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Halloween Tree

Based on a Ray Bradbury story, this enchanting Halloween special takes a group of kids on a journey through time to learn about the holiday’s origins and other ancient traditions.  The story is a bit mysterious, enough to keep the youngest viewers from figuring out what’s going on half the time, but there’s nothing truly frightening about it all.  It’s part education and part thrills, and there’s a sweet ending.  The narration was done by Bradbury himself, so that’s an interesting bit of trivia for fans.  There’s plenty of Halloween shenanigans, the music is suitably enthralling, and the voice acting isn’t half bad, especially where Mr. Nimoy is concerned.  The animation is well done, too.  This is a Halloween classic for any list.

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This Disney tv movie series was originally based on a children’s book.  The first film is cute and fun and has some light humor and light action.  The acting isn’t the greatest, but it’s all meant as light-hearted fun, and there are definitely some bright spots.  Debbie Reynolds was her usual sweet self, and her daughter and granddaughter weren’t half-bad, either.  There are a few plotholes, but it’s not really meant to be intelligent fare, just family-friendly Halloween fun.  If you can’t stand kids show acting and cheap practical effects, this one isn’t for you, but it does have an interesting plotline.

The first sequel pits our witches against the son of the villain from the first film.  There’s a different tone from the original, and the town itself looks different.  Most of the characters don’t have much to do, but there is some fun time-travel shenanigans.  Basically, it’s more light Halloween fun and a teensy bit of character development.  There’s also a change made to the way between-world magic works, and that’s interesting.

The third movie in the series doesn’t have anything to do with the town itself at all.  The tone is entirely different, and there’s a whole crop of new characters to keep you busy.  It’s still cute and fun, but the environment is more normal, and so are the people.  It’s a completely different story from the first one and has less to do with Halloween than either of the first two films, but it does have a nice ending.

There’s one more movie in this franchise, but I haven’t seen it.  The main character was recast, and the whole thing looked like a rip-off of Harry Potter, including a completely new tone, environment, and hardly any of the original characters.  I skipped it.

Sleepy Hollow

Another Tim Burton classic, this one is highly stylized without losing the humor or the scares.  The acting is well done, if a bit over the top.  The music is suitably creepy and enchanting.  The writing is a bit stilted at times, but it’s meant to copy an old-fashioned style.  The effects are good, although the blood is a bit too bright and excessive, but I suspect that was done on purpose.  The story is altered from the original to make Ichabod more of a hero, albeit a squeamish, jittery one.  There’s also a clear villain other than the horseman himself.  The mystery is compelling, and there are true moments of fright.  It’s not too terribly Tim Burton-y but still has his signature doom and gloom.  It evokes the appropriate amount of tension and excitement.  If you’re looking for a genuinely scary version of the Sleepy Hollow tale, this is the one to choose.  Definitely not for younger viewers, but it can still become one of your Halloween favorites.

Frankenweenie

This one is the old live-action version that Tim Burton made with Disney before he became popular enough to command his own people.  Unhappy with the results, Disney never made much of it, at least until Burton got really famous.  It has a few familiar faces and some decent acting and cinematography.  It’s a cute little story about a Frankenstein dog, as you could probably guess.  The star of the show is the young protagonist who brings his best friend back to life.  There are some classic Burton-style shots, but it’s mostly missing the uber-creep factor that most of his stuff has.  It’s more family-friendly than a lot of his movies and almost feels like a parody of older Frankenstein movies.

Vincent

This short wasn’t originally released anywhere, but now you can find it on the Nightmare Before Christmas dvd.  It’s classic Tim Burton animation and gloom.  Best of all, it’s narrated by Vincent Prince himself.  It’s short enough to be a pre-movie cartoon and has enough cute but creepy jokes to keep everyone interested.  It’s definitely a good showcase of where Burton got his start.

If you’re a fan of Tim Burton and/or weird stuff, you’ve already seen this modern classic.  Our hero Jack grows tired of Halloween and tries to take over Christmas, while secondary protagonist Sally tries to prevent the disaster she sees coming as a result of his actions.  The music is enchanting, the voice acting is superlative, and the stop-motion animation is eye-catching.  Some of the creatures are a little gross, and there are some scares that might be a bit much for the youngest viewers.  But overall, it’s delightful, creepy fun and perfect as the bridge between holidays.

This Dr. Seuss classic isn’t as well known as How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but it’s just as good.  It doesn’t seem to be part of the same canon, however.  The Grinch is at his Grinchiest, so it can’t take place after the Christmas special.  But at the end of the show, Max the dog leaves him, so it can’t take place before Christmas, either.  It doesn’t matter much, as there isn’t a connected storyline.  It’s only a Halloween show based on the title, as there’s no trick-or-treating or costume parties in the plot.  A seasonal wind sets up a series of unconnected events that result in the Grinch setting off on an annual trip to town in order to be a Grinch.  A young boy attempts to stall him and winds up getting a face-full of creepy Grinch magic.  It’s not the most detailed or impressive story, but the animation is typical Seussian magic, and the music is catchy.  It’s a lot of fun and just the right amount of Halloween creepiness.