October 18th, 2015, 9:00 PM, FOX
Halloween’s rolled around, and the Belchers are about to make their annual pilgrimage to a haunted house. Everyone’s excited, but Louise – who’s cool-tempered and unflappable - and makes the mistake of telling the family she’s never been scared before and really wants to be. That encourages the whole family to take a more-frightening-than-anticipated trip to a different haunted house specially arranged by Bob and Linda. When the parents’ scares go bust, the family tries to leave, only to end up with a flat tire, no cell service, surrounded by creepy unhelpful residents, and apparently ready to be made into a cult sacrifice through fire.
This is one wild ride of an episode, and the best part is that it’s genuinely suspenseful and creepy without being too scary. There’s a lot of really great little moments that are sprinkled throughout the whole episode that make it worth watching, including several great bits of suspense writing that make everything actually carry a bit of tension as the plot develops.
Bob in particular is well characterized; concerned and yet practical the whole time; and it’s worth noting that all of the Belchers get a tiny bit of time to shine. The episode is mainly about Louise’s fearlessness, and her continued toughness gets its due tribute; she’s great in this episode, and a lot of fun to watch grapple with her natural sense of boldness.
But the scares are what set it apart from other episodes, and the scares that completely make it a different ballgame from other BB episodes. For a little while in there you actually worry about the Belchers’ safety, even though this is an animated sitcom on a Sunday evening. That’s a credit to the writers; the level of spooky atmosphere is pretty gripping.
In an excellent episode like this one, thought, the creaky spots are all the more obvious. For instance you can tell that Gene’s “you’re being a good dad!” dialogue was improvised and while the show is constantly front-loaded with improvisation, here it didn’t work for the first time; it actually felt awkward. But this is a minor blemish on an episode that’s actually pretty amazing episode. It’s worth noting, though, that Louise has been shown to be scared in other episodes in the series’ run, but that doesn’t diminish the fun here – it’s possible that she needs her Halloween/haunted house thrills to be real in order to be scared by them.
Probably the most memorable facet is the Boyz 4 Now video that closes out the episode. A funny callback that provided a very tender scene, and one that just serves to make the Belchers even more endearing.
There’s something great about the way the show continues to crank out Halloween episodes that are consistently serviceable; last year’s offering, “Fort Night”, was legitimately creepy and claustrophobic, too, and “Full Bars” was just plain hilarious. This isn’t the first time the show’s gone ahead and written an excellent horror-based episode. “The Hauntening” is a well-paced experience with some great jokes and some fun thrills that provides the right amount of horror action this season.
Indisputably one of the best Halloween episode the show’s produced yet, with a genuinely terrifying twist that has the right comedic edge in the end .