Sunday, March 17, 2013

Dear Dracula – review

Directed by: Chad Van De Keere

Release date: 2012

Contains spoilers

This was a 2012 Halloween short animated film that aired via the Cartoon Network and was released (in the first instance) exclusively through Wal-Mart. Concentrating entirely on Dracula, rather than going down a monster mash route, it actually managed to maintain a respect for the genre (vampire and the monster movies of yore) and pulled in some surprisingly famous voice talent.

The story is based on the graphic children’s book by Joshua Williamson and illustrated by Vicente Navarrete. In the book Sam (Nathan Gamble) writes to Dracula (Ray Liotta) because he wants to be a vampire. Not the case in this version, which is more about helping the “odd-ball kid” recognise the value of their own individuality. The resultant animation isn’t perfect, and it does have a dose of saccharine, but it is a cut above some franchises that were flying about.

It begins with a spider, the oddly sentient pet Webber, who hears a scream. He runs from the tree he is spinning on towards the house and discovers that the scream was from the TV. Sam and his Gran (Marion Ross) are watching a horror movie. The adverts come on, advertising a Dracula action figure, complete with coffin, fangs and hypno eyes. Sam wants one (and isn’t happy when Gran calls it a doll). She suggests that he should write Santa but he rationalises that Halloween is nearer - he’ll write Dracula.

Dracula has lost his scare
As a mailman (Matthew Lillard, Scooby-Doo! Music of the Vampire & Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: The Secret Serum) races through the Transylvanian night we cut to Dracula’s castle. Inside Dracula is successfully scaring his henchman Mirroe (Emilio Estevez) but laments the fact that he has lost his scare. When he gets Sam’s letter (from a petrified mailman) he decides to visit the lad rather than send him an action figure.

Gran and Sam
Back to America and Sam is decorating the front of his house ready for Halloween. A girl from across the street, Emma (Ariel Winter, Fred 2: Night of the Living Fred), comes past with her friends. Her friends (a cool boy and cheerleader twins) dislike Sam and are disdainful, whereas Emma likes him and invites him to her party (he ostensibly refuses, though she doesn’t accept the answer and asks Webber – who has scared the others off – to work on him).

movie marathons
Mirroe arrive, with Dracula in coffin. He drags his master up to the porch (so he isn’t in direct sunlight when the door is answered) and knocks. Gran dislikes door to door salesman and gives them short shrift. Trapped between a broom wielding geriatric and sunlight, Dracula eye mojos her and gains entry. He introduces himself to Sam and they sit to watch a movie marathon. Having seen a vampire film Dracula is disgusted – we only hear a line by a girl “Edmund, you will be mine”, and Dracula’s comment about sparkles; yes it is the virtually obligatory (it seems) Twilight reference. This film is followed by a modern horror and Dracula has had enough, drifting out into the night and failing to scare trick-or-treaters. Hearing about the party, Dracula enters a deal with Sam. Sam will help him get his scare back and he will help Sam be himself and be able to go the party.

eye mojo
That’s about it. Dracula does get his scare back, Sam does go to the party, there is another sideswipe about modern vampires (the cool kid’s costume amounts to nothing but a pair of fangs), Emma is a classic movie fan. The embracing of the old monster movie monsters (although even Dracula wonders why the Mummy was deemed scary) is met with sideswipes not only at the romantic vampire but also torture porn type films (gruesome not scary, says Dracula – though Mirroe’s reaction says otherwise).

The animation was fair enough but nothing special, to be honest. Again, the voice acting was absolutely fine but one questions why one would bother with the expense (or at least I imagine it was an expense) of hiring Ray Liotta when his talent is trapped behind a faux-Bela Lugosi accent for the entire film. All in all this was okay. 5.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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