The collective film geek joy at the mention of Tim Burton now induces rivers of tears at the increased commodification of a rare visionary genius. Don't let his remake purgatory (Planet of the Apes, Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Dark Shadows) keep you away from this truly delightful love letter to horror films, childhood whimsy and relishing difference. Young Victor Frankenstein is a loner, preferring the company of scientific experiments, making short films and his best friend/dog Sparky,to playing outside with his peers. Unfortunately a freak accident occurs at a baseball game and Sparky is hit by a car. Devastated by Sparky's passing he's inspired by science to bring Sparky back to life, a decision that influences his peers in all the wrong ways.
Based on a short film that was released by Burton in 1984 – we get to go back to the origins of Burton’s vision that made him famous. All the elements of Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands and Sleepy Hollow with the addition of some of those perennial sci-fi questions about using technology and playing god; are redirected through the innocence of a child’s love. It’s brings youth and innocence to a theme that’s usually associated with maniacal behaviour; and it’s able to feel fresh and familiar at the same time.
Screenwriter John August does a sensational job of balancing the reality of the world and the plethora of intertexuality; especially references to Hammer Horror and Japanese monster movies. Animation amplifies those Burtonisms just as Nightmare Before Christmas and The Corpse Bride did. He clearly relishes the freedom of not having to style the real world to fit his imagination.
There's a delicate beauty in every facet of the characters and the world derived from a love for the texts that influenced Burton. The child characters are a great mix of misfits – they’re the tiny toon versions of the staple characters from the Frankenstein story, with some horror film additions. The vocal performances are excellent by Winona Ryder, Catherine O’Hara and Martin Short; while the stand out is Martin Landau’s, Mr Rzykruski as the brutally honest science teacher and Victor’s mentor.
Frankenweenie is Burton harnessing the lightning of his early career; stitching it to the films he loves and bringing it back to life.
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.