Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Square Pegs: "Halloween XII"

First Aired November 1, 1982.

Patty: What are we gonna do on Halloween?  We're too old to go trick or treating!
Lauren: Yeah, and there's Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It's the start of that season of nothing to do. 
Muffy: I'm not letting anyone in unless they say "Trick Or Treat".  Halloween is not just bobbing for apples.  It's traditions like this handed down through the ages that make America great. 
Lauren:Like the Salem Witch Burnings.

Freshmen Lauren Hutchinson (Amy Linker) and Patty Greene (Sarah Jessica Parker) attend Weemawee High in 1982.  Lauren is on a constant quest to be popular.  Patty would just as soon be left alone, but gets always gets dragged into Lauren's "popularity" schemes.   Their friends, class clown Marshall Blechtman (John Femia) and New Wave music fanatic Johnny "Slash" Ulasewicz (Merritt Butrick) help them get through the daily drudgery of high school.

Principal Dingleman (Basil Hoffman) addresses a school assembly.  He says the Halloween Dance has been canceled because dance organizer Muffy Tepperman (Jami Gertz) spent the entire Halloween budget on "superfluous decorations."  Dingleman expects the students to "take to the streets" on Halloween with no dance to attend.  He tells students that any littering or destruction of property will reflect badly on the school and asks them to keep their activities away from Weemawee High. 

 Principal Dingleman says Halloween mischief will not be tolerated!

Patty and Lauren wonder what they will do on Halloween, now that they're to old for trick or treating. 
The "popular" kids have their own problems: Weemawee's resident Valley Girl Jennifer DeNuccio (Tracy Nelson) wants her boyfriend Vinnie Pasetta (Jon Caliri) to take her out on Halloween.  Vinny says "it's my night", he plans to run around Weemawee engaging in petty vandalism & pranks.  Jennifer isn't happy about when she hears Vinnie's plans.

During class, Muffy gets up and announces that she is organizing a "Girls Only" Halloween party and it will take place at the home of their teacher, Ms. Loomis.  Loomis hadn't offered and doesn't think this is a good idea, but Muffy steamrolls her into hosting it.  Lauren is excited, thinking this party will be her and Patty's ticket to popularity.

Muffy invites herself and  her classmates to their teacher's house for Halloween - much to the teacher's dismay
Jennifer's best friend LaDonna (Claudette Wells) predicts that Vinnie will crash Muffy's party so he can scare all the girls.  Jennifer says in that case, she may as well be there to be scared too.  LaDonna mentions that she hates Halloween because "white people in sheets is not a good time!"

LaDonna, Jennifer and Vinnie discussing Halloween plans outside "The Grease"
Muffy meets Lauren and Patty at "The Grease" (a local diner) and gives them party invitations to hand out.  Unbeknownst to them, it will be a Halloween slumber party!  They worry about wearing pajamas and having "morning hair" in front of popular girls.  They decide to invest in new night gowns. As Patty departs, she observed by a mysterious person wearing a mask.

On Halloween night, the party gets off to a bad start.  Muffy and Loomis quarrel over placement the centerpiece.  Patty and Lauren arrive, followed by LaDonna and Jennifer.  It seems Muffy neglected to tell Loomis that it would a slumber party, the teacher is not amused.  When Lauren and Patty put on their night gowns, the popular girls make fun of them.

"Like, who invited the Mandrell Sisters?"

For reference,  here are the REAL Mandrell Sisters whose tv show ran from 1980 to 1982
Loomis has an idea to liven things up: "lemon squeezers" -- a party game in which each girl will write critical, anonymous notes about each other.  It's supposed to build character or something.  Feelings get hurt.  Suddenly, the lights go out!  Everyone freaks, but LaDonna figures it's just Vinnie.  Then, the lights flicker, tree branches crash into the windows.  Everyone is scared, except Jennifer.  She still  thinks it's just Vinnie messing with them.

However, Vinnie is elsewhere.  He's leading a TP attack on the Grease!  The same masked figure is also spying on Vinnie.

Mysterious masked person watches Vinnie and friends TP-ing "The Grease"
Weird happenings continue at the party.  A knock at the door jolts everyone.  But they relax when they realize it's only Johnny and Marshall, dressed as a ghost and a "McKenzie Brother."

Ms. Loomis greets Johnny Slash and Marshall
Patty and Lauren are glad to see the boys, they feel a little less lonely at the party.  

Vinnie eventually shows up, but the spookiness continues outside Loomis' house.  Who is the masked figure stalking and haunting the kids and their teacher?

J.A. Morris says:
A solid episode of an enjoyable, short-lived series.  I must point out that if you weren't alive in the 80s, lots of the pop culture references in this episode may go right over your head.  Some examples:
-Johnny Mentions the Pretenders song "Brass In Pocket."
-Jennifer compares Patty, Lauren and Loomis to the Mandrell Sisters (see above image).
-Marshall's costume is a reference to the McKenzie Brothers, popular characters from SCTV.
-LaDonna brings a Grandmaster Flash LP to the party.

"Halloween XII" gets the atmosphere of the occasion right.  Halloween is the night when even skeptics get nervous when spooky things happen outside, and that's what happens to the girls at Loomis' house.  The popular and unpopular people get the chills in this episode.

The title is obviously a reference to the Halloween franchise built around serial killer Michael Myers (see our review of the first film in that series here). When this episode was made, there were only 3 Halloween films. The franchise eventually totaled 8 films, plus 2 recent "reboot" movies!   The episode also contains several shots that spoof  the "killer's viewpoint" from the Halloween  movies, like this one:

Most people aren't (and never were) obsessed with popularity like Lauren.  But I can remember getting excited about attending a party (or another event) and imagining how great it would be and how it might lead to new friendships.  More often than not, it didn't work out that way.  Just like real life, Muffy's Halloween party does not go the way Patty and (especially) Lauren thought it would.   That adds a touch of realism to the story.

This show is available on dvd and it can also be streamed on Amazon.   

It's a fun Halloween episode.  If you have fond 80s memories of this series you'll enjoy Halloween XII, for the uninitiated, you may want to start with another episode.
J.A. Morris' rating:
3 Jack O'Lanterns.

RigbyMel says:

I had never seen any episodes of Square Pegs until Netflixing some episodes a couple of years ago.   The series is a lot of fun, especially for 80s nostalgia buffs.   As for this episode in particular,  although it is enjoyable and I agree with a lot of what J.A. Morris has to say about it above, I have a couple of problems with it that are going to influence my rating.

Although this is a sitcom aimed at a younger audience,  I feel that the teacher Ms. Loomis is a bit grating in this episode - mainly because she chooses to instigate a mean "character building" exercise like the "Lemon Squeezers" game.   Yes,  that kind of thing is something that teenage girls might come up with on their own,  but Ms. Loomis is supposed to be the adult at the party, so this bothered me a lot.  Encouraging the girls to write mean things about one another doesn't feel at all like a constructive or responsible thing for an authority figure to suggest.   High school is tough enough without "Lemon Squeezing"  -- why make it more difficult for these kids to walk the halls?

Secondly,  I found the ending of the episode to be a little bit weak ...  the reveal of the identity of the mysterious masked observer is nicely built up but the resolution is rather flat and unfunny.   So although the episode is fun, the high school longing to belong feels believable and the pop culture references are great,  I cannot give it quite as high a rating.

RigbyMel's rating:
2.5 Jack O'Lanterns

1 comment:

bga said...

How did I miss this series?