As popular as Halloween is, and as much as many people associate it with horror films and scary monsters, there aren’t many films that pertain to the holiday in particular. John Carpenter’s classic started a trend in which horror films took on the moniker of other beloved festive days, including St. Valentines Day (My Bloody Valentine), Christmas (Black Christmas), even April Fool’s Day (April Fool’s Day).
When I hear of a film that takes place on the day for tricking (no, not William Friedkin’s Cruising. I mean a different kind of tricking) and treating, I instantly will add it to my queue for viewing on a brisk autumn evening.
When I came across today’s film and it’s myriad of sequels in the local video store, I decided to set aside the original intended film (that will come tomorrow), and give the first in the series a spin (or an insert, as it were. Although that has a different connotation entirely).
31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 21: Halloweentown
Director: Duwayne Dunham
Cast: Debbie Reynolds, Judith Hoag, Kimberly J. Brown, Joey Zimmerman, Emily Roeske
Specs: 84 mins. / Color / OAR 1.37.1 / MPAA Rating: G
Rating: ★★★ / C
A group of siblings, who come from a long line of witches/warlocks, stowaway on their grandmothers magic bus in order to travel to the mysterious Halloweentown, where all the creatures of lore reside. Once they arrive, they discover that evil forces are at work, and they must band together in an effort to return Halloweentown to normal.
The Disney Channel original certainly is perfectly suited for Halloween. Goblins, witches, ghosts, and zombies are only a fraction of the denizens of the holiday themed town in which the film is set. It features some impressive costuming and effects, particularly the skeletal cab driver.
However, the film is hardly bound to be enjoyable to any viewer over the age of 13, whereas another film focusing on the notion of there being a mysterious other dimensional town for each of the US holidays is timeless and appeals to all ages. I found the jokes to be juvenile, the acting to be hokey, and the storyline to be formulaic. While I always find it enjoyable to see modern films with actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood, I’d rather it be in roles that I certainly could enjoy.
Reynolds, playing the matriarchal role, is perfect, even in her over-the-top performance. The rest of the cast, however, appears to be trying, resulting in a stilted performance.
Other elements of the story were simply tired, mere rehashes of other films, like Mary Poppins or Bedknobs and Broomsticks. However, newer viewers may not be entirely familiar with those more beloved classics, hence my assessment that the prepubescent crowd my be more entertained.
Given a choice, and looking for a timeless fantastical story of magic, I’d rather settle for the aforementioned Nightmare Before Christmas, or either of other Disney classics mentioned above.