The Scream Team was directed by Stuart Gillard and was written by Robert Short and Dan Berendsen. Shockingly, I have no memory of watching this entire DCOM as a child. There, I said it. I apologize if you are a Scream Team superfan! Halloweentown? Yes! Twitches? Yes! But this here ghostly DCOM escapes my nostalgic spirit.
That being said, I appreciate the film now. I had seen it before this rewatch, but I’ve just viewed it following the death of my beloved great aunt. I feel very sensitive to the funeral reception that opens the movie, along with a touching final scene between family members. In the beginning, Claire (Kat Dennings) and Ian (Mark Rendall) have lost their grandfather, and we are invited to share memories with them at his memorial. The siblings watch tapes of themselves smashing pumpkins with their grandpa, and it’s clear that he loved to spend time with them. Claire, Ian, and their father stay at grandfather’s home for a few days after his service. Ian is spooked by unexplainable paranormal activity. Claire finally believes him when Ian traps a ghost in a jar as if it’s a firefly.
Ian and Claire are taken to a processing center in another realm where deceased individuals cross over into “The Afterlife.” This is when they start to understand that something held their grandpa back from crossing over. The ghosts who process newly dead folks are called “the Soul Patrol.” These spirits have very distinct personalities — Mariah (Kathy Najimy) sticks to business and wants to get out of this dead-end (ha!) job. Jumper (Tommy Davidson), the one Ian captured, is easygoing and works closely with Coffin Ed (Eric Idle), a fellow who looks like he just left the Revolutionary War. Local ghostly legend Zachariah Kull is revealed as a spirit thief who has taken many souls (including grandpa’s) captive.
The grandpa’s nemesis, a creep named Warner, makes his money off of an annual festival capitalizing on the sordid tale of Zachariah, who is believed to have burned his house down with his wife still in it. This story is not true, and Zachariah won’t release any of those souls until the town clears his name.
There’s a lot of fire and hellish imagery throughout the climactic scenes, and Zachariah is vindicated, but I want to skip to the end, when we learn why Grandpa wasn’t ready to go. He wanted to tell his son he was proud of him. Claire and Ian’s father is pretty straightforward and appears to be very smart. A newspaper clipping reveals that he was accepted into Harvard. However, he makes it obvious throughout the film that he and his dad weren’t the closest. (A similar theme develops between the father and Ian.) Grandpa truly was proud, but he was so focused on helping his son have the best life that he forgot to share how he felt. He also wanted to implore his son not to make the same mistakes. I hear this often, and it’s true: If you love someone, tell them. If you’re proud of someone or want to thank someone for what they’ve done, say it. The grandfather and the dad have this opportunity. Dad asks Grandpa if he has to rush off, and Grandpa answers, “Nah. Eternity can wait a couple of hours.” Beautiful. What a special Halloween DCOM. Many more to come during this festive time!