‘Spirit Halloween: The Movie’ Review: A Fun Nostalgia Journey to Open the Halloween Season
Yes, September is almost over, which means we are entering many people’s favorite season of the year, Halloween. This is the time when witches, monsters, and all kinds of spirits travel through the veil between dimensions and land on our doorstep. Halloween is a time to be frightened, to be on the edge, to ask for candy, to pull off some pranks, and, of course, it is the time for scary movies. Make no mistake, Halloween is all about getting in the mood, and Spirit Halloween, one of the latest Halloween films to arrive on our screens, feels like it is completely made around that objective.
Spirit Halloween: The Movie is directed by David Poag and written by Billie Bates. The film stars Christopher Lloyd, Rachel Leigh Cook, Donovan Colan, Dylan Martin Frankel, Jaiden Smith, and Marissa Reyes. The film tells the story of Donovan Colan, a young teen having an existential crisis. After the death of his father has left him with profound grief, he tries to hide behind the Halloween season, his favorite one, as he tries to drag his friends on a Halloween adventure. What Jake doesn’t know is that he will be more successful at doing it than he ever imagined.
Yes, Spirit Halloween: The Movie is effectively a movie about the Spirit Halloween, the Halloween store where we go to buy all the decorations, costumes, and everything you need to get in the mood for the Halloween season. If Blockbuster, a dead store, can have documentaries and series made around it, why not Spirit Halloween? The filmmakers take that attitude and add the energy and the imagination to use the store as the setting for a very classic and simple Halloween story that people of all ages can enjoy.
This isn’t a movie with gore, or tons of jump scares, and it isn’t particularly scary either. However, the movie knows that while it cannot match the production values of real scary movies, it doesn’t need to because Halloween is so much more than being scared. It is a powerful tradition when the youth is capable of experiencing some of the best memories they will have from their childhood, a time to be yourself and not be looked upon as a weirdo, and many more things. Halloween is about freedom, more than being scared.
Of course, we cannot ignore the fact that this movie is titled after a store that sells Halloween merchandise, that would be hypocritical. Why? Because, Halloween, like Christmas after it, is a time to buy stuff. Stuff dealing with monsters, demons, and other dark theme material, but stuff anyway. It is a season when the economy can get another influx of money before the big, expensive Christmas that will come just a month later. Just like the store itself, Spirit Halloween: The Movie is a film that welcomes everyone and leaves no one behind. Everyone is a possible client.
Thankfully, Spirit Halloween: The Movie never goes too much into the “in your face” kind of product placement. It is relatively tame actually, which is appreciated. No one wants another Space Jam 2. Instead, the movie focuses on a story about friendship, growing up, and letting the past be the past. For a movie that has such a title, it deals with very mature subjects. The film never goes too much into each of these themes, but it at least presents them as the core of the story it is trying to tell.
The cast is solid, with some familiar faces like Christopher Lloyd making a small appearance and the always fantastic Rachel Leigh Cook giving us a more substantial role than Lloyd’s. It is always great to see her on screen. The kids, of course, are the main protagonists of the movie, and they are all great. Colan, as Jake, needs to go through a lot of emotions, and he takes the challenge head-on. Standsouts are Frankel and Smith, who play Colan’s friends in the movie. Frankel has excellent delivery and command, and Smith is just very charming in every scene.
Visually, the movie makes it very clear that we are dealing with a low-budget production. The cinematography and the lighting have the typical feel of a Hallmark movie. It isn’t bad, but it doesn’t scream scary or anything that is particularly Halloween. When the movie moves into the store, it is then when the movie feels like Halloweeen, and it has to be when every shot is filled with Halloween merchandise. The directing is solid, but Poag doesn’t have the time to experiment or let any sort of personality leak into the movie.
Spirit Halloween: The Movie is rather short, lasting about 80 minutes. It is the perfect length for a story such as this. Nowadays, many movies and TV shows feel the need to stretch their lengths for some reason. Spirit Halloween: The Movie goes straight to the point and still manages to create a character arc for its main character and create a nice little adventure that reminds us what Halloween is all about. Yes, most of those things have to do with commerce more than anything, but hey! That is what nostalgia is mostly about.