While many kids of the nineties will agree that DCOM’s simply aren’t as good or as innocent as they used to be, the talent has improved enormously. Most of the actors in the past DCOM’s (Disney Channel Original Movies) were always so blustery and stilted in their performances, in spite of the fact that Disney took more risks with their movies. These days, they’ve traded subtlety for talent. “Kickin’ It” is one of the few successful boy oriented shows Disney has launched. It’s a show about a group of kids who deal with growing up through the skill of martial arts, and one of its stars Olivia Holt has displayed a real charm and charisma that’s tough to keep contained.
In “Girl vs. Monster” she has a real magnetism and appeal that makes her the ideal choice for the role of a young girl about to come in to her own as a monster hunter in a legacy of master monster hunters in her family. “Girl vs. Monster” contains elements of “Supernatural,” and “Ghostbusters,” with a hint of “Hocus Pocus” and manages to be rather entertaining. Skyler Lewis is a bold and brave young girl who isn’t afraid of anything. She leaps on to a rafter to fix a Halloween banner and lands the fall with grace, and before leaving with her friends engages in a performance with a local band for the room. She’s the envy of many people, and we’re forced to believe somewhat of an outcast. Her parents are primarily mold specialists whom are incredibly over protective and refuse to let her attend the Halloween party thrown by musician Ryan, who begs Skyler to sing for the group when lead singer Myra is hurt in a hilarious accident. Refusing to let her go, Skyler’s odd parents leave her in the charge of her uncle, and lock her inside the house.
Determined to make it out, she shuts the power down to the house and accidentally frees the evil Deimata from the ghost chamber in their basement. On a mission to possess Skyler and feed on her fear, Diemata is intent on hunting Skyler down as Skyler comes to grips with the fact that she has to be a hero. Very much in the vein of “Halloweentown,” Skyler is a girl who loves Halloween whose over protective parents are suppressing her until a certain age where she can become a hero of some kind. In that regard it’s rather derivative. I also never understood why the parents would house a ghost chamber in their basement and make their power grid so functional and easily shut down by hand when their house is protected by a key pad. And what would Deimata accomplish by possessing Skyler? Was it a part of a master plan to destroy the legacy of monster hunters? Or was she trying to inflict revenge on Skyler’s parents? As with most DCOM’s, “Girl vs. Monster” is entertaining and very charming, but often very silly and doesn’t entirely make a lot of sense in the end.
But the primary reason to watch “Girl vs. Monster” is because it’s such an interesting concept worthy of a few follow-ups for the character of Skyler, and star Holt has a real enthusiasm and draw that’s tough to ignore. As with all DCOM’s, this new film is about a character coming of age, and ultimately she has to learn how to cope with fear and use it as a means of thriving in life rather than letting it control her. As the film progresses we learn that Skyler may not be too normal, while her two friends often paralyzed by their insecurities may be more in control around demonic beings. The trio of ghouls feast off of the insecurities of teenagers, and are basically just metaphors for anxiety, insecurity, and self-esteem. They’re manifestations of those flaws, and they feed on such horrors.
To defeat them they must ultimately face their fears, which means Skyler’s friend Sadie must confront her fear of public speaking, goofy Henry must battle a bullying scarecrow, and Skyler must perform her music for the party she’s attending. As with all modern DCOM’s, the cast is intended to do more than just act, so Olivia Holt pulls in double duty as a singer and actor and accomplishes some strong singing paired with some very catchy music for the film’s inevitable soundtrack. While it has bumps along the road, “Girl vs. Monster” has a clear message for its teen audience about confronting fears, while marketing on the growing popularity of talented star, Olivia Holt. It’s a very pleasing Halloween treat. With Disney trying to re-invent their Halloween tradition for a new audience and move away from the classic “Halloweentown,” the new “Girl vs. Monster” is a fun and exciting action comedy for the teens, but I doubt it’ll be as well received as the former more festive fantasy film. Olivia Holt has real potential, and I hope Disney banks on her more in the future.