Freelance writer. Melbourne based cinephile. Fond of food.
Published October 28th 2012
[ADVERT]Early on in Frankenweenie, Mr and Mrs Frankenstein lament that their son, Victor, is not fitting in at school. They needn't worry considering Victor's classmates are the spookiest collection of stock horror story characters you could imagine. There's a particularly ugly variation on Igor, a perpetually trance-like girl who carries around her purring pussy, Mr Whiskers (displaying seemingly psychic powers by way of prophetically shaped turds), a pouting goth girl, and a couple of competing would-be mad scientists, Toshiaki and Nassor, the latter looking more like the traditional Frankenstein than the Frankenstein family depicted here.
At the heart of Frankenweenie is the story of Victor and the bond he shares with his dog, Sparky. Despite being a product of stop animation, Sparky is the most adorable canine presence on screen for many a year. Even more impressive is the fact that he retains his charm after he dies and is re-animated by Victor.
It's easy to view Victor as an altar ego of Tim Burton. He's a geeky kid who spends his time making ambitious amateur movies starring Sparky. One of which, a disaster epic, foreshadows Frankenweenie's climax.
There's nothing in Frankenweenie that we haven't seen in so many Burton films - the retro production design, the macabre humour, the affectionate homage to old horror films - and yet it all comes together in a way which is more satisfying than anything he's ever done before. Perhaps the reason for this is that Burton created the characters in Frankenweenie for a short he produced in the mid-eighties, so this is actually the progenitor for Edward Scissorhands, Corpse Bride, Ed Wood et al.
Every character is so cleverly conceived, from the Vincent Price doppleganger science teacher right down to a Bride of Frankenstein inspired poodle. Maybe this isn't enough of a departure to recruit new Tim Burton fans, but for those who appreciate his work, this will be regarded very highly indeed.