Sunday, December 18, 2016

Spooky Kids – review

Director: Tony Randel

Release date: 2015

Contains spoilers

There has to be something said for a film having a good title. Whilst, of course, content is much more important the title can draw a potential audience. Spooky Kids (the UK release name) is not a great title but it sure as Hell beats the original US title The Hybrids Family. Seriously, that was one ugly title.

Of course the title draws us to discuss the hybrids within – in this case it is a witch/vampire hybrid set up. However I am more interested in a connection that, whilst I know it was in my mind and not the filmmakers, came to mind as I watched. If we cast our thoughts back to Disney kids’ film Mystery in Dracula’s Castle we had a young boy who wants to film a vampire movie – in this the boy, or more accurately teen, is Blaz (Mojean Aria) and he is a vampire (or hybrid) who wants to film a movie. Whilst the stories are entirely dissimilar I find making a parallel of the two movies – and the move of the central character from simple fandom to being the vampire – fascinating.

Paul Sorvino as the Count
The film starts with a backstory narrated by the ‘originally’ named Count (Paul Sorvino, Airship Dracula) who tells that for centuries witches and vampires have hated each other. However the Count moved from Transylvania to Italy after his wife died. A witch there, Aradia (Carolyn Hennesy, True Blood), cast a spell to help her daughter Valantina (Anne Leighton) find her true love. That happened to be the Count’s son Todor (Philip Willingham). The two eloped and had two children, the aforementioned Blaz and his sister Velana (Leanne Agmon), the world’s first hybrids.

Mojean Aria as Blaz
Into the film proper and Blaz is in a library and online. He is looking at a college in Florida and specifically at a video of film student, Maria (Lauren Lakis), as she announces her assignment subject and is decried by her teacher (Rawle D. Lewis) as it is in the horror genre. She is looking for crew – and this all has a touch of the ‘vampire as creepy stalker’ to it, but we’ll get to that… For now Blaz goes out of the college and is attacked by two toughs, Tug (Chris De Christopher, Vampire in Vegas) and Vinnie (Chuck Ardezzone), who try to kidnap him. Blaz vamps out and fights them off (he seems to not have much in the way of strength until he lets his vampire side out). We discover that the two men are working for Prater (Charles Noland) and they may not have the hybrid but they do get his dropped phone.

Leanne Agmon as Velana
Blaz gets home and Velana sees him and realises he is injured (he has a cut to the forehead). He explains about going to the library and that he has found a college in Florida. Velana is shocked – mum and dad would never let him go, they’ve even been home schooled. Blaz’s psychic tantrum wakes up mom and dad who are shocked by the fact that he has been attacked. By the time they get up in the morning (the vampire schedule has stopped being nocturnal, apparently, and they now drink wine and love garlic) the two kids have run away. This is the crux of the film – supporting your children to follow their own path. Strangely Valantina tries to communicate telepathically and is blocked by her strong daughter but… given they have no friends and the supernaturals can communicate telepathically one wonders why Blaz had a phone.

Maria and Blaz
So the film has three strands. The parents trying to track their children and getting the grandparent’s help (leading to the plot-inevitable romance of the older generation), Prater hunting the kids to force Valantina to reverse a curse cast on him when he was hunting the parents, and the kids making a life. This is where the simplistic formula of average kids’ programming lets us down. How easy was it for Velana to just walk along and get a job? How convenient that they squat in a house for sale but no one notices? How easily does Blaz walk into Maria’s life? Further is the fact that he has watched her on video and then sought her out and she falls for him. Ok it has that simplistic teen romance element but he essentially is in the Meyer’s creepy stalker mode as he watched her, chose her and then takes over her film project (convincing her in about 10 seconds to turn the romance between two zombies into the romance between a human girl and a zombie… mirroring the romance he wants human to monster).

Charles Noland as Prater
The film is done in a comic way, the comedy centring on the villains. Yet even then they are cardboard cut-outs and apparently better at being detectives then the super-powered parents. Prater goes back to the library (having threatened mum and dad by calling from Blaz’ phone) and pretends to be a detective, gets information (despite not showing ID) from the librarian, opens the PC Blaz had used the night before and sees the page he was looking at re the college! It is this overt simplicity that not only makes this poor for an adult viewer, it insults the intelligence of the target audience.

Todor reflected
Ok let’s talk vampires. Well we see very little in the way of fangs – a couple of moments and no biting. The hybrids seem to mainly use magic to transport themselves but vampires can also dissolve their physical body and transport themselves vast distances. A vampire like the Count can easily project an simulacrum of himself also. They walk in daylight and have reflections. The most vampire like activity is the turning in to bats – meaning we do get a lot of CGI crap bat moments.

fangs on show
As for the film, well it is inoffensive I guess – love conquers all, diversity should be embraced, make the most of your talents, etc… However it has the simplistic elements, too much wish fulfilment at its core and that underlying stalker bit that I don’t think was purposeful, just a lift from the teen romance vampire part of the genre. I think it more interesting in that it is a great example of the mainstreaming of the supernatural/horror genre (and vampires specifically) via a kids’ product. I use the word product purposefully, however, as it is less art and more a commodity. 3.5 out of 10 feels harsh but a score of 4 felt too generous given the flaws.

The imdb page is here.

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