‘Bob’s Burgers’ Review: “Hauntening”

Sarah Ruemenapp ’18 / Emertainment Monthly TV Staff Writer
In terms of holiday episodes, Bob’s Burgers has set some pretty high standards for itself. Its Thanksgiving episodes are a beautiful, time-honored tradition, and its recent Halloween episodes have been a treat as well. Last season’s Halloween episode, “Tina and the Real Ghost,” was an examination of the show’s relationship dynamics, rich with character development, while season four’s episode, “Fort Night,” was a near-perfect. It combined elements of a gripping psychological thriller with the absurd brand of comedy that Bob’s Burgers does best. Consequently, this week’s Halloween episode had some pretty big shoes to fill, and it fell a little short.

 Photo Credits: FOX
…and it fell a little short
Photo Credits: FOX
It’s the spookiest time of year at the Belcher household, and Louise Belcher (Kristen Schaal) wishes she could just be scared. Every time her family attends a haunted house, Gene and Tina Belcher (Eugene Mirman and Dan Mintz) are scared out of their minds while Louise finds the scares predictable and transparent. Louise is definitely proud of the fact that she’s a little too intelligent for cheap thrills, but she also understands that there’s a kind of fun that comes with safe scares which she’s missing out on and, being Louise, she wants in. So, Bob and Linda Belcher (H. Jon Benjamin and John Roberts) set up a haunted house for her in a mysteriously abandoned home, and they promise it will be truly spooky. It isn’t. They go through all the typical haunted house gags that Louise can see coming from a mile away — the cheap costumes, the spaghetti as brains — messing each of them up somehow along the way, and none of the kids are scared in the slightest. That is, until the Belcher’s get trapped at the house. There’s a creepy old man staring at them from the street, and some kind of cultish practice happening on the lawn. Eventually, Louise is truly scared.
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…the cheap costumes, the spaghetti as brains
Photo Credits: FOX
The episode ends with a twist, and it’s a sweet one. It is one that shows off the Belchers’ love, not only for silly pranks, but also for each other. However, it’s also a pretty predictable twist, and it makes the rest of the episode have pretty low-stakes. In comparison with a lot of the series, especially including truly frightening episodes like “Fort Night” and the more recent “Housetrap,” a low-stakes episode sticks out like a sore thumb — and not in a good way.
The low-stakes nature of “Hauntening,” which is at the core of the episode’s premise, also messes with the continuity of Bob’s Burgers a little bit. Longtime viewers know that Louise can be scared — they’ve seen it. The Belcher family has been in some truly scary situations, and Louise has reacted appropriately. This not only makes the setup of the episode a little confusing, but it also makes its payoff less satisfying. Louise as a character is at her most interesting when she’s expressing some new vulnerability, but in this episode, she just gets scared, which viewers have seen before. And while continuity has never been super important to Bob’s Burgers, or to most cartoons, viewers have seen the show’s characters, especially the kids, progress a decent amount over the course of the series. To see “Hauntening” ignore Louise’s development into a slightly more expressive kid is a little frustrating.
Boyz 4 Now debut their new Halloween music video “I love you So Much (It’s Scary)”
Photo Credits: FOX
As a whole, though, “Hauntening” is entertaining. It brings the whole Belcher family together, allowing them to play off of each other which is when the show is at its funniest. The whole family, especially Linda and Gene, are able to get some good lines in. And it showcases the wacky but caring dynamic of the family — they’ll go to great lengths to make each other happy, which means they’ll go to great lengths to scare Louise. The episode also caps things off in the most delightful way possible with a “Boyz 4 Now” Halloween-themed music video, complete with reactions from the Belchers. “Hauntening” would be better earlier in the series before all of this character development had occurred or as a stand-alone episode, maybe for someone who’s never seen the show before. But overall, it seems as though Bob’s Burgers has once again run into the same issue it has throughout this season so far — it has set expectations too high.
‘Bob’s Burgers’ airs Sunday nights at 7:30/6:30c on FOX.
Episode Grade: B+

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