When I was younger, I was absolutely mortified by a movie called The Halloween Tree. I can't even remember why, but I couldn't watch it without crying, and I've never seen the end. The reason I'm telling you this is because I happened across The Halloween Tree while doing a library search for media involving Leonard Nimoy but not Star Trek. [Taking Trek out cuts the list down by about 90%, in case you're wondering.] I had no idea Leonard Nimoy was in The Halloween Tree, because the last time I tried to watch it was at least a decade ago. So, I put the movie on order, mostly because I wanted to figure out why it's so damn terrifying, and of course, because Leonard Nimoy is, in my world, the human equivalent of God. The movie came in, I popped it into a VCR, and...
90 Minutes Later
I am almost twenty goddamn years old, and that movie is still scary as shit. But, now that I am an articulate adult, with a pen and paper sitting right beside me, I can tell you precisely why I was afraid to walk up my stairs in the pitch-blackness of my house after watching The Halloween Tree.
First off, it's a cartoon based on a book by Ray Bradbury. I've read a lot of Bradbury's work, and while I enjoy it, most of it is not suitable for children. He's a spooky guy, even if he's not exactly trying to be. Oh, he's also the narrator of the movie. The Halloween Tree also features one of the spookiest soundtracks I've ever heard for a cartoon; those vocalists haunted my nightmares. Then, after the intro, the children show up. These kids, apart from the token fatty, are skeleton-thin, and not just the one actually dressed as a skeleton. Then, when the kids gather into their little clique and realize their buddy Pip, the "greatest kid on earth," is missing, they take a trip through the forest from Snow White to get to his house. I am dead serious; this forest wanted to eat those kids alive. But all that weirdness seems minor when compared to Leonard Nimoy's character, Mr. Moundshroud. He is, among other things, a "scary yellow pointy magic bastard"--at least, that's what I have in my notes. When the bony kids make it to his house, which also wants to eat them, they see Pip, who is clear, climbing a tree growing pumpkins, which are apparently souls, and then flies away clutching a pumpkin that looks like his face. Oh, and a sidenote: in order to get Pip back, Moundshroud and the band of anorexic children must go to the "Undiscovered Country". Yes, like in Star Trek. Oh, and in order to get to the Undiscovered Country, they have to fly a time-traveling kite, made out of pieces circus posters that are alive and trying to eat them. Fun. Thankfully that gets torn to shreds when they land in Egypt. Okay, at this point in my notes, I wondered if I was just a sissy when I was little, and I decided to stop writing things down until I was truly spooked. But then, Moundshroud's cape turned into bat wings and he started to fly. Maybe every single thing that happens in this movie really is disturbing as hell. Later in the movie, in France, it is revealed that Moundshroud can't walk on holy ground. Is he the Devil, or the Grim Reaper or something? Nothing extraordinarily bad happens until they get to Mexico, during Dia de los Muertes. There we find Pip in a crypt, stuck in a giant spider web, surrounded by animated corpses. When the first of the skinny children tries to touch him, he turns to dust. I have pinpointed this as the exact point in the movie where I ran screaming from the room. Right about there. Well, not this time. This time I just watched in awe, wondering why the film was ever made. That, and why it features, among all those other frightening things, soul-sucking sugar skulls. Try saying that ten times fast.
Here, I made this for you: