Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Spirit Halloween: The Movie

Visit our stores and maybe you’ll be possessed by an angry ghost” is an unusual commercial message for a company to put out, but Spirit Halloween is not your typical retail chain. They only open brick-and-mortar stores for 60 to 90 days out of the year, usually taking short-term remnant leases. It is easy to see why middle school monster fans like Jake and his friends would be fascinated by their inventory. However, sneaking into the big-box pop-up on Halloween night is obviously just asking for trouble in David Poag’s Spirit Halloween: The Movie, which opens this Friday in theaters.

Jake loves Halloween, because it brings back fond memories of his late father. Unfortunately, his obnoxious friend Carson believes he is already too old to trick or trick. Instead, he wants to go to a teen party or pull stupid teen pranks. Somehow, he and Jake come to a compromise, agreeing to secretly spend the night in their local Spirit Halloween. Their third friend Bo knows it is a bad idea, but he is even more passive than Jake.

Unbeknownst to them, the store leased an empty old Kmart or whatever, built near the site of the orphanage legendary real estate developer Alex Windsor tried to evict, before his untimely death from witchcraft. Windsor has become a local legend, but his ghost is very real. He still hates kids, but he would be happy to take possession of one of the boys’ bodies. They could use some adult supervision, but they will have to settle for Carson’s teen sister, Kate (which will be just fine with the smitten Jake). She figures out what they are up to, but she does not expect to also find Windsor’s ghost controlling Spirit Halloween’s ghoulish animatronics and standees.

This film could also be called “Product Placement: The Movie,” but it is easy to see geeky pre-teens loving it (we probably would have). It is not
The Monster Squad, but it has Christopher Lloyd channeling his Who Framed Roger Rabbit persona as the sinister Windsor. The various possessed Halloween decorations are amusing and most likely will inspire increased sales from indulgent parents.

Donovan Colan is sufficiently earnest and sensitive as Jake to lead the film, but his other two friends are not as well fleshed out. Regardless, the real potential star showcased in
Spirit Halloween is Marissa Reyes, who is quite charismatic and shows a nice facility for comic timing, portraying Kate. Of course, Lloyd is jolly good fun as Windsor. It is a little weird seeing Rachel Leigh Cook playing a suburban (or exurban) mom, but she is sufficiently credible in the part.

The classic small-town vibes further contribute to the film’s nostalgic appeal. This is definitely a modest film, very clearly calibrated for young viewers, but it is weirdly likable, in a plucky kind of way. Recommended for families (especially during trick-or-treat time),
Spirit Halloween: The Movie opens Friday (9/30) at the Regal Hamilton Commons in the scary ghostland of Jersey.