The costume superstore chain that’s both a beacon of Spooky Season and sign of our post-retail dystopia gets its own movie!
When they announced a film based on Spirit Halloween, the costume superstore chain that has become both a beacon of Spooky Season and sign of our post retail brick and mortar dystopia, I felt like this was a movie meant for me. I am not going to lie, I am THAT person who has basically made Fall, and Halloween in particular their entire personality. That being said, I usually spend my days leading up to the first Spirit store opening checking social media, looking to see what exclusive merch the stores that have already opened are carrying this year, and hoping to score a few. Hitting play on the film based on that store that meant that to me, I hoped for the best, and to be completely honest I was pleasantly surprised at what I discovered when I watched what has to be one of the oddest IP tie-ins to date.
For a store that basically relies on selling costumes and merch based on various other intellectual properties, shockingly they are nowhere to be seen here. I guess this is probably due to licensing among other headaches, but that said the film does take its queues from two big ones Stranger Things and Five Nights at Freddy’s. The film centers on three longtime teenage friends Carson, Jake and Bo. When Carson laments that this year ‘he’s too old to trick or treat’, Jake hatches a plan to keep the spooky spirit alive and spend Halloween night in a Spirit Halloween store. It just so happens the site of that Spirit Halloween, in what appears to be an abandoned Toys R Us is haunted every Halloween by a cursed spirit (Christopher Lloyd). He can possess their trademark animatronics, but not a living person unless they are unconscious. Throughout the night the friends argue, fight the possessed animatronics, all while eventually uniting in a mega wholesome story of friendship and family.
Spirit Halloween thankfully feels less like a commercial and more like a charming yearly Halloween special that you’d catch on Freeform. They don’t beat you over the head with the store’s name, and given Jake’s love of all things Halloween it feels more organic than I was expecting. The three leads honestly are decent and never really falter in their roles, while the clear standout of the young cast is Carson’s sister Kate (Marissa Reyes) who comes to save the boys, only to find herself stuck in a store surrounded by possessed animatronics. Also, did I mention Jake’s mom is played by Josie herself — Rachael Leigh Cook? While some of the seams of the indie production show themselves, when it comes to some of the more ambitious special effects sequences – there’s a real charm and wholesomeness to this film that will allow you to overlook its shortcomings.
I am going to be honest, Spirit Halloween downright surprised me with its whimsically nostalgic premise that was punctuated by both scary and heartwarming moments. It was a bit more family friendly than I was expecting, but its message of one kid’s love of Halloween essentially being the narrative engine of this story, gave the film a real heart that is usually reserved for its more Christmas-y counterparts. I think tapping into the lost trend of the Halloween Special, which this film definitely attempts to resurrect in its own way, delivering a spine chillingly wholesome good time that every Halloween adult, who was once a Halloween kid. Needless to say while I am terrified of the IP trend this may have put into motion, with stores now getting films, I couldn’t think of a better store, or a better scenario to start with.