When people think of the Grinch they always remember “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, but there was a lesser known Grinch-oriented holiday special which I always preferred: “Halloween is Grinch Night”. It was freaky, it was weird, it had catchy music: it was right up my alley. Personally, when I think of the Grinch, I think of this TV special.
Halloween has fallen upon Whoville and that can only mean one thing: Grinch Night! The sinister Grinch and his wagon of unspeakable horrors are on their way down from Mt. Crumpet and all the Whos are barring their doors and shutting their windows…all except for one. Little Ukaraiah isn’t afraid of the Grinch and he’s willing to brave the Grinch’s horror show in order to keep him occupied until Halloween is over.
There are so many reasons why I prefer this TV special over both “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat”, but I think my primary reasoning is that the Grinch is 100% evil in this special. In both of his other appearances, which I didn’t see until long after “Halloween is Grinch Night”, the Grinch turns good at the end and falls victim to his conscience. But the Grinch is no pussy in this one. He abuses his dog (Max), he tortures small animals (a woozle), chants demonic spells which transform his eyebrows into rampaging bats, threatens hideus evil over an entire town and even locks a young boy away in his own private torture chamber. This Grinch doesn’t “see the light” at the finale thanks to his heart inflating in his chest or nostalgic memories of his dead mother: he’s evil and he doesn’t care.
Dr. Seuss’ artstyle always kind of creeped me out when I was little. All the people looked human but…weren’t. They had weird furry fingers and were just abnormal-looking. Director Gerald Baldwin takes full advantage of the inherent weirdness of Dr. Seuss’ style to let things get as freaky and surreal as possible. The one scene that sticks with most people who have seen this special is the climax where Ukaraiah is chased through the Grinch’s chamber of horrors. It’s basically a montage of scary and wacky monsters trying to kill the kid set to the tune of ”U-ka-rai-ah! U-ka-rai-ah! Grinch’s gonna get ya! Grinch’s gonna get ya!” It’s like the worst acid trip you’ve ever had.
As has already been mentioned, I saw this special long before I saw the more popular “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, so when I hear the voice of the Grinch in my head, it isn’t Boris Karloff. Nope, it’s Hans Conried, who does a fantastic job as the title villain. You might know him better as Captain Hook from Disney’s “Peter Pan” and he just oozes the pure evil that is this incarnation of the Grinch with every spoken word.
“Halloween is Grinch Night” is one of the fonder memories from my childhood and still ranks as one of my all-time favorite Halloween specials. I’m not the only one who enjoyed it either, considering it won a primetime Emmy and all. It’s currently available on DVD as the fourth part of a collection of Dr. Seuss shorts titled “Green Eggs and Ham”. It’s worth checking out for certain and definitely something to show your kids if they’re into scary things.