As Halloween approaches, we round up some of the funniest —and most frightening— moments from our favorite shows
Ghosts, monsters, witches, demons, zombies, serial killers, malignant beings in general…. few Western festivals can boast such a wide range of aesthetic references as Halloween, a veritable smorgasbord for writers of television series who are searching for visually attractive stories and don’t hold back when putting their characters in unexpected situations.
In comedies, animations and audiovisual productions of practically all genres, it’s common to see special episodes around this date, whose contemporary format is a fusion of the celtic festival of Sahmain —a celebration of the meeting of the world of the living and that of the dead at the end of Harvest season, replete with skulls, enchanted pumpkins and things of that nature— and the Christian festivities that mark All Saints’ Day.
In the Anglo-Saxon world, Halloween has become a type of carnival, a time to dress up and live a fantasy without inhibitions. So, with this in mind, we’ve brought together eight mythical Halloween episodes that go way beyond terror.
The fifth episode of the 23rd (yep, 23rd!) season is a Halloween special filled of black humor, as is typical of this long-lasting animated production. But this is not, by any stretch of the imagination, the best of the more than 10 South Park episodes dedicated to this subject.
That title belongs to the very first, which aired in 1997, the year in which a group of primary-school kids in a small and chilly Colorado town made their debut. In the seventh episode, Kenny is murdered and comes back as a zombie. Given his rather unusual way of ‘speaking,’ no-one realizes it.
When townspeople begin to turn up without a pulse, cold, with bulging red eyes and a hunger for human brains, everyone concludes the obvious: this has to be an outbreak of conjunctivitis, of course.
It’s true that the entire series is full of mysteries, unexpected twists and an 80s atmosphere which evokes the spirit of Halloween. But the second episode of the second season, "Trick or Treat, Freak", encapsulates it. The four central boys dress as Ghostbusters to hustle for sweets around town, they come up against some strange situations at school, they panic when they run into a group of dressed-up older kids— and one of them, Will, witnesses something very spooky.
Buffy, Vampire Slayer
In the sixth episode of the second season of the series —known in Latin America as "Buffy, la Cazavampiros"– the eponymous main character and her band of monster-exterminators choose to go to their Halloween party dressed as characters that reflect exactly the opposite of their own personalities. But it turns out that the costumes are cursed, and our heroin has to confront, with the powers of a fragile aristocrat from the 18th century, a bunch of terrible creatures released on the night of October 31.
In this comedy about the day-to-day lives of a group of students at a community college in the United States, the Halloween episode (the second of the sixth season) is a catharsis. A mysterious contaminated meat served at a party leads to an outbreak of undead visitors who, as well as frightening us (a bit), make us laugh (a lot).
Although some may disagree, few environments are less frightening than an office— which is what makes the second episode of the fifth season of this series, an American adaptation of its original British namesake created by Ricky Gervais, so funny.
The management team of the paper factory tell the hilarious Michael Scott (Steve Carrell) to fire someone by the end of the month of October. Of course, he puts it off until the last possible moment, the 31st, when he tries to “assassinate” different colleagues.
American Horror Story
It’s impossible for there not to be supernatural and monstrous beings in this series about a family that lives in an enchanted house. Deaths, mysteries, intrigues from the past and a whole lot of blood make up not one, but two episodes for this Halloween special.
How I Met Your Mother
Like the show’s titular mom whose appearance is held back until the very end, we don’t initially get to see the Slutty Pumpkin when she flirts with Ted in the first season, during a Halloween party. Our hero loses sight of her but sees her again a long time afterwards - in fact at another Halloween festival, this time in the seventh season.
When we finally meet her, Slutty is played by the star Katie Holmes. A lot of laughs and gags make this an iconic and unforgettable chapter.
It’s a tough job to choose one single episode from all the Simpsons’ ‘Treehouse of Horror’ specials, which present compilations of Halloween-related content every year. Great classics of cinema keep cropping up in an endless list of references, and the animations take on different colours and very distinct atmospheres.
The Halloween chapter from the fifth season (1994), however, stands out above all others. We see a brilliant parody of ‘The Shining’, by Stanley Kubrick, in which Homer goes crazy and tries to kill his own family; groundskeeper Willie is killed with an axe; and the school cafeteria services up chunks of the bodies of bad students. A plethora of other especially dark jokes set a marker down not just for The Simpsons, both for other series that explore the fantasy of death, blood and humour that lives in the Halloween universe.