I’m not sure whose brain child Kibosh was, but I’m not so sure we needed a villain for Casper. So apparently, there are ghosts, there are friendly ghosts, and there are—uh—bad ghosts? Or super ghosts? In either case, the Casper franchise continues its downward slump in the awfully mediocre “Casper’s Scare School.” This time around Casper best friends with a lonely boy named Jimmy. Jimmy has a big soccer game and Casper is helping him become a great athlete. But after getting scared by Jimmy, Casper’s embarrassment is discovered all over the ghost realm.
Less budget, and less stars, this time Casper’s adventures are reduced to a pretty crummy animated feature where Casper teams up with another spunky young girl. She’s a girl facing a crisis about Christmas and she needs the help of… Casper. Makes sense, I guess. “Casper’s Haunted Christmas” is a noticeably bargain basement style production compared to the previous movies, all the while the animation is often weird and the narrative nonsensical.
Well if anything “Casper Meets Wendy” is much better than “A Spirited Beginning” despite offering no big surprises. Unless you consider that the only cast member that’s been in most “Casper” movies so far is Pauly Shore. In the former film he played a bad ghost, and here he plays a fortune telling magical mirror. As with most of these movies, there is a whole cast of D list celebrities, and the adaptation of Harvey Comics’ “Wendy The Good Little Witch” is an excuse to introduce future teen star Hilary Duff. To her credit Duff is adorable.
I, for one, quite loved the big screen reboot of “Casper” with Christina Ricci. As a kid I loved its human elements and fun atmosphere. And then they kind of ruined it with a bunch of direct to video sequels and prequels that stunk. “A Spirited Beginning” is one of many that completely copies the formula of the original movie, with performances that are oh so much worse.
William Castle’s “House on Haunted Hill” was a pretty great horror movie that inevitably became a pretty good remake in 1999. When Sam Raimi founded Dark Castle films, his love for William Castle was worn on his sleeve, right down to theatrics of the remake. “House on Haunted Hill” from 1999 does a good job of delivering something new and unique to the premise of the original film, putting twists in the premise, and offering some contemporary thrills that more than make up for the film’s massive short comings, overall. It’s a great Halloween treat; I can at least say that for it.
I have to admit that “Ghost Stories” was something of a surprise this year, because I’m shocked so many people liked it, while I just didn’t. Surely, “Ghost Stories” is a beautifully directed film but it builds on a momentum that it can’t deliver. It seems to be leading up to one big bang, and in the end when that big bang finally arrives, it’s more like a trick gun with the flag that reads “Bam!” The message is also pretty heavy handed and feels tacked on. Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s “Ghost Stories” is a beautifully directed film with excellent cinematography, and brilliant sound design, it’s just all glimmer and no substance.
Netflix’s penchant for premiering “original” movies on their platform is typically hit or miss, and I’m glad that “Malevolent” for the most part is a hit. It’s kind of taken a well worn premise but adds a bit of heart to it, thanks to the very good performances, and atmosphere. “Malevolent” has a very subtle sense of terror behind it, and while it does rely on jump scares every now and then, what keeps the film consistently creepy are the quieter moments, the instances when we’re never quite sure what’s going to pop up behind a door. Director Olaf de Fleur has every chance to fall in to the trap of delivering shock after shock, but “Malevolent” ends up as so much more.
I’m always a sucker for a very good ghost movie, and “Our House” is not one of them. The problem with it is both narrative and tonal, where it’s much too melodramatic to invest in the horror elements, and too horror to appreciate it as a tale of a grieving family struggling to keep it together. What we’re left with is a pretty crummy, rather monotonous supernatural drama that we’ve seen a dozen times in the past. Anthony Scott Burns seems to be aiming for a genre entry in the vein of “We Are Still Here,” but it ends up feeling more like a tame sequel to “White Noise.”