Fear not. Help is at hand by raiding the back catalogue of your preferred movie service provider, snuggle up on the couch with the family and some ghoulish snacks, turn out the lights and marvel at Tim Burton’s 2012 animated masterpiece, Frankenweenie (PG).
Fans of Tim Burton had a patient wait for an animated movie to rival the quality and craft of the 1993 classic, The Nightmare Before Christmas. Thankfully Mr Burton’s 2012 foray into the world of stop motion puppets delivers on both the quirky playfulness and film noir that we love him for.
Frankenweenie is a comedy-horror, following a young boy called Victor and his pursuits to bring his best friend back to life… his dog, Sparky. Needless to say experiments like this don’t always go to plan. Science is a cruel master and there are unexpected consequences in the renewed joie de vivre of his beloved pet.
This project had long been a passion for Tim Burton. In 1984 he made a live action short film of the escapades of Victor and his zombie dog. Disney’s reward for his efforts was to fire him on the spot. Thankfully Burton is from stubborn creative stock and Hollywood’s alternative director resurrected it to great effect as an animated fable for those foolish enough to play God. Disney ate humble pie (… or was it pumpkin?) and invited him back with a far bigger budget to play with.
Frankenweenie is shot in black and white as a homage to the film-making style of a bygone era of horror classics. But don’t let this put you off. It only serves to emphasise both its charm and menace, with Burton playing in the shadows to bring suspense to each scene.
Amongst an excellent cast Winona Ryder voices the part of Elsa Van Helsing, the girl next door who grabs Victor’s attention when he’s not hot wiring 10,000 volts through his recently deceased pet. This reunites Ryder and Burton since their earlier collaborations on Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands. And if that isn’t enough Christopher Lee makes a cameo appearance as a nod to the Dracula movies of the 1950s. It is Martin Landau, however, that steals the show voicing Mr Rzykruski, the eccentric but loveable science teacher.
The true star of the movie however is Burton’s inspired, complex and rule defining direction of the stop motion set. It’s visual grandeur on the screen is stunning with a cast of 200 puppets and the elaborate model sets which celebrate the ‘weird’ in suburban America.
Just ask Lassie or Toto. You can’t go wrong with a story of companionship between a child and his dog, even a dead one. This Halloween season Frankenweenie is the ideal family entertainment to get you all in that spooky mood whilst watching a piece of cinematic art from behind the sofa.
Make sure you have easy access to an electricity supply and some jump leads. You never know when it might come in handy.