They said it couldn’t be done. A fifth year of 31 Days of Horror? 31 more terror, gore and shower scene-filled movies worth highlighting? But Rejects always say die and never back away from a challenge (unless you count that time Kevin Carr dared Robert Fure to tattoo a sexy pumpkin onto his forehead), so we’ve rounded up the horror fans among us and put together another month’s worth of genre fun. Enjoy!
Four friends out for a night of Halloween fun find themselves in a fight for another friend’s very soul in this animated adaptation of Ray Bradbury short novel. Pip’s body is sick in the hospital while his spirit is pursued by the malevolent Moundshroud (voiced by Leonard Nimoy), and it’s up to the four kids to save their friend and learn about Halloween’s history along the way.
“In every town, in every tiny village, the old religions hid out. And all the little lollygagging cults, all flavors and types, scrambled to survive. By every crossroad and by every haystack, dark forms jumped across flames as fires burned everywhere.” The kids learn about the history of witches, how they were basically just people, usually women, who seemed too smart and inquisitive for their own good. We see villagers marching towards the “witches” and burning them out with blazing torches, and the scene puts a tragically human face on the kids’ idea of monsters.
Virgins in horror films are usually the ones who survive, and seeing as this is a cartoon based on a story by Bradbury it’s probably safe to assume none of these characters have made the beast with two backs.
The violence here is relegated to the falls and jostles that come from the kids chasing after Pip and being chased by Moundshroud. It’s cartoon violence (obviously) and in good fun, and none of it feels the least bit excessive.
Again, it’s an animated kids film, but there are still some fine chills and thrills to be found. In addition to the scene highlighted above there are scares to be found in each of the segments as various creatures of the night make their presence known. One towards the end is especially effective as the gang visits Mexico during the Day of the Dead celebration and finds the living dead and Pip during a frightening visit to a tomb.
Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree is a fun and enlightening little adventure that manages some excitement alongside the education. It’s rare for children’s entertainment to take time to impart actual knowledge these days, but the film (like Bradbury’s original story) offers real historical insight into the mummies, witches and monsters of the night that we all take for granted. More than that, the story manages a higher emotional content than expected too as the friends step up to make a desperate offer to save Pip’s life.
The film won an Emmy in 1993 for Bradbury’s script, but while it was released on VHS shortly after airing it’s never been available on DVD until now. Warner Archive released it as an MOD (manufacturing on demand) title last month. As is typical with MOD titles there are no special features, but finally having the film to watch again and share with new generations is enough of a reward.
How Can You See It? –
Blu-ray / DVD / Netflix