Debbie Attwell checks out some scary family fun with Spooky Night: The Spirit of Halloween.
Spirit Halloween isn’t a household name in the UK, but in the US every spooky season sees thousands of Spirit Halloween pop-up shops, often warehouse-sized and packed with every scary costume and big monstrous prop your heart could desire. Spooky Night: The Spirit of Halloween is the brand’s first foray in the film world. Renamed from simply ‘Spirit Halloween: The Movie’, the film was released in the US in 2022, but has only just made it across the pond.
The film opens with a flashback… a grumpy old Christopher Lloyd is trying to buy up the land an orphanage stands on, which he’ll quickly come to regret when a curse kills him but leaves his soul trapped, trying to regain a physical body. Back in the present day, and three young friends bike through beautiful fall scenery. But horror fan Jake (Donovan Colan) isn’t having a great time.
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His dad has passed away, his stepdad doesn’t really know him, and his friends don’t want to go trick or treating this year – his slightly older friend Carson (Dylan Martin Frankel) says he needs to grow up. The older kids are having a party, but Carson’s sister Kate, who is also Jake’s crush, makes it clear they’re not invited. They need a fun Halloween plan, so when they find a quiet Spirit Halloween warehouse, they decide to hide away inside until after closing time.
This turns out to be a lot of fun, until – you guessed – the spirit of a disgruntled Christopher Lloyd takes his shot at getting a body back, possessing various animatronic props and leaving the boys fighting to escape his attacks, and the store, being later joined by the older sister Kate.
The young actors are all good, and I particularly enjoyed Marissa Reyes’s performance as Kate towards the end. Jake’s mum is played by Rachael Leigh Cook, looking like she starred in Josie and the Pussycats just a few short years ago, not the actual 22 years. She’s always a fun actress and I had hoped her character would get a bit more involved in the Halloween action. Christopher Lloyd mostly voices the various possessed props, but his voice is so distinctive, I couldn’t help but grin as he became a giant evil teddy bear, a murderous ghoul, and even a plastic skeleton for just a moment.
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For a film that is essentially a giant advertising strategy, this is still a lot of fun. Good Halloween films are hard to come by, and this ticks all the boxes: pretty autumn scenery, lots of trick or treaters, spooks, costumes, and mischievous kids having a Halloween night adventure which turns more scary than they bargained for.
There’s no blood or gore, this is a family film, so don’t go in expecting anything more than gentle scares. And while it doesn’t have the makings of a classic, I think if I’d seen this film as a pre-teen, it would have been a Halloween favourite. So as an adult who still loves the spooky season, it’s one I’ll definitely watch again.
Spooky Night: The Spirit of Halloween is out in selected cinemas from 13th October and on DVD and Download from 16th October from Dazzler Media.