Yes, believe it or not, Christmas wasn't the only holiday that nasty Grinch scored a television special out of. "Halloween Is Grinch Night," debuting in 1977, took the scourge of Whoville to the very bowels of All Hallows Eve, proving that annual treats that go to the well more than once a year are annual treats nobody wants to watch on television. The show has probably been rerun with some regularity over the years, but it's rarely been a candidate for prime time along with "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!" and that other one where Garfield ninja kicks a pirate ghost. It's worth a look for devout Grinch obsessors, but for the rest of you, just wait till Christmas.|
The main problem is, it just doesn't seem very inspired. In "How The Grinch Stole Christmas," we're given so many pretty things to see and hear, I still couldn't name half of 'em despite having seen the special dozens upon dozens of times. Here we get something that feels more like an all-too-extended short. It was nice to see the Grinch again, but he could've told this story in two minutes flat. Dragged out for a thirty-minute time slot, the people behind "Grinch Night" had to resort to scenes where -- literally -- the green creature does nothing but rhyme gibberish together for minutes on end. Not "gibberish" as in "Whoville speak," "gibberish" as in "warbling gurgles." It's not the Grinch I know and love, but either was Jim Carrey, and I still watched that movie enough times to be committed. With Halloween's reservoir of TV specials sorely lacking, I'm personally glad for "Grinch Night" -- even if it did kinda suck.
With that, we're back in Whoville. On top of looking different without those Whobilation decorations all over the place, Whoville also appears much smaller and nondescript. The freaky citizens notice a foul, odd wind blowing towards the town, and know what it means: GRINCH NIGHT is coming. The town boards up the doors and locks down the forts, deciding that the best way to defend against an impending Grinch onslaught is by turning their homes into tombs. They even show mother birds leading their babies into little caves with garage doors, a sight that would've caused more of a stir in a show that wasn't so decidedly Seussy. The idea, I as understand it, was that the wind led to this chain of events where animals hoot and holler all the way up the side of the Grinch's mountain, ultimately awaking that nagging voice inside him that dictates an insatiable need to frighten the Whos.
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All of the action is underscored by what's gotta be the worst song ever tied to Dr. Seuss, but it serves a purpose in introducing us to the show's star characters. The little kid's name is Eukariah, and he's sort of your hero or something maybe. While his parents, of similarly stupid and difficult to spell names, are big proponents of this whole "BOARD UP THE HIZOUSE" plan, Eukariah feels that there must be alternative, better methods for dealing with Grinch Night. Just as he's approaching a Linus-like level of genius, Euka goes and ruins everything by announcing his trek towards the local "Euphemism," the Whoville outhouse. Kind of like detailing how to cure cancer and following it up with "I think I'm gonna go take a shit."
Even though his parents are acting like an unlocked front door is an invitation for murder, they happily let their #1 son do his #1 (I hope) business. Thankfully, they dissapear until the end of the show after this scene. Eukariah grew on me, but his parents were like these obscene alien dandelions who wouldn't stop talking about how they wouldn't open the front door for "one dollar and fifty cents." Something like that, I can't really remember because, after seeing Big Momma's House, I went to a neurologist who dabbled in alternative medicine to get surgery that'd let me block out the memories of painful movie scenes. Aside from the part where Martin's "hiding another flashlight under there," it's been an incredible success.
And look, it's the GRINCH! Boris Karloff doesn't return to do the voicework, with the reings being handed to Hans Conried. The Grinch looks mostly the same, save for a few facial gestures that seem to confirm my belief that this is just some Who in a Grinch costume looking for a good time. Max the Dog is back, and though the pair were seen getting along famously by the end of Grinchie's Christmas special, now they're back to the more sadistic relationship where the G-Man snaps whips and speaks ill of Max's mother. Hmprf. Must be a prequel.
The Grinch, mostly in song, echoes the thoughts of those scared little Whos down in Whoville -- he's coming, all right, and he's thirsty for blood. The bloodthirst thing is more implied than actually said, but what else would you expect from a show that calls shit huts "Euphemisms?"
Speaking of which, Eurakiah inadvertantly stumbles into the Grinch while on his merry way to the piss tank, and that spells trouble. Still, Eurakiah is a selfless soul, and he decides to stall the Grinch's trek in an effort to save his family and friends from whatever awfulness the monster had in store. What a guy! Oh, for the record, right before this happened, the Grinch was seen chasing down a fuzzy pink animal who bore a striking resemblence to a more flourescent Stephen King in his post-alien plant phase from Creepshow. I'm just saying.
To meet his desired ends, Eukariah decides to goad the Grinch into wasting time scaring him instead of the people down below. He confidently and almost insulting asks if the Grinch is really the Grinch, prompting the world's 376th antihero to laugh off the inquisition with amusement. Is he really the Grinch? He proves it with the scare heard 'round the world...
Wait, no -- he's just mumbling incoherently, only in rhyme. I'm absolutely serious. The Grinch gets a whole song number here under the premise of scaring Eukariah, and spends the entire time speaking in tongues while his detached eyebrows float above his head. I didn't get it, and neither did Eukariah.
The Grinch grows annoyed and weary, and upon seeing Eukariah's rather boastful disposition about the whole thing, opts to show him a "real scare" on their second meeting. This time around, no punches will be pulled. Eukariah is going to be transported into the Grinch's Haunted Dimension of Horrible Horrors, and if he can survive that, he can change his name to Eureka and do a touchdown dance.
If there's anything "Grinch Night" is remembered for most, it's the following scene. Some have said that what I'm about to show you was actually too scary for the wee little ones who'd be watching this thing, and while it's no Jason Voorhees or anything, yeah, I can see that. Imagery is just as powerful as action and the spoken word, especially to people still of the age to be totally usurped by whatever they see. Here's what Eukariah must endure in the Grinch's tormenting dungeon lair...
It's basically just this huge montage of spooky ghosts and monsters, with our hero running around like he's got the runs, trying to escape each new peril. What's shown in the above spread is only a small sampling -- there's too much going on to even keep track. There were gigantic ocean lobsters, spooky eyes, dancing ghosts, cloaked crows, and even a few living embodiments of bunny rabbit shadow puppets. Pretty cool, actually. I'm not sure if this is the kind of thing that would've had my crying to Momma, but then, it really shouldn't have been anyway.
This is also the only scene in "Grinch Night" that makes us remember the unending intricacies that made his X-Mas deal such a trip. Yeah, I said "such a trip." I haven't really done that in real life; this just seemed like a nice testing ground. Are you down with it?
At heart, we haven't so much watched "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" for its story, and maybe not even for its tunes -- it's all about those countless nooks and crannies, the kind that worked so well for Thomas' English Muffins. When Eukariah finally exits the Grinch's House of Horrors, so do my precious nooks and beloved crannies. It makes me sad when I watch "Grinch Night," and even sadder now, because this is the first time I've ever had an excuse to work "crannies" into an article. And now it's over. Thanks, Grinch. :(
Alas, Eukariah survives the Chamber of Doom and announces that IT'S OVER. See, he previously theorized that the Grinch couldn't scare Whoville unless that ominous wind continued to cause a chain reaction of annoying sounds. He was right. The wind dies out, and with it, the Grinch's motivation to go medieval on the Whos. Eukariah's stalling has paid off -- if he didn't get the Grinch to waste time showing him dancing ghosts and monster eyes, the guy probably would've made it downtown just in time to scare the old ladies of Whoville into strangely spasmodic comas.
The Grinch is confused, and who can blame him? He's somehow obligated to cease and desist because the wind stopped blowing? What kind of bullshit is that? The worst part is, he eventually accepts this amazingly convenient plot twist as an absolute truth, ordering Max to follow him on a sorrowful trip home. Max proceeds to ditch the Grinch, instead going home with Eukariah after a face-licking scene that seemed just a little bit too foxy for a kiddy show. Would the real Grinch have given up so easily? Ponder that.
Meanwhile, back at Whoville, Eukariah's become some sort of town hero for keeping the Grinch at bay. Just as the place starts showing signs of that Christmastime personality, the camera backs away in a decisive tease. I guess the working theory was that Whoville, a society established as being pretty oddball, would celebrate their version of Halloween by making the community appear as boring and lifeless as possible. What looks banal to us might be perfectly spirited to them. Look closely and you'll spot Max the Dog posing for a newspaper shot with his new master. Traitor. Canine. Crannies. Sorry, I couldn't resist.
Before the Grinch ascends offscreen, he promises to return another day, for another Grinch Night. Not gonna happen, pardnah. May as well give Easter a try because you totally blew your October shot. The video also featured a bunch of trailers for other Seuss toons, some of which starring the Grinch. Let me tell you -- compared to those, "Grinch Night" is a monkey's paw wish. Though he could never recapture the magic found in a land full of blinking lights and roast beasts, I enjoyed catching up with the Grinch here. It's not all I could've hoped for, but to be honest, I haven't really spent much time praying for more and better Grinch shows for any considerable amount of time. Maybe I'm to blame? I thought I was one of the good ones.
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