Spirit Halloween: The Movie is exactly the kind of film my 12-year-old self would look forward to watching every All Hallows Eve. It has creepy creatures, kid banter, and a decent scare factor for its target audience that will give them spooky thrills at sleepovers. It reminded me of formative Halloween flicks from my childhood like Halloweentown and Hocus Pocus, and watching it got me in the mood for the upcoming spooky season.
Spirit Halloween: The Movie is an enjoyable new addition to any tween’s must watch October roster.
Spirit Halloween The Movie Official Trailer
Jake (Donovan Colan), Carson (Dylan Martin Frankel) and Bo (Jaiden J. Smith) are three tweens on the cusp of high school. Jake wants to uphold their old tradition of trick-or-treating, but Carson wants a more “mature” activity this Halloween season instead. Jake suggests they stay in the local Spirit Halloween store after closing, to which everyone agrees.
However, their night of fun in the locked store soon turns to terror when a malevolent spirit (Voiced by Christopher Lloyd) starts possessing the store ornaments with intent to take one of the kids for its own body. Once Carson’s teen sister Kate (Marissa Reyes) joins the fray, the young quartet must band together to survive the night.
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Spirit Halloween: The Movie feels like a throwback to kids’ films of the 1990s. We’ve got one angry kid dealing with the death of his parent and arrival of a well-meaning step-parent, one quiet nerd who nobody listens to, one headstrong mature kid who wants to grow up too fast, and teen sibling who gets involved in their shenanigans. While older viewers will recognize these well-worn character types, most tweens will probably relate to at least one of the characters in some way and enjoy the fantasy of having to escape monsters with their lives in peril.
While I doubt anyone will receive a Kid’s Choice Award for their performances here, the young cast carries the movie decently and make their characters easy to root for. I feared early on that Jake’s anger might become grating, but the film wisely doesn’t overplay this and sees him go on an arc of confronting his pain and moving on. Adults will see where the character arcs are going like a blinding light in the sky, but it’s solid for tweens.
I applaud the film for taking its threats and characters seriously rather than being mired in juvenile humor. There is comedic relief here, but it’s appropriately placed and never lessens the monster.
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Speaking of that monster, he is portrayed by the great Christopher Lloyd clearly having a fun time. Lloyd’s always excelled in villain roles (His performances in Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Anastasia are still delightfully demented to this day), and while he does a fine job here, I wish we saw him onscreen more. He only physically appears in the film’s opening scene and the rest of his performance is done in voice-over as he possesses the various Halloween objects.
Rachael Leigh Cook is similarly underused as Jake’s mother Sue, spending the majority of her screentime in worried mother mode and never interacting with the fun side of the plot at all. It seems strange to get actors of talent such as Cook and Lloyd for relatively small roles like this, but they put in good work regardless. One character that never goes anywhere is Bo’s creepy Grandma G (Marla Gibbs) who spends her screentime delivering jump scares to the kids. There is a mid-credits scene with her that sets up a potential sequel, but otherwise the character feels wasted.
On a positive note, I was surprised that the film never felt like an advertisement for Spirit Halloween. While a large chunk of it takes place inside the titular building and we see the festive decorations all around, the film doesn’t try to be a Spirit infomercial, but rather a spooky run romp anyone can watch regardless of their knowledge or enjoyment of the real-life store. I’ve been in a few Spirit Halloweens over the years and thus appreciated the macabre monsters on display and how some of them were used.
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However, I wish the film had been given a full 90 minutes instead of the current 75, so there could have been more monster mania in the middle. I appreciate the film for taking a full half hour to establish everything instead of rushing through its setup, but a slightly extended runtime would have allowed for more monster fun. Still, as is, it’s a solidly fun time that will entertain tweens on stormy nights, and I’m happy with that.
Spirit Halloween: The Movie is a fun frightfest for tweens that should get them hyped up for the Halloween season. See it.
2.5 out of 5 stars (Decent)
Spirit Halloween: The Movie releases on VOD on October 11, 2022. Let us know what you think of the spooky new release over on our social media!
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