Saturday, October 31, 2009

Scary Godmother – Halloween Spooktakular – review


Directed by: Ezekiel Norton

First aired: 2003

Contains spoilers

Halloween is the most wonderful time of the year and this was a Halloween TV animation staring the Scary Godmother (Tabitha St. Germain) and based on a series of children’s books by Jill Thompson. I’m not too aware of the books, but I believe they are aimed at the 4-8 age bracket and the film itself lends itself very much to a children’s audience. However, it is short and cute enough to allow an adult 48 minutes of indulgence.

We start off with the big kids meeting to go trick or treating. There is Katie (Brittney Irvin) dressed as a cat, Darrel as a sweet, Burt as a baseball player in an SUV. They are waiting for Jimmy, dressed as the devil, who has to bring his younger cousin Hannah (Britt McKillip). He’s not happy about this and arranges a prank to get rid of her.

Hannah and her Scary GodmotherHannah is scared of monsters – there is a marvellous flashback moment to her leaving for the evening, with the kids acting out the flashback – and Jimmy tells her about the spook house, an abandoned house where monsters live and the new kid has to put candy in the basement to appease them. She enters the house and they trap her in, to scare her, but her tears summon the Scary Godmother who takes her to the Fright Side to meet her monster friends.

Harry, the ostentatious werewolfOnce there she meets the skeleton in the closet – Skully Pettibone (Scott McNeil) – one of Scary’s housemates. Scary and her friends are throwing a Halloween party and the first to arrive is Harry (Gary Chalk) an ostentatious werewolf with a greedy side and little control over his canine instincts. The film cuts in and out of the Fright Side and the real world, as Jimmy and his friends wait for Hannah to come screaming out of the house and, so, they subsequently miss Halloween.

the vampires arrive...No missing Halloween for Hannah, however, as the next guests arrive. They are the Count Max (Scott McNeil) and his family – Ruby (Tabitha St. Germain), his wife, and Orson (Adam Pospisil), their son. They arrive (Scary suggests to Hannah that she should not feel intimidated; not referencing the fact that they are vampires but that they are royalty) but do not enter. Scary remembers that they need to be invited in – Hannah thinks this makes vampires very polite.

...and they're hungryScary tells Max and his clan to help themselves to food and they hiss over Hannah until it is pointed out that she is a friend not a snack. Orson and Hannah, however, quickly begin to get on and it is revealed that vampires sleep in coffins and can fly. Later, when asked if he would like a drink, Max asks for a “bloody Mary, hold the Mary”.

eye mojo in actionBeyond this we get several vampire orientated gags and lines. Max is upset with Ruby’s dress as you can nearly see her ankle – in his day vampire Queens dressed like Queens. He and Ruby like to neck and he has a great line in eye mojo – something he uses on Harry to shut the werewolf up… fine until he snaps his fingers and accidentally breaks the spell. When they later order pizza they cannot have garlic on it but they do like a blood topping.

Bug-a-boo and HannahThe last to arrive is Bug-a-boo (Gary Chalk), the monster under the bed. He really freaks Hannah out and then ends up upset when he discovers that her fears are due to Jimmy telling her that monsters eat kids (why, he asks, would he eat his clients). Later we discover that Jimmy is on his work route – so big kids can be scared. They make friends over pizza and then the monsters conspire to scare the bejeezus out of Jimmy and his friends – teaching them a lesson.

Jimmy is a little devilThe animation in this is a wonderful mix of quite blocky drawn animation mixed with 3D computer animation and the combination works really well. The voice acting is good but this perhaps misses a darker heart that an adult would look for generally and is rather simplistic. However, it is short enough to overlook that and for the kids this would be a marvellous Halloween short film. 6 out of 10 for the target audience.

The imdb page is here.

Honourable Mention: Scary Godmother: The Revenge of Jimmy

dvdTwo years after the first feature a second Scary Godmother animation was created, again directed by Ezekiel Noron. As you will be able to tell, by the fact that I have made this an ‘Honourable Mention’, this one doesn’t have as much of an appearance of Count Max, Ruby and Orson (in this voiced by Richard Warke). They are there but play a less central role or, at least, they are much less on the centre stage this time around.

the big kidsThe idea is that it is one year on. The big kids have all decided that the monsters seen the year before were actually bigger kids trying to give them a scare – which they deserved due to their actions against Hannah – and have now befriended Hannah. All, that is, except Jimmy who now fears Halloween as he knows the monsters will come again.

portal to the fright sideHannah, on the other hand, is really excited about the approaching holiday, is decorating her room and generally getting ready for a great night. This involves going over to the Fright Side to get cobwebs from Scary Godmother – using a key she was given (in the first feature) that opens a portal to that Halloween orientated realm. It is whilst over there she meets Orson and his parents again.

an uninvited vampireThey are just passing by, on the way to the shops, and Ruby wants to know if Scary Godmother wants anything. Orson is so excited to see Hannah that he rushes into the house, forgetting that he needs to be invited. We see him repelled by a barrier that is interesting, lore wise, as it is clearly elastic and also because this seems to indicate that vampires need inviting on each visit.

a real case of being human!However, all does not go smoothly as Jimmy decides to destroy Halloween. This takes the form of pumpkin smashing, then candy and costume destroying and finally redecorating the spook house with toilet paper. Each time he does something it seems Halloween is wrecked – until Hannah comes up with a solution – and this starts destroying the Fear Side. At one point Max gains a heartbeat, and the whole family become pink of flesh (and coloured of hair) - a real case of being human!

Wizard of Oz referentialThe film is more referential than the first film (given that the first one wasn’t really referential, to be fair) and so we get a Star Wars moments with a projection to Hannah of Scary Godmother ala Leia’s Hologram in “A New Hope”, we get an Aliens exclamation (Game over, man) and also we get a house on witch moment reminiscent of the Wizard of Oz. Such references makes this a tad more fun for an adult audience than the last film but, more importantly, the target audience will find it just as entertaining.

The imdb page is here.

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