SPIRIT HALLOWEEN: THE MOVIE (2022) — CULTURE CRYPT – CULTURE CRYPT

Studio:     Strike Back Studios
Director:    David Poag
Writer:     Billie Bates
Producer:  Shannon Houchins, Noor Ahmed, Michael Hagerty
Stars:     Donovan Colan, Marissa Reyes, Jaiden J. Smith, Dylan Martin Frankel, Marla Gibbs, Brad Carter, Rachael Leigh Cook, Christopher Lloyd
Review Score:
Summary:
Kids trapped in a Spirit Halloween store contend with a vengeful ghost capable of possessing props, animatronics, and people.
On October 31st a long time ago, ruthless businessman Alec Windsor callously forecloses on the Sacred Hearts Home for Wayward Children. With a little girl at her side, the angered orphanage matron casts a spell that causes Alec to drop dead.
In the present day, a Spirit Halloween store opens on the site where the orphanage previously stood. Meanwhile, Jake, a boy on his last year of grade school, is disappointed to discover his friends Carson and Bo think they’ve grown too old for trick-or-treating, one of the Halloween activities Jake cherished with his dead father. Jake takes out his frustration on his mother Sue, who moved on with a man named Frank and his young daughter Joanie, whom Jake blames for changing their holiday traditions.
The day before Halloween, Jake, Carson, and Bo attend a ‘Fright Night’ event that includes a puppet show that tells ‘The Legend of Alec Windsor,’ which is about how Alec disappeared mysteriously and supposedly cursed the town. Jake becomes jealous when he sees a popular football player flirting with his crush Kate, who is Carson’s teenage half-sister.
To compromise between Carson’s insistence on doing something more adult and Jake’s desire to do something scary, Jake proposes spending Halloween night inside the Spirit Halloween store. Jake brings along his treasured ‘Encyclopedia of Shadows’ book that his father gifted him. Jake, Carson, and Bo hide in the store, wait for the manager to lock the doors and leave, and then play with the props as paranormal activity starts occurring.
Realizing that Carson left his phone behind, Kate goes to Jake’s house to give it to him. From Jake’s mom Sue as well as Bo’s Grandma G, Kate puts together that the boys lied about their Halloween plans, but Kate covers for them. From Jake’s Instagram photos, Kate concludes the three friends went to the Spirit Halloween store and she sets off to find them.
Vexed by the paranormal activity in the store, Jake shows Carson and Bo the Encyclopedia of Shadows entry about Alec Windsor, who they later confirm died on that exact site. The boys then ask a fortune-telling Zoldrana machine if it is Alec’s ghost haunting them. Alec’s spirit emerges from Zoldrana to possess a grim reaper animatronic. The reaper chases the boys until they finally knock it apart.
Kate enters the store through a skylight on the roof. After she finds the boys, Alec possesses a giant teddy bear that menaces all four of them. Jake’s book reveals that for one hour on the anniversary of their deaths, tortured spirits can possess objects or people, although a person needs to be asleep or unconscious.
Kate, Jake, Carson, and Bo search for a way out of the store in the basement. The four of them discover a tunnel leading to a massive subterranean cavern where they find Alec’s skull. Inside a witch’s shack in the cavern, the quartet also finds a note detailing what is happening and what they need to do. The note reads, “Burn three things he haunts with glee, seal with a sacrifice to set him free, if by midnight he inhabits thee, your body he’ll take for eternity.”
Alec attacks everyone by possessing a spiderlike creature prop. Bo kills the monster by burning it with a flame and bug spray.
Still suspicious from her earlier conversation with Kate, Sue sets off to find out where her son really went. Flashing lights in the distance draw Sue toward the Spirit Halloween store.
To satisfy the sacrifice component of banishing Alec’s spirit, Kate offers her grandmother’s necklace. However, Alec possesses a skeleton and secretly picks the necklace out of Jake’s pocket.
With the necklace suddenly missing, Carson proposes that Jake sacrifice his keepsake photo of his dad. Jake’s refusal to do so sparks an argument and then a physical fight as Carson accuses Jake of being unable to let go and grow up.
Alec possesses Kate after knocking her unconscious with prop eyeballs rolling on the floor. Through Kate, Alec creates chaos throughout the store by supernaturally puppeteering multiple props and animatronics that the boys battle.
Jake eventually stops Alec by capturing Kate with a rope. Jake then sacrifices his Encyclopedia of Shadows, which was inscribed by his father, to be burned alongside the fortuneteller, reaper, and teddy bear props. Alec’s spirit leaves Kate and vanishes. Jake, Carson, Bo, and Kate escape outside where they reunite with Jake’s mom Sue, who takes everyone home. The manager arrives the next morning to find the store in total disarray.
One year later, Jake happily takes Joanie trick-or-treating prior to spending Halloween evening with Carson and Bo. Meanwhile, Grandma G, revealed to have been the little girl who witnessed Alec Windsor’s death, casts a spell over Alec’s skull inside the subterranean shack. Grandma G suddenly disappears and the skull begins to glow.
Review:
We were all Jake at some point in our lives. One year we went trick-or-treating for what would be our very last time and we probably didn’t even know it.
Jake just found out his last time was last year. With high school on the horizon, Jake’s close friend Carson thinks they’re too old for kid stuff like canvassing for candy. Even though Jake is as eager as ever for scary Halloween fun, Carson insists they should be treading into teenager territory by hitting up a party or something, and their other buddy Bo agrees.
What a wet blanket realization that is to have, and right after Jake’s holiday fire had just been lit by exploring the eerie aisles of a Spirit Halloween store with his pals, too. Jake really needed the reliability of costumes, fright flicks, and collecting sweets to stuff into the space where he used to wear a big smile. He’s having a particularly hard time right now because his widower mother moved on with a new man, and that man brought Jake a little stepsister whose pretty princess decorations are “ruining” the spooky traditions he used to cherish with his dad.
Caught in the crossfire of nostalgic childhood indulgences and the inevitability of “growing up,” Jake proposes a kind of compromise. Instead of knocking on doors or figuring out how to talk to girls, he, Carson, and Bo plot to spend Halloween night inside their neighborhood Spirit Halloween. After hiding in a couple of coffins, they wait for the manager to lock the doors, then they unleash a night of playing with all of the props they can get their greasy hands on.
What the three boys don’t know is that this Spirit Halloween doesn’t just sit inside the skeleton of an abandoned Toys “R” Us. It sits atop the site where miserly businessman Alec Windsor callously foreclosed on an orphanage only for its angered matron to cast a curse that caused him to drop dead. Now he haunts the place where he died for one hour every October 31st. And his ability to possess objects, and people, means Jake, Carson, and Bo are in for a night far more frightful than they ever could have imagined.
We can make this review short and sweet, which are two words that also describe “Spirit Halloween: The Movie.” It’s short because the film flies by at just around 72 minutes sans credits. It’s sweet because “Spirit Halloween” has the harmless tone and texture of a Disney Channel original movie circa 1997. Well, more like a broadcast TV movie trying its best to look like a Disney Channel production from that era.
Adult audiences should know that they have no business being here. Unless you’re babysitting someone whose age is in single digits, or looking for something safe for family movie night in October, the simple PG thrills of bike-riding boys using Nerf guns to battle an anthropomorphic teddy bear aren’t going to entertain you, not that they were ever designed to.
Even the adult actors recognize this movie isn’t meant for them and get in and out as quick as they can. Every one of the three “names” in the cast puts in only enough screen time to count as a cameo, although two of them still receive “and” credits.
Physically, Christopher Lloyd only appears in the prologue, leaving his disembodied voice to carry on the character of Alec Windsor throughout the middle of the movie. Marla Gibbs’ main moment comes at the other end in an epilogue, with just two brief appearances before that. This leaves Rachael Leigh Cook as Jake’s mom, who gets one scene of being angry at Jake, one where she cuddles her cute stepdaughter, and a quick “searching for her son” side arc so everyone can hug it out at the end.
“Spirit Halloween: The Movie” focuses on the same people it aims to please: children. Eventually joined by Carson’s older half-sister whom Jake has a crush on (so he can earn a hero’s kiss on the cheek during that “hug it out” ending), the boys basically have wholesome small town fun spiked with a few tamely threatening scares. A spider-like creature crawls at them. A cackling grim reaper chases them. A skeleton picks Jake’s pocket. A knock-off Zoltar tells cryptic fortunes. Essentially, everyone runs around, occasionally yells “Aah!” at a possessed prop, and finally solves the easy mystery of how to put a vengeful spirit to rest in formulaic fashion.
“Spirit Halloween: The Movie” is a lot like the store it’s based around. It’s moderately charming, a little chintzy, and stuffed with cheap fluff that occasionally still ekes out a good gag or worthwhile boo. And like those flimsier items the store sells, just don’t expect anything that’s likely to last too long, either on your television or in your memory.
Review Score: 55

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“Spirit Halloween: The Movie” is a lot like the store. It’s moderately charming, a little chintzy, and stuffed with cheap fluff that’s occasionally still good for a gag.
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