For anyone that has ever visited a Spirit Halloween store and said to themselves, “what would happen if the animatronics came to life?” Well, then Spirit Halloween: The Movie is the film for you. Theatrical released on September 30th and on VOD October 11th through Strike Back Studios, Spirit Halloween: The Movie, follows three middle school friends that spend the night inside a Spirit Halloween store and discover that the store is haunted. Filled to the brim with cheesy, family-friendly fun, the film harbors serious Disney Channel Halloween vibes. So, if you’re in the process of crafting a Halloween watchlist for the kiddos, you might want to add this in between this year’s Hocus Pocus 2 and 1998’s Halloweentown.
In this sleepy, quiet town there is a legend about Alex Windsor, played by the legendary Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future 1985, The Addams Family 1991). A once wealthy land developer who attempted to seize land from the Sacred Hearts Home for Wayward Children (in a similar fashion to how Spirit Halloween seizes abandoned Sears’ stores every October). He was cursed by the caretaker, leaving him to become a vengeful spirit to haunt the lands forever. Cut to present day, Jake (Donovan Colan: Zoe 2018, Moonshine series), Bo (Jaiden J. Smith: Blue Bloods series, Two Sentence Horror Stories series), and Carson (Dylan Martin Frankel: Raven’s Home 2018, Life & Beth 2022) have decided they are too old to go trick or treating and opt for a more “age-appropriate” activity of breaking into the local Spirit Halloween to spend the night. Jake struggles with this, largely due to his love for Halloween and the traditions he used to spend with his late father.
Plagued with princess décor from his little sister Joanie (Billie Roy: Candy series) and familial conflict with his mom Sue (Rachael Leigh Cook: She’s All That 1999, Robot Chicken series) as she tries to hold things together alongside his new stepfather Frank (Brad Carter: The Cheerleader Diaries series, Sons of Anarchy series), Jake sparks the idea to spend the night in Spirit Halloween as a quick escape. It starts out wholesome enough, exploring the empty store, shooting off Nerf guns, trying on costumes, basically everything a kid locked in a Halloween store would love. In the middle of their fun, the spirit of Windsor is awakened and the chaos begins. In order to stop Windsor and his merry band of animatronics, the crew, joined by Carson’s older sister Kate (Marissa Reyes) to put an end to his reign of terror.
With more than fifteen years of commercial, music video, and documentary work under his belt, David Poag was more than thrilled to bring his first feature film to life. Despite its scheduling and budget limitations, Poag was more than willing to take on the challenge due to his longtime love and appreciation for the Halloween classics of his childhood. He drew inspiration from classic Spielberg/Amblin PG films and ’70s and ’80s films like Halloween (1978), Gremlins (1984), The Monster Squad (1987) and Poltergeist (1982). The influence is clear in the film; however, it is slightly overshadowed by its clunky direction and tongue-in-cheek dialogue that can be a bit cringe at times for the adults watching along. Still, it doesn’t fully take away from the magic of the film.
For those obsessed with Halloween and frequent their local Spirit each year, will immediately recognize many of the featured animatronics in the film. It holds a special sort of nostalgia that reinforces that excitement about Halloween season which was the goal of Writer Billie Bates. While it’s easy to write the film off as one big advertisement for Spirit Halloween, which in a sense, yes, it is, but that’s not its sole purpose. Bates wrote the screenplay for the film five years earlier, inspired by her kids’ infatuation with the store and created the script with them in mind. This is more than evident in the film, seeing the many references to Spirit. Regardless of age, Halloween lovers will get a kick out of seeing characters like the Nightcrawler, Buzzsaw, and Mr. Dark literally comes to life without having to step on a button.
If you are looking for a fun, Halloween film for the whole family, look no further than Spirit Halloween: The Movie. It possesses enough of the charm of old school Halloween that adults will enjoy, with a light-hearted spooky atmosphere that kids can sink their teeth into. It is not perfect by any means, but it has got enough heart to bring something special to any marathon this spooky season. Cryptic Rock gives Spirit Halloween: The Movie 3 out of 5 stars.