Editorial: Halloween in SOUTH PARK
October is here and it’s the time of the year when some of our favorite TV shows embrace our beloved genre in a celebration of everything spooky and creepy. We have The Simpsons annual “Treehouse of Horror”, Cupcake Wars becomes Halloween Wars and last year we got to see the gang from Black-ish go out and purge when ABC did a family-friendly parody of the Blumhouse franchise in an episode simply called “The Purge.”
Some of the most fun and twisted Halloween episodes comes from the sharpshooting minds of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who clearly are fans the horror genre. And as a lot of us already know, they are always up-to-date with the most current pop cultural phenomena.
Unfortunately, due to changes in the production schedule after the third season, the Halloween festivities are not an annual thing in South Park. Still, there’s enough weird stuff going on in the small Colorado mountain town that you get the feeling that any day could be Halloween. I mean, where else are alien abductions and the rise of Cthulhu a common thing? Hell, we even get to see Barbra Streisand turn into a Mecha-Streisand who goes on a rampage and wreak havoc on South Park, Kaiju-style.
So if you are new to South Park or if you're already a fan who just wants to rewatch some of the episodes, here are five picks that are perfect to view -- or just to have on in the background while carving pumpkins -- on All Hallow´s Eve.
1. A Nightmare on Face Time
In “A Nightmare on Face Time”, Stan´s father Randy surprises his family with the purchase of a Blockbuster store on the outskirts of town with the purpose of starting a family business and getting rich.
“It’s awesome. You should try to get it on that Ancient Civilizations show so that people can see how cultures used to live,” Stan responds to Randy´s excitement when he is giving his family the tour of the video store. Because who rents physical copies of movies when you can stream pretty much any movie you want to instantly on your iPad, right? It quickly turns out that no one in South Park has any interest in that, and the absence of customers quickly drives Randy into a Jack Torrance-type insanity as he roams the empty aisles of his Blockbuster store, talking to the ghosts in his head, in one the best parodies of The Shining I've seen.
There’s also a subplot where Parker and Stone takes another riff on the streaming vs physical media debate, when the children, who are dressed as The Avengers for their night of trick or treats, come across a gang of thieves called “The Redbox Killers” who are robbing Redbox DVD vending machines in search of cash. Of course, this isn't the most brilliant idea, considering how the people of South Park are consuming their movies.
For some of the readers that grew up with going to the video store every weekend to rent movies and who might see this episode as a melancholic love letter to a bygone era of our lives, this will probably not be one of the most laugh out loud funny episodes of the show. But it is a reminder of a part of our childhood that doesn't exist anymore. Even though there's some truly funny stuff going on, chances are that you might feel a little sad inside. However, it still it is one of the best Halloween episodes this show has brought us.
2. Hell on Earth 2006
Satan plans to throw the biggest and baddest party the world has ever seen on Halloween, in this satirical take on MTV´s My Super Sweet 16. Like the people in the show, the King of Hell himself acts like a spoiled teenager who yells out demands one second and throws hormonal fits the next when his henchmen and party planners aren't on par with his high expectations. Three of those henchmen are none other than Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy, who are entrusted to pick up and deliver a life size Ferrari cake to the party in a parody of The Three Stooges. The result is as violent and bloody as it is funny as you would expect from a South Park vaudeville involving three serial killers.
Meanwhile, in the town of South Park, the kids are busy challenging each other to play “Biggie Smalls”, a Bloody Mary-type game. The only one brave enough to finish the game is Butters who ends up summoning the late Notorious B.I.G, who, under gun threat, forces Butters to take him to Satan's party in Los Angeles, which isn’t the easiest task since kids all over the country keep summoning the rapper.
This is a super funny episode that holds no punches when it comes to offensiveness. But hey, it´s Halloween in South Park, so anything goes, right?
3. Dead Celebrities
When Ike starts seeing the ghosts of (then) recently deceased celebrities, his brother Kyle and his friends step in to help him out. In doing so, they contact the reality TV show Ghost Hunters, who show up to the Broflovski house and the result is hilarious. When Ike ends up in a coma and getting possessed by the spirit of Michael Jackson, the solution to his problem comes in the form of Zelda Rubinstein copy, Dr Tangina, which of course is a reference to Poltergeist’s Tangina Barrons.
Okay, so technically this isn´t a Halloween episode. It aired a few weeks before, but it was October, plus the plot and the references in the episode makes it perfect Halloween viewing. And the readers who have seen Ghost Hunters or Toddlers and Tiaras will have a blast with this one as Parker and Stone take shots at those reality shows and child beauty pageants in general. It's fun to note that the real life hosts of Ghost Hunters loved the episode.
It´s offensive and in bad taste, which probably is one of the reasons why we love the show, but it's also a funny and smart episode that acts as a commentary on our society's obsession with -- and the media's exploitation -- of celebrities.
4. Korn's Groovy Pirate Ghost Mystery
It’s Halloween in South Park and the metal band Korn are coming to town to play a show in honor of the festivities. But Father Maxi is doing everything in his power to stop them and ‘their satanic music’ being played for the residents of his little town. That’s not the only problem South Park has: the town is also being haunted by the murderous ghosts of dead pirates.
Back in 1999, Korn were on top of their game and one of the biggest metal acts in the world. With music videos on TV, songs being played on radio, sold out shows and world tours, they were on everybody's tongue and a solidified name in pop culture history. So why not bring them onto the show? That´s what the two creators did, and they brought them to town driving a van that looked like the Mystery Machine. The episode plays out like an old school Scooby-Doo adventure, only with a South Park twist involving grave robbery, necrophilia and a life-sized Antonio Banderas blow-up doll.
In this episode, which is the first Halloween episode Parker and Stone did, the Mir Space Station crashes on Kenny and kills him. When his body is brought to the morgue to be drained and filled with embalming fluid, one of the morticians’ bottle of Worcestershire sauce accidently falls into the embalming fluid which turns Kenny into a flesh eating zombie and soon South Park is overrun with the walking dead.
It´s hard to believe that is has been 20 years since this episode originally aired, and it still holds up just as perfectly today as it did back in 1997. Pinkeye is like a more offensive episode of The Walking Dead, where the finale brings mayhem galore as Cartman and Stan are fighting off zombies with chainsaws in the biggest bloodbath South Park has ever seen. Plus we get to see zombie Chef do his best Michael Jackson impersonation in a short, but nonetheless awesome, parody of the “Thriller” video. We will probably never see something like that on AMC's hit show.