Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, has found herself in some pretty exotic surroundings during her career, but Halloween week finds the campy Valley Girl vamp in an unlikely context: on Animal Planet, where she hosts a nightly lineup of prime-time specials dubbed "Howl-o-ween Week" that start Sunday and end on the holiday itself, one week later.
The unusual gig makes perfect sense to Cassandra Peterson, Elvira's off-screen alter-ego.
"I have a very special place in my heart for Animal Planet, because I am a big animal rights activist," she explained.
"And of course this Halloween week is largely about the creepy, icky and spooky animals, so that's perfect for Elvira."
The pumpkin-scented programming begins Sunday at 7 p.m. with "Nature's Vampires," an hour-long examination of creatures who feast on human blood. Monday through Friday, the channel features prime-time encores of spooky programming, building up to Saturday's premiere of Elvira's two-hour special, "Hollywood's Creepiest Creatures."
"I shot those intros and lead-outs for all the prime-time programs that week," Peterson said. "I had spiders and snakes all over me, and then there were owls and wolves and cats. In fact, I was just washing my Elvira dress, because it got pretty disgusting from all the wolf hair, plus a little drool."
The boo-tifully bountiful week of Halloween programming also includes the following highlights on other channels:
n AMC kicks off "Monsterfest 2004," the channel's eighth week-long festival of horror films on Sunday, with the premiere at 10 p.m. of "20: Entertainment Weekly's Scariest Movies," hosted by horror movie icon Bruce Campbell (the "Evil Dead" trilogy). The channel also airs a new edition of its popular "Backstory" series devoted to the chiller "The Omen" at 5 p.m.
n Also on Sunday, Anne Heche stars as a New Orleans attorney whose antique engagement ring awakens a restless spirit in "The Dead Will Tell," a CBS thriller at 9 p.m. "inspired by the reads of medium James Van Praagh." Ho-kay.
n Sunday also brings the premiere of HGTV's "Extreme Halloween" special at 8 p.m., which profiles U.S. homeowners who go to lavish lengths to scarify their homes and yards; and the Travel Channel kicks off its "Weird Travels Week" with "America's Most Haunted Places: Savannah" at 8 p.m. and "Haunted Campuses" at 9 p.m.
n ABC Family gets in on the Sunday frightfest with the TV premiere at 8 p.m. of "The Hollow," a retelling of the Headless Horseman story; and those three bewitching "Charmed" ladies find themselves in a new magical mess Sunday on the WB Network.
n Tuesday on ABC, a Halloween episode of "George Lopez" airs at 8:30 p.m. Right after, "According to Jim" finds Jim fretting over his son Kyle's costume choice -- Cinderella -- while a fright-night practical joke on a cop backfires spectacularly on "Rodney" at 9:30 p.m.
n That same night, Bravo launches "The 100 Scariest Movie Moments," a series of prime-time specials airing through Saturday at 9 p.m.
n On Wednesday at 10 p.m., Sci-Fi Channel administers a double dose of its popular "Scare Tactics" extreme pranks series, this time involving an unwanted amputation and an alien baby.
n Friday night, ABC turns over its entire sitcom lineup to fright fare, starting at 8 p.m. with "8 Simple Rules," about putting together a school Halloween party. Immediately after, the annual Halloween prank is under discussion on "Complete Savages," then at 9 p.m., "Hope & Faith" finds the sisters being terrified by a crazed neighbor. Rounding out the lineup at 9:30 p.m., the death of an elderly colleague sets off a spooky chain of events on "Less Than Perfect."
n Also on Friday, the teenage sleuths try to solve the mystery of "Scooby Doo and the Loch Ness Monster," airing on the Cartoon Network at 8 p.m.
n Discovery Channel schedules a Saturday trilogy of terror with back-to-back prime-time specials starting at 8 p.m.: "Jekyll and Hyde: The True Story," "Lizzie Borden Had an Axe" and "Exorcists: The True Story." At 9 p.m., the Sci Fi Channel opts for a little-seen horror movie called "Gargoyles: Wings of Darkness," starring Michael Pare.
n And, for traditionalists, Fox trots out an encore of last year's "Treehouse of Terror" episode on Halloween night at 8 p.m. on "The Simpsons" (provided the World Series doesn't go to seven games). Following this show's usual skewed logic, this season's new "Treehouse" airs Nov. 7.