A fairly innocuous family-friendly caper comedy set around Halloween, Spooky House is no Hocus Pocus, but it’s an adequate enough movie with a nice performance by Kingsley, who never lets on that he’s in a TV movie-quality effort. He lends the film some real gravitas in a genteel role he’s well suited for.
A reclusive illusionist befriends a bunch of misfit kids on Halloween.
The Great Zamboni (Ben Kingsley) leaves his life of stage illusions behind when his beloved assistant disappears one night during their act in front of an audience. Zamboni lives in a decrepit old house with his pet jaguar, and at Halloween one year, he’s pestered by a group of misfit kids, one of whom is an orphan boy. The kids have built up a legend around Zamboni and his mansion, calling it the “spooky house,” and even the local bullies know to stay away from it. Speaking of bullies, a small-time eccentric crime lord (okay, crime lord is stretching it) who moonlights as a gypsy queen (played by Mercedes Ruehl) recruits the town bullies, including a young vixen (played by Katharine Isabelle), to steal anything and everything they can pilfer from small businesses and even the poor kids’ candy on Halloween. When the misfit kids befriend the magician, he helps them dupe the bullies in an elaborate spook house spectacular when he pulls out all the stops to scare the bullies half to death, but to their rescue is the crime queen, which turns into a battle of wits and wills between the gypsy lady and the illusionist. There’s a happy ending when Zamboni decides to adopt the little orphan boy.
A fairly innocuous family-friendly caper comedy set around Halloween, Spooky House is no Hocus Pocus, but it’s an adequate enough movie with a nice performance by Kingsley, who never lets on that he’s in a TV movie-quality effort. He lends the film some real gravitas in a genteel role he’s well suited for. The movie is a little on the silly side and could have used a bit of trimming at 106 minutes in length, and the biggest detriment to the movie is one bad original song after another on the soundtrack. The songs play at inappropriate times and don’t suit the mood of the movie at all. From exploitation filmmaker William Sachs (The Incredible Melting Man).
The newly released Blu-ray for Spooky House comes with archival interviews with the three lead actors, plus music videos for those terrible songs I mentioned, and the trailer.