Friday, August 22, 2014

The Halloween Tree

Today is Ray Bradbury's birthday, so here is a little insight into one of my favorite projects from one of my favorite authors.

In 1972, author Ray Bradbury wrote a book called The Halloween Tree. The story revolves around a group of friends who go on a journey to save their friend and end up learning about the history of Halloween along the way. The concept is ingenious and, as a result, it is still very popular amongst fans of Bradbury and lovers of Halloween.

The Halloween Tree was originally a screenplay that Bradbury was working on with famous animator, Chuck Jones. This version never came to pass, unfortunately. However, twenty odd years later, Hanna-Barbera teamed up with Bradbury for an adaptation of his story. Bradbury wrote and narrated this TV special that aired in October 1993. Slightly changing the story, the special won an Emmy for Outstanding Writing. That's not at all surprising.

Over the next couple of years, the special was released on VHS several times then disappeared. Yet, it was not released on DVD until 2012, the same year that Bradbury passed away. While the timing is certainly unfortunate, it was a nice tribute to finally have it released. The special is also available digitally on Amazon.

In 2005, a very special  version of The Halloween Tree was released with Bradbury's preferred version of the story and including the manuscript for the original Chuck Jones incarnation and the Hanna-Barbera script. This version is signed and limited and fetches over $100 per copy.

I, for one, am glad that The Halloween Tree lives on to this day in various fashions. This Halloween give it a read or watch the special. Because if you're looking for something to instantly jump start your Halloween season, it's this.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Scooby-Doo! Frankencreepy - Review

CAUTION! This article contains spoilers!



Every year, the Scooby-Doo franchise has at least one new direct-to-video movie release. For the last few years, these releases have diminished in quality. I mean, the last one featured WWE wrestlers...that was the first time I ever rented a new Scooby-Doo instead of buying it day one...and I still don't own it. When I heard of another release under the title of Frankencreepy, I was cautious optimistic.

I first saw the trailer on the 13 Spooky Tales DVD set, Field of Screams. My excitement more than doubled! A Scooby take on the story of Frankenstein was extremely exciting to me. I almost couldn't wait until release day, which thankfully, I didn't have to do. Wal-mart has it exclusively a week early. 

I hate to say this, reaction is mixed. To summarize the basic plot, Velma inherits a family castle where her ancestor in Frankenstein fashion made a monster that terrorized the town and the family curse remains. So, it's up to Mystery Inc. to save the day.

Now, there are a lot of great things about Frankencreepy, but the sad part is, they are mixed with the bad.

First off, it isn't a standalone story. It's a continuation of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?. I am a complete sucker for this series having any form of continuity. Taking a cue from the second live-action Scooby movie, the villains in this one are former villains of the gang taking revenge on those meddling kids. That's the most exciting part. The unfortunate thing about it, however, is that this surprise is ruined before the credits by having an almost clip show of those former episodes. It's pretty obvious that these characters will return in some form or another.

Frankencreepy really feels like it could have been two different movies. One about the gang solving the mystery of Velma's family castle and another where the former villains take revenge on the gang. You can feel this about halfway through the movie as it feels rushed. It's almost a hindsight is 20/20 scenario. Two great concepts come together to form one lackluster one.

A very personal nitpick is that there is a throw away line in the beginning that is a big plot device later. But it feels so inorganic that it almost hurts. Not to mention the extreme over usage of Sam Raimi style cutting. It was cool the first couple times, but it got really old...and kept getting old.

Frankencreepy struggles to be cohesive and you can tell that the person who wrote it was trying to craft a great new Scooby story, but I can't say he succeeded. Jim Krieg, who wrote Frankencreepy, also wrote episodes of Mystery Incorporated and What's New, Scooby-Doo?. Granted, he wrote one of the way lesser episodes of M.I. and almost all of What's New isn't terribly exciting, I'm giving credit where it is due.

And there was only one brief musical chase scene. That's, like, one of the biggest tropes in Scooby-Doo. 

So, I give Frankencreepy higher marks than the three installments before it (Mask of the Blue Falcon, Stage Fright, and Wrestlemania Mystery), but it is far from the bar setting installments like Zombie Island or Camp Scare.