I decided to take it easy yesterday and watch something I knew would be straight-up fun. While certainly a departure given it was a television series, I still feel the tone and tenor of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is acceptable for this October Horror campaign.
There are certainly more frightening episodes of the series such as ‘Hush,’ but the season two and season four Halloween episodes compliment each other nicely thematically and within the show itself.
The premise is simple–on Halloween demons and vampires take the day off because it’s tacky to hunt, hurt, or scheme. This leaves the big bad as usually some nefarious human.
Season 2 Episode 6: “Halloween”
Ethan Rayne comes to town selling Halloween costumes. Little does anyone know that Rayne is an evil worshiper of Janus looking to sow chaos. He casts a spell making anyone who is wearing a costume from his shop become that costume in real life. It is a delightful premise probably only matched by the episode Band Candy. Spike is all of us as he wanders Sunnydale witnessing the madness around him with a smirk, “This is…neat!”
I love this episode because it becomes an opportunity for the main characters to play against type. It especially deepens the character of Giles. It’s revealed that Rayne knows Giles from long ago and that there is something in Giles’ past that is violent and/or chaotic like Rayne himself. Hearing Giles called ‘Ripper’ is both funny and ominous and then watching Giles savagely beat Rayne to put an end to the spell is rather bad-ass.
Buffy, Season 4 Episode 4: “Fear Itself”
This Halloween episode is premised on stupidity or, rather, ignorance. Some frat boys inadvertently summon a fear demon who turns their novelty haunted house into one where your deepest fear comes true. When the Scoobies attend the haunted house party they quickly realize something is amiss but are left neutered as it were, crippled by their own fears unaware they are manifested illusions.
In terms of the series, this is a great episode because it brings to the surface underlying tensions within the group. They all literally and figurative have to face their fears, a move that is quintessentially Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There are slew of jokes and references made in this episode not only to other episodes but for upcoming ones. The brilliance of Anya’s bunny costume is matched only by Oz’s deadpan ‘Hello My Name Is: God’ costume. Again, this is a romp of an episode but like the previous Halloween episode it has real worth not just for the season’s story arc but more so for character development.