Take A Look at Disney

10/13/20

A Look at Disney's TV Movie Halloween: The Scream Team




The finale song of Hamilton asks the questions of Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story? I bring this up as while watching the DCOM The Scream Team, those questions came to mind as this film deals wtih a smalltown confronting the history they've been fed for years as their town. 


I know that this is prehaps rather deep for a Disney Channel Original Movie but it's interesting to consider when looking at how things are handled. 


The Plot


Two kids and their father move into a smalltown after their grandfather has passed away. The younger brother, Ian beleives that his grandfather has some unfinished business that needs to take care of before crossing over.  Spirits having unfinished business and is quite an itneresting thing to consider as it is something that pops up a lot in these stories. And there is a sembelence of truth to this and it can be used in various ways. Perhaps one of the most famous examples is Jacob Marley and his chains.




Not a one-hundred percent perfect analogy but Marley's chains repersent his repentance for how he mistreated people duirng his time on earth and walking earth instead of being allowed to cross over shows how he has unfinished business that he is paying for as well.  That is also true of the grandfather in this movie. Before he can cross over, he wants to let his son know how proud he is of him.


There is a bit of a snag in their grandfather getting to complete his unfinished business as his spirit had been kidnapped by an evil spirit named  Zachariah.  We will come back to him in a moment but this is where the idea of Who Tells Your Story coems into place.  


How does The Scream Team come into play? Well, Ian actually captures a ghost who's job is it to collect spirits that don't want to cross over and find out that there is a crossing over station in this smalltown. 

This is actually a neat idea and something I like. Obviously, the living aren't supposed to know about this but that's the always the way in these movies with kids and ghosts. Now, the boss of the Soul Patrol as dubbed by Jumper alongside his partner Coffin Ed aren't pleased with this but Jumper and Coffin Ed agree to help the kids and track down  Zachariah.  And this is where my one complaint comes in. Jumper is the only prominent character of color in the movie and he's taken out early in the movie and is trapped along with other spirits that have been stolen.  This is pretty much a kids version of the Black Guy dies first trope.

In a film which involves a lot of character deaths, it seems like the Token Minority will inevitably be the first person to go and kick the bucket.


It was actually a little annoying to see this happen to a ghost considering ghosts are already dead. It's just what does it accomplish to take him out so early considering this movie is called The Scream Team but that's a straight up lie.  Look at the poster for the movie and you'd be convinced that these three would share equal screentime.



 




It's even more annoying as Jumper's actor, Tommy Davidson is in the center of the poster but honestly that's not the case and Kath Najmiy barely gets in on the action until towards the end. The one ghost actor that gets the most action is Eric Idle as Coffin Ed. Don't get me wrong, Idle is good in the role and is funny but if the movie is called The Scream Team, it'd be nice to see the ghosts working as a choesive unit. 

The kids end doing some research into  Zachariah and thisi s where we we return to the idea of Who Tells Your Story.

They discover Zachariah was.... a misunderstood inventor experimenting with natural gas, and one of his inventions accidentally burned his wife to death. When he was killed, Zachariah told his wife to wait for him, knowing he wouldn't be able to cross over due to desiring revenge against his injustice. 




The town had been using the evil image of this man being a monster to bring in tourists and even set up a fair not so much to celebrate hims but rather his false legacy.  This ties into something that the movie brings up with the true villain of the film, Warner, fear sells. This article about scams and cons puts it best.

They do this because it works, and because fear is an endlessly adaptable tool.



This is exactly what Warner is doing by inflaming the false legacy that this town has beleived for so long.  So, how is he finally able to cross over by remembering the man that his wife fell in love with.  And by stopping his attack on the town for how his name had been tranished for over a centruy, he is finally able to cross over and be with his beloved.  


This is a film where I like the ideas nd themes of what it wants to say more than the characters. The characters are a bit one-note and just used as delivery vehichles for the story and can't stand on their own.



Main Characters


Ian & Claire played by Mark Rendall & Kat Dennings




These two aren't bad but they are rather forgettable.  They do a lot to help move the story forward and to discover the truth of what has been happening in this town for so long. They are entertaining but that's about all you get from this movie.


Supporting Characters


Jumper, Mariah, & Coffin Ed played by Tommy Davidson, Kathy Najimy, & Eric Idle 



I like the idea of The Scream Team but the movie doesn't use it to its full advantage as they don't share the screen a lot as Mariah wants nothing to do with the kids and as previously mentioned, Jumper is taken out rather early in the film.  The only one that really gets any promient screentime is Coffin Ed.  And that's okay but the movie doesn't seem to be delivering on what it promised in the title. 



Richard played by Robert Bockstael 


I know I didn't mention the kids's dad that much but there wasn't a lot say about him plot wise. It's interesting to note that we are dealign with a Disney family that has lost a grandparent and also has a Dead Mom.  There was part of me wondering why the film didn't focus on that as it was brought up once when Claire was trying to get her dad and brother to stop fighting but we never even get to see the mother.  My best guess is that she didn't have unfinished business but I dunno, it'd might've been interesting if the movie did something like what the Beetlejuice musical did with Lydia and how she is greiving the loss of her mother.

Dead mom
I'm tired of trying to iron out my creases
I'm a bunch of broken pieces
It was you who made me whole
Every day dad's staring at me
Like all, "Hurry up, get happy
Move along
Forget about your mom"


Something small to think about for sure but considering this is a movie about loss and helping a loved one cross over, I think the mom could've played some sort of role. 

 

Villains


Warner played by Nigel Bennett 


Warner was the grandfather's rival when the grandfather was alive and you get the sense that he was sketchy all throughout the movie.  I brought up how he uses fear and is willing to tarnish a dead man's name to make a proft.  It shouldn't be surprising but it is no less disgusting.


Zachariah Kull played by Kim Coates 




The story of Zachariah is quite tragic, however that does not excuse the actions that he partook in.  All that does is make his situation understandable as he had been hurt by the town he had hoped to live with his wife because of a mistake that he regretted. And the town labeled him a monster because of that one mistake. He was blinded by revenge, which hurt his chances for so long.



My Final Thoughts


In all, this isn't a bad movie but there are things that could have been tweaked a little to make it better. However, I still think it's a fun time all around.  Join me next time as we look at....


Twitches






10/8/20

A Look at Disney's TV Movie Halloween: Mom's Got a Date with a Vampire








Vampires have a rich and storied history dating back to Bram Stoker's Dracula as that is where most of the vampire mythos that creators pull from most.  Vampires in children's movies are also no stranger as they have been used as villains for children. Think back to something such as The Monster Squad and how Dracula was the leader of the monsters.





Disney themselves does have quite a bit of history with vampires of you look at the tv side of things.  I do think that this movie may have been one of the earliest examples of a vampire on Disney Channel. It's quite interesting seeing go from a movie where a vampire is a bad guy in 2000 to a Disney Junior 
program starring a little vampire girl in 2017.  






Part of me wonders if that is how society's perception of vampires changed after a certain teenage film series as in recent years, we've seen more material where vampires could be good or bad whereas, in this film, the vampire is just a straight-up bad guy. 



The Plot


The title gives you what the movie is about succinctly. However, there is a bit more to it than that.  This movie deals with a family is a bit broken as they have just gone through a divorce  This is the big theme of the movie and the vampire is used as an obstacle they must overcome.   The basic gist of the film is that the two older siblings have events they wish to attend but they end up getting grounded.  Adam, the thirteen-year-old middle brother has gotten tickets to a Headless Horsemen concert at a Halloween festival, and his older sister, Chelsea has a date with her boyfriend but they both end up grounded.  Adam because of a bad report and his sister for making fun of him.


Yeah, the middle child is obsessed with monsters and basically used a tabloid magazine akin to the Enquirer for his report. The two siblings find a workaround of getting out of being grounded, they set their mom up on a date.  Yeah, that makes these two endearing.  


  



They first trying setting her up online but she meets someone while the family is grocery shopping named Dimitri and they hit it off.  That is until their youngest brother sees the guy turn into a bat and thinks he's a vampire. Of course, he's right but his older siblings don't believe him. So, we have a case of something similar to what happened in the Boogedy sequel. 


I'm afraid that this is a trope I'm going to tire of if it keeps up with these movies during the month.  The youngest brother ends up calling a vampire hunter that is played by Lizzie McGuire's dad.  However, this film debuted one year before one of the most beloved Disney Channel shows.





And this is where the move splits in tow as Dimitri (the vampire) is able to trick the kids at first into showing he's not a vampire by failing a spoon test.  This is not a real vampire test and I made a fool of myself looking this up before verifying that it was only made up by Adam to trick his brothers.


This does not align with the ideas of vampires not being able to see their shadow or garlic being a detriment to them. Obviously, there are various forms of but Dimitri is based on the classical vampire.  As he displays traits such as turning into a bat and superstrength. This is seen when Dimitri throws the kids' bikes across the street and damages them after being thrown out of a club where the kids' mom (Caroline Rhea) sing.


This is where the older siblings figure out they are dealing with a vampire and the movie just becomes a chase for the kids to stop the vampire before he can drink the blood of their mother. 



I must admit that their mom puts up a good fight and never actually connects with Dimitri, much to his chagrin. He hypnotizes her and takes her back to his manor and the kids are able to break their mom out of a trance using true love.  


Pretty simple fare and not bad though there are better movies. I used to remember this movie as annoying and while I don't think that's the case now, it's just kinda boring and compared to something like Don't Look Under the Bed, there isn't a whole lot there for older kids in my opinion.



Characters


Main Characters


Adam & Chelsea played by Matt O'Leary & Laura Vandervoort 





When the movie started, these kids were awful. They do get better as the movie goes on but jeez, I couldn't stand them. Especially Adam as in order to get tickets for the concert that he wanted to go to, he set up his sister unknowingly on a date with a guy she doesn't like and promised him that she'd kiss him at the end of the date.  Dude, you're a creep for selling out you're sister like that.  The older sister wasn't much better either as she was just the stereotypical older sister that loved talking to her boyfriend on the phone.


Lynette played by Caroline Rhea





Caroline Rhea was actually quite good in this movie and it was easy to buy her as a mom that was trying to figure out her what direction her life should be going in now.  This is a different role than what people were used to from her at the same as she was better known for her work on Sabrina but this role shows she could slip into not a serious role but a less comedic one and still do really well. 



Supporting Characters


Taylor played by Myles Jeffery



Taylor is just the little brother and that's it.  There is a buddy cop element when he teams up with the vampire hunter but that's about it.  Really, his role can be summed up as the kid and while that can work for some movies, it doesn't feel like he gets a lot to work with, even though he's the one that first notices Dimitri is a vampire.


Malachi Van Helsing played by Robert Carradine 






TVTropes describes Carradine's Vampire Hunter character as a bit bumbling but that's not quite accurate as he is good at his job. He's just rather peculiar and a bit odd. But heh, that comes with the territory of being a Vampire Hunter.  However, I gotta ask, did they really have to give him the Van Helsing surname? I get that he is the most popular Vampire Hunter but it's just so cliche.



Villain


Dimitri played by Charles Shaughnessy


 



This is now the second DCOM where Mr. Sheffield played the bad guy I've reviewed. And once again, he was really good and one of the best parts of the movie. His vampire was a little corny but that goes with the territory of someone starring in a DCOM.  There is a sense of menace in his vampiric actions that make it seem like he could win at any moment.



My Final Thoughts


This film is okay and maybe not a bad one for young kids during this time of year.  Though, I do think there are better DCOMs for this time of year. It's fun but there are better options.  Join me next time as we look at...


Phantom of the Megaplex







10/7/20

A Look at Disney's TV Movie Halloween: Don't Look Under The Bed








Imaginary friends are often some of the first friends that we make as a child and they are important in developing a child's imagination and they are perfectly normal to have.  This is seen in a report from 2019.


Imaginary friends are a common—and normal—manifestation for many kids across many stages of development. In fact, by age 7, 65 percent of children will have had an imaginary friend, according to a 2004 studyStephanie Carlson, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development and one of the study’s co-authors, says that the prime time for having imaginary friends is from the ages of 3 to 11.


Film and television as visual mediums can bring these imaginary friends to life and give them a physical presence.  Think of something such as Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends.
















However, this film takes it one step further and mixes the imaginary friend a being that brings children joy with one of the first things children learn to fear, the boogeyman



The most common thread between all the different interpretations is that it was mostly created to scare and discipline children. Creating compliance in children is something parents long for, but it is sometimes difficult to do with compliments and candy

These ideas are present throughout the film and the boogeyman is a creature that can have any shape or design, which allows creators to go wild. This can allow for some terrifying looks and takes, look no further than The Real Ghostbusters. 



















I may have gotten older but jeez, that design is still creepy.  This movie, therefore, is a battle of the thing that brings children joy versus the thing that scares them.



This movie beyond these elements also has an interesting history as it used to air all the time around the Halloween season but Disney Channel received many complaints about this film from parents for it being too scary and pulled it from its Halloween rotation and was hard to come by until it was included on Disney+ at its launch last year.


I find that a bit crazy as it's a children's horror movie and Disney is no stranger to scary moments. With that outta the way, let's dive into this film.  


The Plot


The introduction for this review sets up the idea of something that brings joy versus something that is meant to scare them. The best way to describe this movie and understand what it is going for is to say that it's tense. We follow the main character of Frances, who is going through quite an ordeal as her younger brother just went through treatment for leukemia   Someone is pulling constant pranks throughout the city and all signs seem to point to Frances as the culprit.


















Even though she is not the one doing it and no one believes her when she says that she keeps seeing a boy named Larry Houdini as no one else can see him as he was sent to help her. As he is the imaginary friend of her younger brother but Frances told her brother that he has to grow up and stop believing in things such as imaginary friends as that is the best way to face your fears and take on the real world. 



There's a song in Bedknobs and Broomsticks titled The Age of Not Beliving and in many ways, this movie hits on that way with the character of Frances. Take a look at these lyrics.

You're at the age of not believing
And worst of all, you doubt yourself
You're a castaway where no one hears you


Frances' arc deals with the idea of not growing up too fast and how having childlike wonder is a good thing and can protect you at least in the idea of a security blanket.  What of the Boogeyman, you may be asking? Creepy...













The design of the Boogeyman in this movie can still cause me to tense up all these years later.  Something about elongated fingernails, yeesh.  


While that look is terrifying, I believe it also helps set up one of the most important points of the movie.  In the film's climax after realizing that the Boogeyman had been pulling all the pranks and blaming Frances,  he (they if we want to be technical considering the twist) kidnaps Frances' younger brother and takes him to the Boogey world, which is a creepy location located under the bed.



 













Honestly, the Boogey world looks like something from a twisted nightmare version of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.  Larry and Frances have built a device that could kill the Boogeyman, which does seem to work as it causes the Boogeyman to rapidly age into an old woman but that is not how they defeat the Boogeyman.  Frances embraces her past and tells the Boogeyman to stop as it is revealed that the Boogeyman is her old imaginary friend, Zoey.
















Recall the idea of the boogeyman is something that is used to scare children as a form punishment this is seen in a way as Zoe through no will of her own is punishing Frances for discarding her.   And that caused Zoe to turn into the Boogeyman or Boogey Person as she prefers.  If children discard the memories of their imaginary friends within the world of this movie, they will slowly turn into a boogeyman and we see this with Larry as he is slowly going through this process because he is being forgotten. 
















This speaks to the importance of remembering your childhood as Larry puts it before he and Zoe leave to tackle another Boogey problem.


Fran, just because you're getting older doesn't mean you have to get old.




This line sums up what the movie is trying to say, grow up but don't forget your childhood.  



Of interest to note is that before Larry and Zoe head off, Larry and Frances share a kiss and this was almost cut.



 


 










Why because of this...


Disney was concerned about having a black boy kiss a white girl. 


Ugh. Thankfully, it was fought for and got to stay in the movie.  This movie is great and one I cannot suggest enough.  Let's move onto characters.




Characters



While there are many characters in this movie,  Frances and Larry are the most important ones. Therefore,  they are the only main characters that I'll be discussing. 




Main Characters



Frances  played by Erin Chambers

















The journey that Frances takes is important as it speaks to the idea of growing up too fast, which is important to understand.  However, the other idea that is more important is that it's okay to be scared and Frances hides her fear behind a wall of logic.  That doesn't always work and this is seen in the end when she breaks down and confronts Zoe.  This speaks to something that the director brought up.


The hero cannot be using something outside of herself. The heroism has got to come from within.” And that’s why Frances ultimately defeats the Boogeyman by admitting she’s not scared anymore.




Frances had been hiding her fear and by confronting Zoe, she was allowed to let go of that fear. 



Larry Houdini played by Ty Hodges


 














On the surface, Larry is a comic relief character but there are small moments of anger from him towards Frances when he learns the truth. I've read arguments of how Larry is only there as a Black character to guide a White girl on her journey.  This is understandable but I believe that it misunderstands the agency of Larry as he is fighting becoming a boogeyman because he was forgotten much too soon. This is an inner conflict that he has to battle.  And it is handled in a way that truly makes the audience care about him. 



Villain


The Boogeyman played by Steve Valentine, Ruth Hale, & Rachel Kimsey 














The Boogeyman is one of the scariest things from a Disney Channel production.   It's completely understandable how this creature could scare children. Though I do not agree with this movie being pulled because of that. Because much like Frances in this movie, children need to be able to confront their fears.  And the Boogeyman in many ways represents a physical embodiment of those fears.


My Final Thoughts


This movie is great and still holds up nearly two decades later.  The message is important while being able to deliver genuine fears.  Which this film shows that it's okay to be frightened and we all have different ways of working through those fears but we shouldn't hide them. Join me next time as we look at...

Mom's Got a Date with a Vampire


10/2/20

A Look at Disney's TV Movie Halloween: Bride of Boogedy




One year after Mr. Boogedy debuted as a part of The Disney Sunday Movie, a sequel was made.  This is interesting as if you'll recall, it was thought at one point, this movie could lead to a tv show. That never happened and apparently, the horror elements have been watered down even more in this sequel to the point of being untraceable. This is a bit of a shame and we will get into many of the other odd decisions made as we look at the movie. 


Oh, and the movie also loses Kristy Swanson and even worse, John Astin.  



However, what this movie loses in John Astin, it gains in Eugene Levy. 






The Plot


The movie actually opens with a new character that I believe is meant to be a stand-in for Astin telling a campfire story that recaps the first movie.  That's a little annoying but I get the idea as it had been a year since the original aired.  


The film wastes no time in bringing Boogedy back and I like that as it lets the audience in on that he is back. This film is lighter on plot than the original, which would typically bug me but the film more than makes up for that with more exploration of Lucifer Falls and tenser moments.  A perfect example of this is when Ari and Corwin (the two brothers) find a skeleton key that they grab and takes them to a spooky-looking graveyard spot where they first encounter Boogedy in the sequel. 




Of course, this is where the first issue comes in, the parents don't believe the kids. I get the idea as this is a kid's horror movie and a lot of those the parents don't believe the kids when they see something supernatural.  It's a common trope that is as old as day.  Looking around online,  I believe this sums up why this is such a common trope in these movies.


It's a simple nod and wink to reality. Children have an active imagination. Parents are so swept up in their adult lives, careers, frustrations, etc. They dismiss a child's concern of an apparent irregularity as nothing more than that active imagination, misinterpretation of the adult world, etc.

This would make sense if there weren't a sequel but the parents in this film have seen Mr. Boogedy before and should believe their kids when they say that Boogedy has returned. The idea of letting the audience in on the fact that Boogedy has returned from the get-go works as a way of building stakes and doing some different types of scares but it makes no sense when the audience knows that the parents Boogedy exists and that he can return. 


Take this further,  one can look at what TV Tropes refers to as the You Have to Beleive Me! trope and entry number 5 






Most important, they will be stunned and angry that anyone would find their claim implausible, regardless of how implausible it would be even if they weren't completely flushing any credibility they might otherwise have down the toilet in their method of persuasion.


This may seem like a Boy Who Cried Wolf situation but here's not so much a case of the characters lying rather them being flustered that the parents are ignoring the past experiences.  There are other great moments such as Jennifer (the eldest sister) seeing her dad floating down the hallway in midair. 


Which happened because Boogedy possessed the body of the father.  Which again common element in ghost stories.



Spirit possession may be broadly defined as any altered or unusual state of consciousness and allied behavior that is indigenously understood in terms of the influence of an alien spirit, demon, or deity.

For a perfect example, think of Swayzee in Ghost possessing Whoopi's character. And I think I get what this movie was going for as they wanted it to be a big reveal when Boogedy possessed one of the parents but again, this goes back to the problem of the parents knowing what Boogedy can do.

Oh and apparently, his magic cloak that was supposedly destroyed in the first movie wasn't.  Okay, this is another issue in which sequels undo everything that was done in the original.  Which on the one hand, I get as the stakes need to be higher in a sequel but that is aggravating when you watch the original and the sequel back-to-back.


This is an annoying habit that so many sequels delve into when instead of undoing the resolution and results of the first movie, it would make more sense to build upon what happened in the original movie.  This is seen somewhat in the beginning but it tampers off the longer the movie goes on.


You may have noticed that I haven't brought up the titular Bride, well that's in part because the movie spends so much time on a local carnival and this is where Eugene Levy comes into play as he is a General Store manager that's jealous of Mr. Davis (the father) as he was named honorary mayor for the carnival.

















  And dear lord, his hatred for this guy is so bad that he ends up stealing Boogedy's magic cloak.

 













Okay, let's break this down. This character has lived in Lucifer Falls all his life.  And even if he didn't believe in the story of Mr. Boogedy, he should be familiar with it and understand what the cloak can do.  Especially once he gets it in his head that the family had been using the magic cloak to be successful.  If he knew the cloak was magic, then he should've had an idea of who it belonged to.   


But instead, Boogedy gets him to do his bidding, which includes releasing Boogedy and having him attack the carnival.  Yet, still, nothing with the bride as the actual bride isn't the sequel and instead, Boogedy thinks he has found his love as Eloise (the mom) is wearing the outfit of the woman he loved.  And they do make her hair look like this and I guess just because it's a Bride of... movie.




















Kinda pointless in my opinion but that's really the smallest issue in this movie. Looking at this movie as a whole, I'm mixed on it. There are a lot of issues that I have with the movie but I think it benefits from a longer runtime as it allows more breathing time than the original had but it doesn't use that time effectively.


However,  it does more with the characters than the 45-minute runtime of the original.



Characters


While there are more characters in this sequel, there are only a select few I wish to focus on.




Main Characters


The Davis Family played by Richard Mauser, Mimi Kennedy, Tammy Lauren, David Faustino, & Joshua Rudoy

















I had my issues with the parents not believing the kids because of their past experience with Boogedy but I do enjoy the dynamic of the family quite a lot. This is perhaps the biggest thing carrying the movie throughout.  There is strong love, even with the annoyance of it taking until near the end of the film for the parents to believe the kids.



Supporting Character


Mr. Lynch played by Eugene Levy
















Eugene Levy was an uppity character, which seems to be the case now as he played a similiar type character ealier in the decade in Splash.  However, while I didn't like his character there,  I enjoyed the character that he played in this film a little more even if the character was more malicious in his actions towards the family.



Villain


Mr. Boogedy played by Howard Witt













I like that Mr. Boogedy got quite a bit more to do as that allowed the character to have more fun moments and more scares. Where as the first film made you wait for him to show up and his presence hung over the movie. I get the idea but I think it works better seeing him from the get-go.


My Final Thoughts


As I said I'm mixed, I enjoyed what this movie did for the characters and the setting but there are quite a few annoying elements such as the whole thign of the parents not beliving their kids. Even though, this is a sequel. Overall, I am in the minority here as most people that have looked at these films prefer the original whereas I think this sequel is better but it's flaws are more obvious. Join me next time as we move from Mr. Boogedy to the Boogeyman as we look at at film that had been pulled from Disney Channel at the behest of parents for being too scary as we look at...


Don't Look Under The Bed