Monday, July 14, 2008

Scooby-Doo! And the Legend of Vampire Rock – review

Director: Scott Jeralds

Release date: 2003

Contains spoilers

Another feature length Scooby-Doo and another one borrowed from my son for review. This time around, however, the producers seem to aim for a more classic formula. The surviving main cast original actors are gathered for the voice work and the outfits, which had been modernised for Fred (Frank Welker) and Daphne (Heather North), are returned to their original design.

The actual plot is very much classic Scooby-Doo as well, with plenty of cartoony slapstick and, unfortunately, the vampires are baddies in masks rather than the real deal. There are some nice nods to lore and some confusion over traditional Australian vampire names… we’ll get to it in a second.

We begin in Australia and Daniel (Phil LaMarr) is putting on a rock concert called Vampire Rock, named after the location at which it is staged. The concert will have established bands and a new talent contest. Daniel’s grandfather Malcolm (Kevin Michael Richardson) warns him that it is not a good idea to have the concert. However, one of the musicians is sound checking and a light appears above him.

The light becomes the main vampire of the show – the Yowie Yahoo – a giant bat winged creature and three other, conventionally sized vampires swoop out of the smoke. The musician is lifted from the stage by some sort of light and grabbed by the Yowie Yahoo. Now I mentioned the name. The Yowie, also known as the Yahoo, is a fanged ape not dissimilar in description to Bigfoot. I think they probably meant the Yar-Ma-Yha-Who, a similar name but, from what I can gather, a different order of creature that sucks blood through fingers and toes.

Anyway, the gang are on board ship and manage to catch a bunch of bad guys before they land in Australia, complete with Mystery Machine. They do the tourist stuff, including going to Bondi Beach and here we see the full on ‘old school Scooby-Doo’ with Scooby (Frank Welker) and Shaggy (Casey Kasem) being chased by a shark whilst surfing in a full on slapstick routine.

Fred spots a sign for the Vampire Rock festival and, after some persuasion, they convince Shaggy and Scooby to go to the outback – something Velma (Nicole Jaffe) had wanted to do anyway. Cue plenty more slapstick routines with various Australian creatures on the way.

Velma has researched Vampire Rock – seemingly it was the legendary home of the Yowie-Yahoo. As they go to the concert site Scooby spots red eyes and we hear dingoes howling. Later we discover that dingoes are the traditional enemy of the Yowie.

Once at the concert they see the Hex Girls, old friends of the gang, rehearsing. They are one of the invited bands (rather than in the competition) and there is some explanation that the finalists in the contest are vanishing and the vampires look awfully like Wild Wind, the band that came third the year before and then vanished camping on the rock.

It is decided that the gang will go undercover as a rock band so that they might solve the mystery. They even, later on, get a name – The Meddling Kids. Unfortunately the Hex Girls are also kidnapped, despite not being in the competition and the race is on to find the bands… Could the answer lie in the folk knowledge that Malcolm has?

Lore wise nothing really works (except sunlight in a specific way) as these are not real vampires. However there are references to traditional (European) lore, especially during a chase sequence with Shaggy, Scooby and the Wild Wind vampires. They give a vampire an Italian meal with plenty of garlic, which he eats. They throw silver jewellery at the vampires, which they slip on but that is about it. They hide in a hall of mirrors, the vampire has a reflection and, finally, they lock them in tanning beds, from which they rise like vampires rising from coffins.

Running water, and not being able to cross it, is also mentioned as is not capturing their image on photographs. Both of these are disproved. Strangely, given the normal vampiric reaction to fire, the Yowie can toss huge fireballs around – but given it isn’t real, what the heck. It can also produce strong gusts of wind that manages to blow Fred’s jumper and neckerchief off (and on to Shaggy).

It was nice to hear (most of) the original voices but the premise of the mystery was preposterous – even for Scooby-Doo. All in all I didn’t like the way they took the film series at this point; the more adult orientation, real monsters and slight sense of horror has gone. Still, its fun for the kids.

4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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