As a temporary store, Spirit Halloween is infamous for popping up opportunistically every Fall in that weird strip mall at the edge of town and for offering several thousand officially licensed pieces of Nightmare Before Christmas merchandise. But, apparently, this year the widely mocked spooky season perennial wanted to be known for its contributions to the arts as well as its idiosyncratic business moves. So it decided to get into the motion picture business with the imaginatively named, modestly budgeted horror comedy Spirit Halloween: The Movie.
So, who is this movie for? And can Christopher Lloyd save it? Having paid actual money to see the movie in an actual theater, here’s what you need to know, know that Spirit Halloween: The Movie is streaming, as of October 11, 2022. Mild spoilers ahead.
Boasting that your workplace could easily double as the set of a horror movie is a weird flex. After all, most businesses want to be known for their pleasant atmosphere and lack of sinister vibes. But the Spirit Halloween stores aggressively cultivate a haunted house/horror movie aesthetic. Spirit Halloween wants to look like the set of a cheap, cheesy horror movie. And now, it realizes that aspiration with Spirit Halloween: The Movie, a D-list Stranger Things wannabe by way of Monster Squad and various Steven Spielberg-produced kiddie horror hits of the 1980s.
Spirit Halloween: The Movie has the right influences. Its heart is in the right place. That does not keep it from feeling more like a fan film from someone with an unhealthy attachment to Halloween-themed seasonal pop-up stores than an actual motion picture. Donovan Colan stars as Jake, a middle schooler with a dead dad who died of cancer in place of a personality. He’s in that awkward middle school in-between stage where he still wants to Trick or Treat but is rapidly aging out of the October tradition. His slightly old friend Carson (Dylan Martin Frankel) wants to go to a cool party so they can touch boobs and drink beer.
Along with pint-sized science wiz Bo (Jaiden J. Smith), they reach a peculiar compromise and decide to spend the night at a Spirit Halloween after it closes. At first, they have an absolute blast hanging out and goofing off because what could possibly be more fun than partying at Spirit Halloween on Halloween? The good times come to an abrupt end, however, when the evil spirit of Alex Windsor (Christopher Lloyd), an evil old man who wanted to tear down an orphanage so he could snap up the land but died after being cursed by a witch, enters the store and begins inhabiting various monsters that, in a neat coincidence, are also consumer products you can purchase at Spirit Halloween.
Lloyd graciously spent what appears to be several hours lending his inimitable voice to some of the least scary monsters in recent memory but even with the presence of an old pro like Lloyd, this still feels like amateur hour. The bogeymen that antagonize the kid heroes look like the kind of cheap, tacky nonsense you might find at a Spirit Halloween store because, well, they are the kind of cheap, tacky nonsense you might find at a Spirit Halloween store. Spirit Halloween: The Movie’s tween-friendly PG-13 rating ensures that the movie won’t be too scary or intense, or scary or intense at all, really. That’s also true of the film’s status as sub-par corporate branding thinly and cynically masquerading as entertainment. It’s similarly difficult, if not impossible for anyone older than the film’s middle school-age protagonists to be scared of a bad guy who is easily and repeatedly defeated by a trio of moderately resourceful pre-teens. Calling this a low-budget Scooby-Doo is an insult to Scooby-Doo.
Strangely, judging from the cut-rate production values, Spirit Halloween: The Movie could barely afford the rights to Spirit Halloween, let alone the rights to popular horror franchises like Halloween and Friday the 13th. So, quality-wise Spirit Halloween: The Movie falls closer to the ugh of Foodfight! then the brilliance of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Judging by the nearly empty theater I saw Spirit Halloween: The Movie in and the fact that I had to take a Lyft twenty miles to the only theater in the Atlanta area showing the film it seems safe to assume that Spirit Halloween: The Movie will be a one-off not just for Spirit Halloween but for chain stores in general. Sadly, Spirit Halloween: The Movie is unlike to inspire That Weird TJ Max in the Mall: The Movie or The Aldi’s That Smells Funky: The Movie.
That’s no great loss. Spirit Halloween: The Movie has the audacity to tease a sequel that should never be made. If they end up following up on this muddled mess, the movie should play only at Spirit Halloween stores, not in cinemas, and not straight-to streaming. They’ve already gone to the unusual step of turning their stores into everyday terror tale. They might as well become a theater for shoddily synergistic shockers as well. Right?
Spirit Halloween: The Movie streaming
Spirit Halloween: The Movie is streaming on demand as of October 11, 2022. But, if you need the physical DVD, that’s on Amazon for $9.99.