The Monster Mash!

The Frankenstein family enjoy a home movie

Frankenweenie,Tim Burton’s latest silver screen adventure is a nostalgic, monochromatic delight! The film is injected with Burton’s passion and fascination with all things weird and wonderful as he reacquaints himself with the monsters and films that have permeated his cinematic vision since day one.

The film is a remake of Burton’s 1984 short film of the same name and draws its central theme from the story of Frankenstein. The young Victor Frankenstein lives with his parents and his dog Sparky in the suburban town of New Holland. When a car accident unexpectedly kills Sparky, a distraught Victor turns to the magic of Science and conducts a resurrection experiment in his attic laboratory in order to bring his friend back to life. When Victor’s classmates discover what he has done, they too begin to dabble in the art of reanimation bringing mayhem and destruction to the town of New Holland.

Henry Selick’s, Coraline (2009), delved deep into the psyche of an inquisitive child and her vivid imagination and in Frankenweenie, Burton offers us his own adolescent consciousness by reincarnating many of the Universal horror studio monsters of the 1930s immortalised by such thespians as Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney. The multitude of references include: The Bride of Frankenstein; The Hunchback of Notre Dame; The Mummy; Dracula, and a few contemporary fiends (Gremlins, and Godzilla) thrown in for good measure.

The characters are animated with the same mechanical, jerkiness of German Expressionist cinema, housed within a world of chiaroscuro lighting. This eerie, yet quirky, style is extremely Burtonesque, but it can also be found in the macabre, esoteric work of animators The Quay Brothers. Burton conjures up an array of eccentric characters whose talents range from conjuring up prophecies from the arrangement of cat poo to creating a rocket from carbonated drinks. However, it’s Edgar, the kooky; buck-teethed oddball who befriends Victor in order to win the Science fair project that really steals the show. He gets to deliver the most parodied, horror cinema quote of all time: ‘It’s ALIVE!’

Whilst pastiche clearly motivates the majority of the film, Burton spends some time paying homage to his own movies. The most obvious is the suburban town of New Holland, undoubtedly modelled on the neighbourhood seen in Edward Scissorhands (1990) with their perfectionist horticultural style.  Furthermore, the attic space, within which Victor finds solitude and the source of his inspiration, is also a nod to several of Burton’s previous films in which attics play significant roles. And so they say, the list goes on…

For fans of Tim Burton and classic horror cinema, Frankenweenie is a joy to watch. The characters are funny and wonderfully bizarre. It may be a little too creepy for the younger viewer at times and the film doesn’t engage the imagination in a way that Coraline did and many may argue it’s a personal project for the die-hard fans out there. Nonetheless, it’s possibly the most enjoyable Tim Burton film I have seen in a long time.

The film features the vocal talents of Winona Ryder, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short and Martin Landau.

image source: fantasticfest.com

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