December 17, 2017

“Frankenweenie” Pays Homage to Classic Horror

FrankenweenieBy Julie Samrick

“Science isn’t good or bad, but it can be used for both,” warns a schoolteacher to his eager student in Tim Burton’s latest dark film Frankenweenie.  Set in the 1950s when kids’ recreation meant undivided time for lots of imagination, young outcast Victor Frankenstein’s world is shattered when his one true friend, dog Sparky, is struck by a car and killed.  Victor’s passion for science and invention, and especially Sparky, spawns the idea to bring his beloved pooch back to life, but when others learn of Victor’s plan things go terribly wrong.


99% of Frankenweenie is a compilation of all the favorite classic scary movies. The premise is the same as Stephen King’s Pet Semetary.  When the animals come back to life they are just like King Kong at times, or the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park at others.  The most benign animals turn as devious as when those cute little Gremlins went bad.  Above all, the clearest tie-in is to Mary Shelly’s classic gothic novel, Frankenstein, which is considered the first science fiction novel and beginning of the horror genre. From the boy’s name being the same as the scientist who brings a monster to life, Victor Frankenstein (which is the inventor’s name, not the monster’s), to the isolated nature of the two main characters, the similarities abound.


Frankenweenie is set in a bleak, black and white world. “It’s not funny at all,” said my first grade daughter after viewing it (I should’ve left her at home, but was misinformed due to the film’s PG rating).  As is typical for Tim Burton films (Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline), this movie is dark. In fact, it’s really scary for kids under 10.  For older children, the ethics of science could be discussed with it and for parents who’d like to take the learning opportunities even further I suggest reading Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein aloud with your child before or after watching Frankenweenie and enjoy comparing and contrasting the two stories.


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