Surprisingly, there was never a Halloween-themed episode of The Twilight Zone. Sure, almost every episode makes for perfect viewing this time of the year (especially ‘The Masks’), but the holiday was never fully exploited by the show.
Does that make you sad? Because it makes me sad. Very sad.
Though the series never delved into Halloween, there were at one point in time plans to remedy that. It was Steven Spielberg who came up with the idea of exploring Halloween in the Twilight Zone, though the tale simply wasn’t meant to be.
1983 saw the release of Twilight Zone: The Movie, an anthology of stories that were mostly based on iconic episodes of the show. Four shorts comprised the bulk of the film, three of them being direct remakes of original episodes and one (John Landis’ ‘Time Out’) only loosely inspired by an episode of the show.
While Steven Spielberg’s contribution was a remake of the episode ‘Kick the Can,’ set in a retirement home, his original segment concept was quite different – an original story centering on a cast of young children. Story goes that Spielberg placed a call to legendary author Richard Matheson (I Am Legend), and it was he who wrote the script that would soon be left on the cutting room floor.
Yes, Spielberg AND Matheson almost made a Halloween movie. If you weren’t sad before, I’m willing to bet you are now.
“Originally, Spielberg wanted me to write something for him, a Halloween story about a not-nice young man who went out and tormented these kids while they were trick-or-treating,” the late Matheson recalled, years later. “Then all the things that were make-believe began to become real and turn against him as a sort of cosmic punishment. It ended up like a painting by Heironymus Bosch.”
Spielberg delved deeper into the idea in an interview with Starlog Magazine back in the 80s, revealing that he had originally planned on turning it into a feature length film for MGM.
“Basically, this is a neighborhood bully, whose costume happens to be the Hunchback of Notre Dame,” said Spielberg. “Trick or treat isn’t enough for him – he runs amok across the streets on Halloween, egging houses, leaving burning bags of dog manure on the front porch; stealing bags from other kids; and single-handedly ruining the holiday for everyone he can – enjoying every minute of his mischief. That is, until… a few strange things commence to happen.”
“It’s been years since I read the script, but I remember a postbox lurching at him; I remember a little girl in a witch’s costume suddenly growing into an ugly, full-sized witch lurching out to seize him. I remember the streets full of ‘REAL’ werewolves and patched-together Frankenstein Monsters and vampires, all stalking him in earnest. I remember a doorknob attempting to BITE his hand when he tries to take refuge in his own house.”
“And ultimately, I remember that when he thinks he is safe in his own home, safe at last from the unexpected horrors which have transformed his neighborhood into a living hell, he catches a glimpse of his reflection in the hall mirror, and he sees Quasimodo – the real thing. His simple makeup and costume are gone. He IS Quasimodo!”
“Horrified, he runs out of the house in total disorientation, and the monsters catch sight of him, and we last see them in close pursuit as he stumbles on his twisted legs across a large vacant lot with the huge October moon in the sky beyond.”
The only other thing we know about the scrapped Halloween segment is that Craig Reardon was going to be building the monsters for it. Reardon had around that time worked with Rick Baker on films like The Funhouse and An American Werewolf in London, and he’s perhaps most known for creating the iconic look of Sloth in The Goonies.
Both Joe Dante and Richard Matheson cited budgetary issues as being the reason why the segment was nixed, though Spielberg noted in the Starlog interview that it likely had more to do with the horrible tragedy that plagued the production. While Landis’ segment was being filmed, a helicopter accident claimed the lives of Vic Morrow and two young children, which needless to say put a damper on the proceedings.
“Suddenly, another episode requiring filming at night with children seemed very ill-advised,” said Spielberg. “As I understood it, that was the death knell of that particular tale.”
Whatever the real reason, this is just one of those awesome projects that unfortunately got away, much like Stephen King’s ‘Pinfall’ segment of Creepshow. Sometimes in Hollywood, things just don’t end up working out, and it’s oftentimes us fans who suffer.
That said, we did get gems like R.L. Stine’s The Haunted Mask and Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat in the years since Twilight Zone‘s Halloween segment was cut from the film, so I suppose we can’t be too upset.
When I imagine the segment in my head, those two Halloween favorites immediately come to mind, so let’s consider ourselves lucky that development Hell didn’t consume them too!
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