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Review – Spirit Halloween: The Movie – “Full of family-friendly frights and fun”

The largest Halloween retailer in America, known for converting large unused shops into humongous spooky stuff outlets, Spirit Halloween, has teamed up with Hideout Pictures to make a spooky family film taking place in a Spirit Halloween store and featuring loads of the company’s signature decorations and animatronics.

Directed by first-timer David Poag, Spirit Halloween: The Movie stars Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future), Rachel Leigh Cook (She’s All That), Marissa Reyes (Raven’s Home), Donovan Colan (Chapelwaite), Dylan Martin Frankel (Life & Beth) and Jaiden J. Smith (Blue Bloods).

In a really good cold open, evil property developer Alex Windsor (Lloyd) is cursed by a witch when he buys her and her daughter’s land out from under them. Flash forward a hundred years or two and guess what’s built on the site of Windsor’s cursing? Yep, a Spirit Halloween store. So, when Jake (Colan), Carson (Frankel) and Bo (Smith) decide to intentionally get locked in there after hours to party on Halloween night, Windsor’s vengeful spirit starts possessing all the costumes and animatronic creatures and siccing them on our pint-sized heroes.

Growing up may be making the gang start to grow apart, but the boys will have to work together to survive against Lloyd’s ghost’s spectral ministrations long enough for Carson’s big sister Kate (Reyes), or Jake’s mom Sue (Cook), to bust them out of the store. Yeah, Rache Leigh Cook is playing “mom” roles now, which will make some of us in the audience feel very old – but Spirit Halloween is most definitely not for horror hounds.

With its very safe, non-particularly-threatening monsters and soft scares, Spirit Halloween is squarely aimed at a pre-teen audience, and if you want something to watch with the little ones, or even to use as a safe gateway horror movie to see if it’s a genre your kids will be into when they grow up, it’s a good, slightly spooky, watch that won’t traumatise your younglings.

Beyond the pre-title sequence, Christopher Lloyd is on voice work only, but he manages to chew scenery galore in the pre-title sequence while he can. Deliciously villainous, Lloyd’s hamming here is definitely devilled, so it’s a shame to see him quickly bumped off, but he is still great value for voicing the various creatures and specters. Even if the fart jokes for the little ones might seem a bit below him to some of us, he’s being a good sport and it’s down to his talent that the hauntings still retain a smidge of peril.

The three boys have a nice, easy, natural chemistry, with Colan’s Jake the one trying to keep his friend group together and trick or treating to the bitter end, even when Frankel’s edgier Carson would rather be trying to get them into the big kids’ party. These two’s sparring over what it means to grow up and what we should still value as we look to leave childhood behind adds a little weight to the Scooby Doo proceedings, while Smith’s Bo is the Dustin of the gang – all smarts, sweetness and periodic table gags that no-one else gets. Reyes’ Kate is a really good heroine and her performance is confident and cool enough to keep even the most easily distracted audience invested when the boys may begin to rankle.

Full of family-friendly frights and fun, and featuring an evocative Autumnal atmosphere of fallen leaves, golden evenings and big coats, Spirit Halloween: The Movie will get your youngest trick or treaters in the mood for Halloween hijinx.

Spirit Halloween: The Movie opens in select theaters in the US on the 30th of September 2022, with a VOD release on the 11th of October and a DVD release later in the month.

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