The Real Ghostbusters Episode 8: ‘When Halloween Was Forever’ (1986)

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After the top-flight villainy of the last few episodes, J. Michael Stracsynzki goes for broke once again for the third time in a row, delivering another highly entertaining antagonist in the form of Samhain, a pumpkin-headed demon who wants to keep October 31st around for eternity. I like Halloween, so to be honest, Samhain’s dastardly scheme sounds like fun. Actually, scratch that. It would have been if the telly still showed horror films on Halloween night, but since they don’t do that anymore, maybe this idea isn’t all that great. Plus, constant knocks on the door from trick or treating would get very tiresome very quickly.

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So we kick off this episode with a TV broadcast covering the guys’ latest bust. The reporter is Cynthia Crawford, a semi-regular character who will get a bigger role in fan-favourite episode ‘Citizen Ghost’ Peter gets a good comeback when she quotes his earlier assurance that the day’s fiendishly difficult bust would be a ‘minor job, a piece of cake’. He says ‘I never said that. Even if I said it, I never said it’, which is the kind of thing a rumbled politician would say on Newsnight. The reason the guys are finding their work a nightmare is because Halloween is approaching, and some 7th century Irish relics of have just arrived in town….this exposition is quite amusing, everyone positing their theories on the day’s chaos, all the while Egon is busy at work, offering nothing but non-committal ‘mm-hmm’s, which leads to the revelation that the persuasive method of demanding information lest Slimer makes a mess of your socks is used by more than one person in the house. As Peter says as he tosses Slimer a lollipop, ‘who says blackmail’s a lost art?’ We get some neat information about the origins of Halloween from Egon and Ray, and despite the fact that Peter greets this info with a rude ‘what’s the point?’ I for one am grateful that a children’s show took the time to educate its viewers, as well as horrify them.

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Two ghouls, one of which looks like one of the trolls from ‘Troll Bridge’, visit the relics and use a spell to release Samhain from them, and the build-up is somewhat spoiled by those pesky synth-poppers Tahiti, who sing about Frankenstein grooving or something. Not the most frightening soundtrack to this most delightfully wicked of ghosts. Actually, his pumpkin head looks quite cute in some shots – I guess it’s the round shape, it makes him look like a big baby. However, he does have a nasty grin that makes him infinitely less cute. Speaking of cute, Samhain’s call to ‘all things not of this earth’ also involves him regularly referring all of his ghastly ghost subjects as ‘little ones’, which makes them sound a lot more adorable than they really are. You’d think they are little puppies the way he asks the Ghostbusters to stop ‘bothering his little ones’. He even calls them ‘innocent creatures’ at one point.

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Anyway, Samhain’s call acts like catnip to all the spectres in town, and they begin causing havoc. One bloke has his apple-bobbing ruined when he’s pulled into the water barrel by a bunch of spectral nuisances. Janine is played for a fool by the two goblin ghosts who trick or treat her and she doesn’t realise they’re not wearing costumes. They send her flying across the HQ reception, and she loses her cool via a physically impossible and really quite insane pose which involves her well….just look at the screengrab. Crazy animation.

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So the guys go out on the chase, and in an act of quite preposterous delusion assume the glowing trees in the park is due to the fact that it’s Christmas and the festive lights are on. Then it dawns non Ray – ‘Wait! It’s not Christmas!’ Seriously, how have three quarters of the Ghostbusters got PhDs? At moments like this I fear for the city of New York that these are their saviours against the supernatural forces of darkness. Meanwhile, Slimer is beckoned by Samhain, who has gathered all the ghosts to form a swirling ring of evil at the summit of a skyscraper. Samhain susses out that Slimer’s a good guy as he ‘has the stench of mortals about him’, and threatens him that he will ‘pay the price’ if he doesn’t turn to the dark side. This warning culminates in a particularly cool end-of-act shot where Samhain’s mouth and eyes become a bright blue glow and everything else turns dark.

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More chaos ensues at the start of Act 2 where two hapless fools think that they’ve escaped the city-wide horror of a full-on ghost invasion by running into a café. Turns out the staff and patrons are all skeletons. We never find out what happens to this couple. The guys continue to bust and bust without any end in sight, and that’s when they realise that time is slowing down and that Halloween might be sticking around for a while. To confirm this, we see a news bulletin where the newsreader is inexplicably in clown garb. He’s saying that night is falling everywhere…

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Meanwhile, Samhain has caught wind of the guys attempts to bother his ‘little ones’ and for some reason the foreboding theme that accompanies this sequence fades out only to immediately start all over again as Ray twigs that the origins of Halloween stem from the ‘Feast of Samhain’ and that Samhain is invincible! Well maybe not, as Egon produces a torchlight in quick-fire time, and it turns out that, as is the case with Homer Simpson, light is not Samhain’s friend. That really winds up Samhain to no end, and Peter reckons that his ‘poor self image’ is the reason for his bad attitude. Egon works out that light is the key, but there’s a city-wide power cut just as he says this, so the guys prepare for Plan B.

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Samhain turns his attention to Slimer, promising him that if he renounces the Ghostbusters, he may be ‘permitted to exist’. Maybe? Great deal. Slimer blows a raspberry right in Samhain’s chops, so the other ghosts seize him and start stretching him like dough. Samhain’s a sly one though, knowing that Slimer alive will be more of use to him than otherwise. The guys start stealing some bumper lights, the kind they use for the Bat Signal in Batman, distracting some goblins by calling them ‘zone dweebies’. Ah, bless family-friendly insults. Meanwhile, the other guys make it to the top of the haunted skyscraper to confront Samhain, but Egon’s plan to illuminate the summit with light fails because of a power shortage (‘sometimes I think the universe just waits for me to get cocky’ is the memorable exclamation), and Slimer is helpless as his head is, well, massaged into nothingness.

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All seems lost until a reliable scream of ‘pizza!’ sends him out of his soporific stupor and he escapes just in time for the light to work and for Samhain to be effectively cornered so that he can be trapped. Samhain gets stored in the containment unit but when the guys peek in the Ecto-viewfinder in the hope of seeing a wildly furious detainee, they’re surprised to see him simply waiting patiently, biding his time, waiting for the day when he becomes free again. As Egon says, ‘he waited twelve hundred years to be free, he’ll wait for his chance again’. A would-be chilling ending, were it not for Janine playing a Halloween prank on the guys, which leads to them getting their revenge off-screen. God only know what they’re doing to Janine, but she exclaims that it ‘tickles’. Saying that, that is a chilling ending to a bright, funny episode that sees this first season going strong as ever.

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