Spirit Halloween: The Film Review

Spirit Halloween: The Movie is a family horror dud with overly ambitious emotional stakes. Billie Bates’ script is no better than the vision crafted by long-time cinematographer-turned-director, David Poag, helming his directorial feature debut here. The film certainly has low expectations going in, but there is a world where this small town intellectual property is at least watchable. Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future) is the only bright spot, and it’s lucky he is in the cast. Spirit Halloween: The Movie is a missed opportunity at best and totally unnecessary at worst.

Jake (Donovan Colan), Carson (Dylan Martin Frankel), and Bo (Jaiden J. Smith) love Halloween but can’t agree on how to celebrate it this year. Jake is committed to trick or treating, Carson wants to sneak into a high school party, and Bo just wants to have a good time with his friends. Jake and Carson can’t agree on what growing up means and resent each other for not being on the same page. They compromise and decide that spending the night inside a Spirit Halloween store is both cool and spooky enough to make for an awesome Halloween. Once inside the store, things start to get supernatural. The ghost of Alex Windsor (Lloyd), a reviled town landlord from decades ago, resurfaces in the store and is hell-bent on possessing a body to reanimate himself. It’s up to the three boys and Carson’s sister Kate (Marisa Reyes), to survive the night and an exorcism.


The first time this movie was publicly announced was in April of this year when Christopher Lloyd (Back To The Future franchise) and Rachael Leigh Cook (She’s All That) were confirmed to star in it.

Christopher Lloyd will be playing the role of Alex Windsor, the greedy land baron whose ghost returns on Halloween each year to haunt the town he disappeared in. He is best known for his roles as Doc Brown in the Back To The Future trilogy, Uncle Fester in The Addams Family movies, and was most recently seen as Bob Odenkirk’s heat-packing father in the 2021 film, Nobody.

Rachael Leigh Cook will play Jake’s mother, Sue. She is a recently remarried widow, which is sure to cause tension between her and her young teenage son. Cook has just recently done a reboot of her 90s classic, She’s All That, as the mother of the girl who plans to give a makeover to a male high school friend in He’s All That.

Donovan Colan will be playing Jake, the ringleader of the group of friends, and the one whose idea it was to camp overnight in the Spirit Halloween store. Colan made his feature film debut in the 2018 movie Zoe, starring Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi) and Léa Seydoux (Crimes of the Future). He was also in the Stephen King television series adaptation Chapelwaite, based on the short story “Jerusalem’s Lot,” and starring Adrien Brody (Predators).

Dylan Martin Frankel has been in a variety of stage performances and television shows such as Raven’s Home and Life & Beth. Spirit Halloween: The Movie will be his first feature film debut, with his role as Carson, one of Jake’s friends.

Jaiden J. Smith will play Bo, Jake and Carson’s friend. Smith has appeared in several television shows such as Faith Under Fire and Two Sentence Horror Stories. This will be his first feature film, but he is already set to star in another upcoming Halle Berry sci-fi adventure film, The Mothership.

Spirit Halloween lacks practically everything it takes to make an engaging film and, at best, will find a home with children. The plot is a tried and true formula that includes kids locked in a spooky place, but it lacks the commitment even a Disney Channel Original Movie has to be fun; instead, it saddles the young actors with the beats of a teen drama. The principal cast is always speaking as if they are older than they are and their emotional intelligence is outrageously high for middle schoolers of any age.

The performances are over the top, but it’s unclear who is to blame. If angsty preteen is what Poag was going for then he got it in spades. Young actors deserve as much leeway as possible and this cast does have talent. Unfortunately, it seems they are all acting in a movie that is much more serious than the final product would suggest. Lloyd is certainly chewing up the scenery as the villain and, from the opening scene to the credits, is by far the most reliable performance in an otherwise unreliable film.

What is perhaps most strange about Spirit Halloween is the nature of its existence and the potential of what could have been. Spirit Halloween, the store, isn’t exactly known for its film archive, but there has been even more obscure intellectual property adapted to film and there will be even more in the future. That being said, they are also a charity, so if the proceeds of the film are essentially donations, who’s to complain about poor filmmaking choices? On the other hand, that doesn’t exactly matter in terms of Spirit Halloween: The Movie, because there is a good movie hiding beneath what audiences will see. With a more upbeat tone and better casting, a spooky tale about a classic Halloween store synonymous with American youth sounds pretty good. But once a dead father plot and 12-year-olds monologuing about their emotional baggage are added, that door is closed.

Spirit Halloween: The Movie opens with a flashback of Lloyd being cursed to death. Every scene after that is eye-rolling, generic, and hollow. Though the concept is there, the film never gets close to being entertaining or interesting. Hopefully, these young actors will find their way in Hollywood, and Poag will work on more fulfilling projects because Spirit Halloween, while technically for kids, is probably for nobody.

Spirit Halloween The Movie released on-demand NOW. The film is 87 minutes long and is rated PG-13.


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Michael P
Los Angeles based finance writer covering everything from crypto to the markets.

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