The finale song of Hamilton asks the questions of Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story? I bring this up as while watching the DCOM The Scream Team, those questions came to mind as this film deals with a smalltown confronting the history they’ve been fed for years as their town.
I know that this is perhaps rather deep for a Disney Channel Original Movie but it’s interesting to consider when looking at how things are handled.
Two kids and their father move into a smalltown after their grandfather has passed away. The younger brother, Ian believes that his grandfather has some unfinished business that needs to take care of before crossing over. Spirits having unfinished business and is quite an interesting thing to consider as it is something that pops up a lot in these stories. And there is a semblance of truth to this and it can be used in various ways. Perhaps one of the most famous examples is Jacob Marley and his chains.
Not a one-hundred percent perfect analogy but Marley’s chains represent his repentance for how he mistreated people during his time on earth and walking earth instead of being allowed to cross over shows how he has unfinished business that he is paying for as well. That is also true of the grandfather in this movie. Before he can cross over, he wants to let his son know how proud he is of him.
There is a bit of a snag in their grandfather getting to complete his unfinished business as his spirit had been kidnapped by an evil spirit named Zachariah. We will come back to him in a moment but this is where the idea of Who Tells Your Story comes into place.
How does The Scream Team come into play? Well, Ian actually captures a ghost whose job is it to collect spirits that don’t want to cross over and find out that there is a crossing over station in this smalltown.
This is actually a neat idea and something I like. Obviously, the living aren’t supposed to know about this but that’s always the way in these movies with kids and ghosts. Now, the boss of the Soul-Patrol as dubbed by Jumper alongside his partner Coffin Ed aren’t pleased with this but Jumper and Coffin Ed agree to help the kids and track down Zachariah. And this is where my one complaint comes in. Jumper is the only prominent character of color in the movie and he’s taken out early in the movie and is trapped along with other spirits that have been stolen. This is pretty much a kids version of the Black Guy dies first trope.
In a film which involves a lot of character deaths, it seems like the Token Minority will inevitably be the first person to go and kick the bucket.
It was actually a little annoying to see this happen to a ghost considering ghosts are already dead. It’s just what does it accomplish to take him out so early considering this movie is called The Scream Team but that’s a straight-up lie. Look at the poster for the movie and you’d be convinced that these three would share equal screentime.
It’s even more annoying as Jumper’s actor, Tommy Davidson is in the center of the poster but honestly, that’s not the case and Kath Najmiy barely gets in on the action until towards the end. The one ghost actor that gets the most action is Eric Idle as Coffin Ed. Don’t get me wrong, Idle is good in the role and is funny but if the movie is called The Scream Team, it’d be nice to see the ghosts working as a cohesive unit.
The kids end doing some research into Zachariah and this is where we return to the idea of Who Tells Your Story.
They discover Zachariah was…. a misunderstood inventor experimenting with natural gas, and one of his inventions accidentally burned his wife to death. When he was killed, Zachariah told his wife to wait for him, knowing he wouldn’t be able to cross over due to desiring revenge against his injustice.
The town had been using the evil image of this man being a monster to bring in tourists and even set up a fair not so much to celebrate him but rather his false legacy. This ties into something that the movie brings up with the true villain of the film, Warner, fear sells. This article about scams and cons puts it best.
They do this because it works, and because fear is an endlessly adaptable tool.
This is exactly what Warner is doing by inflaming the false legacy that this town has believed for so long. So, how is he finally able to cross over by remembering the man that his wife fell in love with. And by stopping his attack on the town for how his name had been tarnished for over a century, he is finally able to cross over and be with his beloved.
This is a film where I like the ideas and themes of what it wants to say more than the characters. The characters are a bit one-note and just used as delivery vehicles for the story and can’t stand on their own.
Ian & Claire played by Mark Rendall & Kat Dennings
These two aren’t bad but they are rather forgettable. They do a lot to help move the story forward and to discover the truth of what has been happening in this town for so long. They are entertaining but that’s about all you get from this movie.
Jumper, Mariah, & Coffin Ed played by Tommy Davidson, Kathy Najimy, & Eric Idle
I like the idea of The Scream Team but the movie doesn’t use it to its full advantage as they don’t share the screen a lot as Mariah wants nothing to do with the kids and as previously mentioned, Jumper is taken out rather early in the film. The only one that really gets any prominent screentime is Coffin Ed. And that’s okay but the movie doesn’t seem to be delivering on what it promised in the title.
Richard played by Robert Bockstael
I know I didn’t mention the kids’ dad that much but there wasn’t a lot say about him plot-wise. It’s interesting to note that we are dealing with a Disney family that has lost a grandparent and also has a Dead Mom. There was part of me wondering why the film didn’t focus on that as it was brought up once when Claire was trying to get her dad and brother to stop fighting but we never even get to see the mother. My best guess is that she didn’t have unfinished business but I dunno, it would’ve been interesting if the movie did something like what the Beetlejuice musical did with Lydia and how she is grieving the loss of her mother.
I’m tired of trying to iron out my creases
I’m a bunch of broken pieces
It was you who made me whole
Every day dad’s staring at me
Like all, “Hurry up, get happy
Forget about your mom”
Something small to think about for sure but considering this is a movie about loss and helping a loved one cross over, I think the mom could’ve played some sort of role.
Warner played by Nigel Bennett
Warner was the grandfather’s rival when the grandfather was alive and you get the sense that he was sketchy all throughout the movie. I brought up how he uses fear and is willing to tarnish a dead man’s name to make a profit. It shouldn’t be surprising but it is no less disgusting.
Zachariah Kull played by Kim Coates
The story of Zachariah is quite tragic, however, that does not excuse the actions that he partook in. All that does is make his situation understandable as he had been hurt by the town he had hoped to live with his wife because of a mistake that he regretted. And the town labeled him a monster because of that one mistake. He was blinded by revenge, which hurt his chances for so long.
My Final Thoughts
In all, this isn’t a bad movie but there are things that could have been tweaked a little to make it better. However, I still think it’s a fun time all around. Join me next time as we look at…