Reviews: Spirit Halloween and Dracula Has Risen From the Grave
Doing my best to stay spooky this month, so I’ve watched 2 horror movies in the last two days! Well, one and a half horror movies.
Let’s start with Spirit Halloween. I couldn’t resist the premise, which is that complications ensue when some kids get locked in a Spirit Halloween overnight. And then I saw Christopher Lloyd and Marla Gibbs both being creepy as hell! This could be good!
And yet, it wasn’t. The movie focuses on the kids, who are…let’s just say not as interesting as the old folks. And the whole thing was pretty devoid of either scares or laughs, and you’ve gotta have one or the other in a movie like this.
Ultimately I turned it off halfway through because, unlike so many horror movies, this one felt like it was made with no love. One of the reasons I love horror movies so much is that the folks who make them so often have a deep love for the genre, and the love shines through even when budget constraints or lack of skill get in the way of a really good movie.
Here, though, it’s all really professional to the point of feeling cynical. We’ve got some kids on bikes for that Stranger Things vibe (the main kid here even bears a strong resemblance to the main Stranger Things kid), we’ve got a brand-name tie in, (Which prevents any interesting exploration of the cause of the abandoned storefronts where Spirit Halloween makes its home) and we’ve got some kind of scare-free supernatural happenings with an incoherent explanation. Ultimately a waste of Christopher Lloyd, Marla Gibbs, Rachel Leigh Cook, and 45 minutes of my time.
But surely you can’t go wrong with a Hammer Dracula movie starring Christopher Lee! O, would that it were so! Dracula Has Risen From the Grave does have Lee and a couple of really great images (why are Dracula’s blooshot eyes so creepy? I don’t know! Also him whipping the hell out of the horses is genuinely disturbing), but overall it spends wayyyy to much time with the anodyne young lovers. I realized that apart from the tempera paint blood and the cleavage (only the barmaid gets to show any in this movie so it’s clearly before Hammer fully figured out their brand), what a Hammer Dracula movie needs to succeed is a worthy antagonist for Dracula. That’s where Peter Cushing comes in, except he doesn’t in this movie. So instead of Van Helsing’s steely obsessiveness, we’ve just got some horny young people, and a subplot about how fighting vampires can cure you of atheism.
I watched it all, but if you’re making your way through the Hammer Dracula movies, this one is VERY skippable. It’s on MAX along with Horror of Dracula and Dracula A.D. 1972, both of which are superior to this. (A.D. 1972 also features a great party scene where a San Francisco roots/psychedelic band is inexplicably playing at a posh party in England!)