R.L. Stine’s Monsterville: Cabinet of Souls (2015)


I don’t know how they keep recruiting these Disney stars to headline the RL Stine movies. Disney always seems to have such a tight grasp on them. In either case, “Cabinet of Souls” is the very definition of an RL Stine story, except with a much longer format. It surely sports the same mold and aesthetic with a small town, teen protagonists, and evil villains that seek to ruin their innocence somehow. It stumbles on occasion, and there’s a clear lack of wit that you can usually find with Stine’s yarns, but it’s a pleasing movie; especially if you’re a fan of Dove Cameron, Katherine McNamara, or Ryan McCartan.

“Cabinet of Souls” is set in a small town where a young girl went missing long ago. Coincidentally a huge attraction rolls in for Halloween where customers can walk through a corridor of horrors where all sorts of monsters appear. They’re incredibly life like in appearance, and this arouses the suspicion of young Beth. Beth is a quick and resourceful young girl who sneaks in to the ride after hours and discovers that the zombies and vampires on the attraction are genuine. The owner Dr. Hysteria is a devious sorcerer with the ability to grant anyone their heart’s desire. Through granting his victims’ wishes, he uses their souls, and transforms them in to monsters for his ride.

Slowly, the ride begins consuming Beth’s friends, and many secrets are revealed about Hysteria’s attraction. This includes his alluring young daughter Lilith who has her eye on Beth’s friend Kellen. “Cabinet of Souls” is generally well acted and breezes by in under ninety minutes. It works well as a Halloween movie, sporting some great make up effects. I especially enjoy the look of a character who transforms in to an evil clown mid-way. For a kids movie the narrative can teeter on PG-13 territory quite often, but that gives it a welcome edge. Cameron is very good as heroine Beth, who finds herself outmatched by the magic of Lilith and Dr. Hysteria, and it takes a lot of her courage and will to face him, even when trapped in his cabinet of souls.

The cabinet’s realms are a bit derivative of “Phantasm,” but that’s forgiven mainly due to the film’s creativity and unique monster effects. Katherine McNamara is also a scene stealer as the enchantress Lilith, while Andrew Kavadas seems to have a good time playing the central villain of the film. “Cabinet of Souls” feels like the first of numerous films to come involving Dr. Hysteria and his evil offspring. I wonder what new threats he’ll pose if the producers continue with another film. In either case, “Cabinet of Souls” is mainly an excuse to trot out Disney talent, and to arouse a scare or two. I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece, but it will surely entertain its target audience.