Halloween is both fun and scary, both trick and treat. It’s the creepy haunted house, and it’s the joy of free candy. The same could be said of the now classic millennial supernatural drama, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Joss Whedon created the series as one of the first to combine teenage relationship drama with the deep mythology of a world fraught with vampires, demons, and monsters. Both campy humor and genuinely deep, dark storylines gave this show the cult audience enjoys to this day.
The holiday that also embodies these wonderfully contradictory ideas appeared three times in the show and once in the spinoff series, Angel. These Halloween episodes encapsulate everything that’s fun and scary about the show and the holiday, and they also remind fans of some of the best moments of the seven-season story and its characters. Watching these pivotal installments could just be the perfect way to honor the frightening fun of Halloween!
Buffy, Season 2 Episode 6: “Halloween”
WHAT IT WAS ABOUT: While Buffy and her friends were still in high school, their principal at Sunnydale forced them to volunteer to take a group of younger children trick-or-treating. The proprietor of a local costume shop provided wonderful, inexpensive costumes to many, but he had an ulterior motive. As a worshipper of chaos, he cast a spell to turn everyone into whatever they were dressed up as. As a result, Buffy becomes a weak, silly debutante in her fancy dress, and Spike, the new head vampire in town, takes advantage to try and kill the Slayer.
WHY IT’S FUN: Xander gets to be the action hero since he dressed up as a soldier. He even charms Cordelia at one point, who didn’t change into the cat she was dressed as because she bought her costume at Party City. Hilariously, Cordelia, having been told Angel is a vampire without believing it, sarcastically explains to the transformed Buffy that Angel is a nice vampire even though she’s completely unaware that it’s true.
WHY IT’S SCARY: Small children transforming into little demons may be perfectly normal for some parents, but they don’t typically eat your face off. Meanwhile, having only been recently introduced to Drusilla, her creepy question, “Do you love my insides? The parts you can’t see?” is merely the preamble to years of adorable but spine-chilling evil for Juliet Landau’s character.
WHY IT’S WORTH RE-WATCHING: This episode was referenced several times later in the series’ run. It was the first time audiences heard that Halloween, according to Giles, was – against all expectations – a quiet night for demonic activity. Xander’s soldierly experience here also came in handy several times when it became necessary.
It was also Buffy’s first attempt at a date with Angel, and it was foiled by Cordelia who would later become involved with him in the series that bore his name. And actually, another burgeoning relationship began here as well. As Willow passed Oz’s van in her midriff-baring costume, he began his infatuation with the phrase, “Who is that girl?”
Buffy, Season 4 Episode 4: “Fear Itself”
WHAT IT WAS ABOUT: Now in college, the gang is headed to a haunted house themed frat party. A summoning portal, copied from a book because it “looked cool,” is accidentally activated by a drop of Oz’s blood as he’s setting up the sound system, and it makes everyone’s worst fears come to light since the fear demon trapped inside feeds on fear to grow stronger and escape.
WHY IT’S FUN: Anya’s fear of bunnies gets its start here as Xander tells her to dress up as something scary, and she complies – by dressing up as a giant rabbit. Plus there are the references to the last Halloween episode: Xander, has dressed up like James Bond just in case he’s transformed again. But the ending of this episode really takes the cake – the fear demon is summoned forth… and is super tiny. Giles hadn’t noticed the diagram in his demonology book had a caption which translated to “actual size.”
WHY IT’S SCARY: Doors and windows disappear, staircases move to different locations, and the haunted house vibe is actually fairly creepy. And the manifest fears are very telling for several characters: Xander’s feeling left out of the college crowd so he becomes invisible; Oz is fearful of turning into a werewolf around Willow, so he does.
WHY IT’S WORTH RE-WATCHING: It’s cool to see Willow with her burgeoning powers of witchcraft, and even now they’re getting the better of her as her wisp summoning brings forth a swarm of the buggers. Anya’s addition to the team was also just getting its start as was her relationship with Xander. Having Buffy’s mom alive and well is also a good thing. Plus, the payoff with tiny demon at the end is just too good to miss – perfect viewing for any Halloween party!
Buffy, Season 6, episode 6: “All the Way”
WHAT IT WAS ABOUT: Buffy is having to play parent to her younger sister, Dawn. Dawn sneaks away to hang out with two rebellious jocks from high school, who turn out to be vampires trying to decide if they want to take Dawn and her friend “all the way” by turning them. Meanwhile, Xander and Anya announce their engagement, and Tara warns Willow against using magic for trivial things.
WHY IT’S FUN: Watching Xander become increasingly uncomfortable with Anya’s plans for their wedding, children, and overall future is quite amusing. Even better, though, is when Giles, Spike, and Buffy find Dawn among a crowd of teenage vampires, and one of them has to interrupt the sisters’ bickering: “Uh, excuse me – can we fight now?”
WHY IT’S SCARY: The episode leads us to believe that an old man creepily humming “Pop Goes the Weasel” is cannibalizing the young townspeople (and perhaps he is), but when he invites Dawn and her friends in for treats, he does actually have baked goods ready just before getting drained by the football player vampire. Dawn’s recklessness is also kind of scary, but in a totally different way. Oh, Dawn.
WHY IT’S WORTH RE-WATCHING: To be honest, this season was not Buffy at its best, but there are a few great reasons to watch this one again. Seeing Willow start down the road to becoming Dark Willow is definitely entertaining, especially given that the magic Tara is so worried about seems so benign until Willow makes her forget it ever happened – what an ending! Plus, seeing Amber Tamblyn guest-starring as Dawn’s midriff-baring friend is kind of fun.
Angel, Season 5, Episode 5: “Life of the Party”
WHAT IT WAS ABOUT: Angel has taken over Wolfram & Hart, Attorneys at Law, and he has to play nice with all of the evil demons and creatures of the underworld. Lorne has organized a Halloween party with precious little assistance from the team and has had his sleep removed to help him cope. As an empath demon his subconscious manifests as a killer beast, and everyone around him starts doing his unwitting bidding, to hilarious and yet deadly effect.
WHY IT’S FUN: What’s not to love? Gunn is peeing everywhere to mark his territory; Wesley and Fred are drunk despite not having imbibed, and Spike is have an uncharacteristically good time at a party he would normally loathe. Lorne is at his shmoozy best as he turns the Halloween party from lame to luminescent. Especially enjoyable is the demon in attendance who wore a human face as a mask and did a spot-on human imitation, bragging about his honor roll kid.
WHY IT’S SCARY: For the entire episode, Angel and his team seem to be on the edge of becoming overwhelmed by the host of evil beings Wolfram & Hart must cater to. Honestly, the prospect of failure is scarier than the carnage Lorne’s alter ego wreaks. The creepiest character, though, has to be the slave demon who corked his wrist veins, dispensing viscous blue fluid to those seeking refreshment. Luckily, the poor guy escapes in the chaos.
WHY IT’S WORTH RE-WATCHING: Wolfram & Hart provided interesting times for Angel’s investigative team, and seeing everyone finding their place in the company is always fun. Angel’s sexual escapades with Eve are a nice diversion, too. But the best part about watching this episode these days is seeing T. J. Thyne, David Boreanaz’s future co-star on Bones, leading the congo line as one of the low-rung lawyers in Wolfram & Hart.
So if you have a Halloween party full of Whedon fans dressed as vampires and witches, go ahead and pull out a classic episode of the series that launched the career of the creative mind behind not just Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, but also geek classics like Firefly, Dollhouse, and the first two Avengers movies. Relive the good old days of campy horror fun on the night built for scary entertainment! And if the Halloween candy gets eaten while you’re watching instead of being handed out to trick-or-treaters, so be it.