Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween "Classic" Recap: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "Fear, Itself"

“Maybe it's 'cause of all the horrific things we've seen, but hippos wearing tutus just don't unnerve me the way they used to.”

I had a tough time choosing this year’s Halloween recap. It was either this wonderful Halloween episode from season 4 of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” or the season 2 Halloween episode aptly titled “Halloween.” I went with this one because I love the costume choices and the humorous take the episode has on horror in general. If you can wade through all the “woe is me” drama the characters are going through at this point in the series, there’s some really funny stuff. I love Giles’ and Anya’s costumes best because they’re hilarious an unexpected. I also love moment like Giles with a chainsaw because it’s just so silly looking. And the ending of the episode is a great, humorous twist on the typical apocalyptic scenario the Scoobies often face. Like “The Zeppo,” (where we follow Xander doing more mundane things while the rest of the Scoobies face some unnamed but super-serious apocalypse) but, you know, funnier. Because it involves a tiny, tiny demon (sorry…retroactive spoiler alert). Rest assured, if this blog sticks around for a couple more years, “Halloween” will be recapped here, too!

The episode opens with the gang carving pumpkins at Xander’s basement apartment. Buffy is still broody and miserable over her recent one night stand (that she wanted to be more) with Parker, and she’s kind of dragging down the mood of the party. Xander announces that he’s picked up a movie for the gang to watch on Halloween, and thanks to a mix-up, it turns to be that great horror classic, “Fantasia.” Willow mentions a big frat party that she thought everyone was planning to go to. Xander didn’t know about the party because he doesn’t go to UC Sunnydale, and he’s a little miffed at being left out of the loop. All is forgiven, though, when he’s invited to tag along. Still broody, Buffy decides to go home early without even carving one line in her pumpkin. On the way home, she accidentally punches a teen dressed in a costume. She thought he was a vampire or demon or something. Have I mentioned yet that mopey Buffy is kind of insufferable?

We next see Buffy and Willow at school getting lunch. Buffy is still complaining about the Parker situation, but Willow just wants to talk about how far she should go in her study of magic. She really wants Buffy’s encouragement to keep pushing the boundaries of what she can do with her powers. Oz catches up with the girls and expresses some concern about the idea of Willow doing increasingly more powerful magic. Buffy turns around at the end of the lunch line and sees Parker at a table chatting with friends. Of course, she hightails it out of the cafeteria as fast as she can. She tells Willow that she’ll probably have to go on patrol instead of going to the frat party. When she goes to visit Giles (who is dressed in an awesomely hilarious sombrero and poncho ensemble), however, she finds out that she won’t need to patrol, either. Apparently the supernatural denziens of Sunnydale find Halloween crass, so they stay mostly out of sight. Poor Giles is feeling so directionless since he isn’t an official Watcher anymore that he’s gone all-out with Halloween costuming and decorating.

Later in the afternoon, Anya shows up at Xander’s apartment. Their relationship is still in a sort-of murky, undefined phase, but they’re growing closer. Xander invites Anya to go to the frat party. Anya is a little skeptical. She openly wonders why Xander still hangs out with the Scoobies considering they don’t really have much in common anymore. This hits Xander in his insecure about not being in college like his friends soft spot. Anya is going to join everyone for the party, though, and Xander tells her to pick out a scary costume. Then Xander has to help Oz deliver a sound system to the frat house where the big party is to take place. They have quite the scary set-up, with peeled grape fake eyes and everything. The brothers are even painting a mystical sign on the floor. The conversation turns to how Xander’s a townie, which of course makes his insecurity even deeper. Oz manages to cut himself while trying to repair something on a speaker, and some of his blood drips on the mystical symbol. The air goes all wonky, and a fake spider comes to life. This can’t end well

After visiting Giles, Buffy goes to pick up her assignment from Professor Walsh because she missed class. She gets a reaming out from the Professor for skipping, but she gets some sympathy and a bit of a pep talk from Riley (ew). Riley convinces her to go to the frat party. Going to the party means that Buffy needs a costume, so she has her mom make some alterations to an old Little Red Riding Hood cape. Buffy has a nice heart-to-heart with her mom during the sewing, too. They talk about how even when you get hurt (like Buffy’s mom did in the divorce to Buffy’s father) and it’s tempting to be gun shy around other people for a while afterwards, you have to let people in eventually.

Finally, the Scoobies are on their way to the party. We’ve got Buffy as Little Red Riding Hood, Willow as Joan of Arc, Oz as God, and Xander as James Bond. As they walk to the frat house, they run into some strange military types, who we would learn in later episodes belong to the Initiative. Meanwhile, at the party, more of the fake Halloween accoutrements, like the grape eyeballs, have become real. The result is complete chaos. You wouldn’t know this from outside, though. When the gang gets to the house, there’s definitely not a jumpin’ party going on. As they make their way through the downstairs, things get more and more creepy, including a real spider falling on Willow. Anya arrives at the house after the rest of the gang has already entered, but there is no longer any door into the house. Anya really starts to freak out when she sees an upstairs window close itself off. She’s very worried for Xander. Dressed in a hilarious fluffy bunny costume, she goes to Giles for help.

Inside the house, things are progressively getting worse. The Scoobies want to leave, but they can’t find their way out. To make matters even worse, nobody can see or hear Xander anymore. The gang finds a traumatized frat boy in a hall closet who warns the gang that something is “alive.” That something turns out to be a plastic skeleton that attacks Buffy with a knife. Buffy’s injured, but not badly. She starts to gather up her weapons and wants to go on and find the monsters on her own. She doesn’t want to have to worry for her friends’ safety. This just leads to a big fight between Buffy and Willow about who should be in charge and if Willow’s magic is worthwhile. Xander tries to break the fight up, but he’s still invisible, so that doesn’t really go well. Buffy goes off on her own, and then Oz starts to wolf out. Oz in semi-werewolf form scratches Willow (I guess bite is required to turn someone into a werewolf in the Buffyverse) and runs off before he can hurt her more. Willow tries to do a guidance spell to find her way out of the house, but the little ball of light she calls up soon turns into a swarm, and they’re swarming like bees.

Buffy hears Willow screaming and starts running, trying to help her. She only succeeds in falling down into the house’s basement, though. While she’s laying on the ground, trying to catch her breath, hands start coming up out of the ground and grabbing her. It’s super creepy. Meanwhile, Giles and Anya arrive at the house. Giles announces that they “need to create a door,” and in my favorite moment of the episode, he whips out a chainsaw to do just that! Buffy finally escapes the basement and finds herself in an upstairs room with the rest of the Scoobies. It’s the room with the mystical marking, which we learn is the Mark of Gachnar. Anya and Giles (thanks to the chainsaw) join the rest of the Scoobies, and Giles starts explaining about how Gachnar is a fear demon and must not be allowed to cross over to our dimension. Acting too quickly, Buffy destroys the Mark, but that just means that Gachnar will appear immediately. It turns out that the gang didn’t really need to be afraid, though. He’s super tiny, and listing to him rant is quite funny. Buffy puts an end to Gachnar with some foot-stomping action. Back at Giles’ house, the Scoobies have a big of a candy pig-out. And Giles admits that he should have read the caption of Gachnar’s picture in his demon book more closely. It said “Actual Size.” Happy Halloween everyone!

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