31 Days Of Horror 16: Frankenweenie by Jamie

So I figured I might as well male this animated diversion a trilogy since I was reminded that Frankenweenie existed at some point and out of the three, it could be said that this film has the largest horror pedigree because it is obvious that Tim Burton loves classic horror films, 1931’s Frankenstein in particular.

The story concerns Victor Frankenstein… wait a minute, Victor Frankenstein? Huh, fine. So yes, Victor Frankenstein loves his dog Sparky. Unfortunately Sparky is hit by a car and killed. Inspired by an experiment in his science class, Victor decides to try and reanimate his beloved pet and, living up to his namesake, he is successful. His classmates learn of this and, worried that Victor will show them up at the science fair, they decide to try and get the secret of animal resurrection for themselves.

So like I said, for the most part this is a pretty straightforward take on Frankenstein (the movie more so than the book). It follows it pretty much directly with a few diversions here or there to reference a number of other horror films (from Godzilla to Gremlins). There are differences of course. Re-animated Sparky retains his former personality rather than becoming a lumbering, misunderstood beast-dog, though he still does wind up being misunderstood of course.

Now I don’t have a problem with Frankenweenie basically being Frankenstein with a dog, in fact it’s really rather enjoyable because I love 1931’s Frankenstein too. It even manages to put a more modern spin on the story. The message of Frankenweenie isn’t “Science has dared to spit in the eye of God!” Rather the message is science is awesome and it is neither good nor bad but it can be used both ways. The middle of the movie even contains a great scene that is essentially science vs ignorance with one character complaining about how Pluto isn’t even a planet any more thanks to science. It’s great.

he movie does have another message however, one about loss and letting go, a message that seemed to have sunk in by the end of the movie in rather a nice, heartfelt way until it is completely negated by the film’s ending which is a shame. If Burton had had the guts to stick to where the movie looked like where it was heading, it would have been a vastly superior film.

Still this is probably Burton’s best film in years, reminiscent of his earlier stuff like Edward Scissorhands and, by virtue of it being stop animated and being filled with horror references, A Nightmare Before Christmas. This makes sense since it’s based on a short film of his from 1984 and it was nice to see him returning to an original idea of his rather than taking an existing property and ‘Burtonizing’ it. Hopefully, he’ll stay on this path for a bit longer. Three and a half pints out of five. Laterz.


The Original Still Exists: The Karate Kid by Jamie

Well, the time has come and The Karate Kid remake has been released. I haven’t seen it yet since it won’t be released in the UK until July but I’ve certainly complained about it enough in everyday life which on reflection certainly seems a bit harsh but the trailer really, really irked me. There are times when a remake can lovingly make reference to the original whilst establishing itself as some new and separate or it can go ‘The Clash Of Titans’ route and seemingly take the piss out of the original. In ‘The Clash Of The Titans’ remake there is a scene where Perseus picks up Bubo, the mechanical owl from the original, and is told to just leave it behind. To me that just seemed completely unnecessary and disrespectful to the original. In the trailer for The Karate Kid remake it looks as though Jackie Chan is trying to catch a fly with a pair of chopsticks before simply killing it with a fly swatter. To me this smacks of ‘Leaving The Owl’ as I will now refer to it.

Anyway much has been made of the recent remake trend in Hollywood. There are those that feel as though the films that we grew up loving are just being taken, given a modern facelift and being released in the interest of nothing more than making money. Of course the fact that most of these remakes are of films that came out in the 80s, the decade of consumerism, makes that a little hard to take completely seriously though it certainly seems that in many cases that does seem to be what’s going on here. Still no matter what happens it is important to remember that the original films still do and always will exist. The movie gestapo aren’t going to come around and destroy the original films that these remakes are based on. It’s also possible that the simple fact that the remakes exist may inspire people to revisit, or perhaps watch for the first time, those original films and that can’t be a bad thing… Unless they remake Jaws. I will bring about the end of the human race if anyone ever dares to remake Jaws. This I promise you.

Anyway, that’s what this new series of articles on Cinepub is all about, remembering and looking back at those original films on which these remakes have been based and I’m going to start with a personal favourite, the aforementioned ‘The Karate Kid’ from that greatest of all years, the year 1984. Spoilers ahead.

Now, I suppose it’s only fair to begin by saying that I love this film. It may even be in my top ten films of all time. It’s practically perfect in my mind. However, I suppose if you had to criticise the film for anything, it’d probably be the plot. It’s a pretty standard sports/fight film plot. Underdog must train in order to beat seemingly superior opponent. Simple as that. It’s a story we’ve all seen time and time again. It’s what is built around this fairly simple plot that makes this one of my favourite films of all time.

The true backbone of this film is the relationship between Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Mr. Kesuke Miyagi (Noriyuki “Pat” Morita)… Still, I suppose we should get to the plot besides the whole underdog vs. seemingly superior opponent before we get into the relationships within the film.

So Daniel’s mother Lucille (Randee Heller) gets a new job in California

Yes, that’s right little mentally be-wronged boy from ‘The Wizard’, California. Anyway she moves herself and her son out there from New Jersey all the way to the aforementioned other state. Daniel’s pretty annoyed at being moved from one side of the country to the other but whilst moving in he’s actually invited to a beach party! And at the beach party he meets a girl that catches his eye, Ali Mills (Elisabeth Shue). Yes, things seem to be going pretty damn well for Daniel but of course this wouldn’t be much of a film without a conflict now, would it?

Unfortunately the Cobra Kai gang which is headed by Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), Ali’s former boyfriend, stumble across the beach party and decide to crash it. Johnny decides to try and worm his way back into Ali’s good books, going so far as to steal her boom box. Daniel tries to defend her but is soundly thrashed by Johnny and his gang.

Still Daniel tries and persists with Ali and more thrashings from the Cobra Kai are dealt out towards him. All the while the friends who Daniel made on his first day at that beach party have abandoned him and so he finds himself developing a friendship with the janitor of his apartment complex, Mr. Miyagi, which really begins after Miyagi fixes Daniel’s bike after one of the aforementioned thrashings.

Over the months Daniel finally just kinda gives up on Ali and his only friend is Mr. Miyagi until the elderly janitor tells him that he should just go to the Halloween dance and try his luck with the girl he likes or as Miyagi puts it “To make honey, young bee need young flower, not old prune.” Which is an awesome quote. Daniel heads to the dance dressed as a shower and a prank ends in yet another thrashing but this time Mr. Miyagi sees the fights, intervenes and kicks the Cobra Kai’s collectives ass which leads Daniel to beg him to teach him Karate and also head down to the Cobra Kai dojo with him to try and get the bullies to let up on the beatings a bit.

So how does this meeting go? Well, the good news is that the Cobra Kai sensei John Kreese (Martin Kove) orders his students to leave Daniel alone. Unfortunately Daniel must now enter the local karate tournament with only a few months to train. I know what you’re thinking, well why doesn’t Daniel just not show up for the tournament? Wouldn’t that solve all of his problems? Unfortunately not. If that were to happen not only would Daniel’s beatings resume but Mr. Miyagi would be fair game as well. Yes, Sensei Kreese is such a douche that he would order his students to beat the shit out of an elderly old man.

And so Daniel-san, as Miyagi calls him, begins his training. Though the training seems odd to the young ninja wannabe because it mainly seems to consist of doing chores for the elderly janitor such as cleaning his car collection, sanding his patio and painting his fence and house. Finally pissed off, Daniel-san confronts Miyagi and the reason behind the chores becomes clear as all the movements that Miyagi had taught Daniel-san to carry out his tasks turn out to be karate blocking moves. Well played Miyagi. Well played.

Anyway, Daniel trains, Miyagi teaches, the two grow closer and Daniel also manages to grow closer to Ali though he can’t help but feel as though there will always be a gulf between them because she’s an uptown girl and he’s a back street guy, a feeling which isn’t helped by an incident at a country club. Still, through his training Daniel learns more than just karate from Miyagi. He also learns the importance of discipline and balance and uses these lessons in order to reconnect and build his relationship with Ali. He also learns that Miyagi once had a wife who died in childbirth whilst being held in Manzanar internment camp whilst he was serving America, the country that had imprisoned his family, in Europe, a service for which he was awarded the medal of honour. The combination of training and learning more about each other which leads them to developing a kind of father/son-esque bond.

Finally the tournament comes round and Daniel manages to reach the semi-final whilst Johnny manages to make it to the final. Sensei Kreese decides that he doesn’t want there to even be the possibility that Daniel might defeat Johnny and so orders his opponent, one of the Cobra Kai’s less cuntish students, to perform an illegal move against Daniel and damage his knee. The student reluctantly agrees getting himself disqualified and getting Daniel taken from the ring, effectively making Johnny the defacto winner.

Daniel is heartbroken but Miyagi tells him that he has proven himself. Still Daniel believes that if he doesn’t go out there and fight Johnny then his torment at the hands of the Cobra Kai will never end and he begs Miyagi to perform a pain suppression technique on his knee so that he can compete. Daniel hobbles back into the ring, the fight goes ahead and is boils down to a tie despite Sensei Kreese’s orders for Johnny to sweep the leg. Finally, barely able to even stand, Daniel performs the difficult crane kick manoeuvre and wins the match gaining the respect of Johnny and all of California. He’s the best around.

So yeah, that’s a basic outline of the plot and as I say it’s really the relationship between Miyagi and Daniel that provides the back bone of this film. It’s totally believable and totally moving. There was more than one point whilst re-watching this that I started to tear up a little. Moments such as when Daniel finds out what happened to Miyagi’s family and later when Miyagi throws him a little birthday party and gives him a few gifts. One is a Karate outfit including a symbol that Miyagi’s wife had made for him. The other is one of the classic cars from his collection. More important are the non-material things that Miyagi gives to Daniel. Things like balance, discipline and most importantly a father figure where he had none before. It’s truly believable and touching and most importantly at no point does it feel creepy that this young teenage boy’s best friend is an older gentleman. Mr. Miyagi is just a great teacher with regards to karate and life and we should all be so lucky as to have one.

Finally, I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the music in The Karate Kid. It’s an 80stastic mixture of 80s awesome wrapped up in a very 80s package. 80s. Yes, it may seem a little cheesy now but there’s a little gland in the back of the head of everyone who experienced even a small part of the 80s that makes us enjoy it’s music on some kind of level even if we don’t want to. And let us remember that it was the Karate Kid that gave us one of the greatest and most inspiring songs that the world has ever known, ‘You’re The Best’ by Joe Esposito.

Right well, this has gone of for much longer and taken much longer than I ever would have thought. Suffice it to say the original film is fantastic and no matter whether the remake is good or bad, the original will always be around to watch again and again. I give this film 4.5 pints out of 5. Laterz.

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