Burtonites rejoice! Gothic visionary Tim Burton is back in a big, bad, black and white way with Frankenweenie. Based on his 1984 short of the same name and following an almost identical plot, the film is heartfelt horror movie homage aimed at adults – animation be damned! It follows Victor Frankenstein (also known as Tim Burton Jr): a young kid who spends most of his time making monster movies in the attic and hanging out with his trusty dog Sparky. But when his K9 best friend is killed, Victor uses science to bring him back to life. Resurrecting his pet opens a Pandora’s Box for Victor as the assortment of creepy neighbourhood kids begin reanimating their deceased pets – with monstorous results. As we’re unhelpfully reminded in the opening credits, Frankenweenie is “based on an original idea by Tim Burton”. I mean really, what an unnecessary piece of branding considering this is the most Tim Burtony thing he’s done since impregnating Helena Bonham Carter. Victor IS Tim Burton as a child. When interviewing Burton two years ago at his exhibition opening, he talked about his childhood and growing up “you know, weird”. It’s a line placed straight into the movie when Victor’s father worries about his son, saying: “I don’t want him to turn out, you know, weird.”
And that’s just the start. Anyone who’s familiar with Burton’s artwork will recognise the character designs: the physicality and originality are lifted straight from the pages of his collected sketchbooks. Despite being black and white, the cast of kids are so colourful they’re likely to become treasured favourites - like a twisted version of The Goonies (namely the Burton-fied versions of Luna Lovegood and a maniacal Data). Burton’s love of classic monster and B-movies is winked at more often than someone having a facial seizure. Whole characters are dedicated to the likes of Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Bela Lugosi and countless others. Suggested drinking game: take a shot for every classic horror or B-movie reference. Graffiti With Punctuation does not take any responsibility for future liver damage. Here are a few other in-jokes to look out for:
-A shout out to Burton’s home studio and the company where he got his start: Disney. Bambi is playing at the local movie theatre.
-The famous portable toilet scene from Jurassic Park is recreated to great effect.
-Hello Kitty meets an unfortunate end. At the Pet Cemetery a tombstone features the words ‘Goodbye Kitty’ with appropriate art.
-Burton regular Christopher Lee . . . but where? Keep your eyes (or ears) peeled.
-Franken-everywhere! From the title to the flaming windmill scene, the Frankenstein references are alive.
-A kite in the shape of the Batman logo (FTW!).
The most important thing to note is that, hopefully, this marks a departure from the Tim Burton doldrums that produced Alice In Wonderland (which should have been titled Joan in Wonderland: The Two Towers) and the disappointing Dark Shadows (a concept that would have worked better as a three minute video clip). Frankenweenie contains all the things that made Tim Burton great: heart, quirk, gore and humour. The similarities to Edward Scissorhands are many and multiple, from the Frankenstein parallels to social commentary on the tedium of suburbia (upon discovering Sparky Victor’s father’s response is: “Reanimating a corpse – it’s very upsetting”).
“When you lose the ones you love, they never really leave you. They just move into a special place in your heart,” – utters the maternal character in Frankenweenie. Tim Burton’s sixteenth feature burrows its way into your aorta like a fat deposit thanks to a flawless blend of Gothic charm. A love letter to cult and classic horror films, it’s funny and freaky.
In a year of Ice Age 4’s and Madagascar 3’s, Franekenweenie is a delightfully original animated feature that will be treasured by the “weirdo” inside all of us.
[rating=4] and a half stars
Maria Lewis - follow Maria on Twitter here: @moviemazz
Directed by:: Tim Burton
Starring the vocal talents of: Martin Short, Catherine O'Hara, Martin Landau, Winona Ryder, Charlie Tahan
Franekenweenie is released on the 25th of October in Australia.