Spirit Halloween: The Movie, 2022.
Directed by David Poag.
Starring Christopher Lloyd, Rachael Leigh Cook, Donovan Colan, Dylan Martin Frankel, Jaiden J. Smith, Marissa Reyes, Billie Roy, Brad Carter, and Marla Gibbs.
When a Halloween store opens in a deserted strip-mall, three friends, thinking they’ve outgrown trick or treating, decide to spend the night locked inside. But their night of spook-filled fun soon turns to outlandish survival.
Technically, every movie exists to hopefully turn some kind of profit, no matter how shameless the endeavor. I’m also aboard the idea that adaptations can come from anywhere, including unsuspecting places such as boardgames and Twitter, but a Halloween store? So when I say that Spirit Halloween: The Movie has zero reasons to exist, I mean it.
Following a group of three boys on the cusp of high school, Spirit Halloween: The Movie can’t even tap into something resembling the behavior of modern teenagers. That’s not just because of the decidedly family-friendly approach; this movie lives in a vacuum of scares that would struggle to frighten kindergartners, let alone the kids here.
A heaping of forced family drama and friendships drifting apart puts the plot in motion. Jake (Donovan Colan) wants to go trick-or-treating, but the slightly edgier (a term used in the loosest sense) Carson (Dylan Martin Frankel) asserts that they have outgrown that tradition, encouraging them to go to a party instead. Bo (Jaiden J. Smith) is the most levelheaded of the three but afraid to side against Carson.
Halloween is a deeply personal holiday to Jake, especially having recently lost his father to cancer. One can gather that they enjoyed many spooky nights together, naturally making it hard for Jake to let go of trick-or-treating. He’s also outraged that his little sister Joanie (Billie Roy) is decorating the front yard with princess decorations rather than anything scary. This also means that when his mom (Rachel Leigh Cook) suggests taking his sister trick-or-treating, he shuts the idea down over developing that kind of bond, which would be a useful tool for overcoming grief to continue partaking in the fun of trick-or-treating.
You’re probably wondering what the hell a Spirit Halloween store has to do with any of this. Well, Jake convinces Carson that instead of going to a party, they break into the abandoned Spirit Halloween store and stay there all night. And so they do, unaware that due to a truly pointless framing device involving a curse placed on Christopher Lloyd’s Alex Windsor, a cheaply rendered blue spirit ball roams around, possessing various costumes and displays, haunting the boys searching for a vessel to possess for all eternity.
I can’t remember the last time I was inside a Spirit Halloween store, but it’s safe to assume that most of what’s here is recognizable to frequent shoppers. However, I can say that none of this is remotely scary, even for the children characters tasked with pretending any of it is.
At one point, the film also gets tired of its setting and goes underground (you can’t blame the filmmakers for doing so). Eventually, Carson’s sister Kate (Marissa Reyes) tracks the boys down and winds up trying to survive the night, whom Jake also has a crush on. Even when the movie tries to be funny, it’s embarrassing, relying on a fart joke at one point.
There is a kernel of a decent idea in Spirit Halloween: The Movie with a grieving child struggling to grow up and find a positive, pay-it-forward way to go out trick-or-treating every year, but you already know before you clicked on this review that director David Poag and Billie Bates have no interest in exploring these characters. It’s a glorified advertisement for Spirit Halloween and doesn’t deserve to be called a movie. The only place this movie should be sold is inside a Spirit Halloween, but purchasing it costs your soul.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com