That was a nice warm-up
So Hocus Pocus belongs on a Halloween movie list, right? It’s a classic. Might not be scary, but it merited at least a nod on this list. So you read the review, shrugged, and hoped tomorrow’s pick would be a little more mature.
…Which leads us to where we are now: you staring at a screen, wondering how in the hell I am going to justify putting a Scooby-Doo movie on this list. I’m probably somewhere eating chips or something, in case you were wondering.
On the second day of Halloween, some cat-people gave to me: Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island (Jim Stenstrum, 1998)
To get straight to the point, Scooby-Do on Zombie Island was the first movie I ever watched where I was terrified, but wanted to watch more.
See, I was a wimp-ass kid. When I was three, my parents put on Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein, and then left me alone for a moment. Of course, the moment they happen to leave was the moment when Lon Chaney turns into a werewolf.
I had a core-fucking-meltdown in my basement.
I was three! I didn’t understand slapstick comedy! I didn’t know Bela Lugosi from shit! All I knew was that a man just turned into a fucking wolf-thing!
After that, I refused to walk down the Halloween aisles they would set up at like, Target. I was fine looking for costumes, but the sections with all the masks and props was a big no-no. You could have told my younger self that the biggest fucking cake was at the end of the mask aisle and that I could eat the whole thing if I just walked through it and I would have thrown toddler-sand in your eyes.
Of course, this is all water under the bridge now. When my parents spent each autumn wishing for me to just get over it, I’m sure they didn’t mean get into it. In my young adult life, I’ve done a total 180, watching almost exclusively ~spooky~ things, dabbling in FX gore, and going really fucking ham for Halloween. But when did this happen? Where on my timeline did I suddenly go from 0 to 100?
Honestly? Who knows. But I do know that Zombie Island scared the absolute shit out of me the first time I watched it on TV, when I was younger. But I also know that I loved it. I don’t know how old I was (my guess is 6-8) but the animated zombies in Zombie Island absolutely freaked me out, yet, I would seek it out every time it came on, and dutifully watch it. I now own it on DVD as well as three other Scooby-Doo movies and crack it out in the fall when I want some ~spooky-lite~.
Honestly if I told my 16 year old Film Asshole © self that one day you were going to publicly admit to liking Scooby-Doo movies as an adult, she would have probably would have choked on her own spit and died. But fuck it, I love them. So let’s do this.
I can’t believe I’m actually about to review a Scooby-Doo Movie
So the basic premise is: the gang has split up and gone separate ways in adulthood, but Daphne (Mary Kay Bergman) calls them back together for a new TV show she is producing, which aims to capture real monsters and real ghosts. Everything is a bust until they’re in New Orleans and bump into Lena (Tara Strong, bless her), who tells them about the island she works on, which is invitingly called Moonscar Island. The gang jumps at the chance, and heads to the island. Real spooky shit starts happening, zombies appear, there’s a wicked musical break, and the gang has to figure out how to break the zombie curse.
This was SPOOKY AS SHIT TO A KID, OKAY
The zombies in here are animated, but still pretty creepy looking, particularly for something aimed at kids. There are no dripping entrails or anything, but they’re definitely rotting and soulless-looking. They shamble and moan, and that was enough for me as a child. But there are ghosts, jump scares, the whole bit. It’s got a creepy vibe going for it, and I soaked it in. For once, the monsters are not masked businessmen, but real, certified Spooky Things. I think this is what made it a little extra scary to me, because there was a solid supernatural side to this, where Scooby-Doo’s whole shtick is that they’re “meddling kids,” who always figure out who is behind the “spooky” and expose them. Not so much with these zombies. At one point Fred gets his hands on one, and tries to remove the “mask,” only to rip its head off. There was no gore or anything, but still.
About that zombie curse
This movie has one fucked up part. And it’s not fucked up as in problematic, but fucked up as in, “that’s a really, really strange direction you decided to go in.” This is technically a spoiler, if you care. By the way, if you are invested enough in this review to care, please let me know because I think we’d be best friends.
——-spoiler I guess—–
OH MY GOD THE LADIES ARE COLONIAL CAT PEOPLE
Even my younger self knew this was bullshit. I was too scared to care, but I still thought it was odd. But honestly???? The movie is about zombies and they still manage to work in ancient cat people. Soul-sucking colonial cat people.
For clarification: Lena and Simone (Adrienne Barbeau, I’m not joking) were part of a cat-cult that came to America to escape persecution, but were attacked, so they make a deal with their god to seek revenge. They become immortal cat-people who have to “harvest” souls once each year as a part of their bargain. The zombies are their victims, whose souls are not laid to rest, as they were slurped up by some weird-ass werecats.
What a ride.
Why is Scooby-Doo’s music so good?
That’s really about all I have to say about the movie: it was a decently well-done kid’s movie that scared the shit out of me. There’s nothing extraordinary or clever about it, but it was my baptism into Things That Scared Me, But Also Enjoyed.
But there is one thing about Zombie Island that I will defend to my death, and that is its soundtrack. And the soundtrack of almost any other SD movie, for that matter. I have no idea why or how, but the music for the Scooby-Doo movies was always LIT.
Like look at this:
This song is good. Like “listen to it by itself” good. Everything else about this movie is decent, above average for a kid’s movie. But I jam to this song by myself as an adult, and that bridge still pumps me up.
And this isn’t an isolated incident! Other kids my age still jam to The Hex Girls from The Witch’s Ghost:
Or “Brothers Forever” in Loch Ness Monster (my personal fave):
Or the weird but beautifully animated CyberChase montage?
I mean, these aren’t necessarily musical masterpieces, but they’re still pretty fucking good for straight-to-TV stuff. I might just be a nostalgic fool, but I think it’s all pretty great.
So that’s where I’d like to think my willing foray into the creepy began. Tomorrow I’m gonna dig back to a movie I first saw on the SciFi channel (this was pre-SyFy!), recorded, and re-watched for like a month. Should you be so inclined, pop back in tomorrow for Cerina Vincent’s greatest film- It Waits.
Featured image source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/59/Scooby-doo-on-zombie-island.jpg