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Scooby-Doo! Frankencreepy

D: Paul McEvoy / 74m

Cast: Frank Welker, Mindy Cohn, Grey DeLisle, Matthew Lillard, Diedrich Bader, Jeff Glen Bennett, Kevin Michael Richardson, Dee Bradley Baker, Corey Burton

A surprise call from the Dinckley family lawyer, Cuthbert Crawley (Richardson), leads the Mystery Inc. gang into another spook-filled adventure when Velma (Cohn) inherits her great-great uncle’s castle in Transylvania, Pennsylvania.  Surprised by the revelation that Velma is related to the infamous Baron Von Dinckenstein (Burton), who was believed to have created a monster (in a similar fashion to Victor Frankenstein), the gang are even more shocked when they leave Crawley’s office and the Mystery Machine is blown up by the ghost of the Baron.  Undeterred by this setback (which has left Fred (Welker) sad and depressed), the gang travel to Transylvania to investigate Velma’s family history and to find out if there really is a curse on the family – and anyone who gets involved – as the Baron’s ghost has predicted.

Once in Transylvania it soon becomes obvious that the townsfolk are deeply suspicious of Velma and her family’s history, and as represented by Inspector Krunch (Richardson) and the mayor, Mr Burger (Baker), they try to warn them off, but aided by Iago (Bennett), a hunchback, they head for the castle where they are welcomed by housekeeper Mrs Vanders (Bader).  While Fred continues to mourn the Mystery Machine’s passing, and Velma attempts to replicate the experiments of the Baron in order to debunk the stories of his creating a monster, Daphne (DeLisle), Shaggy (Lillard) and Scooby (Welker) head into town where a fare is taking place.  There, Shaggy and Scooby win an eating competition that sees them lose their appetites soon after, while Daphne tries on a dress that sees her balloon in size.  They return to the castle to find that Velma has become fanatical about the Baron’s work and is close to reviving the monster that has been kept frozen there since his death.

With the monster reawakened, Shaggy and Scooby reveal a more courageous attitude than they’ve ever displayed previously, Daphne continues to bemoan her change in size, and Fred sinks ever deeper into depression over the loss of his beloved Mystery Machine.  When Daphne encounters the Baron’s ghost in a subterranean tunnel, the mystery deepens, but now Velma has become crazed and sets the monster on the rest of the gang.  Things reach a crisis point when Fred et al. realise that the castle has been built on a huge reserve of natural gas, and the whole place is in danger of exploding at any minute.  Will the gang return to their normal selves?  Will they escape from the castle in time?  Will they unmask the villain behind the Baron’s ghostly appearances?  Will someone call them “meddling kids”?

Scooby-Doo! Frankencreepy - scene

With the series showing no sign of slowing down in terms of releases, the Scooby-Doo franchise also continues to show signs of stretching – if not exactly pushing – the envelope, with perhaps one of the best outings for the gang in recent years.  The previous entry – Scooby-Doo! WrestleMania Mystery (2014) – was pretty underwhelming, but here, and thanks to a very amusing script by James Krieg, this mash up of classic horror tropes and characters proves to be more entertaining than might at first be expected.  The script also tries to do several different things with the characters in an attempt to spice things up: from the changes Daphne undergoes to the unexpected destruction of the Mystery Machine (and which leads to a great running joke involving Fred and how he misses it), Scooby-Doo! Frankencreepy does its best to subvert its audience’s expectations from the outset.  Add in Velma going to the dark side (and getting a sexy makeover in the process), Shaggy and Scooby being brave and fearless, and the inclusion of a priceless fart joke, and you have the makings of one of the series’ best entries yet.

There are plenty of sight gags to be had, and for those with an eagle eye, plenty of clues to the villain’s identity that makes this outing less about working out which of the supporting characters is behind the Baron’s mask, and more about the ways in which the Mystery Inc. team are changed by the “curse”.  It’s fun to see such established characters given a dramatic new lease of life, and while it might be argued that Daphne’s angst at being several sizes larger than she usually is is a little insulting to women who aren’t a size eight or smaller, it’s actually a clever way of reinforcing just how shallow Daphne is as a character (plus Fred doesn’t even realise she looks any different; he loves her no matter how she looks, and isn’t that how it should be?).

Ably directed by McEvoy and replete with unexpected camera angles and some surprising compositions, the movie zips along at a steady pace, and is bolstered by strong performances from its regular cast – Welker remains a standout – and features equally strong support from voice talent stalwarts such as Bennett and Richardson.  The allusions to Universal’s horror movies from the Thirties and Forties helps ground the action – look out for Inspector Krunch, an homage to Inspector Krogh from Son of Frankenstein (1939) – and there’s further fun to be had from Transylvania’s proud claim to being the flaming torch capital of the world, and Mrs Vanders’ resemblance to the notorious Frau Blücher from Young Frankenstein (1974).

Rating: 8/10 – great fun, and displaying an obvious affection for the movies that have inspired it, Scooby-Doo! Frankencreepy (shame about the title) is a hugely rewarding entry in the series; stick around for the end credits sequence as well, for some self-reflexive laughs at the filmmakers’ expense.