To Stream or Not to Stream: Halloween Binge Mode

Streamers are finally waking up to the idea (see: fact) that consumers love seasonal programming, and so it is that Netflix, HBO, and Hulu all have devoted resources to some spooky and goofy offerings in October, the time of Hollow’s Eve, the most terrific time of year when amber leaves and candlelit pumpkins come out for play.

HBO MAX
Scoob!

A disappointing attempt at reviving an old IP for a new generation, Scoob! is simultaneously too silly to matter to anyone who grew up on the original cartoon and too willing to pander to 2020 for anyone younger than that. Kids know when content is groveling for attention. Introducing a squad of superheroes that clearly take after the Avengers (voiced by Mark Wahlberg and Ken Jeong), not to mention your typical pop soundtrack for teens, this is an update that feels irrelevant right out of the gate. Scooby-Doo never existed in a world where animals talk willy-nilly, so why does Scooby speak broken English? The movie is occasionally witty thanks to a wicked voice cast featuring Zac Efron, Will Forte, Amanda Seyfried, and more, yet woefully unaware of what makes this IP appealing: kitschy horror played for laughs. The Halloween of it all comes and goes in the first ten minutes. Boooo!

Grade: C-

NETFLIX
Vampires vs The Bronx

A funny, multicultural romp about kids in the Bronx discovering their little neighborhood is on the verge of serious vampiric takeover, this Netflix acquisition takes after the likes of Stranger Things and many 80’s items before it by placing immature, hormonal twelve year-olds front and center as they battle the undead. The young cast could have used some coaching, but supporting turns by Shea Whigham, Sarah Gadon, Method Man, and Zoe Saldana keep things pretty lively. This is classic vampire hunting, equipped of garlic, stakes, a crucifix or two, and bubbling holy water stored in water balloons, perfect for surprise hurl attacks. Even if it’s too short to be substantial, the pale, rich vampires’ plot to move in on every bodega and watering hole is a hell of a subtext (or plain old text) for gentrification.

Grade: B

HULU
The Wretched

This apparently sustained drive-in movie theaters during the hard quarantine months of April and May, and I truly can’t imagine how or why. The Wretched is neither scary nor mysterious, neither shocking nor interesting in the slightest, save a failed attempt at eco-horror. It’s the rare film with nary a redeeming quality outside of a luminous new face in young actress Piper Curda, and worst of all, it’s simply boring. The mythology is hazy, which isn’t ideal when a script hasn’t much else going for it. Vague backstory for a ghost or ghoul or, in this case, root monster (?) only works when the film around it works. Lead actor John-Paul Howard is a child of divorce (because of course) on the trail of a next-door neighbor family going bump in the night, and he’s far too earnest to earn our empathy given an otherwise thin performance. Naturally, when he gets into trouble, contrivances and shenanigans ensue.

Grade: F

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