Spirit Halloween would likely have been a complete knockout had it aired on the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon in the ’90s. It has all the charm and fun of those classic Disney Channel movies with a bit more scares than a normal “kids” horror flick. Unsurprisingly, it also has the same length as classics like Under Wraps and Halloweentown. Going through the whole film, this is still more than just a shameless cash-grab advertisement for Spirit Halloween. In fact, it really looks like they could have just done this movie without the name-brand Halloween store, and it still would have worked. Naturally, it works better because we all know and love Spirit Halloween stores this time of year.
Spirit Halloween: The Movie comes from director David Poag and writer Billie Bates. The premise will make you violently angry when you consider that you didn’t think of it. What happens when a Spirit Halloween is taken over by a vengeful spirit and four kids get locked in the store overnight? That’s the movie. Yes, it’s incredibly upsetting that no one thought of this before. However, that fury subsides when you actually watch the movie because it’s a short, but devilishly fun movie. It stars Rachael Leigh Cook, Christopher Lloyd, Marla Gibbs, Brad Carter, Marissa Reyes, Jaiden J. Smith, Dylan Martin Frankel, Donovan Colan, and Billie Roy.
The Basics Of Spirit Halloween: The Movie
That simple premise is backed up by a story of “don’t get too old too fast” where Jake and his friends are getting to that age where they might be “too old” to go Trick or Treating. It’s that stage of adolescence where people and society put pressure on you to be more of an adult. Here, Jake still wants to go Trick or Treating, but some of his friends would rather go to the rocking party. That’s where they get the idea to break into the Spirit Halloween that is supposedly haunted. The entire story is surrounded by this frame of Christopher Lloyd’s character, Alex Windsor, evicting Grandma G (played by Marla Gibbs), and then having a curse put on him. He dies, and now haunts this plot of land.
Christopher Lloyd Turns Back The Clock, And The Kids Do Alright
Lloyd channels his best Judge Doom here, and voices all the animatronics and costumes that he possesses throughout the film. It adds a bit of fun to the normally scary act of Spirit Halloween animatronics coming to life. Now, here’s where the film deflates a bit. If this was a perfect world, they’d have the rights to all the different characters and monsters that Spirit Halloween has in their store. it would be like a Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but with Michael Myers, Killer Klowns, and other horror icons. Sadly, that’s not the case, but the monsters on display, while generic ones are still quite frightening and cool-looking.
The kids in the movie all do admirable jobs of acting and no one sticks out as poor or out of place. They provide performances that are equally fun, and adventurous, but also scared at the right moments. Rachael Leigh Cook gives a solid performance as Jake’s worried mother, which actually feels like what a real mother would do in a situation where her kid lied about what house they were spending the night at.
Could Have Been More Frights, But Fun Enough For Kids And Adults
The biggest qualm I have with Spirit Halloween is that it doesn’t lean one way or another enough. It could have been scarier but wasn’t scary enough. It could have been adventurous and more kid-friendly, but it wasn’t really. The film rides the line between both, which makes for a safe movie for all, but doesn’t really go too far in one direction or another. It’s a kid’s Halloween movie, that also happens to be fun for adults to watch.
Outside of that, the climax of the film leaves something to be desired and doesn’t really end the movie well. The set piece could have been bigger, and more polished. Instead, the movie just kind of ends.
Although the kids in the movie are high school age, it doesn’t really go into that audience. It helps that the kids are ambiguous enough looking that they could pass for older or younger kids. So if you want a Halloween movie to show to your 10-year-old or your 16-year-old, Spirit Halloween works for any age group. It might be too frightening for younger kids, but that goes on a case-by-case basis.
The creature/animatronic effects all look great, and they all look like they could fit right in with a Spirit Halloween store. That’s really the best “vibe” that this movie captures. It captures that feeling of going to Spirit Halloween as a kid and just looking around. There’s stuff there that might be too scary, but it’s okay because it’s a Halloween store.
It’s the connection to the Halloween store that makes this one more than just a generic kids Halloween movie though.
Spirit Halloween: The Movie releases in limited theaters on September 30th and on VOD on October 11th.
For more on Horror, make sure to check out the Fright-A-Thon Index, the 61-day Halloween Content Marathon!