time, remembering him reminds me of my parents and that makes Rover’s deadly blow not so bad.

NOTE: The amazing AMANDA BY NIGHT knows no bounds! Besides her endlessly useful hideout/tribute to all things tube-related MADE FOR TV MAYHEM, she’s also got a killer column over at PRETTY SCARY called LIFETIME KILLS, a drop-in-anytime stint at the ever praiseworthy HORROR YEARBOOK (Check out this spot-on post LITTLE KNOWN HORROR TREASURES) AND she’s known to keep the blood flowing freely over at the inimitable RETRO SLASHERS BLOG! How does she do it? We’ll never know. All we know is that if she rocked any harder, she’d be Stonehenge!