Return to Halloweentown (2006)

This is the only film in the Halloweentown series not to feature Kimberly J. Brown as Marnie. Brown herself has claimed that not only was she available, but she wanted to finish out the series. Instead, series creator Sheri Singer would just state that Disney and Brown’s camp couldn’t come to terms and make a deal work. That said, Joey Zimmerman, Debbie Reynolds, Judith Hoag and Lucas Grabeel did all come back for the film. Sophie, who was played by Emily Roeske in the previous Halloweentown installments, is mentioned but does not appear. It was directed by David Jackson, who also made the Yasmine Bleeth-starring The Lake.

Marnie decides that instead of college that she’ll attend Witch University in Halloweentown on a full scholarship. But when she starts classes, she learns that all they do is study Shakespeare and the history of magic. She makes a new friend — Aneese the Genie — while reconnecting with Ethan and running afoul of the Sinister Sisters, the daughters of Silas Sinister.

The reason why magic is no longer taught? It’s all Marnie’s fault. Witch University was originally established exclusively for warlocks and witches to learn how to use magic. But Marnie destroyed the portal between the worlds, most of the magical children went to college in the mortal realm.

There’s also the matter of a locked box in the dungeon of the school that only Marnie can open, with a sinister group called the Dominion working to force her to break open its seal. Once open, it allows the Sinister Sisters to control Halloweentown. As you can imagine, everything works out — this is a Disney Channel movie, not the usual Filmirage gorefests we watch around here and even sets up future tales.

Due to the recasting, most fans of this series kind of wish this movie never existed.

The Scream Team (2002)

I watch a lot of Disney Channel movies late at night, so perhaps I can be forgiven when I mix them up. Or maybe it’s because this is the first of several films where some motherless or fatherless kids move to or visit a new town where a relative was involved in the supernatural and must deal with it themselves. Seeing as how there’s no Debbie Reynolds or Mr. Boogedy in this, I would assume that we’re watching The Scream Team, but you can also think that maybe this is Beetlejuice.

At least this has the talents of Eric Idle, Tommy Davidson and Kathy Najimy as the ghosts who help those in the afterlife cross over. They even have a waiting room just like the aforementioned Tim Burton classic.

This is also an early role for Kat Dennings, who plays Claire Carlyle, who is joined by her brother Ian in learning exactly why their grandfather can’t move on from this plane of existence.

This was a pilot for a series, but this episode is pretty much all you get. If you like this type of supernatural fun that’s safe for kids, trust me, there’s so much more on DIsney+.

Halloweentown High (2004)

Another Halloweentown, another jump two years into the future. Marnie (Kimberly J. Brown) prepares for a new school year as she works to build the relationship between the world of magic and our normal dimension. To do so, she proposes bringing a group of Halloweentown students to her mortal high school. The big worry? There have been signs of the Knights of the Iron Dagger, a fanatical order that wants to destroy all things magic.

However, the Halloweentown High Council agrees to the plan after Marniebets all the Cromwell magic that her plan will work. If she can’t show why this was a good idea by Halloween, her entire family will lose their magical abilities. Luckily, she has the support of her grandmother Aggie (Debbie Reynolds).

It turns out that there are both humans and magical beings that don’t want our worlds to cohabitate. Things were better when they were status quo, which Marnie and her family are rallying against. These are big things to consider within the context of a Disney Channel movie, but here we are.

Mark A.Z. Dippé worked on the special effects for The Abyss and Terminator 2 before becoming a director. He’s made plenty of straight to video Garfield movies, but is best known for directing Spawn.

Disney live action fans will either be pleased — or dismayed as it’s a modern remix — to hear “Let’s Get Together” from The Parent Trap in this movie.

Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century (1999)

While this was originally going to be a series, this is the first Disney Channel original movie to get a sequel. It has a great pedigree, as it was directed by Kenneth Johnson, who created The Bionic Woman and V*.

Stardate 2049: Zenon Kar is a 13-year-old girl who has been in so much trouble on a space station that her parents send her to Earth, where she has trouble fitting in with the kids that have no idea what pop culture is, all while discovering a conspiracy to upload a computer virus top the space station, crash it to Earth and collect the insurance money.

Hey — Stuart Pankin! Not only Bob Charles, the anchor of HBOs Not Necessarily the News and Earl Sinclair on Dinosaurs, Stuart shows up in all manner of movies, a dependable character actor that I love. He’s Commander Edward Plank, the boss of the big space station.

They made two more of these movies about the plucky space girl — and Disney+ has them — so if this is your jam, get on it.

*He also directed Short Circuit 2 and Steel, but we don’t talk of those movies.

Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge (2001)

Mary Lambert once directed music videos — Janet Jackson’s “Control” and five videos for Madonna including “Borderline,” “Like a Virgin,” “Material Girl,” “La Isla Bonita” and “Like a Prayer” — before making Pet Sematary. And yes, she went on to make a Disney Channel movie, as well as Mega Python vs. Gatoroid.

It’s been two years since we last saw Marnie (Kimberly J. Brown), who has spent the time learning magic from her grandmother Aggie (Debbie Reynolds) in Halloweentown. While hosting a mortal neighborhood Halloween party in our universe, Marnie tries to impress new neighbor Kal (Daniel Kountz) by showing off Aggie’s magically-hidden room. Before you can say plot device, Aggie notices something wrong with the portal between our worlds, sending her back to Halloweentown.

It turns out that Kal is really the son of Kalabar — didn’t see that coming with that name, huh? — and he’s cast a Gray Spell over the entire realm, making the magically colorful world of Halloweentown boring. Meanwhile, he’s turning Earth into a monster-filled nightmare.

To save the day, the barriers between Halloweentown and our world must be destroyed. But at what cost? Oh, if there were only a third film. There is? And I’m going to write about it this week? Man, this magic has me flummoxed.

As for horror fans, Judith Hoag wears the Silver Shamrock witch mask from Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Here’s hoping she takes it off before the commercial plays.

Halloweentown (1998)

Marnie Piper can’t understand why her mother Gwen won’t allow her and her siblings Dylan and Sophie to celebrate Halloween. It turns out that both Gwen and her mother Aggie are witches, despite the fact that Gwen yearns to live the life of a mortal. Now, Aggie is intent on training Marnie as a witch and informs her of where she lives, Halloweentown.

Halloweentown is a place where witches, warlocks, vampires, trolls, ogres, zombies, werewolves, mummies, ghosts, pumpkin heads, skeletons, goblins and humanoids with varying numbers of body parts have decided to escape from the fear of humans and create their own alternate universe.

Aggie wants to teach Marnie how to become a witch before she turns 13 and can’t use her powers. She’s also worried that people in Halloweentown have been disappearing. As she goes home on a magic bus, Marnie and Dylan sneak on board.

That’s when they run afoul of Kalabar, a man that used to date Gwen and is still jealous that she chose to marry a human. Luckily, the family comes together and it’s decided that Aggie will spend more time in our world and Marnie will train to be a witch, which is good news, because Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge would follow four years later. It was directed by Mary Lambert — yes, the same person who made Pet Sematary.

Director Duwayne Dunham was an editor at Lucasfilm and directed three episodes of Twin Peaks before making Halloweentown. A name you may recognize in the credits belongs to Alfred Sole, the production designer, who is better known for directing Alice, Sweet Alice.

 

Zombies (2018)

Based on Zombies & Cheerleaders by David Light and Joseph Raso, this Disney take on when Hell gets full is all about the town of Seabrook, where a power plant accident turned half the town into zombies, who have been fitted with Z-Bands — whose soothing electromagnetic pulses keep them from craving brains — and live in a walled off city called Zombietown.

Our star-crossed lovers are Addison, a cheerleader with white hair, and Zed, a football playing zombie. Nobody in either group of kids — zombies have their own all-in-one peer group — know that they’re in love. Throw in a few musical numbers and you have a recipe for success that has led to two sequels (Zombies 3 is in production) and 10.3 million viewers.

I kind of liked how the humans are more zombified than the undead. The only flavor of ice cream in town is vanilla, which is a cute joke.

There was also an unsold pilot for Zombies and Cheerleaders and the second film in the series added werewolves while the third looks like it’s going to have aliens.

I just want to know who decided to integrate the zombies into the school. That makes me want to make a serious drama about the zombies who worked so hard to get rights for everyone and if you think I’m kidding, you can laugh as I win an Oscar for my tearjerking dramatic script.

 

Bride of Boogedy (1987)

Man, these Disney live action 80s movies prove that kids of that era were fully prepared to be assaulted by some of the most frightening imagery in movies that were intended not for adults.

Witness Bride of Boogedy, in which Mr. Boogedy is out for revenge and general store owner Tom Lynch (Eugene Levy!) is angry that the town of Lucifer Falls has taken to the Davis family.

Also: don’t do a fake seance when a real ghost — I mean, the family has seen and battled Boogedy before, so I have no idea why no one believes the kids that he is back — is around.

Somebody, somewhere should do a week of Vincent Schiavelli — who plays a gravedigger named Lazarus in this —  films. It seems as if that somebody is me.

I kind of dig that Boogedy possesses the man who was once Earl Camembert and brings an army of wax monsters to life. Sadly, they never made Son of Boogedy. I think we could definitely use a reboot of this, but I don’t think the kids of today are ready to deal with him.

Mr. Boogedy (1986)

When you move to a town called Lucifer Falls and are warned immediately about Mr. Boogedy, well, chances are that things are going to get pretty scary, particularly if you’re a child. It turns out that there’s not just one ghost on the loose in this one, but three.

That’s because three hundred years ago, William Hanover fell in love with a beautiful widow named Marion who didn’t return his affection. He made a deal with the devil to gain a magical cloak and used it to kidnap the widow’s son Jonathan, but when he cast his first spell, he destroyed his home, his crush and her child, stranded all three of them in our plane of existence.

Now, Mr. Boogedy — William Hanover — and Jonathan are trapped inside the home of the newly arrived Davis family, along with young Jonathan, while his mother is unable to enter the home and ever see her son again.

Yeah, like I’ve said more than once, live action Disney gets pretty dark.

There’s a pretty good cast in this with Richard Masur (Rhoda) as the dad, Mimi Kennedy as the mom and Benji Gregory (ALF), David Faustino and Kristy Swanson as their children. Plus, it’s always great to see John Astin in anything.

Writer Michael Janover’s original version of this movie was called Cheap Thrills and was an Airplane!-style parody of horror films. It was meant to star Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong, but when Disney picked the project, the humor got toned down. Janover got the name Boogedy from Robert Hayes — speaking of Airplane! — yelling that as he walks the ledge in Cat’s Eye.

Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire (2000)

Say what you will about my love of live action Disney movies — not to mention Disney Channel movies — but I defy you to not enjoy a movie in which Robert Carradine shows up as a vampire hunter named Malachi Van Helsing.

The vampire in this movie, Dimitri Denatos, is played by The Right Honourable and The Lord Charles Shaughnessy George Patrick Shaughnessy, who is the 5th Baron Shaughnessy. He was also Maxwell on The Nanny, just in case you think this movie is getting too fancy. He wants to find a human woman to fall in love with — hey The Lost Boys — and the children of Caroline Rhea’s character all come together to save her.

It’s a goofy little vampire film that would probably be a good entry point if you have young kids who want to start watching things that are a little scarier. Or start them off with Cannibal Ferox and explain to their teachers that it’s also called Make Them Die Slowly.