Monthly Archives: August 2018

DTV Wonders: Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghosts

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It is well accepted that the first four Scooby-Doo DTV films are mostly the best, and I agree with that.  The Scooby-Doo format works best as a twenty minute episode, and many of the films feel too long, but these four feel like movies and are entertaining all the way through.   The viewers near universally call Zombie Island the best, this one the second best, and Alien Invaders and Cyber Chase are debated as third and fourth best.  Sadly I found this underwhelming.  It is still a good film that I recommend to Scooby fans, but not as much as the other three.  The main reason it is underwhelming is it uses the same basic subversions Zombie Island used making it feel like the inferior version.  Still it is entertaining and I am happy to review it positively.

I am sure part of my problems are that I have incredibly little nostalgia for it.  I saw it at school supply stores where I saw the last twenty minutes, and another time I saw the first twenty minutes (it is sixty-six minutes long), and not until I was in college did I see it all the way through.

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It starts like Zombie Island with Mystery Inc. trying to catch a villain.  This time it is in a prehistoric museum, and that makes for some good atmosphere.  The two villains are tripped by a writer, Ben Ravencroft, who then captures them.  Velma is a big fan of his horror novels and seems to have a crush on him.   Ben offers to take them to his home in New England, Oak Haven.  They arrive to discover that it is now tourist based and supposedly haunted by the ghost of Ben’s ancestor, Sarah Ravencroft.

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Ben

Ben shows everyone a picture of Sarah and says she was a wonderful healer, which made the Puritans think she was a witch, and they executed her.  If she was executed that probably means she actually was in the middle of a family feud.  He insists she was actually a Wiccan, a good spell user…  What are the writers talking about?  The term “Wiccan” was not sued until the 1900s.  Also it is a form of paganism, not a magic user who uses good magic.

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They fit the term Wiccan.

It is also constantly said to be a bloodline, but that is false.  It is a religion.  I have seen many episodes and movies where the writers clearly know about the supernatural creatures used like the episode of Mystery Incorporated episode, “Aliens Among Us”,  which makes this mistake worse.  This is just bad.  Thankfully it is some really bad writing, but it is surrounded by some good scenes.  There is some filler where Scooby and Shaggy eat at a restaurant.  It does not go anywhere, but it is really funny.

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The plot that actually emerges is not important.  Oak Haven makes a Scooby-Doo hoax to bring in tourists by making a ghost of Sarah Ravencroft.  Ben is angry, Velma makes a plan after solving the mystery, and the mayor is the mastermind.  The only part of real significance is they meet the Hex Girls, a Goth rock band.

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They were big ensemble dark horses and reappeared in other media like two episodes of Mystery Incorporated and The Legend of the Vampire.  They are a red herring, and their leader, Thorn, wishes the others “bad dreams.”  That one line had my brother one hundred percent convinced they were the villains.  Also, Thorn is “1/16 Wiccan on my mother’s side.”  Again, Wiccan is a religion, not a bloodline.  If you are 1/16 Wiccan, then I am 1/2 Catholic and 1/2 Baptist.  Also by this movie’s logic having the tiniest amount of magic blood means you are able to do magic as well as anyone else, which I would think would mean most people could do it.

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The plot everyone actually remembers starts in the last twenty minutes when Velma finds the book that Ben said would prove Sarah was innocent.  Instead it is a spell book, which Ben takes and reveals he is a “warlock” due to being the descendant of a witch and plans to bring Sarah back to conqueror the world.  He reveals Sarah was trapped in the book by the Wiccans… Wiccans did not exist then!  If you use the current definition on that time then a witch is a Wiccan.  This word usage is really bad.  He uses the book to give himself magical powers and gives himself a mild make over.

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Should have kept the glasses

The whole opening 3/4 of the film are really not important except setting up the ending and introducing the audience to Ben.   He has been called a Stephen King expy, but I think he is more of an antithesis to Nathaniel Hawthorne.  They were both from a Puritan New England village and had an evil ancestor, Sarah Ravencroft and John Hathorne.  While Ben wants to be evil and powerful like his ancestor, wants her evilness, and always said she was good, Hawthorne heavily criticized his ancestor and was worried he would end up like him due to their shared genetics.

Back to the best parts of the film, and these are good.  I know I have been harsh on it so far, but the climax makes the film worth it.  It has a lot of stupid stuff in it, but it is awesomely stupid.  Ben spends a horde of time explaining his very detailed plan with hordes of things that could go wrong; for example, Mystery Inc. could just snatch the book away while he is monologueing.  Instead he uses the book’s magic to give himself super strength, fix his eyes, imprison a few townsmen (not important), tie up the Hex Girls (one is important), and give himself the ability to shoot lasers.  The magic also resembles the life force entering the zombies in Zombie Island.  This mages sense as the cat god and Sarah probably use the same source.

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The gang take the book back, and make a big mistake.  They do not use that time to start ripping pages up, and Ben takes it back summoning Sarah.  He then gets to the problem of summoning a greater evil.  Ben wants to rule the world and thinks Sarah will have the virtue to obey her descendant who saved her.  Instead she is psychopathic, has no gratitude, wants no accomplice, and she wants to destroy everything.  Worse, only a pure heart can lock her back up meaning Ben is powerless, and Sarah imprisons him.  Stupidly she just leaves the book sitting there.  Her powers include summoning magical attacks and turning objects into monsters.  This includes trees, roots, pumpkins (picture above), and a turkey.

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Best character in the film.  The turkey makes an awesome climax even better.  Unfortunately the solving of the climax is lacking.  Velma deduces they just need Thorn to read the book to banish Sarah since she is 1/16 good magic or something, meaning she can cast the spell.  They then keep passing the book in a scene that Mystery Incorporated ripped off (and did better), and Thorn banishes Sarah, but in the meantime Sarah grabs Ben and imprisons him with her, and the book is destroyed.  Why did the good witches who imprisoned her four hundred years ago not destroy the book then?  It removes the chances she comes back and removes evil spells.  Then Thorn ruins the moment by calling herself a “Wiccan.”  After that there is some mop-up action with the only significance being that the Turkey is still around and huge.  Give him some spin-off shorts already.

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This movie has plenty of bad.  The early Scooby movies all gave the audiences real monsters.  Zombie Island put Mystery Inc. in the middle of a supernatural battle between opposing monsters with incredibly complex villains.  Alien Invaders had a twist on real monsters by having the real creatures be the heroes and battle the fake monsters with the fakes actually beating them.  Cyber-Chase had a simple Mystery Inc. vs real monsters, but there were so many and many were nostalgic threats, but here it is the most simple case of just using real monsters with many of the same elements from Zombie Island right down to the “friend” who brought them there betraying them.  It is a pale version.  Also it has two plots splitting time with different witches.

A common problem with DTV films is they have too many plots working making it feel like multiple episodes edited together, but this one has a major upside, the episodic stories are food and fun to watch.  I like watching them catch the fake witch and the real one.  I like watching Scooby and Shaggy eat a resteraunt dry and the cook being so exhausted.

There is still a lot to like in this film.  Ben is a poor man’s Lena, but he is very entertaining and quite complex.  Does he legitimately like the gang or is he just using them.  I think he really does like being around them.  The last twenty minutes are incredibly fun to watch, and the turkey is incredible.

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Do not eat him!  Thankfully he lived.

It is the least good of the four, but I still like it.  It may be a poor man’s Zombie Island, but Zombie Island is a great film and a worse version would still be good.  The film is an entertaining 66 minutes that lacks its predecessor’s drama and uniqueness, but it still has its humor and fun.

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DTV Wonders: Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders

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This is the third Scooby-Doo Direct-to-video film, and like the early ones I watched it many times thanks to blockbuster.  The first four do stand out for a few reasons.  They normally make call backs to each other and have a darker tone with real monsters.

It opens with a reprise of the Star Trek theme, and it is surprisingly dull (the only one of the four with a dull opening).  The opening feels way longer than it is.  The most interesting thing about the beginning is Shaggy is driving The Mystery Machine.

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A spaceship thing chases them off the road, and The Mystery Machine is in need of repair.  Velma, Fred, and Daphne go to a town, while Shaggy and Scooby guard The Mystery Machine.  The two cowards are considerably braver here than usual being willing to be alone and do things later.  Apparently ghosts, cat creatures, and zombies have hardened them and eventually Shaggy will be beating up biker gangs (yes, that happens in a later movie).  They find a jackalope, and  it steals their only Scooby snack.  They acknowledge they are myths, and it is probably a fake made by a real estate scammer based on this franchise.  They chase it through a government fence and meet some aliens.

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The alien designs are very generic, but their brash demeaning attitude and the musical score makes up for that.  The chase scene is played with the original theme song, and it is a very good chase scene with plenty of Scooby-do humor, and they are back with the rest of Mystery Inc. in a diner.

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At the diner there are two employees who are red herrings with no real development and hardly any character.  They and red herring mechanic are not important.  They also meet Lester, who was supposedly abducted and is constantly saying the aliens are coming back to take over the world.  I like him.  He yells too much, as most conspiracy theorists are portrayed as doing, but he is also very kind, apologetic, and helpful, and his past warrants some shouting as he tries to save the planet.  Also it becomes clear that plenty of what he says is true and the false information comes from failing to deduce a Scooby-Doo hoax.  He talks about being in an alien lab, and then in a great piece the camera moves outside and nothing can be heard as Lester talks about being experimented on with everyone else looking terrified.  Everything is left open to the imagination.  In truth the villains (disguised as aliens) are experimenting on locals to scare them. They also smartly steal the cattle.  This forces businesses and people away.  Mystery Inc. sleeps in Lester’s house where they see his paintings are of the same ship they saw making them realize his words have some truth.  Lester tells them about the local scientists looking for alien life with signals and are funded by the government.  The town blames them for recent alien sightings.  Surprisingly Scooby and Shaggy happily sleep on the roof where everything is more dangerous and vulnerable to alien abductions.  In the past they would have slept under the table just where it is safe.  Then again the monsters always got inside, so they might as well enjoy it under the stars.S5.png

Predictably Shaggy and Scooby are abducted and being interrogated, and it is one of the best scenes of the film.  The music gives a dark and dangerous tone, despite their comedic whines of tasting bad.  Fortunately they are too kooky to torture and Scooby’s tale is not bound (the restraints were made for humans, and his tail frees them.  Unfortunately they are captured again and the scene just ends.  Apparently the fake aliens (a third was introduced) then put them in the desert to help scare away other people.

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They are awakened by love interests Crystal (Human) and Amber (dog).  They are wildlife photographers, and when Shaggy mentions the jackalope and aliens they want pictures.  They are actually aliens trying to find out what these other “aliens” are doing as revealed later.

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Shaggy even sings (in his head) about his love for her in “Oh Groovy.”  It fits him so well, and its images are funny like the ghost wondering why Shaggy just left Mystery Inc.  Shaggy and Scooby even try self improvement by combing hair and tucking in shirts.  They meet one of the villains and scientists looking for aliens, Max.  They are the only group with at least three members.  Besides Max they are Steve (Mark Hamill voices him and it is uncecognizable from most of his character voices) and Laura.  They need a suspiciously high amount of oil that does even work with their equipment and have mud all over their shoes despite working in a clean room.  With them Velma, Fred, and Daphne tour the facility.  They also say the government sent an investigative team (actually sent by them to keep people out).  After leaving Fred tries to get some suspicion on Lester for having Green paint, despite him being a painter.

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Show some gratitude Fred.

Figuring the mud came from the gorge they go there.  They find a cave and the same oil cans Max bought earlier.  Apparently the villains really need to invest in trash cans or something to make the place less obvious. Put some alien technology around so visitors think aliens are mining.  Surprisingly they also find a gold mine.

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In the meantime the lovebirds look for the aliens and are chased away by two fake government agents telling them to leave.  Shaggy and Scooby also notice that Crystal’s camera is extremely high tech. Crystal insists on going back claiming she is a government agent along with Amber. They find a cave and Scooby impersonates a rattle snake to chase away the guards.  They also find the gold.  This leads to the three aliens chasing all seven of the eight main heroes (minus Lester) and the guards join in revealing they work for them  (should have given them alien costumes too to help the charade).  For the chase scene “The Aliens are Here” is played.  The chase songs are normally loud and exciting, but this one is different. It is low, soft, and dark.  This is really good.  It ends with Velma, Daphne, and Fred caught in a net and the guards chasing the couples off a cliff. The guards chase and Velma calls one alien “Steve.”

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Not much a mystery, and thankfully it is not the real ending twist.  They are doing it for the gold and they need to smuggle it out of government property.  Immediately after explaining Steve says they are about to kill them.  Then it cuts to the guards being ready to throw Shaggy, Scooby, Crystal, and Amber off a huge ravine.  These villains are really murderous.  Supposedly this is more light than the other three early DTV Scooby movies, but with murderous villains like this, a good man losing his mind, a basic plot that has likely been done successfully (without fake monsters), and all the plot twists later I think this is besides Zombie Island the darkest one.

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Finally, I got to the most memorable scene.  When Scooby and Shaggy try to scare off the guards by using air punches Amber and Crystal reveal themselves to the guards as aliens and chase them away.  I remembered almost everything from over a decade ago, the slow walk of the guards, Amber, and Crystal looking at each other with concern, and the big drop behind them.  Granted I remembered it happening with thirty, not seventeen, minutes left, and I was one hundred percent sure it took place in daylight outside the cave, so I misremembered some details.  There is some foreshadowing like how all the alien videos of Earth are from the 1960s, so Crystal looks like she is from them and her high tech camera.  What really makes it work is how it changes the tropes of the darker Scooby films.  Instead of a real monster fighting Mystery Inc. like in the last two and Cyber Chase, a real monster is saving them.  It is no where near the twist of Zombie Island, but it is quite the scene.

They change back and the guards’ claims of aliens distract the other three letting Fred sneak out of the net.  The guards decide it must be a trick and quickly grab Shaggy and Scooby this time.  Crystal and Amber change back and not knowing who they are Scooby and Shaggy hide from the aliens.  The aliens also have great strength and take out all three muscular enemies leaving only Steve and Laura, but Steve realizes something,  Captured aliens are more valuable than the gold.  They use a mining vehicle to subdue them both since Crystal it turns out is very clumsy and trip prone, and they brought no high tech easily concealable weaponry.

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Still more threatening than the aliens from Signs.  I think this is further commentary on darker Scooby-Doo.  Humans with machines good enough to fake being monsters can defeat real monsters arguably making them more dangerous and better villains.  Crystal begs Shaggy for help making them realize who they are and using another vehicle they save them and all five villains are captured.  I think the only way for Steve to get the aliens out was to kill them since I doubt he could rely on ropes since Amber bent steel.  crystal and Amber reveal they have to go back to space and were sent to investigate alien sightings.

Of the four early installments I kept hearing this is the worst, and I had low hopes watching for the first time since I was around seven, but I had a great time watching it.  As obvious and simple as they are I think the villains are real good.  It can be so predictable at times (who the villains are), but also shocking and surprising.  The biggest problem is the quality is not consistent.  The chases, alien reveal, and Lester’s scenes are great, yet plenty of the movie is too slow giving it the opposite problems of cyber Chase.  It is very memorable and Scooby fans should give it a watch.