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What's the Deal with the Spirit Halloween Movie?

You heard right, Spirit Halloween, famous for setting up shop in the abandoned K-Mart, has made a movie. About a Spirit Halloween store. If Hallmark made Halloween movies, it would look exactly like this.

The plot is probably what you'd expect: some kids get locked in a Spirit Halloween store and have to fight a ghost. I'm a sucker for this sort of plot, so I was all in.

Also, I can't resist Rachel Leigh Cook. And Christopher Lloyd playing an over-the-top villain is dynamite. He's clearly having a blast as his ghost body inhabits random store costumes. Lloyd gives the roll a billion percent, cackling and roaring with a vibe that would impress Vincent Price.

The movie walks a narrow line between being a fun popcorn flick and being a low-budget snooze. I enjoyed it (Did I mention Rachel Leigh Cook?), but that doesn't mean it's without flaws.

Some of the actors were clearly not on set at the same time, which means we have actors saying lines to thin air and then having their scenes edited together. No post-production magic can bring the energy of actors reacting to one another, so some of these conversations fall flat.

And it's a frustratingly gentle story. I think that's deliberate, it's meant for the whole family (which means it's for kids) but the characters never seem like they're in real danger. I'm not sure if this counts as criticism, since it's supposed to be this way, but it makes the climax seem a little casual. Then again, casual is a nice break if you've had a stressful week.

The only real critique I have is the blatant attempt to be confused with Stranger Things. We open with three kids on bikes who look suspiciously similar to the trio of a certain Netflix show, which means that our first impression of the protagonists points to a completely different story. Not a strong opening.

It would be easy to criticize Spirit Halloween: The Movie for missing so many opportunities to be funny, or to be scary, or just to be a little more, but I won't do that, because have a tendency to judge a movie based only on what it tries to do.

Let me unpack that.

I remember a certain high school band competition that didn't pit the bands against one another but simply gave them a rating for how well they performed their choice of music. So a big city school performing West Side Story (complete with switchblades) might get the same grade as a tiny, country school cobbling together 'Mary had a Little Lamb' (complete with lambs). All that mattered was how well they did what they set out to do.

If I was feeling artistic and misunderstood, I might say this movie is a flimsy imitation of a major motion picture, just like the store's flimsy costumes that can barely imitate the source of their inspiration...but naval gazing critiques are easy to write, and I think this movie deserves a little more respect.

Since Spirit Halloween: The Movie set out to make a gentle, family friendly story, I really can't fault them for doing exactly that. And, to be honest, I enjoyed watching it. Maybe that's because I had a difficult week and was glad to unwind with a predictable and non-pretentious film. Maybe Rachel Leigh Cook is like one of those kitchen ingredients that makes everything better. Either way, this was a welcome break from real life.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 cheap costumes.
Adam D. Jones is a writer, musician, medievalist and cat dad.

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