xx Wednesday, October 29, 1997

Halloween horrors abound on TV

Simpson Scare ... Halloween's coming and that can only mean one thing - Homer and the rest of the Simpsons will be climbing their Treehouse of Horror again.
By JOHN McKAY -- Canadian Press

 TORONTO - From a "super scary" cartoon party to Homer Simpson's latest Treehouse of Horror adventures, there are plenty of things to go bump on the TV airwaves in the days leading up to Halloween.

For kids aged 2-10, Master Control, CTV's Saturday block of cartoon shows, will be a special place on Halloween morning. There's Disney's Night of the Living Dougs, in which Doug goes to school only to discover everyone has become a grabbing, chanting zombie.

But from its Halloween-dressed set, Master Control will also weave in such features as a tour of Toronto's supposedly-haunted Mackenzie House, and a visit from the Metro Toronto Zoo's bat expert who will dress like a vampire and bring along a real, live vampire bat. Also, host Melyssa Ade will offer Halloween jokes, dancing and games as well as tips on how to make a good costume.

"We're going to do a haunted Halloween party," says supervising producer Susan Skinner. "With a very benign, friendly ghost on a quest of some kind that is resolved at the end."

Meanwhile in prime time, now that Roseanne has left the airwaves, Tim the Tool Man has taken on the responsibility of offering the most imaginative Halloween sitcom episode. This year, the Home Improvement star finds his traditional prank on neighbour Wilson misfires and nearly frightens the man to death.

On the top-rated ER, things get out of hand when Dr. Carter leaves Lucy in charge of a Halloween party at the dorm. Various costumed staffers also get into the spirit of the holiday.

Over on Global The Simpsons will be back with their ninth annual instalment of Treehouse of Horror, always a popular themed event. This year, Homer is possessed by the spirit of a recently-executed convict, Homer and Marge appear on The Jerry Springer Show and Bart and Lisa get zapped into their television. It will be preceded by reruns of Treehouses VII and VIII.

Then there's South Park where suddenly Cartman is becoming a suspiciously nice guy while dead bodies pile up around town. And on The New Addams Family some unwise thieves try to rob the family on Halloween night.

Other series episodes worth checking out include the new Fantasy Island in which a nice guy wants to trade in his conscience for professional success only to start looking rather devilish; the not-to-be-missed X-Files repeat of last year's black-and-white homage to Frankenstein; and Millennium's KISS episode in which the veteran rock band is making a horror movie with real murders happening on the set.

On To Have and to Hold, Annie and Sean give new meaning to the phrase trick or treat when they decide to celebrate Halloween by christening each room of their new house with a romantic encounter. On Two of a Kind, Mary Kate and Ashley try to switch costumes with two pals in order to sneak out to a cool college party.

The specialty channels are weighing in with Halloween programming, too. YTV has introduced a new comedy series, The Worst Witch, with Canadian Claire Coulter in the adventures of a hapless witch trainee. "The Worst Witch is comical, fantastic and even a touch macabre," promises Peter Moss, program vice-president for YTV Canada, about the Canadian-U.K. co-production.

Teletoon has Todd McFarlane's Spawn, the animated series, continuing the tale of the dead government agent who returns from Hell with superhuman powers. Throughout next week, Teletoon will also reprise all eight past instalments of The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror. And the animation station has revamped its Web site (www.teletoon.com) for the month of October with various Halloween treats.

In a more serious vein, History Television has a compelling documentary called The Devil: An Unauthorized Biography, which traces the historical, theological and mythological origins of Satan.

And there are movies.

CTV's Late Fright offerings all next week include Theatre of Blood with Vincent Price, Bram Stoker's Dracula and Needful Things.

Showcase has scheduled Halloweek!, five nights of chills including the original Nightmare on Elm Street, the 1979 colour remake of Nosferatu (with Klaus Kinski), the 1982 remake of Cat People (with Klaus' daughter Nastassia Kinski) and the 1983 version of The Hunger.

Space: The Imagination Station will air Embryo with Rock Hudson, Hollywood Ghost Stories and The Mephisto Waltz. And, appropriately enough on Halloween Eve, it will have The Night That Panicked America, the story of Orson Welles' notoriously authentic 1938 Halloween radio dramatization of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds.