61 Days of Halloween- Girl vs. Monster

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment, I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Whenever there is a DCOM (Disney Channel Original Movie) that I am reviewing I always feel the need to remind people that my rating scale pertains to how well the film accomplishes its objective, as opposed to comparing it to things it is not and not trying to be. This is not to say that even in the microcosm of DCOMs that there aren’t films that have fallen flat on their face. Some have landed amongst the worst of the year.

Usually the key to success is being seasonal or based on a show, rare are the out of the blue High School Musical success stories. Getting back to the seasonal aspect of the film: it had been a few years since Disney did anything both Halloween/horror-related and released prior to the day, add to that the fact that it’s the first non-sequel (a la Halloweentown or Twitches) in a while and there was great promise here.

The talk of sequels brings us to the most glaringly unfortunate aspect of the film. There is a liberal bit of borrowing, mainly from Ghostbusters, that goes on. References to other works that are far more conscious and meta come in later, but that one never gets joked about. Thankfully, there are enough twists, differentiations and its own goofy brand of humor that it minimizes the encumbrance of that fact. In the end, these hunters are more like actual versions of the bogus ones on reality TV.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t state that the CG quality varies wildly, at time the lower-end is intentional, but the tenor of the film forgives a lot of it.

However, Girl vs. Monster is ultimately a very successful horror/comedy which targets a more innocent sensibility of Halloween that is the purview of projects designed for TV and younger audiences. It’s an effective tone that when well-executed takes me back. The film does well to focus, when appropriate, on comedy such that the film is always entertaining.

This film, like many latter-day DCOMS, also features music, but in a more organic way than most. A bonus is that the songs are pretty good and catchy and as opposed to many DCOMS not over-produced to Glee-like proportions, and allow Olivia Holt and Luke Benward to showcase their voices.

The story does seem like it’ll take the typical routes through Disney tropes but it does throw a wrench in enough to keep it interesting and less predictable than most. The casting is also better than most recent films. Granted Disney Channel will spin-off a star from a show into most of, if not all, these films, but the choice to not only choose Olivia Holt (Kickin’ It) who is of lower-profile than most of the current Disney stable helps this film and the viewers because she’s more quickly her character in this film, and it’s less like a star vehicle. Especially when you consider she’s flanked by a great supporting cast, only some of which are frequently seen on the networks, featuring Brendan Meyer and Kurt Ostland  (Mr. Young); Katherine McNamara, Adam Chambers, Jennifer Aspen and Brian Palermo.

Girl vs. Monster is a really enjoyable, funny and quick-paced film, which delving even further into microcosm falls just behind Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire in terms of best Halloween DCOM. Recommended for both fans of DCOMs and those who like variety in their Halloween-related viewings.

8/10

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