Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Actual Cannibal

Pop art at its finest.

Am I the only one who wants to see a horror film with Shia LaBeouf playing himself? In the movie, he would just have been cast in the part of a cannibalistic serial killer, unfortunately he would take method acting to an extreme. What would start out as simply living in the woods for character authenticity would slowly spiral out of control, until crew members start going missing.

It would, of course, be a musical.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Banned, Censored, and the Obscure: Part 3

Witch's Night Out


When I was at the store they had a  Halloween cartoon for sale that I haven't seen in years. Every year after trick-or-treating my family would watch this special. While not banned, or censored, this is one of those strangely obscure cartoons that has a cult following and is not well remembered, (despite the fact that it was released on VHS, and aired every year on the Disney channel and Fox through the mid nineties.)

This is the first year it has been released on DVD. Blogger and author Adam Selzer has the most  information on this cartoon, and a fabulous interview with Jonathan Rogers the creator of Witch's Night Out. Rogers apparently had no idea until about five years ago that the special had even been airing for all those years, or that it had such strong fan base. He currently has partnered with Jimmy Cross and written a Valentine and Thanksgiving special that *fingers crossed* will soon be made.

Witch's Night Out is the story of a morose witch who has been out of work for some time. Meanwhile, the adults of the town decide to throw a Halloween party in what they believe is an abandoned house (really the home of the witch). The adults are out of touch with their child side. None dress up, and  Goodly who helps plan the event sees the whole thing as a sort of community building activity. Tender and Small our child protagonists want to celebrate the spirit of Halloween and reach out to the witch to help them.


The character designs are like nothing you've seen before. Each character has a playful outline and is painted a monochrome color, with the kind of inky edges that makes me think Shinbone Alley. It is vibrant, fun, and the perfect kind of kid-friendly creepy. It starts with a catchy song, blasts through the twenty something minute short, and ends with everyone happily embracing the Halloween festivities.

I remember finding this cartoon visually enthralling as a kid, but I also remember loving the ending. Halloween is about having the opportunity to be someone you're not, but it is also - as is the case for the gently wicked Malicious and Rotten - an opportunity to explore who you could be. Even just for a night.

Having just rewatched it I can definitely recommend the DVD, it cost me a whopping $5 on sale for Halloween, comes with some golden age bonus cartoons, and has been gloriously remastered. It was also everything I remembered it to be.

Check it out here: http://www.witchsnightout.com/

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Boxtroll Review

Having never read Here Be Monsters, the book this animated film was based on, I can make no comment on similarities to the original tale. So, this review will only be looking at the movie itself.
Growing up, I was a huge fan or Roald Dahl. But there is something about the grim, exaggerated nastiness of the villains paired with strange sometimes violent humor and plucky child protagonists that seems to be difficult to translate well into visual story telling. The Fantastic Mr. Fox, by Wes Anderson, managed to make that jump and The Boxtrolls follows suit. It takes this genre, and makes a movie that manages to capture the heart of these kind of strange tales.


Eggs is our primary protagonist, the adopted human child of a family of Boxtrolls that live under the city. The humans who live above believe the Boxtrolls are violent monsters. Meanwhile, the cunning Pest exterminator, Archibald Snatcher, creates a deal with the White Hat Society that if he kills all the Boxtrolls he will be allowed to join their illustrious club.

The characters are so much fun. Eggs is sweet, and funny, and utterly sympathetic in his adventure to try and save his dwindling family. Archibald is a fascinating villain, whose dream of eating cheese with the White Hats is a struggle in the impossible, made all the more hysterically absurd because of his deathly allergy to cheese. His henchman, Mr. Trout and Mr. Pickles, have deep (sometimes fourth wall breaking) discussion on the moral grays of their profession. Both insistently believe they are the heroes of the story.

The Boxtroll is funny, exciting and absolutely gorgeously animated. It is also the kind of world where the secondary protagonist’s father takes the money for a children’s hospital and uses it to buy cheese – and he is not a villain. He is simply one of many comedic morally ambiguous adult figures that populate these kinds of stories.  Children are our heroes and they live in uncertain worlds where adults cannot always be trusted, and there are harsh consequences to ones actions.  But, as someone who loved Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, despite the cruel consequences that were doled out to unreasonable children – I think kids gravitate to these kinds of stories. The Series of Unfortunate Event books are proof that a love of this genre lives on.


Navigating growing up is complicated, it is a common experience for children to feel unheard, or misunderstood by the adults in their live. While adults might look upon these kinds of stories as too grim, they carry a humor children love. They speak to an understanding of the child experience, without writing down to them. There is no candy-coating. Terrible things happen…  but so do great things. And it is the smart, brave, children who will save the day.

The Boxtrolls is not the type of family animated film we are used to seeing, but it is absolutely a film for families, and one I cannot recommend highly enough.