Tim Burton has certainly made his name from the darkness and his latest release, the much anticipated Frankenweenie sees the godfather of all things gothic return to form with a funny and suitably twisted tale of a young boy and his dog. His dead dog. That he brings back to life.
With a title like Frankenweenie, there’s clearly no hidden surprises, it’s pretty clear what fate will come to ol’ Sparky; but as you don your 3D glasses (admittedly begrudgingly for me), we once again enter into the Burton world as Young Victor thinks of the only way to bring back his beloved dog after he cruelly meets his premature demise. Playing on the pastiches of vintage horror from the protagonists to Victor’s eerily familiar classmates, Frankenweenie is Burton’s nostalgic homage to the films that have inspired him throughout his career.
Inspired by the wonderfully deranged science teacher Mr Rzykrusi, voiced by Martin Landau, teaching his terrified class on the merits of electricity to bring back the dead, Victor gets creative with the kitchen appliances and creates a fully-functioning resurrection machine to bring back his Sparky in the attic. Thankfully, Burton’s New Holland, a picture perfect depiction of dreary suburbia, can be depended upon for frequent bouts of lightening. Perhaps a slightly concerning statistic considering the prevalence of children with kites, but nonetheless ideal for rebellious resurrections of deceased pets. Or pets from packets.
Effortlessly playful, from the character names – including Victor’s toothy ‘friend’ Edgar ‘E’ Gore and next door neighbour Elsa van Helsing (Winona Ryder) and her Bride of Frankenstein coiffed poodle – to subtle Disney references, Frankenweenie is entertainment for kids and grown-up film buffs alike. Teaching valuable life lessons that move beyond ‘be careful when playing with the fragile veil of life and death’ or ‘do not let children run amok in pet cemeteries’, Burton has created a heart-warming family story for our twisted modern generation.
Reviving one of Burton’s own early shorts of the same title from 1984, Frankenweenie has clearly been a pet project for many years, bringing together Burton cast favourites, his battalion of expert stop-motion and puppetry craftsmen and iconic cinematic metafiction. Filled with touching moments – particularly between Victor and his parents (Martin Short and Catherine O’Hara) – and the creepy monster scares we love from Burton, Frankenweenie will jolt even the coldest of hearts with its mischievous nostalgia and old school ways.
A whimsical and riotous animated adventure to the underworld – and back again.
The UK premiere of Frankenweenie opened the 56th BFI London Film Festival on Wednesday 10 October. It goes on general release at UK cinemas from Wednesday 17 October.
The Art of Frankweenie Exhibition is a free exhibition featuring original sketches, props and puppets from the film, running from 17 – 21 October at the Festival Village, Southbank Centre.