This week on…
Something based on a spooky, all-year-round show!
I was never a big fan of the original Scooby-Doo series. I watched it from time to time, but usually when nothing else was on. It seems like it would be right up my alley, what with all the ghosts and creeps and spooks and stuff, but I just didn’t find the characters that interesting or compelling.
I do appreciate a good mystery though; of all the long-running anime I’ve watched, one of my favorites is Detective Conan, or Case Closed as it is known state-side. That show is just as formulaic, but it was actually episodic and had character development, not to mention some personal, believable danger for the lead and his friends every once in a while.
Surprisingly, this movie, when it came out in 1998, fixed most of my issues with the series. And what it didn’t fix, it finally managed to grow on me.
The animation is of really good quality; it’s fluid, expressive, and manages to look pretty creepy, even to this day. The original show made everything look too flat to be really scary, and the characters’ expressions were stilted and muted.
The tone is darker than before, particularly because Spoiler Alert: there are some real monsters for once. Also, a bunch of people die offscreen in a really gruesome way, and the zombies on the titular Zombie Island were all brutally sucked dry in order to come into being. End Spoiler.
Yeah, surprisingly, I was never super into the whole “every monster is fake” theme to the show. It’s clever how the villains make their tricks work, sure, and I was able to get more into it in What’s New, Scooby-Doo? Probably because the animation quality was better in that show.
Or maybe it’s not the concept, but the characters I couldn’t get behind. They were all bores in the original series.
Maybe it’s because it’s a mystery show with absolutely no murders…No, I don’t know how a kid show would pull that off. Get off my back.
I’m not entirely sure which is the one reason to rule them all, but I like me some real monsters, thank you very much.
Anyways, Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island‘s characters are way more interesting. Daphne sort of acts as an avatar for me; she’s bored with all the scams and just wants to see real monsters and ghosts. Also, unlike the Daphne who was always kidnapped and needing to be rescued in the original show, this Daphne proves herself semi-competent in tense situations. At one point, she flips two people like a fighting master, and she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty.
At least, she’s just as competent as the dudes, which makes for a nice change. And it’s not stupid, pointless, and contrived like in the horrible live action abomination movie.
Velma is her standard self, although she seems particularly suspicious in this movie. Fred seems like a well-meaning doofus and skeptic, and the shipping community will be happy to know that he and Daphne do have some chemistry, even though they spend a lot of their screen time together bickering.
Scooby and Shaggy are pretty much their usual selves, although Scooby did get on my nerves a bit. There is a running joke throughout the movie where he doesn’t seem to realize he’s a dog (someone will angrily point him out and he will say, “Dog? Where?”), I guess because he’s so anthropomorphic and talks. That’s funny unless it comes after him seeing cats, because whether they antagonize him or not, he gives chase, usually destroying property in the process.
Even if you’re a dog person or think cats are evil or whatever, Scooby should be self-aware enough that he at least doesn’t destroy property or cause problems for his owners. It’d be funner and more excusable if being overtaken by dog instincts was a part of his personality, but I’ve never seen sufficient evidence of that. Granted, I’m not really a fan…
Nitpick nitpick nitpick.
The movie even has a dramatic twist, beyond the obvious one, which you may or may not see coming. In the show, the twist was really easy: “It’s the (insert character we met in the beginning and forgot about)!”
The music is pretty decent, and continues in the tradition of bringing in pop singers (Third Eye Blind sings the opening theme) while also giving some airplay to Skycycle, a little known rock band, for the rest of the songs. “It’s Terror Time Again” is particularly great for any Halloween-themed album or mixed playlist.
There is some definite reuse of audio sampling, which the original show did as well; the most egregious perhaps being a yelp of Shaggy’s, which is used at least three times throughout the movie. I’ll let it slide because it’s funny in a “wow, that’s lazy” sort of way, but come on, guys! Surely you can do better than old-school Hannah-Barbara, who at least had the budget of a ham sandwich as their excuse!
Overall, the movie is good. It’s creepy and it’s kooky, mysterious and spooky. I wouldn’t recommend it for young kids, though, particularly if they’re scared of zombies. Scooby-Doo fans may be split on it, but it has better stakes than many of the Scooby-Doo movies that have come out since.
*All pictures, video clips, and other media belong to their respective owners, mostly Hannah-Barbara. None of the images or sounds belong to me.