Running Time: 87 mins.
The opening 3D shot of Frankenweenie is that of a windmill perched on a hill overlooking the town of New Holland. It echoes the vibe created by the Marsden House from Stephen King’s - Salems Lot. One versed in horror movies can just tell by the camera moves, the town and character designs, and the decision to go black and white with this film; that the creators of this film are well versed in the history of those 1930s Universal monster movies with Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy et al.
In plainer language, the 2012 stop motion version of Frankenweenie has more than just a spark of life to it.
It really does feel like one of those old black and white Universal monster flicks. For once the usual image dimming of 3D theatrical technology with its passive glasses is not a detriment but actually adds to the atmosphere of the flick. Even though the 3D itself is highly unnecesary. But thankfully it is used with restraint to add depth to the image and is rarely used for those cheap, and now very tiresome, jump out of the screen moments.
Frankenweenie plays out in a surprisingly straight manner as far as the source material is concerned. By this I am referring to the 1931 Boris Karloff version of Frankenstein and not the 1984 live action short from Tim Burton. A film deemed too violent by Disney and was subsequently shelved.
This time no such moments happen. If parents are worried about the film being too scary for their children you can set aside such concerns based on the audience I saw it with. The ages ranged right down to the youngest toddlers and nary a whimper escaped from any child’s lips.
There are some moments of tension but they are always relieved by a moments of levity.
The most horrific moments happen off screen and focus on the reaction of the lead character, a young boy. Victor Frankenstein is a brilliant, creative loner who wins Science Fairs and makes Super 8 monster flicks starring his beloved pet Bull Terrier - Sparky.
See what they did there?
Character designs delight children and adults alike. The kids giggle at the exaggerated features while adults can chuckle at the likeness of iconic horror and thriller actors including Boris Karloff, Elsa Lanchester, Vincent Price, and Peter Lorre.
On the animal level, Sparky comes across as a fun and affectionate pet. He possesses that boundless energy and pep that all terriers have. Dead Sparky - It’s Alive! - is just as lovable as Live Sparky, if you take into account the few cute bits the movie throws in with stitched together body parts occasionally falling off.
There is also a deviously designed, and animated, feline. Not to be left out is a neighbouring poodle with a distinctive head comb that becomes even more distinctive, a la Bride of Frankenstein, after an electrifying nose touch with Sparky.
One of the more memorable and delightful voice turns is the one done by child actor Atticus Shaffer who does an admirable turn with a Peter Lorre cadenced voice as classmate -Edgar ‘E’ Gore. His character design helps too with the constant wringing of hands, one larger than the other to bring attention and emphasis to that behaviour.
Voice talent includes a mini Second City TV reunion with Catherine O’Hara and Martin Short voicing multiple characters. Martin Landau voices Science Teacher - Mr. Rzykruski no doubt due to his work as Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton’s 1994 - Ed Wood.
Frankenweenie capture the same sentiments covered in the Ed Wood movie while managing to work in segments that make Godzilla fans smile as well as those who have seen the very, very, very short, short - Bambi Meets Godzilla.
This is definitely a film aimed at children so no tragic endings here. For the adults the film includes enough Easter Egged Genre Goodies to equally delight.
At a breezy 87 mins you will have no problem staying bolted to your seat. (See what I did there?)