Spooky Buddies (2011)

body horrorno
violence toward animalsno
Bechdel-Wallace testfailed
Mako Morifailed
X was the real YIt turns out that dogs were the real spookiest best friends.

You might be tempted to write off a direct-to-DVD Halloween movie based off an Air Bud spin-off series.

I've done a lot of thinking about this movie in the two days since I watched this. It is just a dumb-but-enjoyable kids movie, but those can often be windows into larger society.

The movie starts in media res. The year is 1937, it's Halloween, there's a full moon, and a warlock is attempting to unleash the spirits of the netherworld. Because this is a movie franchise about 5 puppies, the way to do this is feeding puppy souls to an evil dog (ADAGD) called the Halloween Hound.

Incensed townsfolk storm the warlock's house to get the puppy back. They delay him and he runs out of time before he can complete the ritual. He escapes into a magic mirror and the final puppy is trapped as ghost. The sheriff orders the house to be boarded up and its time to jump to present day.

The buddies owners are getting a Halloween town tour and the buddies are nearby. This established a few important things for me, a person who's never seen another movie in this franchise:

One: Disney believes that dogs need to have the same personality and gender as their owners or kids will get too confused. Spoiler: everyone was too generic to remember. They end up wearing matching Halloween costumes but they're never together so who cares.

Two: The dogs can talk and that is frightening. The movie has a lot of closeups of CGI dog mouths and they never get less creepy.

Three: There is a weird parallel dog economy where every human has a dog equivalent that has the same profession.

Anyway, the main buddy, B Dog accidentally summons the warlock and hound back by bloody Mary-ing the magic mirror and we're left with a race against time as the warlock prepares to perform the ritual. A parallel plot occurs where the dogs are trying to re-embody the ghost puppy and kids are trying to prevent the warlock from recovering his staff and spell book.

Of course, that plot is clearly impossible. The October full moons in 1937 and 2012 were October 19th and October 29th respectively. Furthermore, lunar cycles don't divide evenly into 75 year periods.

What I think is interesting about this plot is how absurd it is at first glance—why would you need puppies to open the gates of hell? And of course the answer is: because puppies are the G-rated stand in for virgin girls. Intentional or not, these puppies are a stand-in for purity and innocence.

This isn't reading too much into it. The movie has an underlying Christian message. The warlock is unable to enter churches and is temporarily blinded by the bible. It's also the only way I can explain the ending, where Budderball (the fat kid's puppy, sigh) disintegrates the Halloween Hound by farting on him. Either it's a metaphor for the puppy's loss of purity, or the movie makes no sense.

If you really want to stretch the metaphor, Pip (ghost puppy) is a Christ figure that sacrifices himself to save the others and then is reborn.

The movie itself is mostly pretty fun. The warlock spends much of the time thinking all the kids in costumes are monsters, and rides around on his staff like a surf board. At one point, Pip puts a sheet overhimself to disguise himself as a fake ghost and that's a great gag.

But it also has a really weird subplot. There is an implication that Jake, the boy who owned Pip, had his life ruined by losing his puppy. Him getting Pip back at 80-something doesn't really change the fact that that is really grim. He also ends it by starting a road trip to deliver the other 4 old puppies to their owners. That's either sad because their lives were ruined to, or because he thinks they were.

Anyway, Spooky Buddies was a movie. It really really was a movie.