Monsterville: Cabinet of Souls (PG)
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This was released direct-to-DVD in 2015. I saw it at Walmart and thought about picking up, but I didn't. Finally I ordered a copy in 2017, and watched it a few nights before Halloween. I guess the movie was based on an idea by R.L. Stine, but he didn't actually write the movie or have anything to do with making it. Though maybe he later wrote a book based on the movie? I dunno, it seems kind of backwards. I don't know much about Stine's work, I mean I haven't read any of his books, but I have seen a few movies and TV shows that were based on his books. And I assume the books usually come before the shows or movies, right? In any event... I wasn't sure how much I'd actually like the movie, since it's obviously geared more toward adolescents, or whatever. And some of the things I've seen based on Stine's works, I may have kind of liked, but never really thought they were as good as some things can be that are made for kids but also appeal to adults. However, I was happily surprised by this movie. It's not really a great movie, but I thought it was pretty good. In fact, the basic premise reminded me of Something Wicked This Way Comes, and I liked this more than I liked that. (Though mind you, that movie came out when I was a kid, but I didn't see it until just one year earlier than I saw this, so I couldn't have any nostalgia about it.)
Anyway, it starts with a teenage girl named Andrea stomping on a jack-o-lantern on Halloween night. Then she starts running into the woods, and we see she's transformed into a monster. The story then flashes forward almost one year, to the week leading up to Halloween. It's set in a small town which I think is near the town where Andrea lived; near enough so that the local TV news served both towns, anyway, because the kids in this town are aware of Andrea having disappeared the previous year. But that won't become important to the story until later on. The movie focuses on four teenage friends named Beth, Kellen, Luke, and Nicole. (Beth is played by Dove Cameron, whom I saw just about a month before I watched this, in the TV movie Descendants, which had also come out in 2015. So it's kind of weird that I just happened to be two years late in seeing both movies she was in. And still, I didn't actually recognize her in this, because her character here looked quite different from her character in that movie.) According to Luke, Kellen has been crushing on Beth for, like, ten years (since they were little kids). But he's always been too nervous to tell Beth how he feels about her. Which is unfortunate, because it's fairly obvious that she's been waiting for him to say something, since she feels the same way. (Why she couldn't just take the initiative, I have no idea.) Meanwhile, Luke acts like Nicole is his girlfriend, but I honestly have no idea whether that's true or not. Personally, I found Luke's whole personality rather annoying. He thinks he's funny, but he's really not. And most of the time, it seemed to me like Nicole found him mildly annoying, herself. Other times, it seemed like maybe she didn't. But then on the third hand, there were definitely indications that Nicole might have been into Kellen, to which he's totally oblivious. So like I said, I don't know what to think.
Well, there are various Halloween activities going on in town throughout the week. And during one event, a creepy showman called Dr. Hysteria shows up to announce the opening of his own "Hall of Horrors." He's accompanied by a goth-looking assistant named Lilith. (She's played by Katherine McNamara, whom I just saw earlier this month in a rerun of the 2012 TV movie Girl vs. Monster, though just as with Beth, I didn't recognize her at all, because the characters she played in each movie looked very different. But I must say, throughout this movie, I kept feeling that Lilith put me very much in mind of Summer Glau.) Anyway... around the same time that Dr. Hysteria and Lilith arrive in town, there's also a new student in town named Hunter, who takes an immediate interest in Beth. And unlike Kellen, he's not afraid to make his interest known to her. And she seems interested in him, too. But soon, Lilith makes her own interest in Kellen known. So... there's potential jealousy all around. Meanwhile, all four friends, plus Hunter, go to the opening night of the Hall of Horrors together. But Beth gets separated from the group, and winds up backstage, where some creepy things happen. She later tries to get her friends to go back there with her to explore the place, believing there's something Dr. Hysteria and his troupe don't want anyone to see. But the only one who really believes her is Hunter. Together, they find the cabinet of souls, and Beth goes inside. (It's bigger on the inside, like the TARDIS, but what she finds there is uber-creepy.) There are a bunch of ghostly figures just standing around in a trance... and one of them is Andrea, the girl who had disappeared the year before. And things only get worse for Beth when she later discovers that each of her friends have had their souls taken, and start turning into monsters, themselves. So she has to find a way to save them before midnight on Halloween, or they'll belong to Dr. Hysteria forever. (And in their monster forms, they seem to have forgotten their true selves, so they don't even want to be saved.) But while she's trying to save her friends, the creepy bad guys are trying to capture Beth's soul, as well.
And I guess that's all I really want to say about the plot. There's one twist that I had predicted all along, because it was so incredibly obvious. (I had been hoping I'd turn out to be wrong, but I wasn't. Sigh.) Other than that, all I can say is I thought Beth was a pretty good character. And all the creature makeup and effects were cool. And the whole Hall of Horrors itself seemed like a legit scary-but-fun Halloween attraction, the kind of thing it'd actually be cool to go through in real life, assuming there's no soul-stealing going on. Anyway, I'm definitely glad to have seen the movie.