The Halloween Tree
Four children learn the origins of Halloween customs while trying to save the life of their friend.
Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays.
These days I love decorating, getting dressed up and giving out sweets to the small monsters that come to my door.
When I was little, I loved going Trick-or-Treating, but I also loved making my own costumes, reading scary books (Goosebumps were a favorite) and watching spooky films.
My absolute favorite of these was The Halloween Tree, and it’s this film that I want to talk to you about today.
Beware spoilers below.
The Halloween Tree was released in 1993 on ABC before being released on VHS and making its way across the pond to the UK where I found it on the shelf of my local rental store. It is based on the 1972 book of the same name by Ray Bradbury and while there are some changes, mostly the animated film stays true to the book.
Ray Bradbury voices the narrator and the film even boasts voice talents of Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Moundshroud.
The film opens with the narrator describing a small towns Halloween preparation and we meet our main characters, Jenny, Ralph, Wally and Tom. The small group plan to meet their friend Joe (known as Pip). But when they go to meet him at his house, they see him being loaded into an ambulance, the poor lad has appendicitis.
They decide to visit him at the hospital and take a shortcut through the woods but they see a ghost-like vision of Pip running away from them and are convinced this whole thing is a hoax. They follow Pip all the way into a spooky mansion.
Inside the mansion they meet Mr. Moundshroud who is saddened by the fact that none of the children understand the deeper meaning behind their respective costumes, mummy, witch, monster and skeleton. He also reveals that Pip has pinched a pumpkin with his face carved into it from Mr. Moundshroud’s tree of jack-o-lanterns and Mr. Moundshroud is now pursuing him.
Tom begs for the group to be allowed to go with Mr. Moundshroud to retrieve Pip’s ghost. They are initially refused but eventually the old man relents and the group is challenged to retrieve the pumpkin and learn about their costumes in order to get Pip back.
The group goes on marvelous adventures to ancient Egypt, Stonehenge, Notre Dame Cathedral and lastly, Mexico to witness Día De Los Muertos. During these adventures the group comes within a hair’s breath of catching Pip but he always escapes until Tom finds him in Mexico and apologizes. Tom had wished for something bad to happen to Pip so he could be in charge of the group for once, Pip forgives him but crumbles to dust.
Mr. Moundshroud announces the children failed and Pip now belongs to him. But each of the children offer up a year of their lives to Mr. Moundshroud in exchange for Pip, Mr. Moundshroud agrees and they seal the contract with candy. The children are returned home and see Pip has come home from the hospital.
The film ends with Mr. Moundshroud and the jack-o-lantern tree turning to smoke, all except Pip’s pumpkin which his friends rescued with their sacrifice.
This was a favorite of mine when I was young and even as an adult, I enjoy watching it. I feel films like this paved the way for other stories such as Over the Garden Wall which is wonderfully creepy.
This is a classic horror story, with very real stakes and very real consequences for our characters. But it also has real heart, and shows a strength of friendship and love that resonates with us even as adults. All of Pip’s friends care about him so deeply that they are willing to exchange their own mortal time to keep him alive and safe.
It is also delightfully informative without feeling like you’re being lectured at. It exposed my young and infinitely curious mind to a whole host of cultures, history and information I would have otherwise been ignorant to.
Overall, this is a classic movie with well-established stakes, highly motivated and compelling characters, told with heart and style. A must see for small and big kids alike.
Katie Marie is a horror enthusiast and writer from Norfolk, England.
She has been published in several anthologies and magazines, and her Novella, A Man in Winter, was recently released by Brigids Gate Press.
Katie started writing while studying at Aberystwyth University in the early 2000’s and several years later she has received a Masters Degree and published many short stories, a novel and novella.
Arthur, whose life was devastated by the brutal murder of his wife, must come to terms with his diagnosis of dementia. He moves into a new home at a retirement community, and shortly after, has his life turned upside down again when his wife’s ghost visits him and sends him on a quest to find her killer so her spirit can move on. With his family and his doctor concerned that his dementia is advancing, will he be able to solve the murder before his independence is permanently restricted?
A Man in Winter examines the horrors of isolation, dementia, loss, and the ghosts that come back to haunt us.