Monday, June 30, 2008

Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island – review

Directed by: Hiroshi Aoyama, Kazumi Fukushima & Jim Stenstrun

Release date: 1998

Contains spoilers

Ok, you can ask, “Have you gone mad, the title clearly states Zombie Island?” And it is true that the gang, in this, are on Zombie Island and there are zombies (and ghosts as well, to be fair) but… Well, due to a previous ‘Vamp or Not?’ we have already kind of established this as vampire genre and I’ll explain that reasoning later. The explanation, however, will necessitate heavy than normal spoilers.

It should also be stated that this feature length toon contained actual monsters, rather than guys in rubber masks. But, I’m getting ahead of myself…

The film starts in a creepy castle with the gang tackling a monster and… it’s a guy in a mask. Cut to Daphne (Mary Kay Bergman) being interviewed. The gang has split up – due to the fact that the monsters always were criminals in masks, and Daphne is now a reporter with her own show – Coast to Coast with Daphne Blake. Fred (Frank Weller) is still with her, as her producer and crew, but the rest of the gang are doing their own thing. Daphne is to do a new segment looking for the real haunted America.

Velma (B.J. Ward) has a mystery book store and misses real mysteries. Shaggy (Billy West) and Scooby (Scott Innes) have a dream job sniffing contraband food for US Customs – until they eat the evidence and get fired. Fred calls them all up and gets the gang back together for Daphne’s birthday – the mystery machine is back on the road and heading towards New Orleans.

We see a segment of mysteries – but they are all the same, people in masks. I should mention here the bat like vampire found in a crypt during the segment, as a throw away. Despondent – as Shaggy and Scooby are looking for food – they are approached by Lena (Tara Strong) who invites them to Moonscar Island, where her employer Simone (Adrienne Barbeau) lives. The island is haunted by the pirate Morgan Moonscar.

Lena has not, of course, seen Scooby and there is an on-running gag with Scooby and cats. Simone has cats – lots of them – and dislikes dogs. There is also the on-running gag of 'the dog' been mentioned and Scooby becoming confused, “Dog? Where?” They are taken to the island by the ferryman Jaques (Jim Cummings) and there is a side comedy character in the form of fisherman come ‘Cajun Mick Dundee’ called Snakebite (a woefully under-used Mark Hamill).

The haunting starts in a low key way, writing on a wall – saying “Get Out, Beware” and Velma being levitated. There is a coldness to the air when the manifestation occurs. Fred is, of course, sceptical and Velma suspects the gardener Beau (Cam Clarke) a surly gentleman. Yet all seems real and the wall, on which the writing appeared, seems solid – though later they discover the wood came from Moonscar’s ship.

When they check the video back they see a ghost on film and more occurrences begin. A civil war ghost appears from out of a mirror and then Shaggy and Scooby fall in a hole with the bones of Moonscar. A green light animates them and then flesh appears – making him a zombie. Simone warns them that the hauntings will get worse in the night.

That they do, with zombies being resurrected all over the place. There is an amusing sequence with Daphne and then Fred trying to pull the mask from a zombie and Fred muttering about who it could be – the head comes off. When he suggests animatronics Daphne accuses him of being in denial.

So, what is the cause… major spoilers ahead...

200 years before, Simone and Lena were amongst a group of settlers on the island. Then Moonscar and his men came ashore. They killed the settlers but Lena and Simone escaped and prayed to their cat God for a curse. Their prayer was answered and they were turned into cat creatures and got the revenge they sought.

The curse was double edged, however, and now they have to feed on life energy once a year to survive. The zombies and ghosts are victims trying to warn the gang and stop the cat creatures. The feeding must take place on the night of the harvest moon (that very night as it happens) at the stroke of midnight.

We have seen cat creatures before when we looked at Sleepwalkers. These creatures are not exactly the same, but close enough. They do not fear cats as the Sleepwalkers did, cats are their pets. They are not a natural occurrence, rather they were magically transformed and they can pass the curse on – Jaques is a cat creature too.

However, they are people who can transform into cats – there are two stages, partial transformation and fully furred – and they have to drain life energy to survive. If they do not feed annually they crumble into dust – which again is vampire like. Not your standard vampires, I grant you, (although Carmilla turned into a cat) but nevertheless they are definitely on the radar and as Sleepwalkers was accepted as Vamp this feature got a review.

By using Warner animation the quality of the animation was upped and there is an adult edge with hints of jealousy between Fred and Daphne. The comedy segments work, though they are not hilarious. The idea of real monsters was a treat – not unheard of in Scooby-Doo but certainly rarer than the standard men in masks motif. The evidence of real supernatural occurrences, which the gang sought, ends up lost in quicksand, by the way.

Voice acting is well done throughout and the film is dedicated to Don Messick, the original voice of Scooby-Doo. Billy West took over Shaggy, allegedly, as the character is seen eating meat and Casey Kasem is a staunch vegetarian (that said I'm sure I've seen Shaggy eat meat when Kasem was doing the voice). Good fun, 6 out of 10.

Thanks to my son, who’s VHS I borrowed for the review. The imdb page is here.


MadeInScotland said...

you know, I'm loving The Historian.

Is that being reviewed? Is it on your radar?


טםו למם'ת I,צ ךםהןמע Tיק Hןדאםרןשמץ

Iד אישא נקןמע רקהןק'קג? Iד ןא םמ טםור רשגשר?


Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi czechout, I read the Historian ages back - before I started the blog. In general I'm not happy with posting reviews unless I have just watched/read the media - so I'll have to re-read it before a review would be forthcoming...

Unfortunately I have a lot of vampire books, all read but unreviewed because of this

Video Zeta One said...

I watched this with my children and we all experienced a rather rude awakening at one point.

We had all watched the old Scooby Doo TV shows a hundred times so were accustomed to the monsters always being someone in disguise (i.e. "I would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been for you meddling kids!"

Imagine our surprise as Daphne rips the face off a zombie and it's real! I've seen about every zombie movie ever made, and none of them made my jaw drop quite like this scene (Okay, maybe I was a bit more aghast when the girl eats her mother in Night of the Living Dead... but you get my point).

Great site. Keep it coming!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Cheers Gilligan,

I guess its all context. Your a-typical zombie movie you're expecting something like that - to hit, when this appeared, a scooby-doo and get real monsters... well that was unexpected.

Thanks for stopping by.