“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” That’s right, the fang-tastic fall season is back! The staff here at Nerds and Beyond are hanging up the cobwebs and looking back at some of our favorite series’ Halloween themed episodes. For this post, we are going to take a “jump to the left. And then a step to the right. With your hand on your hips…” while we go back to October 26, 1999, when the Buffy the Vampire Slayer season four episode “Fear, Itself” first aired.
“I was just thinking about the life of a pumpkin. Grow up in the sun, happily entwined with others, and then someone comes along, cuts you open, and rips your guts out.”
A show that has the words “vampire slayer” in the title, you would think that it be hard to have a specific episode dedicated to Halloween. Well, they actually have a few. In this one, they embrace and take a haunted house idea very literally and realistically. It starts with the fun activity of carving pumpkins in Xander’s (Nicholas Brendon) basement, talking about their Halloween plans, and going to the party on campus at the Alpha-Delta frat house. Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) figures Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) would want her to patrol. She gets a surprise when showing up at his house. He opens the door, holding candy and wearing a sombrero. Giles even has decorations up. Everyone seems to be in the Halloween spirit but Buffy. She figures patrolling would be good so that they don’t get caught off guard remembering the Halloween they all got transformed into the costumes they wore. Being prepared this year, Buffy shows up with weapons in her basket since she is dressed up as Red Riding Hood.
As the frat house decorates and gets ready for the night’s festivities, just not the ones, they plan one of the frat guys paints a symbol on the attics floor that he found in a book. The symbol is for Gachnar. Have they learned anything! Later, Oz (Seth Green) is hooking up the Soundsystem, he is lending them for scary noises throughout the house. During the hookup, Oz cuts himself adjusting one of the wires. As a drop of blood falls to the ground, it lands in the drawn symbol. The symbol then emits a blue spark that changes to a red color. It looks like the drop of Oz’s blood activated the ritual needed to summon Gachnar. The camera then goes to a plastic spider that gets some blue sparks to turn it to a real tarantula. And later, during the party, as a couple is going around the table feeling the peeled grape eyeballs, they are revealed to be actual eyeballs when the blindfold comes off.
Showing up at the party, Willow (Alyson Hannigan) is Joan of Arc, and Oz is dressed as he usually is with a name tag that says “God.” Unbeknownst to them, all hell is breaking loose. Willow goes through a very real cobweb in the house that Oz shrugs off to frat boys not being up to date on house cleaning, then notices an alive tarantula on Willow’s shoulder and quickly gets it off. See, right there after that, I would be leaving. Buffy sees something on the carpet and checks it out. It is real blood. Then they are swarmed by bats! What is going on? All of a sudden, they hear a voice say, “Release me.”
Anya (Emma Caulfield Ford) shows up wearing a fluffy bunny costume outside the house but cannot get inside. There should be a door where there is no door, so Anya runs off to get help. We later learn in “Once More With Feeling” why they creep her out. Giles and Anya get to the house, and Giles decides to create a door using a chainsaw, which is very Halloween.
“Bunnies aren’t just cute
Like everybody supposes!
They got them hoppy legs
And twitchy little noses!
And what’s with all the carrots?
What do they need such good eyesight for anyway?
It must be bunnies!!”
Back in the house, the group looks for a way out. While trying to develop ideas, Buffy and Willow argue over her successful use of magic so far, causing Willow to storm off with Oz chasing after her. Buffy looks around and calls out for Xander, who we can see standing in front of her and talking. She cannot hear or see him. Willow and Oz find some stairs, but something is happening to Oz. There is no full moon, and he is turning into a werewolf. After accidentally scratching her, he runs away from her, trying to control and stop himself from wolfing out. Trying to find Oz and her friends, Willow does an incantation. It seems to work as little fireflies appear in front of her. Willow is too indecisive in who she should try to find first, causing the fireflies to multiply and swarm her, even flying into her mouth.
Eventually, Buffy ends up where everyone is and sees them cowering in fear realizing that they were separated and lead to this room for some reason. Xander starts to be sarcastic since they can’t see or hear them, or so he thinks. Being in the room, whatever was causing their fear seems to be gone. You would think that would be a good thing, right? Wrong. Xander points out the book that the symbol was drawn out of, determining that it is used to summon Grachnar, a demon that feeds on fear. Buffy punches a hole in the symbol breaking the wood. Giles tells them that will actually release him. This is why you read instructions. The camera goes to the scary-looking demon as he is coming to life, telling them to fear him. But they aren’t. The demon is a mouse’s size, not very terrifying, but they do find it funny and cute. It is the perfect size for Buffy to step on, though, which she does. Then comes the enjoyment of the chocolate.
This episode brought a nostalgic Halloween activity to life, and it was a screeching good time. Make sure you stay tuned for the next installment of our series!