The Spirit Halloween franchise of stores places pop-up locations in recently closed businesses. Anything that looks like a chain mall and suffers the fate of modern brick-and-mortar reality, is soon to be occupied by the ghost of death, the occupation of Spirit Halloween. Someone heard about the trouble of the movie business and that theaters were going under and had a bright idea: it’s time to occupy these spaces with a corny cinematic version of our store.
You can only hope that was the pitch. “This industry looks to be on its last legs, we’re almost required to make a Spirit Halloween out of it.” The fun part about searching for a Spirit Halloween is they will tell you on their website what businesses all of their stores used to be. The other fun thing is that because they do not initially design their spaces, they are all a little different, having funny quirks, occasionally interesting stock differences, a separate formal design, and layout store-to-store, given the practicalities of occupying former retail spaces and not needing to do the legwork of a total redesign for one season of sales.
I recently visited my first Spirit Halloween with my daughter and some The Twin Geeks associates. I think they are clever stores. They are like the fun parts of haunted houses but miniaturized and marketed back to the consumer. I enjoyed, especially, that the setups in the store sparked some fear in my daughter. I always hope Halloween can be the perfect blend of a thinning of the veil, wherein we can get in touch with our relationship to death, but also a holiday that helps us confront difficult things: our fears and anxieties.
Of course, you should go to the stores themselves. You don’t need to watch this silly half-baked advertisement. It doesn’t give you a real reason. Maybe there are fans enough of this brand to entertain such a proposition, but it’s really hard to fathom the market for this movie. Perhaps you live in a rural location and cannot access one of these stores. Fair play. Maybe you want to see what’s inside them. There are many YouTube tours that might serve the same need more efficiently. You do not need any story to weigh this project down.
Because it’s a long-form advertisement, the movie must spend time showing a wide range of merchandise. It really is a fascinating and eclectic assortment of autumnal fixtures. What comes across in the stores and not so much in the movie is the hyper-fixated licensed content that they sell makes up a large part of their non-giant-animatronic-displays. You can find Chucky masks, Michael Meyers disguises, and The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) everything. The movie must opt, of course, for the more generic lines of items, aligning consistently with what your idea of a generic horror store would stock. That’s just the nature of this movie which exists only to promote the idea of these stores selling you things.
The movie is the cinematic equivalent of candy corn. You know better. You know you won’t like it. You know it’s just marketing. There is no substance, nutrition, or flavor there. Anything else you consume will be better for you. You will regret it in a moment. One handful will be enough. The starchy sweetness of it is too much to bare. It is a product of general annoyance and apathy, but one you might engage with, because it’s just that time of year, and you’ve decided to do things like that. That’s why you buy candy corn and why you end up watching this movie. The problem with candy corn is you only need a small handful a year and they sell it in giant bags because they know it’s the only time they will get your money, and the movie is the same way. There’s less than a short film here, but you probably aren’t paying for a glorified amateur YouTube video, so here’s the movie equivalent of an overfull bag where most of it should really be thrown in the garbage.
It’s hard to imagine the brand is strong enough for anyone to hold any of this up, whether or not you even think that is a valid venture for a movie. There’s just not enough sauce there. The idea of some kids daring each other to stay the night in a Spirit Halloween is pretty basic stuff and nothing flashy or surprising happens while they’re there. It is pretty low-level children’s horror fodder, even, with an insulting script, and untrained child actors. No shame for anyone involved but there’s no glory either. It reeks of exactly what it is: a marketing stunt that would be hard-pressed to find a real audience. But I’m here. You’re here. I went to the store. I watched the movie. You read this review about it. There must be an inkling of an idea here, that the celebration of Halloween’s commercial side is interesting enough. Surely, there are a plethora of Christmas movies about such simple concepts as going to the store for wanted items and the transactional experiences of Christmas. And then, there are not really Halloween ones that go beyond trick-or-treating. So perhaps you want one of those and care to suffer this movie to get there.