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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61 Days of Halloween- The Final

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.

The Final

This is the kind of movie I like to talk about. Immediately upon tweeting my reaction I got two very disparate reactions from others who had also seen it. In either case, I could understand the reactions from both of my Twitter compatriots who expressed differing views on the film. Essentially, I only took the tweet discussion so far because I knew I’d have enough characters here, not there, to explain why I come out on the positive side of the film.

Starting off on the negative end: this film has a rocky start. However, it epitomizes why I am very hesitant to give up on a film. The film has serious, serious issues in establishing its characters. A lot of the early set-up, mainly of the bullies in tale, falls into the stereotype realm and does come off as either overly-blunt or tin-eared.

So while The Final very quickly squanders its opportunity to be truly great, it does build its characters and works towards a set-up that is highly effective. Thankfully for the film the running time is not long, and the first act mounts steadily towards the turn in events such that the cumulative effect, even if uneasily handled, is a desired one. The goal of the protagonists is not only easily identified, but understood and anticipated.

To finish this point on stereotypes: is it lazy writing? Yes, but I feel they do melt away to an extent as you see the characters react to an extremely stressful situation. Also, when there’s the anticipated role reversal there is good conflict and illustrations of just how far these characters are willing to go. There is also the point that is difficult to deal with in art, which is that these types exist for a reason. I’d even go so far as to postulate the possibility that the exaggeration of types was a conscious choice to make the audience more readily become immersed in an outlandish and hard to deal with situation.

The rendering of the situation alluded to in the synopses for the film is what makes it work. What clinches it as very enjoyable is the the interpretation of events thereof, and what elevates it to about the heights it can hope to achieve, considering some of its issues, is that fairly adept commentary and the mirrored frame. The performances of Marc Donato and Lindsay Seidel are the strongest and most compelling.

In the end, The Final overcomes its inconsistencies to be a fairly impressive situational horror piece with built-in commentary on many subjects, whether it be bullying or school violence, that’s not overly-augmented by the characters. It’s a film that builds identification of type such that there’s a connection to torturous scenes besides mere voyeurism.

It’s a film you’re likely to fall on either side of. If you look at the synopsis and can handle it; I’d recommend it.