Halloween Specials Week: Dark and Stormy Night (Family Matters)

Welcome to my week long celebration of Halloween specials!  One of the most common traditions around this time of year is to tell scary stories.  People gather around, shine a flashlight under their face, and try to creep out their listeners with a terrifying tale.  Nowadays, people instead gather to watch a horror flick of some kind.  Still, I’d like to think there are people out there still gather and try to freak each other out with nothing but spoken word.  Today’s special revolves around that concept.  It’s the episode of Family Matters called Dark and Stormy Night.

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The Winslows (and Urkel, of course) are stuck inside on Halloween thanks to a particularly bad storm.  Unfortunately, the storm also knocks out the power.  To pass the time, the family plays Pass the Ghost Story, in which each person takes a turn telling a different part of the story.  The story revolves around Count von Winslow and his family of vampires, the dashing Duke of Urkel, and a poor peasant woman held prisoner by the Count.

I don’t remember much about Family Matters, though I do remember watching it on occasion as a kid.  Mostly, I remembered Urkel’s annoying voice and Carl’s constant anger at him.  Well, I’m happy to say that this show is a lot funnier than I remembered it to be.  Particularly, this show seems to thrive on physical comedy with excellent timing.  For example, there’s a great scene between von Winslow and Sir Steve where they boast about their sword fighting skills.  Urkel also, thankfully, isn’t too much of a klutz in the episode, though he does have one “Did I do that” moment, with an actually funny twist.

The best thing about this episode is that it stands well on its own.  As I said, I remembered almost nothing about Family Matters and the jokes all still worked for me.  The way that the characters of the show were placed into the story were all funny.  Well, except for Eddie, the oldest son of the Winslows.  He has a single joke: He’s a 90s kid! Look at that crazy hair and those mismatching clothes! And he’s a rebel too!  WACKY!  Everyone else, from Waldo the butler to Laura the peasant, were all used well in this vampire tale.

The episode wasn’t even remotely scary, but I didn’t expect it to be.  Heck, I don’t expect anything I watch to be all that scary this week.  The comedy in the episode really works, though, and the characters are all used pretty well.  In fact, the only complaint I have is… why is the game called Pass the GHOST Story?  There wasn’t a speck of a spook or specter in the whole story.  Could have easily just been called Pass the Story and the episode wouldn’t have suffered at all.

As a Halloween episode, I really enjoyed this.  It’s got vampires, sword fights, and a battle of wits between our “dashing” hero and a cunning adversary.  There’s also a small twist in the story, too, which was both surprising and hilarious to me.  Sure, some of the story is hackneyed with generic characters and such, but what do you expect when people are spontaneously telling a story together?  I definitely recommend this episode for anyone who’s interested in seeing if Family Matters was as good as they remember.  It may just surprise you.  Or maybe I’ve just gone batty.

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