Cartoons that Embody the Spirit of Halloween 24/7/365
It’s Halloween Season, and that means a great many things. It’s time to hang up scary decorations, choose our costumes, and binge-watch scary movies and Halloween specials. However, some shows don’t think it’s enough to have a few scary episodes for All Hallow’s Eve. Some shows think it’s better to be scary 24/7, and they don’t hold back on it. I’m RJ Writing Ink, and in the spirit of the season, I’m going to be showing you five shows whose entire premise consists of providing frights, screams, and nightmare fuel for kids everywhere.
Courage the Cowardly Dog
If you grew up watching Cartoon Network in the 2000s, you are at least familiar with Courage the Cowardly Dog. But here’s a quick refresher.
This show lived, breathed, and ate nightmare fuel for breakfast. From the abundance of scary music to the occasional creepy CGI, this show had all the hallmarks of a horror show classic. Thankfully, it also knew how to balance the scare with the silly, which helped it stay on the air for four seasons. Is it any wonder why fans got excited to see him team up with Scooby-Doo earlier this year?
Also, full disclosure: nothing in the show scared me.
This next cartoon needs no introduction, considering the impact it’s had on the animation industry. Gravity Falls is one of the best cartoons of the modern era and a notable example of the American horror genre. Airing from 2012 to 2016, this animated Disney cartoon followed the Pines family as they spent their summer in Gravity Falls, Oregon. They don’t realize that the town’s a magnet for all things weird, both this world and beyond.
If you haven’t watched this gem of a show yet, then you are missing out. It’s got a monster every week, and the puzzles and riddles the show leaves for fans to decipher in every episode are enough to drive fans bonkers. In a good way, though. This show’s great to watch at any point during the year, but Halloween is when it should get even more love than it should.
Did I mention that this show has one of the most powerful and terrifying monsters humanity may have ever dreamt up? Because it does.
Speaking of getting the love it deserves, here’s Nickelodeon’s cult cartoon, Invader Zim. If you didn’t watch it during its run in the early 2000s, here’s a summary. The show stars the titular Zim, an alien who thinks he’s been sent to conquer Earth for his people. However, he’s hopelessly inept at it and spends the whole time fighting a paranormal-obsessed boy who’s one of the few people smart enough to know he’s an alien. But considering how monumentally dumb the rest of humanity is in the show, you have to wonder if they’re worth saving.
This show stood out from the rest of the Nicktoons for all the right reasons. It was darker and more graphic than any other cartoon Nick aired, and it consistently used CGI to great effect. Alas, the controversy surrounding its dark setting, and the money needed for every episode, led Nick to pull the plug on it. Yet the show only grew in popularity, to the point where Nick fixed its mistake and gave us a Netflix film, Enter the Florpus.
In all honesty, though, what was Nick expecting? Jhonen Vasquez writes horror comics, people.
The Owl House
If Gravity Falls captured the essence of American horror, then its child, The Owl House, has delved into traditional gothic horror. The show follows Luz Noceda, a quirky young human girl who winds up living in the Demon Realm on the Boiling Isles. There, she lives with a powerful Witch and adorable Monster as she learns how to use magic, make new friends, and maybe find the home she’s always wanted.
If you’ve read any of my past writings about this show, then you know how much I love it. However, let’s focus on why this show keeps Halloween alive year-round. Taking heavy inspiration from European macabre and lore about witchcraft and demons, The Owl House is a world that, while fun to look at, would be terrifying to live in. In addition, the show’s premise itself is dark. At one point, creator Dana Terrace said it would’ve involved Luz having already died and now living in Hell. You can’t get much darker than that!
The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy
What if you took the idea of Mary Poppins but combined it with all things horror-related? And the kids you look out for make you want to tear your hair out? You’d get the basic premise of this Cartoon Network show. Airing from 2001 to 2007, Billy and Mandy takes place in Endsville and follows the titular kids. After beating the Grim Reaper in a game of limbo, they end up getting him as a best friend/servant that has to do what they say. Forever.
The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy is equal parts slapstick/black comedy and straight-up nightmare fuel. Firstly, there’s the fact that the Grim Reaper, the embodiment of Death, is one of the main characters, even if he does have a smooth Jamaican accent. Secondly, the show’s not afraid to borrow or reference much of the horror genre. From parodies of slasher villains like Pinhead to old-school like Dracula to straight-up Cthulhu, this show wasn’t afraid to show its love. Yet even amidst all these eldritch horrors, the scariest thing to be found isn’t even a monster: it’s Mandy. If you knew her, you’d understand!
Attack on Titan
If you’re into anime, then you’ve had to at least heard of Attack on Titan by now. If not, then there’s a good reason why I’d call it part horror series, and I will do my best to explain why without giving away spoilers.
More than a century ago, humanity was driven to near extinction with the appearance of the Titans, giant, skinless, mishappen humanoids whose only purpose for existing was to eat humans. Thus, humanity took refuge behind three massive, ringed walls meant to keep the Titans out. Until the day a Titan as big as some versions of Godzilla kicked open the Wall and set the Titans loose inside. Now, humanity has to find a way to push the Titans back for good.
Despite being a post-apocalyptic dark fantasy tale, Attack on Titan might as well be a horror story, thanks to the Titans. They’re capable of dwarfing humanity several times over, have no skin, are almost always malformed in stature, and eat us! They’re like zombies meet kaiju; that description alone should make you shudder in fear. And if you think that’s not good, wait until you learn how the Titans come to exist!
If you’ve been sleeping on this show, then you have no idea what you’re missing out on. The brainchild of Vivienne Medrano, AKA Vivziepop, this YouTube web series centers on the Immediate Murder Professionals, or I.M.P., who serve as assassins-for-hire in Hell. Basically, if someone in Hell wants someone on Earth dead, they go up there and make sure it happens. In the meantime, they deal with their many, many, many personal problems. Like how their boss, Blitzo (the “O” is silent) is mean and abrasive but just wants friends. Or how straight man Moxxie has a hard time standing up for himself. Basic work drama only cranked up to eleven.
I could spend an entire article singing the praises of Helluva Boss; it is absolutely wonderful. If you’re a fan of the dark comedy found in shows like Billy and Mandy, Invader Zim, or even Courage, then this show will have you in stitches. It’s basically what every workplace sitcom would be like if they had a baby with Billy and Mandy, and that baby was raised by South Park. And the popularity’s evident. Every time Vivziepop and her team put a new episode up, it almost always ends up the top trending video on YouTube. The team working on it is incredibly impressive, putting their all into each episode. In addition, this is the third example on here that has Richard Horvitz’s voice the main character, so that has to count for something.
I didn’t get time to write about it, but here’s a bonus show that’s perfect for Halloween: