Starting October first, we begin our annual tradition of watching scary movies. Sometimes they’re Halloween-themed, such as Halloween or Hocus Pocus, but mostly they’re anything horror we can find on streaming services. Disney+ has a new Halloween Collection we’ve been exploring and Netflix is flush with original content, as per usual, so here are three Halloween or otherwise spooky movies you can enjoy with your pack of ghouls and goblins.
First is a classic Disney Channel original called Halloweentown starring the legendary Debbie Reynolds. It’s the tale of the Piper family whose grandmother comes to visit each year only on Halloween and only for a short time. When the children decide to sneak on to her bus home, they are transported to the magical burg of Halloweentown where all the monsters, warlocks and witches live. But something is wrong! All the people of H-Town are being mean and nasty and Aggie Cromwell (Reynolds) needs to get to the bottom of it. But when she and her daughter Gwen (Judith Hoag, April O’Neil from the original TMNT film) are incapasitated by an evil warlock, it’s up to Marnie, Dylan, and Sophie to crack the case and save Halloweentown.
This movie is adorable and perfectly 90s. The mask work is commendable, and the effects are what you’d expect from a Disney Channel original. And there are three sequels – all starring or featuring Reynolds – and from what I’ve heard, they’re cute as well. You’re kids will love it!
Rating 3.5 out of 5 Snack Packs
The second from Disney+ is The Haunted Mansion starring Eddie Murphy. This was the second of the “ride-inspired” movies, premiering five months after Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Based (I’ll say it) loosely on “The Haunted Mansion” attraction from Disneyland, the film follows realtor Jim Evers (Murphy) to a huge, spooky mansion to discuss putting it on the market. He diverts his family trip to “the lake” and gets stuck there for the night during a heavy rainstorm. His wife Sara is thought to be the reincarnation of the lost love of Master Gracey, the mysterious owner of the house. When she disappears, Jim and his children must out-smart and out-run the ghouls, zombies, and other spooky denizens of the mansion to find her before it’s too late!
What a waste of Eddie Murphy. He actually looks uncomfortable for most of this film. It’s not really funny or scary, and its connection to The Haunted Mansion is…slim. The HM is one of my wife’s favorite things to do in Disney World, so we’ve obviously got it memorized. And while they do incorporate a few notable bits from the ride, the story isn’t really compelling and it feels like there was a script for “Untitled Eddie Murphy Family Halloween Film” and the new idea to make movies about rides, so they smashed them together and got this less-than-great gazpacho (cold soup). It’s fine. But kids might laugh?
Rating 2.5 out of 5 Snack Packs
Lastly, the new Adam Sandler Netflix original movie (yeah, we watched it) called Hubie Halloween was being pushed to us hard by Netflix and, having been a fan of his earlier films and a select few recent ones (Uncut Gems and Murder Mystery being two of his recent bests), we opened a bottle of wine and said, “How bad can it be?” And the answer is not too bad.
Sandler plays Hubie Dubois, the local Halloween enthusiast in Salem. He volunteers each year to warn kids about the dangers of getting too wild or causing too much mischief on Halloween, and he’s also a known scaredy-cat, so everyone is constantly pranking him for the jump scare. He also has a “Swiss Army Thermos” for some reason that he’s made for himself as a sort of Batman utility belt. It’s weird. When an inmate of a nearby insane asylum escapes, the town is on high-alert. Also a mysterious man moves in next to Hubie and his mother (played by June Squibb) and things get weird from there. Julie Bowen from “Modern Family” plays Violet Valentine, Hubie’s childhood crush and the only person in town who doesn’t treat him like a doormat. When people start disappearing, no one will listen to him, including Sgt. Steve Downey (Kevin James), Violet’s ex-husband and (I guess) head of the Salem PD. Hubie has to use all his Boy Scouts training to overcome his fear and find out what’s really happening in his hometown.
Again, it’s fine. It’s not gross or juvenile for the most part. Sandler is basically playing Bobby Buchet from The Waterboy again, but this time – he’s got a mustache! Bowen is actually pretty awful in her role – we kept thinking her strange mannerisms and behavior were to hint she was a bad guy, but nope; she’s just not well cast in this role. James actually plays “the straight man” as Sgt. Downey and does very well with it. Other fun cameos and castings include Ben Stiller, Maya Rudolph, Tim Meadows, Steve Buchemi, Ray Liota, and Shaquille O’Neil. It’s no Billy Madison, but it’s also no Jack and Jill, so there’s that at least. And the kid who plays Will Byers on Stranger Things, Noah Schnapp, is also in this and shows why the next season has been delayed – turns out kids grow up pretty fast and now he’s an adorable little hunk.
Your kids might get a kick out of it.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Snack Packs
Also, Disney+ has collected all the “Simpsons Treehouse of Horror” episodes into a collection. Check those out as well!
Lincoln L. Hayes is an actor and writer in NYC. His new YouTube project SESSION ZERO is currently in production and should be online in the coming months. Also his sci-fi pilot script was named a Finalist in the Port Blair International Film Festival. Wear a mask and please vote.