Girl vs. Monster was directed by Stuart Gillard and written by Annie DeYoung and Ron McGee, who won a Writers Guild Award for the film. Olivia Holt, who also starred in Disney Channel’s I Didn’t Do It and Disney XD’s Kickin’ It, plays the protagonist, Skylar Lewis. She has no idea that she comes from a family of monster hunters. Her parents disguise their monster hunting with a day job removing mold. Skylar pals around with Sadie and Henry, two extremely polite high schoolers. She’s also crushing on Ryan Dean (Luke Benward, another big Disney Channel star of the 2010s).
This DCOM is very Halloween, and because monsters are out to get her, Skylar’s parents don’t want her to go anywhere on October 31st. They enlist their employee to keep watch and make sure she doesn’t leave the house. Of course, Skylar figures out how to escape. She shuts off the power in her mom and dad’s lab. This unleashes the very monsters who are after her — specifically, a witch, a creepy scarecrow, and the monster who personally tortures Skylar’s family, Deimata. Skylar and her friends depart for the school dance Skylar wasn’t supposed to go to, where her dreamy Ryan awaits. Ryan has already persuaded Skylar to sing with him and his band. A mean girl named Myra (Katherine McNamara) was supposed to sing but fell down the stairs and injured her neck, so she’s out. In this one and only music-related Halloween DCOM, Skylar was once a fearless teen who could do pretty much anything. The mother monster herself, Deimata, has the demonic ability to possess people. When she possesses Myra and appears before the band at the Halloween party, Skylar freezes up and can’t continue singing. Skylar and her friends learn that monsters feed on their fear, so they must become unafraid. Bravery helps them squash the creepy scarecrow (who preys on Henry), along with the witch (who taunts Sadie). Deimata is the last creature to be captured. At the end, Skylar and her parents must show no fear in order to bring the monster to her end. And by “her end,” I mean that she is closed up inside a vortex, like she was at the beginning of the movie.
There’s an interesting connection between this film and Don’t Look Under the Bed (1999). In the ’99 DCOM, Frances overcomes her childhood imaginary friend-turned-Boogeyman by being unafraid. She reunites with her inner child and accepts the power of her imagination, and then she can truly grow up. Skylar in Girl vs. Monster is dealing with a beast who has plagued her family for many years. Like Frances, she must show no fear in front of her monster. We’re to believe that the Girl vs. Monster monsters are real, I think. It’s hard to explain how not to be scared, but maybe these movies helped people with that through the years. Anyway, it’s fun to find a parallel theme in DCOMs that are 13 years apart.
My favorite original song in this film is “Had Me @ Hello,” a duet between Luke Benward and Olivia Holt (who dated sometime around this movie), with Katherine McNamara joining at the end. The song is so catchy and perfect for a DCOM of this era. There is undeniable chemistry between Olivia and Luke. In fact, she used to go to his house every Sunday night. A Disney Channel interstitial called “Who I Am” highlighted Luke Benward’s life, family, and friends in 2014. The segment is all about his family’s weekly dinners, which were apparently full of Disney Channel stars (you’ll see Olivia Holt, Jordan Fisher, John DeLuca, Alyson Stoner, and Luke’s Cloud 9 co-star Dove Cameron among the guests). While I honestly prefer Halloweentown for my traditional autumnal DCOM viewing, Girl vs. Monster has a great cast and a nice message. What better time than Halloween than to face your inner fears?