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How Halloween entertainment turned into tradition

By Michael Connor 

Halloween means different things for many people. For a majority, the thrill of receiving candy in exchange for dressing up in costume and knocking on a neighbor’s door is the most prominent childhood memory. My case was no exception and I have memories that will last a lifetime. Trick or treating with a lifelong friend who is like a brother and making strategic candy trades with him rates among the most memorable. 

As enjoyable as candy hunting is, Halloween entertainment in the forms of film and television immortalizes and increases the seasonal experience and becomes a crucial part of one’s Halloween memories. Everyone has seen a certain horror film that is unforgettable or a suspenseful television show that has stimulated a sense of thrill and fear. 

Watching Stephen King’s IT, released in 1990, was perhaps the most terrifying Halloween experience I’ve ever had. When I was around 11-years-old, the lifelong friend I spoke about earlier convinced me to watch the film with him. I’m not one to back out easy, and at that age, being a chicken to youthful dares is unthinkable. 

I can’t recall how much of the film we actually watched, but it had a lasting effect. Since then, and I’ll admit this, I have become petrified of clowns. I used to have a window in my bathroom, and was always fearful that Pennywise was going to jump out at me. 

My favorite Halloween related television program during my childhood is perhaps one of the season’s most welcoming and iconic, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Growing up in Florida, it gave me a sense of fall and I felt its timeless characters were like friends. I still find it to be a tradition to watch every year, and look forward to the nostalgic feelings it provides. It definitely brings back the inner child in me, and I’m sure others can relate. 

Two classic sitcoms I grew up with were The Munsters and The Addams Family, which were both massively successful 1960’s shows. Both embraced themes of horror and spookiness, while remaining family-oriented, amusing, and comical. While the sitcoms were not strictly seasonal based, they were inspired by the Halloween spirit and brought themed elements in millions of American homes. I still watch episodes of these shows once-in-awhile and appreciate the old-fashioned family values embedded in them. 

Another quintessential Halloween film is The Nightmare Before Christmas. Released in 1993, it has undoubtedly become a classic and a cult-like fan favorite. Although the film is light-hearted and at points humourous, it does a great job of honoring the Halloween spirit. It is definitely a Halloween themed film for all viewers and does not overemphasize on horror, which makes sense since it is stop-motion animation based and family-focused. 

It would be a mistake to exclude classic 1980’s Halloween staples such as Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Halloween in a discussion about memorable Halloween entertainment. These films which introduced fan favorite and infamous characters such as Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krugger, and Michael Myers respectively, are some of the most well-known and recognizable entries in the horror genre. These films have gained mass followings and have become massive financial blockbusters resulting in countless of sequels and spin-offs. 

Most of the content so far mentioned is not recent in nature and has aged well enough to gain a “classic” or “iconic” status. One modern entry in the Halloween space, which I predict will become a classic our generation’s children will grow up on, is Netflixs’ Stranger Things. My first experience with the show was during my freshman year here at The University of Tampa back in the fall of 2016. 

I was in AWR 101 and not only were fellow students recommending Stranger Things, but even my professor. I decided to give it a try, despite reservations, after my professor convinced me to watch the first three episodes open-mindedly. Like millions around the world, I got hooked and it became a show I greatly enjoyed. 

As the variety of content discussed suggests, among many other themed films and television shows, there is Halloween based entertainment for all ages and every viewer. Creating seasonal films and television programs is a lucrative business for Hollywood, but it’s the horror genre and the spookiness factor in television and family entertainment that has cemented the Halloween spirit and its ability to be felt on a daily basis. 

Everyone has a favorite Halloween film or television show, and I’m sure annual traditions will be, once again, embraced this season. I’m about to go grab a pumpkin spiced latte at Starbucks and relive the nostalgia It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and The Nightmare Before Christmas provides. It’s simply that time of year. 

Michael Connor can be reached at Michael.connor@spartans.ut.edu

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