Frankenweenie

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“IT’S ALIIIIIVE!”…

Fresh from the premiere screening of Tim Burton’s latest offering ‘Frankenweenie’ at Cineworld Nottingham, I cannot say enough good things about this little gem of a film.

As you have already gathered from the ad posters and the title of the film, Frankenweenie is a quirky satirical take on the tale Frankenstein’s monster. The film centres on a young introspective boy (aptly named Victor Frankenstein and voiced by Charlie Tahan) whose love for science inspires him to bring his dearly departed dog Sparky back from the dead using household kitchen appliances in a makeshift laboratory in his loft (exactly what you would expect from a classic Frankenstein type horror film!)  

The plot is simple so I don’t want to give too much away without ruining the fiendish delights the third act has in store. But the real quality of this piece is in the stop motion animation which is seamlessly smooth, and darkly atmospheric. With so many advancements in digital animation it is always a pleasure to watch something that is rich in texture and almost tangible as stop motion which perfectly complements the Grim macabre looking characters with their pale complexions and big woeful eyes that seem to come right off the screen (and that is not just due to the fact the film is shot in 3d!) The expressions and flamboyant gestures of each character is one of my favourite aspects of the film, even down to Sparky the dog as he goes on his own journey of self-discovery.

The other most noteworthy aspect of Frankenweenie is that it is totally shot in black and white to make the films lighting eerie and dramatic, and really gives it an old fashioned horror film effect.  The minimal black and white approach is set nicely against a large theatrical fairy-tale sounding score by Danny Elfman who has worked on earlier films such as Batman Returns and Beetlejuice.  I was dubious about seeing this film as of late Tim Burton’s films have not really appealed to me as much as some of his earlier works. However this seems to be Tim Burton returning to his roots and digging up what he does best and with the choice of stop motion he is able to capture some beautifully creepy and atmospheric shots of twisted windmills, gothic shadowy graveyards and oddly sinister characters, all of which could have been picked out from a 1950’s B movie!

As well as a return to form in style he has an eclectic cast who he has worked with in some of his earlier films.  Catherine O’Hara, Martin Landau, and Winona Ryder are amongst the relatively small cast and play each part with just the right amount of comic subtlety to keep it from being overly childish and cheesy.  Kids will enjoy it for what it is but may not get the humour and some comical references to classic horror films and iconography which is more adult aimed. This is probably not suitable for very young children as it does lean more towards horror movie clichés than obvious gags for a younger audience.

This film has been criticized for lacking in plot which is a shame as it may not push the boundaries of storytelling but the whole beauty and humour of this type of piece is a nod to an almost forgotten era of horror films and style.  Perhaps people did not quite understand the angle that Tim Burton was taking.  It is not perfect but what it does deliver is originality, and ask yourself how many black and white stop motion animations have you watched recently?!  It is rare to find an animated piece that stitches together black comedy, attention to detail and dozens of film references all in one Disney piece, so if you see just one animated film this year make it Frankenweenie (for its artistic merit if anything else).

Visit Cineworld in Nottingham’s Cornerhouse to see this film.  http://www.cineworld.co.uk/cinemas/49