[Only 360 days until Halloween! Paul Counelis helps set the mood with a new installment of Monster Kid Corner.]
A few years ago, Image Comics released a nifty hardcover graphic novel called Dear Dracula. Written by Joshua Williamson and drawn by Vicente Navarrete, the story was about a kid named Sam who is maybe just a bit different than other kids his age – Sam is obsessed with horror movies and with Dracula in particular.
The art in the book is colorful, exaggerated and cartoonish, so it was kind of a no-brainer to take this appealing story and turn it into an animated feature. As a 60-minute telefilm, Dear Dracula had to be stretched out quite a bit to fit the bill. The book is simply the tale of a kid who sends a letter to Dracula to ask if he can become a vampire, but the movie centers around a different storyline: Dracula needs to learn how to be scary again, and Sam decides to help. In turn, Dracula attends a Halloween party with Sam to help him score points with the girl he has a crush on.
The “old monsters need rejuvenating” idea has been done in other children’s films, notably the animated Monster Mash and the cult favorite The Night Dracula Saved the World (a.k.a. The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t). The Monster Mash version featured takes on Jason, Freddy and some of the other modern monsters facing off against the more traditional, Universal Monster-inspired creatures. Dear Dracula features some of that, but doesn’t have many sequences that are lifted directly from its source material. One of the few is an incident with a mailman freaking out in fear at the prospect of delivering Sam’s letter to Drac at his Transylvanian castle – kind of out of place in a film about how Dracula is no longer scary.
That aside, Dear Dracula could be a contender for the woefully short list of “must watch” seasonal Halloween specials. The CGI animation is crisp, colorful and extremely Halloween-y, maybe the most important attribute in an All Hallow’s Eve show. The voice work runs the gamut from good to inspired, particularly Emilio Estevez, who seems to be having a blast as Dracula’s assistant. Dracula himself is voiced by Ray Liotta, which at first thought seems like a bizarre choice, but he actually does a reasonably fun job. In fact, there are a couple of clever references for adults based on Liotta’s presence.
There’s quite a bit to recommend Dear Dracula to monster kids of pretty much any age. It is extremely family friendly, but not overly so. There’s nothing scary about the flick, but it has a really great atmosphere, and pretty much all of it takes place on Halloween night. Director Chad Van De Keere, who did visual effects for a handful of popular Disney features, keeps everything moving really well and the film goes by briskly as a result.
Overall, Dear Dracula is a pretty satisfying effort with some verve and Halloween imagery, and unlike quite a few of the movies that have been featured in the Monster Kid Corner, is readily available on DVD. It’s attractively priced, so you might wanna give it a shot and decide if it’s destined to sit on your annual Halloween viewing shelf among beloved favorites such as The Fat Albert Halloween Special, Mad Monster Party and Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein.
Paul Counelis is the author of Kendall Kingsley and the Secret of the Scarecrow, which is available for purchase here. He writes about horror for a number of publications and websites, including suite101. His latest book, 25 Underrated Horror Films (and The Exorcist), is available here.