When Spirit Halloween: The Movie was first announced, I was practically rejoicing. A horror film based around one of the most iconic Halloween stores of all time, headlined by Christopher Lloyd, and coming our way just in time for spooky season—what could possibly go wrong? Well, I can only answer this by saying some choices were made, and none of them were the correct ones. For starters, Spirit Halloween: The Movie simply feels like a bargain-bin movie that aired once on Disney Channel and has now faded into obscurity.
Middle schoolers Jake (Donovan Colan), Carson (Dylan Martin Frankel), and Bo (Jaiden J. Smith) have celebrated Halloween together for as long as they can remember. Carson seems to have outgrown the holiday, electing that they skip trick-or-treating this year and go to a high school party instead. Bo seemingly agrees, even though he appears to be the runt of the group, proclaiming that “it’s kinda cold this year” in lieu of full-on siding with Carson. The crew come across a Spirit Halloween store right next to an abandoned lot of a dilapidated mall, and explore inside. It seems to be completely abandoned, but the shelves are stocked…
Later, Jake throws a temper tantrum over his sister wanting to dress up and decorate as a princess this year. Having recently lost his father, whom Jake celebrated the holiday with, Jake is committed to keeping Halloween spooky again. Princesses are decidedly not that. Jake’s mom (Rachael Leigh Cook, sadly wasted) insists that he take Joanie (Billie Roy) trick-or-treating with him. Jake concocts an idea to get Carson and Bo’s attention—they must sneak in and spend the night in the Spirit Halloween store after hours! The trio hide in coffins (and a mini-mausoleum), emerging after the doors are locked up for the night. Insert montage of kids playing with swords and other assorted Halloween props here.
This had so much potential to be genuinely scary, but centering the film around a group of middle schoolers and neutering it without any chills was a bad decision. A fart joke about being lactose intolerant doesn’t belong in a Spirit Halloween movie. As the kids try to survive the night, a tiny beam of light presenting Alec Windsor (Christopher Lloyd)—whose legendary curse opens the movie—haunts the animatronics, bringing them to life one at a time. If Windsor inhabits one of their bodies by midnight, he gets to keep it “for eternity.” Try to guess how this one ends as we race towards a predictable conclusion.
Spirit Halloween: The Movie attempts to sprinkle in a touching backstory about Jake’s father along with the true meaning of the holiday, but both attempts fall very flat. I only wish this project had stumbled into the hands of seasoned genre vets. Centering around middle school kids wasn’t necessarily a kiss of death, especially considering the success of Stephen King’s It, Stranger Things, and plenty of other options. From the first time we meet the trio, it’s obvious that the movie is trying to play for our nostalgia by having three kids riding on bikes in the fall; however, one needs more to their movie than a dose of the familiar. If I paid for Spirit Halloween: The Movie at the Spirit Halloween brick and mortar store, I would definitely want my money back.
Prepare to make a trip to Spirit Halloween: The Movie when it opens its doors in select theaters on Friday, September 30th, followed by video on demand on Tuesday, October 11th.