Four years of college, and three years of university devoted to studying film, two years of working as a lighting tech for a small film crew and it was all because of one man; Tim Burton. Without Tim Burton I wouldn’t give a crap about films I would just be like most other people; instead I’m an obsessive compulsive movie fan who writes a film blog that nobody reads.
When I was younger I’d watch the odd movie or two, but it wasn’t something I’d go out of my way to do; it was just a distraction. But then I ran into ‘Beetle juice’ (1988), ‘Batman’ (1989), ‘Batman Returns’ (1992), and ‘Nightmare before Christmas’ (1993), and suddenly movies became important to me, albeit as long as they had the name Tim Burton attached. I noticed that there was something different about his films; they were dark, twisted, and embraced the strange and macabre. Having always been a fairly dark soul I latched on to them and started to find out about the man that made them. I learnt that he was a fan of old horror films; so I also started to watch old horror films. From this I learnt about German expressionism, film noir and who Vincent price was. I was hooked; and have been ever since. To the point that when I got to college I was ahead of the game as I knew all the basics of film theory.
So it’s with a heavy heart that I’ve watched his career proceed, it’s been a while since he released a good Film and even longer since he released a great film. His last few efforts have failed to hit the mark. It’s true that the Tim Burton I love was still present in his last few efforts; but only in rare flashes and the briefest of glimpses. However I preserver sticking with him, watching his films religiously whenever they are released, so it was with my usual hopes that I went down to the old picture house to watch ‘Frankenweenie’. And my dedication was proved worthwhile. ‘Frankenweenie’ is old school Tim Burton, this is Ed Wood and Beetle Juice Tim Burton, pure malevolent playfulness mixed with deep postmodern homage to the people and films that made him who he is.
‘Frankenweenie’ is a remake of sorts, of an early TV special that Tim Burton did based on James Whales Frankenstein movies, if you’re interested in seeing in it’s on the ‘Nightmare before Christmas’ special edition DVD along with another excellent early work ‘Vincent’. With this film he’s expanded his thirty minute TV special into a full blown animated masterpiece. Young Victor Frankenstein lives in New Holland a suburban nightmare straight out of ‘Edward Scissor Hands’ (1990). He’s shy and withdrawn and his only real friend is Sparky a small lively, dog. One day Sparky is run over so Victor using the power of electricity brings him back to life. Several of his classmates find out how he did this and set out to bring back various other deceased critters. Only their experiments don’t quite work as well as Victors, unleashing monsters on the town.
‘Frankenweenie’, is just pure unbridled fun, it’s full of quirky interesting characters, there’s a Japanese kid who ends up unleashing Gamera, one who looks like Igor, and another who bares more than a passing resemblance to Boris Karloff in his Frankenstein makeup. In fact this entire movie is packed with references to classic horror films Mr Rzykruski the science teacher is clearly modelled on Vincent Price and don’t forget the glorious Black and white photography and the strong use of horror tropes in the visuals. But even if you aren’t able to read these references and have never seen any of the Classic Universal Horror films, it doesn’t matter because these are extras Tim Burton hasn’t hung this film on the fact that it’s homage to the movies he loves. This film is clearly all about the main story. And it’s a beautiful story, about friendship, being yourself, and exerting your individuality. There’s some genuine dark humour Mr Rzykruski explaining what happens when you are hit by lightning is a stand out example, and some genuine moments of pathos. Mixed in with Burton’s gift for the bizarre, just wait until you meet Mr Whiskers owner. Who is clearly modelled on staring girl from Burtons Melancholy death of Oyster boy.
I love this film and I can see it becoming a massive cult hit, while managing to do decent trade in the normal world. Which is a good thing because I think more people need to see films like this; Films with heart, films that are so lovingly created that they can’t help but turn out this good. I’ve been waiting for the next great Tim Burton film for a while and I can honestly say I’ve found it, I’m not going to suggest another film in this ones place because; it needs to be seen, it’s simply that good.