Originally published October 16, 2012
There are a lot of cartoons with monsters as the stars, and why not? Kids love monsters. They are likely to be more visually interesting than human cartoon characters and appeal to the kiddies’ desire to see wanton carnage. And if a cartoon includes monsters, you can bet dollars to donuts – since I’m a Brit, shouldn’t I say pounds to muffins or something – it includes the ‘Big Three’; Dracula, Frankenstein(‘s monster) and the Wolfman. They were the biggest monsters of the Universal movies, and have been utilised a lot by the Hammer horror movies, and thus the three are often seen together in cartoons. The Groovy Ghoulies, the recent Hotel Transylvania, and this thing, The Monster Mash.
That’s right, it is named after the Boris Pickett song. There have been animated specials based on Christmas novelty songs – the abominable Granny Got Run Over By A Reindeer comes to mind – so it makes sense that Halloween should have its say. Thing is, the original song didn’t really have a story to it – it was just about a bunch of monsters having a party. The closest thing resembling conflict was when Dracula was ticked no-one was doing his dance anymore. Could a movie be made where Dracula tries to make people dance his dance at a party? Well, thankfully, The Monster Mash isn’t about that. It’s about…well, let’s have a look.
Oh joy. It’s a movie based on a novelty song, so its credits are done in a novelty font. The ‘Halloween’ font, if I’m not mistaken. Then…wait, are Drac, Frank and Wolf (that’s what they’re called in this movie) doing Bohemian Rhapsody? They sure look like they are. Is this the real life? Or should that be…Is this the real AFTERLIFE?!?! Mua ha ha ha! Hey, gotta get in the mood with these types of things.
Oh, and it’s made by DiC. Wonderful.
After the monster version of Queen (or should that be SCREAM? No, it shouldn’t), we are introduced to our host…Horrifido? We meet again, foul quarry…oh wait, it’s another skeleton dog. This one’s called Yorick, and he talks like Boris Karloff. Wait, Frankenstein’s monster is in this movie and it’s some undead cur that gets Karloff’s voice?
Speaking of Frankenstein’s monster, Yorick introduces him to us, as well as ‘Drac’and ‘Wolf’. I guess they’re called those things to distinguish them from their ‘real’ counterparts. I mean, the real Dracula was pure evil, while ‘Drac’ is one of our heroes. And Dracula had a moustache while Drac is clean shaven. And Dracula had hairy palms…I told myself I wouldn’t do that.
Anyway, Drac, Frank and Wolf all live in a scaaary castle, and the first thing we see them do is scare away some angry villagers. And oh look. Instead of the usual black jacket look, Frank is now wearing a white t-shirt with a smily face version of himself on it. I guess to soften him up for the kiddies. Thankfully, Drac and Wolf are wearing more orthodox gear – though, I must admit, a werewolf in a ‘I’m With Stupid’ t-shirt would be terrifying.
Yorick explains that his ‘masters’ had become famous, and that life at the castle was ‘one big party’. Thus we get our eponymous song, which involves Yorick riding a roller coaster around the castle. Tsk, celebrities. Always blowing money on crap like that. More money than sense. There’s also these two skeletons in wigs and dresses singing certain bits of the song, as well as various monsters and ghouls dancing about and having fun. Pretty much Night on Bald Mountain meets From Justin to Kelly.
Some more party antics later and Yorick than says that people began to get less scared of his masters because they showed ‘they had heart’. How is this revealed to us? Frank picking up a young girl. Well, sure Frank has heart, in the book he was…oh, sorry. Anyway, I wouldn’t think ‘heart’ would make the monsters any less scary. Dracula may have been demonic but part of why werewolves can be scary is that they are often innocent humans battling the monster within.
Then there’s a conga line with a skeleton basketball player, the Grim Reaper and…a gremlin flasher? As Yorick then says, his masters lost the ability to scare and became entertainers, though they still longed for the glory days. Oh, it’s not going to be like that one episode ofBilly and Mandy, is it? As Yorick claims, this will be ‘the strangest horror story [we] ever heard.’ Dude, it’s not a horror story. Horror is supposed to make us feel scared, and kiddie shows aren’t exactly fright…
AAAH WHAT DEMON FROM THE DEPTHS OF HELL SPAWNED THEE NO NO NO NO
Drac, Frank and Wolf are on a show called ‘Foolish Monster Tricks’, which involves…Wolf juggling Jack O’Lanterns. Hey, juggling isn’t foolish, it requires a lot of practice! So, who is watching this show but the villains of this movie? A trio of grisly ghouls who, as you may notice, are lawyer-friendly versions of one of the Alien aliens, Chucky of Child’s Play fame and even a fusion of Freddy and Jason. Oh,great. This is gonna be one of those ‘the OLD is better’ things. It didn’t work with Superman vs the Elite and I doubt it’s gonna work here. Especially since these three look like they’d be more at home in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles than even the corniest horror movie.
Back at the castle, the flasher gremlin returns to summon Frank, Drac and Wolf to ‘The Court of Horror’ to be tried for failing to be frightening. Even, as it turns out, Wolfie has ‘a frightening stench from his armpits’, a flaw that is solidified through the classic ‘wah-wah’ sound. Seriously? The one thing that is considered sub-laugh-track and you used it? At least Scroopfan was just a fan, you lot are professionals!
The monsters are taken to court, and the judge is that basketball skeleton from earlier. There’s even the old ‘whistle music’ when he enters, bopping his head around. And the prosecutor is that grim reaper who was also in the conga line. Wait…these two think Frank, Drac and Wolf are pathetic and that not being scary is wrong, so why they were at the party earlier?
The trio’s lawyer also comes in, and it’s the mummy. Of course, can’t do without him, even if he is portrayed as a goofball here. He objects, but is immediately overruled. Phoenix Wright he is not. The Reaper summons a dentist and a hair loss specialist, who speak not very nice things about Drac and Wolf, respectively. What about Frank? Who would testify against him? A used car salesman?
Then a baby is brought in, and the trio can’t scare him, apparently proving the Reaper’s point. Well, I’m pretty sure a baby wouldn’t be scared if it saw a werewolf or a vampire. Babies are dumb. I hate babies.
Still, it’s a hung jury (lol cos they have chains round there necks lol so clever) and the three have to prove themselves by scaring a human family before Halloween is over. Why just scare them? Why not kill them or something? What is it about scaring that’s productive?Monsters Inc had the whole ‘screams is energy’ thing, why is scaring so important here? Social status? Also, the Judge says if they fail, they will be forced to work children’s birthday parties. Well, that’s not really that much different from what they had been doing earlier in the movie, and doing kids’ parties would be more dignified than starring in this film anyway.
The human family the skeleton judge has in mind? They’re called…sigh…The Tinklemeisters. A ‘typical, sitcom’ family in the vein of the Boggs from Edward Scissorhands. The Mum likes cleaning, the dad is a dog groomer, the daughter reads ‘Freaky’ and their son doesn’t talk.
And guess what? There’s an entire musical number on how the son, named ‘Spike’, doesn’t talk. Apparently because he was struck by lightning. No, getting struck by lightning gives you superpowers, get it right!
Later, the trio invade the Tinklemeisters’ house. You’d think the mere presence of Peeking Toms would be enough to scare anyone, but instead the trio rig the TV to show their old movies. And guess what? The daughter laughs at the movies because they’re old and dated! Oh, I bet she’s going to change her mind later on, what a lesson she will learn! Seriously, have you seen the Universal stuff now? You know, like their version of Dracula with the fake-ass bat and the armadillos? They haven’t aged all that well, live with it.
Drac, Wolf and Frank then get annoyed by a bird, leading to some slapstick-y shit. Ho ho, Frankie fell down! Boy, this is a ‘strange horror story’ considering it resembles dumb kiddy shit more than anything related to horror.
Drac and co are still determined to scare the family though, so they trick the Tinklemeisters into coming to their castle. Um, you know you could just barge into the house and roar at them. The daughter was laughing at you because she thought you were fake. If a werewolf burst into my house unexpected – if a human burst into my house unexpected, I’d be scared. I guess bringing them to your castle gives you ‘the home field advantage’ but as they day, ‘The yeti you find in your toilet is scarier than the one you find in the Himalayas’.
Another slapstick bit with a vulture, and the Tinklemeisters are being flown to Transylvania by the monsters. Because when time is of the essence, taking an American – I assume they’re American – family to Eastern Europe is what you should be doing. The monsters don’t try and scare the Tinklemeisters on the flight, so they have wasted precious hours.
After the plane lands, the Tinklemeisters are taken by carriage to the castle in another half-assed reference to the original Dracula. Two wolves spring out at them, but are flattened by the carriage, and then decide to go after ‘that Red Riding Hood kid’. Bram Stoker is spinning in his grave. And so, I guess, is Charles Perrault.
The Tinklemeisters arrive at the castle, and then we learn the monsters have only three hours to scare the humans. Well, geez, like I said, maybe if you didn’t spend so much time getting them to Transylvania and just cut to the chase. Now that you’ve tricked them into thinking your castle is a hotel, and now they’ll probably think you’re an act or something. Transylvania embraces its Dracula connections for its tourists, after all.
And thus begins a long sequence of the monsters trying to scare the humans. Yawn. There’s loads of pratfalls along the way, but the monsters mostly succeed. There’s even another musical number – a waltz. That’s right.
Then we cut to a building that seems ripped from Disney’s Gargoyles. Fitting, as there we find a gargoyle speaking to the Grim Reaper from earlier about Drac and co’s success. Grimmy is a baddie too, and wants measures taken so he doesn’t lose the case. Because, really, when I think goofy Halloween cartoons, I think court cases. Imagine Silk redone with mummies. Wearing silk bandages! Muahahahahahahaha!!
So, as Yorick tells us, the monsters have only Spike left to scare, and thus we get a montage of them trying to scare Spike and failing. Oh ho ho, Spike threw a ball and Wolf got it. It’s funny because werewolves are canines.
With Spike unscareable, the monsters call a truce and tell their side of the story. Drac even tells us his life story, and we learn that he was born a vampire. Seeing Drac as a vampire baby is odd because last I heard, vampires couldn’t grow up physically. Just ask Claudia. Then there’s a rather catchy musical number ‘Everything was Good Back When We Were Bad’, accompanied by a lot of reused animation; they even do that Bohemian Rhapsody crap again.
The monsters then whine about how the Tinklemeisters were their last hope, and the daughter explains that Spike is harder to scare because apparently, monsters like Jaseddy from earlier are scarier. Then, of course, the monsters talk about how the new monsters aren’t as deep as they are. Yep, one of those stories.
Look guys, Dracula and Frankenstein didn’t age well, but neither have Nightmare on Elm Street or Child’s Play. No-one genuinely thinks Freddy or Chucky are genuinely scary, not even kids. The Alien? Meh, maybe. Jason? Nah.
But lo and behold, Jason Krueger, Female Chucky and not Alien but my own original character Blalien appear. Oh, actually, the slasher is called ‘Freddy D. Spaghetti’ and is made out of spaghetti. Spaghetti? And Dracula is lamer than this guy how? Not-Chucky is called ‘Chicky’ and she has a magic reality-warping remote. Sure, why not? She even gets her own theme song. Also, HR Giger meets Audrey II is called ‘The Alienator’. Y’know, because adding ‘ator’ onto the end of something makes it sound badass.
Wouldn’t be a monster cartoon without some chases. Drac and Frankk and Wolfie and the Tinklemeisters run away from the modern monsters, only for Chicky to place them in shark-infested waters. Oh no, you’re not going to ruin Jaws too, now? Then she puts them on a basketball court where the balls turn into snakes, before accidentally releasing her victims from televised hell.
But SPIKE TO DA RESCUE! He creates a formula that improves upon Dracula’s dentures while Frankie gets a charge-up and Wolfie gets a new perm. Spike also creates another formula that turns everything black and white, because you know, the old monster movies were the best and the new ones suck, as this film wants to remind us.
As expected, Alienator, Chicky and Freddy are defeated and the old monsters are victorious, but – BUM BUM – the old monsters are out of time! See, that’s what happens when you waste time on travel.
So, we find ourselves back in the latest episode of Law and Horror (hey, it’s better than the film’s ‘your ogre’ pun). And the Tinklemeisters are watching, thanks to ‘a new cable channel’. Sure, let’s go with that. As it turns out, since the old monsters scared the new monsters, the sentence won’t be carried out. Spike even shows up as a surprise witness, and his family are surprised at this. As it turns out, the real reason Spike can’t speak is because Freddy, Alienator and Chicky made him too scared to speak.
Spike then gives a stirring speech about how, yes, the monsters of old are better than the monsters of new, and thus, Drac, Frank and Wolf are reinstated. They are even given their own fucking movie studio and give the Tinklemeisters their castle. And for some reason, Yorick is renamed ‘Bonegy’.
Then there’s the happy ending, and more reused animation. Drac and co build a theme park and the new monsters get punished by having to work there, I guess. At least Alienator gets a nice Giger-type pad to hang in.
Then there are the credits. It’s…something. There’s also a nice music video at the end using clips from the old movies.
Well, that was boring. Most of it was pretty much a reaffirmation that Dracula and all the other old monster movies are still cool…well duh. They’re still being watched after all these years and the Stoker and Shelley novels are considered literature greats. We don’t need a bad animated musical to tell us that. Cartoons based on Universal monsters are rarely worth speaking about and this is no exception.