7 Reasons Why Halloweentown High is the Best Halloweentown Sequel
Updated: May 10, 2022
Happy Halloween! I hope you all have some fun plans tonight, unlike me, who has to write two papers, one of which about a book I didn’t even enjoy...
To celebrate the spooky season, I want to talk about my Halloween tradition: Rewatching all four Halloweentown movies. We all know that the first movie in the quartet, Halloweentown (1998) is an October classic. But, which of Halloweentown’s three sequels is the next best chapter in the saga? Is it Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge (2001), Halloweentown High (2004), or Return to Halloweentown (2006)?
Today, 22 years after the world first met Marnie and her siblings, I am going to prove why HALLOWEENTOWN HIGH is superior to the other sequels...
(cover photo for this post from @disney Instagram page)
(1) It is the perfect fall movie!
While it is clear that time has passed since we last saw the Cromwell clan, Halloweentown High picks up right where Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge left off: Marnie and her family used their magic to permanently open the portal to Halloweentown, allowing anyone to pass through on any night of the year, not just Halloween. This monumental change leaves Halloweentown to decide: What should they do with their newfound access to the mortal world? Marnie’s suggestion is an exchange program of Halloweentown teenagers attending high school in the mortal world, as a first step towards harmony between the two worlds.
The ending of Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge expands the storytelling format available to the Halloweentown universe. The portal is now open year-round, so subsequent Halloweentown films are not restricted to starting and ending on Halloween night. The timeline for Halloweentown High starts at the beginning of the school year, and ends on Halloween night. This timeline combines back-to-school and spooky season, effortlessly transitioning the Halloweentown series from strictly Halloween movies to brilliant fall movies.
(2) Marnie's character development
In Halloweentown, Marnie is discovering her hidden magical heritage. In Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge, Marnie is trying to decide if she belongs in the human world or in Halloweentown. Since the second movie ends with Marnie no longer having to decide between the two worlds, Halloweentown High is the next step in Marnie’s character development. Now that the portal is open, Marnie wants to bring harmony between her two worlds. In the previous films, Marnie’s identity as a witch and identity as a human were in conflict with each other. In Halloweentown High, Marnie is on a journey to reconcile those identities, which is what motivates her exchange program project.
(3) The Cromwell women
Halloweentown High displays a new unity among the Cromwell women. In the first two films, Aggie and Gwen argue about which world Marnie belongs in: Halloweentown or the mortal world. Now that Marnie no longer has to choose between her two worlds, the tension between Aggie and Gwen has dissolved and they are united in supporting Marnie, who is under a lot of pressure in Halloweentown High. At one point, Marnie tells her mother and grandmother, “I never knew the weight of the world could be so heavy,” to which Gwen responds, “Don’t worry. We’re gonna help you carry it.” It is a small, heartwarming moment that exemplifies the way the Cromwell coven embodies the idea of women supporting women.
However, there is one small grievance I have with this movie that I would like to address: The role of Sophie, Marnie’s younger sister, has been downgraded to “barely there.” She’s a Cromwell witch as well, and she was actually important in the plot of the first two Halloweentown installments. I wish we could have seen more of her.
(4) Marnie and Aggie's bickering
Yes, this movie is about family members supporting each other. But, is it really a Halloweentown movie if the Cromwell women aren’t arguing at least a little bit? In the first two movies, both Marnie and Aggie are usually at odds with Gwen. In Halloweentown High, Marnie and Aggie argue with each other. They are both headstrong and a little dramatic, so when they bicker, they get a bit quippy with each other. Because we already know the relationship between Marnie and her grandmother is stronger than a few disagreements, I found their clashes amusing, adding to my enjoyment of the movie.
(5) Great ensemble
I always love a good ensemble. While the first two installments keep it in the family, this third installment of the franchise expands the cast of characters, giving the viewer a clearer depiction of who resides in Halloweentown. There are some really fun montages throughout the movie showing the Halloweentown students adjusting to human life. Plus, this ensemble of Halloweentown natives features two High School Musical alum. Lucas Grabeel (Ryan in HSM) is Ethan Dalloway, a warlock, and Olesya Rulin (Kelsi in HSM) is Natalie, a pink troll. Their appearance in Halloweentown High aired two years before the first High School Musical film.
(6) Fun and clever lines
Years after seeing this movie for the first time, there are still lines that always amuse me. One of my favorites is when Aggie tells the mortal school principal, “the students and I are all looking forward to soaking up your culture and taking part in your customs,” to which the principal responds, “You’re all from Canada, right?” At this point, Aggie checks the cheat-sheet slip of paper in her hand and confirms that, yes, she and the rest of her exchange group are all from the unfamiliar land of Canada. That conversation always makes me chuckle.
Another memorable line comes after Marnie assures the Halloweentown students that the anti-magic Knights of the Iron Dagger no longer exist. Natalie, the pink troll, responds by asking, “You mean, like we don’t exist?”, referring to the fact that no one from the mortal world thinks that the beings of Halloweentown actually exist. I find that line clever, and appreciate the way it reminds the viewer of the darker tones of the movie.
(7) The overall sense of wonder
Halloweentown started the franchise with the wondrous feeling of discovering a new world. In Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge, the overall tone was a little darker, and with a visible, threatening antagonist and really high stakes present the whole way through. Halloweentown High, although it takes place almost entirely in the human world, returns to that sense of wonder from the first film. First, there is the obvious: the moments when the Halloweentown students remove their disguises, revealing their true appearances. Second, and more significant, is the way the Halloweentown students experience the human world. We are able to see human life with new eyes as the Halloweentown natives explore the world we already know. Their orientation into the mortal world portrays human life as just as magical as we humans perceive Halloweentown to be.
That sense of wonder and the excellent plot development are what make me excited to watch this movie year after year. Now that you know Halloweentown High is my favorite Halloweentown sequel, what’s yours?
What? You haven’t seen ANY of the Halloweentown movies? Then, what are you waiting for?! All four Halloweentown movies are waiting for you on Disney Plus, and guarantee a spooky and wondrous Halloween movie night!