This is Tim Burton’s return to stop motion animation like “The Nightmare before Christmas” and “Corpse bride”, and with Danny Elfman on board with the music, it definitely has the same feel as both of them; but possibly more aligned with Corpse Bride as the subject matter is quite dark and foreboding.
You know almost immediately that this is not going to be a normal movie as even before the Disney Castle and logo are fully displayed in their 3D glory we have a flash of lightning and the screen switches to Black and White. The Screen was also not the full width that you normally see movies in, staying much closer to a 16:4 or 4:3 aspect ratio, which gives the film an almost TV style, but for me that also aligns it to the black and white horror movies I saw when I was young, which were normally late night television rather than the gore that was in the cinemas in the late 1980’s.
The basic story is that of Frankenstein and his monster, but the monster this time is Victor Frankenstein’s beloved dog “Sparky”. Charlie Tahan voices the young Victor, a loner and amateur film maker who makes monster movies with his dog Sparky in the leading role, until an accident kills Sparky and Victor has to deal with the loss. When a new Science teacher, the strange Mr Rzykruski voiced by Martin Landau doing a great homage of Vincent Price in his full glory, starts to fill the children’s minds with the power of science; Victor realised that he has to try and bring Sparky back to life, but with unintended and monstrous consequences.
The movie has lots of references to the black and white horror movies of old that grown-ups will spot, but which are likely to go over the heads of the young folk. This also includes a wonderful tirade from Mr Rzykruski about adults being unaccepting of science and wanting to hold on to their preconceptions, which sounded like a commentary on some politicians.
But the main stars of the movie are the children of the town, who are a full bunch of misfits; most of which have a strong resemblance to classic horror characters (of the hammer school). Included in these is the delightfully named Edgar “E” Gore, who also being a total loner wants to partner Victor for the school science fair, and who looks like the classic Igor partner of Dr Frankenstein from the old movies.
As the movie heads towards its conclusion the horror builds, but like Mickey’s Not so Scary it is kept to the old style monsters jumping out of the screen at you; and although expected I will admit to having jumped at least once when this happened. The whole thing builds to a crescendo, including oversized monsters, villagers with flaming torches and a dramatic final battle, which I hope isn’t too much of a spoiler.
Overall this is a very different movie, with Tim Burton’s world of imagination in full swing. You know roughly where the movie is heading, it is Frankenstein at all, but it is worth the journey and it re-animates black and white jumpy scary horror movies. Nervous children should avoid this, but if they can cope with the basic theory of bringing a pet back from the dead then take them along as there are good laughs along the way.
Frankenweenie is due out in the UK on 17th October rated PG and opened in the USA on 5th October